Broken trust is a huge barrier to our relationships. The more truth we learn about it, the more we can be set free! “The truth will set you free.”
The following is taken from the book Beyond Boundaries by John Townsend, chapters 1,2 and 7:
You and I are “drawn” to seek out relationships with others. This isn’t really an option. We are simply designed this way by God. Our draw to relationship can be for companionship, business, love, or romance. The draw is strong and compelling. But it is not always well-informed, healthy or full of good judgment.
The Trust Piece
For the draw to work as it should, any good relationship must have trust at its core. Most of us can handle relational problems, such as messiness, irresponsibility, or even high control. But when trust is not part of the equation, you simply don’t know who is sitting in the chair across from you. It is the problem that must always be dealt with first.
Trust is the ability to be vulnerable with another person. When you trust someone, you feel certain that person will keep your best interests in mind. You believe that they are who they say they are. You feel that the deepest parts of you will be safe with them. You expect that they will be there for you no matter what and that they will love you even when you are not so lovable.
Such trust is not a luxury, it is an essential. Without trust, relationship cannot flourish.
Perhaps you are regretting you ever trusted the person who caused your relational problem. If so, don’t do that. You may have missed some warning signs, (which will be discussed later in the book) but understand that your draw to relationship is a part of you—a good and divine gift. You can mature it, educate it, and train it, but it doesn’t go away. Your best and highest situation is to be drawn to people and to also have clarity on the character of who you’re drawn to at the same time.
A break in trust in relationship is when you no longer experience or believe that the other person will always fundamentally be there for you, and you doubt that they are who they say they are. When that happens, you have lost trust.
The two trusts
There are two types of trust in a relationship—functional trust and relational trust.
In functional trust, you feel you can depend on the other person’s behavior and commitments. There is no discrepancy between words and actions. Functional trust is essential; it means you can be away from the other person and know there will be no surprises, ethical issues, or indiscretions in your absence. You don’t have to monitor or check up on each other.
The second type of trust, relational trust, goes deeper. Relational trust refers to how safe it is to trust the other person with your vulnerabilities and feelings. For example, what does the other person do when you admit a weakness, reveal a need, admit a mistake, have a failure, or talk about trouble from your past? When these issues manifest themselves in a relationship, the other person should understand that it was a huge risk for you to talk about them in the first place.
Because it is deeper and more personal, a break in relational trust is a more serious problem than a break in functional trust. A financially irresponsible person—someone capable of breaking functional trust when it comes to money—may yet be trusted for how he feels toward you. You wouldn’t want to trust him with your finances, but you can trust his concern for you in other areas.
However, the reverse is not true. Someone who is responsible in areas related to functional trust but isn’t safe with relational trust—responsive to your feelings and needs-is simply not someone you can safely get close to.
Sooner or later, the passage of time unearths the flaws or weaknesses of the people in a relationship. These flaws cause a rupture in functional trust when someone lies, becomes irresponsible, or reveals a behavior or a secret that causes problems. Flaws or weaknesses cause a break in relational trust when the person becomes emotionally disconnected, controlling, critical, or self-absorbed.
When Trust Is Damaged
Trust—functional or relational—is the thread that holds two people together. When trust is damaged, the thread is severed and the disconnection begins.
When you can no longer be assured that the other person is truly for you and relational trust is broken, several things happen that impact how you experience life.
1. Withdrawal—You become careful instead of careless. You are more reserved about discussing personal information. You avoid situation s in which you might feel vulnerable, open, or exposed. The experience of feeling safe enough to share your needs has been distorted, so you don’t take relationship risks. In some cases, the withdrawal progresses from feelings of loneliness to actually feeling dead or frozen inside. You feel nothing, or you have the sense that something is broken inside.
2. Movement to task—If your trust is damaged, you may also over invest in tasks related to work, career, school, activities, hobbies, and service. That is, you stay active in the world, but you find it much safer to “do” than to “connect.” You may pursue good goals, but stay away from the personal end of life.
3. Unbalanced “giver” relationships—It is common for a person to be the “giver” in all relationships and to avoid the “receiving.” That is, he or she will listen, help, guild others but keep away from bringing his or her own needs to the table. This often includes codependent relationships as well, in which you rescue and enable others instead of letting them take responsibility for their lives and choices. Rather than 50-50, usually when trust has been damaged, it swings toward the 10-90 ratio, as a way for the person to stay safe from being vulnerable.
4. Bad habits—Trust issues can often lead into troublesome behavior patterns. These can include eating and sleep problems, obsessive behaviors, or addictions.
Fortunately there are situations in relationships in which trust can be reestablished relatively quickly. For example, if the offending person does something hurtful, but it is not too serious and is a rare or one-time event, all it takes is for the person who experienced the offense to call attention to it. “It made me angry…. My feelings were hurt when ……” Those sorts of statements, plus patience and concern, will prompt the other person to see what they have done, mend their ways, reconnect, and move on. These are usually glitches, events that aren’t a character pattern.
Unfortunately, there are also times when the person’s inner character is not what it should be, when the patterns are deeper, and when the trust damage is more serious. These are situations in which appeals for the restoration of the relationships may go ignored, and conversations don’t work. That is when you must draw boundaries—for your interests, for the sake of the relationship, and for helping the other person as well.
A couple of comments from Chapter 7
You may have heard that you become like those you’re with and take on their characteristics. The psychological term for this is fusion
We all have some kind of response to our formative environment. Sometimes we take on the troublesome characteristics we grew up with, and sometimes we react against them. When it comes to relationships neither approach offers real solution, though the person who acts in opposition can at least identify that there is a problem to solve. But neither response by itself will fix the root problem. This is because both stances are fear-based, not growth-based.
Fusion is about fear. It occurs when a person adopts the family dysfunction out of fear of going against one’s parents and or disagreeing with them.
Reacting in opposition to family dysfunction is also fear-based. She is afraid of being swallowed up and engulfed in a sick system, losing herself, so she does a 180 degree turn away from the patterns of her parents.
It’s not a blame game nor is it disloyal. It is an attempt to understand what is going on at a deeper level so you can grow, forgive, change, and heal.
Take time to connect the dots between your past and your present. It takes work and often courage, but it is well worth the effort.
(cp: No parent is perfect. There comes a time when all of us have to recognize and forgive our parents for their failures, some of which are much more serious than other parents’. Otherwise we get stuck.)