Monday, October 25, 2010
Often when a couple in my office hears me use the word "trust", they assume I am talking about infidelity. Certainly couples find themselves in a counselor's office over this type of trust betrayal. But there are many other aspects of trust that can be at issue in a relationship-of many kinds-but, it becomes an underlying part of most dynamics in a primary relationship, such as marriage.
Problems with trust can be about believing that the other person is reliable, about feeling able to depend on the other, about whether he or she means what they say. There can be suspicion of manipulation, of so-called 'hidden meanings', of the true reason the other is there in the partnership.
There is sometimes the fear that the other will take advantage in some way, be unfair, or dishonest. There can be the worry that the other will do what they say they will do or that they will consider their partner's well-being in their decision-making.
When there is a history of mistrust between two people, it can undermine the simplest of transactions between them. Imagine asking your partner to pay the phone bill that you usually pay, if you really don't trust that person to be straightforward about what they agree to. Try to negotiate an agreement with a partner you mistrust---the defensiveness alone will destroy the process.
The capacity to trust is one of the first developmental milestones according to Erikson's classic work on the stages of development. As stated in this theory, being able to trust is basic; it is of primary importance and is the first step toward a stable, happy adulthood. Identity: Youth and Crisis (Austen Riggs Monograph).
If you are part of a couple who struggle with pervasive mistrust, there is hope in a concerted effort to re-build it. When an agreement is made and both follow through, don't let that event be overshadowed by all of the other bad experiences. Build on the good one.
Friends and co-workers who have felt let down by the other can sometimes talk it out. Apologies help and an effort to make up for the misdeed feels to the one who was hurt, like sincerity.
If you have trust issues of your own, as an individual, a solid, long-term relationship with a reliable therapist can make a big difference.
Questions, comments, feedback?