How can you learn to trust again?

Discusses the views of U.S. medical doctors and psychiatrists on how a person can learn to trust again. Daniel Borenstein of the American Psychiatric Association; Terry Mizrahi, president of the National Association of Social Workers; Albert Ellis, president of the Albert Ellis Institute.

By PT Staff, published on March 1, 2002 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015

ON TRUST

DANIEL BORENSTEIN, M.D. Immediate Past President, American
Psychiatric Association

Once trust has been betrayed, most people will be less trusting the
next time. The degree of mistrust that is engendered varies between
individuals and with the sensitivity of a particular betrayal. However,
over a period of time, your trust can be rebuilt with repeated positive
experiences. For example, if your boyfriend is unfaithful, you won't
initially trust the next man you date. But, when a man consistently
demonstrates his reliability, despite your more critical evaluation of
his actions, he might earn your trust. These common but painful human
experiences contribute to your growth and development.

TERRY MIZRAHI, M.S.W., PH.D. President, National Association of
Social Workers

Trust is at the core of all meaningful relationships. Without trust
there can be no giving, no bonding, no risk-taking. To trust a partner
again, betrayal must be acknowledged. The wrongdoer must admit that he or
she has inflicted a deep hurt, and the victim must look at what he or she
could have done to make things different. Seeking and accepting
forgiveness is the first step toward rebuilding a more secure
relationship. If the relationship is of a permanent nature (parent,
child, spouse), both sides must agree to change specific behavior. In new
relationships, at the appropriate time, discussion of such a past
situation can alert a caring partner to the other's sensitivities and
vulnerabilities.

ALBERT ELLIS, PH.D. President, The Albert Ellis Institute

You can learn to trust someone perfectly--but that's risky. Even
highly trustworthy people can always change. You can most probably, but
not certainly, trust people if they have been regularly honest up to now.
That is, if they are not too emotionally disturbed and if they subscribe
to usual moral rules. Even when you cannot trust some people, you can
teach yourself to feel only healthily sorry and disappointed about their
behavior but not unhealthily enraged and self-pityingly about them as
persons. Trust yourself to stop damning people as a whole, no matter how
badly they now behave. Then you may--yes, may--help them to become more
trustworthy.

MARY HOTVEDT, C.M.F.T., PH.D. President, American Association for
Marriage and Family Therapy

After an affair, or an equally disturbing revelation, most of us
don't want the truth. We ask for reassurances from the very person who
was dishonest with us. We demand details that are often torturous. We may
"police" them, looking for signs of straightforwardness. The way back to
trust is counterintuitive: The issue is whether we can trust ourselves to
make wise decisions. We can ask, "Can I, and do I, want to be with this
person? Will I be honest about my thoughts and feelings? Will I take the
risk to further this relationship, knowing I cannot control the other?
What would I do if my partner chose to, once again, be dishonest with
me?" Hurt does not heal instantly, but it can calm us to look into
ourselves and see our real choices.