This discussion is limited to healthy, adult relationships. This is not about abuse in its many forms, which is never to be tolerated. If you are being abused in any way, the most loving thing you can do, for both of you, is to leave. If you are recovering from abuse, take what you can from these words, but please seek further assistance in healing the trauma.
We have all experienced a betrayal of our trust in a relationship. Betrayal hurts, so very deeply, and always makes us wonder if we will ever trust again. I would suggest that if we allow ourselves to learn from the experience, we actually become more trusting, if less naive. You only have three basic responsibilities in a relationship – communication, boundaries, and managing your energy. Well ok, both communication and boundaries are really just taking responsibility for your energy.
Communication means clearly stating your needs, expectations, and disappointments. No one can read your mind, but most can read your energy. If you are obviously angry, but verbally saying you’re fine, you are sending mixed signals. Be honest. It’s perfectly ok to say, “I’m angry, but I don’t want to talk about it yet,” but it’s never ok to lie. Lying is unfair to both of you. If your normal reaction is to lie about your feelings, it’s time to ask yourself why. What are you afraid of? What are you attached to?
Boundaries are essential to every healthy relationship. Strong boundaries are the only way to avoid codependence, and come naturally with self-knowledge and self-respect. First, you must know yourself to know your boundaries, then you must be willing to take action to defend them, which may involve leaving the relationship. First, identify the boundary that has been crossed, communicate the issue, and be fully aware of future transgressions. Everyone makes mistakes, and should be allowed to correct their behavior. The problems start when the behavior isn’t changed and keeps recurring. So many of us then justify the issue with “they are trying to change”. Be honest with yourself about how deeply you feel the transgression, and if it is recurring. Sometimes people are just incompatible, and that’s okay. It’s okay to let people go.
This brings us to the crux of the issue… What story were you attached to that they couldn’t fulfill? And what story are you now attached to that keeps you from letting go? Expectation is the leading cause of disappointment, and only you control your expectations. I’m not saying that other people can’t do unjust things. Free will matters, and sometimes other people use theirs inappropriately (like infidelity), but you are always in control of your own stories, and it’s those stories that keep the unhealthy attachments in place. Ever if you are out of the unhealthy relationship, are you still holding on to the hurt or the anger? What you are really holding on to is a story, an unfulfilled expectation.
So the question of trust comes to this… Do you trust yourself not to make the same mistake again? And do you trust yourself to heal? Not repeating the same mistake is a matter of awareness. Know thyself. Be totally honest with yourself. Delusion and denial will only keep you bound to the same karmic loop, but the cycle is broken by awareness. It takes courage to be honest with yourself. Be brave. As far as healing, we are built to heal, on all levels. Only our attachments keep us from healing. Find the story and let it go, and healing happens naturally. You are stronger than you think.
Then we come to forgiveness. This one takes a bit longer, because so much has to happen first. First, throughout the whole process, you must feel everything. This alone keeps many from forgiving the past. It’s a messy business, this emotional muck, but to be cleared, it must be felt. Next, you must identify the stories you were attached to, and grieve their loss. This will require some brutally honest soul-searching, and more emotional turmoil. Not fun, but totally worth it. Last, you must forgive yourself… for getting into this situation, for not seeing the signs, for not leaving sooner, for thinking you could “make it work”, for everything you went through by staying, for ignoring your intuition… for everything. We are all imperfect. You are allowed to make mistakes. Forgive yourself for being human.
Then let it go.
You have learned so much from this experience. Keep the lessons, and release the attachments. If things resurface, just keep processing them as they come – feel it, grieve it, and let it go.
Quite possibly, trust is really about trusting ourselves to respect our own boundaries, betrayal is an unfulfilled expectation, and forgiveness is the messy work of sorting out the first two. Attachment isn’t love, yet it’s what we build so many of our relationships on. Love yourself enough to see the difference.