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
By PT Staff published March 1, 2002 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016
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.
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.