Trust in a relationship -- easy to lose, difficult to regain. If there's been a major breach of trust in your relationship, is there any hope that it could be rebuilt? This week, we discuss the many different ways that trust can look, and what to expect if you and your partner are trying to restore trust that's been broken.
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Jase: On this episode of the Multiamory podcast, we're talking about how to build trust in a relationship. There are a lot of different kinds of trust if you were to just look up a definition of trust. That word is used in things like investing and in sociology and technology like can we trust our smartphones, things like that. But what we're talking about in this episode is specifically trust in a relationship. Mostly in romantic relationships but I think this also applies more generally of trust between two people in a relationship. Let's start off with Kinda defining this here.
Dedecker: Hang on though because you wanted to do this because you said that this is what the number three most googled search term?
Dedecker: Something like that.
Jase: An article came out recently that was the top 10 google searches about relationships in 2017. One of them and I don't remember exactly now if it was number three or two. It was one of the top ones, was how to build trust in relationships. Specifically those words. I was like, "You know? That's something we talk about a lot about honesty and trust." Trust is this important foundation especially if you're going to do anything that's non-traditional.
Dedecker: Well, speaking of non-traditional, wasn't non-traditional relationships also on that list? The search terms list?
Jase: Yes. In the list of top 10, two of them had to do with polyamory. One was what is polyamory. Another one was something about open relationships.
Emily: Like how to open your relationship?
Jase: Something like that.
Dedecker: Sounds about right.
Jase: Anyway, the fact that we're in two of the top 10 questions is a lot of what we talk about on this. I think it's a good indication that this is becoming a more and more relevant topic to a lot more people. That more people are at least aware of it and thinking about it whether or not they actually end up doing it themselves.
Dedecker: At least there's more people out there getting confused by it.
Jase: Well, yes. Unfortunately, a lot of it -- There's some good answers online to those questions and then there's some shitty ones. Hopefully, we can contribute to their being some more good answers out there. With that, can we talk about trust? What is this? The kind of trust we're talking about here.
Dedecker: The kind of trust that we're talking about. Gosh, I feel like that's a hard one to define if I'm just trying to think it off the top of my brain how to define trust. Trust is part of a relationship between two people where the trustor, the person who's doing the trusting decides to believe that the other person or the trustee is going to do what they say and it's going to act with benevolence toward the trustor. That all sounds like really fancy schmancy. More fancy schmancy than I think it should.
Basically, it's be like when I'm looking at you as this other person who's in this human relationship with me, I believe that the things that you say are true. That you're speaking and acting with integrity and also that you are going to be kind to me and that you're also going to treat me with also my best interests in mind. Something like that.
Emily: Or at the very least with fairness.
Dedecker: With fairness, yes.
Emily: There's a Wikipedia definition too. Can I go with that?
Dedecker: Yes, what's that?
Emily: In sociology and psychology, the degree to which one party trusts another is a measure of belief in the honesty, fairness or benevolence of another party. The term confidence, is more appropriate for a belief in the competence of the other party. A failure in trust may be forgiven more easily if it is interpreted as a failure of competence rather than a lack of benevolence or honesty.
Dedecker: I think that's a really interesting distinction to make. I was trying to think about what does this look like in real life. Maybe the two of you can help me think of this. I'm trying to think about like, "Okay, so what's the difference between me not thinking that someone's going to come through because I don't think they're an honest person or that they are good person versus me not thinking someone's going to go through with something because I just don't think that they're competent." Or that they can do what I'm asking them to do.
Jase: This isn't about that though. This is about when they don't do the thing they said they were going to do is why do you think they did it. I think a good example of this could be if we use something just very small. This could be the example of -- The three of us were talking about something and I'm like, "Okay, I will get this Multiamory thing done by tomorrow." And then I don't.
Dedecker: And then you don't.
Jase: If you feel like, "Yes, okay Jase is bad with time management and he lacked the competence to get that thing done, I can more easily forgive that. Than, if it's like he said he was going to do it and then it was like "Fuck that. I don't actually have to do it".
Dedecker: Or if I think like he was just saying that to look good or to look like he could handle -- do something that he couldn't actually do. That's interesting.
Jase: That's an example. The thing that this makes me think of when it comes to a relationship especially more of a traditional way of looking at fidelity in relationships, is I think that are common argument that's actually used to justify infidelity is this argument of like, "Well, I was in the moment and I couldn't resist my urges or feelings that I was having towards this person who I happen to get snowed in to this hotel with on a work trip." Do you know what I mean? Like that. Where it's not that I intentionally went out and did this but I couldn't help it. I lack the willpower.
Dedecker: The competence or the willpower to resist the external circumstances.
Jase: I think that it's such a tempting explanation to use because I do think it makes it, if you believe it, makes it more easy to forgive that person. At least according to what this is saying about the research that's been done about it.
Dedecker: Yes. That makes sense.
Emily: Do try to give a person the benefit of the doubt who you have a relationship with? Just simply because they are loved or they are a person with whom you have a history or does that go out the window when trust is involved or when trust is betrayed moreover?
Jase: Can I get a super technical about it for a second?
Jase: Let's go nerdy for a second then we'll talk about real-world applications. Basically, in reading about this, I thought it was really cool that trust essentially is an imperfect system that we just decide to use because it's easier than the alternative. What that means is the alternative being that I have to prepare for every single possibility of anything that anyone else might do to the point that that's just overwhelming. I can't spend all of my time thinking about every possible outcome of what you might do-
Dedecker: Am I planning for that and protecting for myself from that.
Jase: -and planning for all those. Exactly. Instead, we chose trust. There are other things like this but for trust specifically, I choose instead of spending all my mental energy on that, I'm just going to on faith with no -- I don't have any way of guaranteeing it. I will trust so that you're going to do the things you're going to say you're doing. You're going to be honest with me and fair with me and all of that. I'm jumping and heading to our next category a little bit here. This has been shown -- Willingness to trust has been shown in a lot of different studies to be very closely linked with well-being. With reported well-being and levels of life satisfaction which is something we talked a while ago on our episode about positive psychology.
Dedecker: Hang on. Let me argue this a little bit. Do you think there might be a little bit of circular reasoning there? Do you think that you could argue about maybe somebody who already has better well-being or more life satisfaction because they have not experienced a lot of betrayals for instance, or maybe they didn't experience a huge amount of devastated trust early on. That means they're more likely to be willing to trust people?
Emily: That's possible.
Dedecker: Versus if you think of somebody who has experienced a lot of egregious breaches of trust over the course of their life that would probably affect their satisfaction in their life and in their relationships in general. Then that's tied to them not wanting to trust other people. I'm just wondering if there's causation correlation mixup.
Emily: Well, it's a nature versus nurture question right there?
Jase: Right. All of this is saying that this isn't a causation like no psychological research really does that. It's all correlation. It's saying that they've shown that if you map out people's personality traits, this was in a study of 129 different personality traits of which willingness to trust was one of them. They found that among a few others were the ones that had the highest correlation with your self-reported well-being. Not even happy about well-being.
Feeling like you have a sense of purpose and that you're generally satisfied with your life. You feel like you have some control over your life, things like that. The reason why this comes up in those terms is because it is something that's dealt with a lot in psychology and in therapy in dealing with incidences of abuse or betrayal or things where that happening in your life. Whether it was something very early on with your parents or something that's happened later on with a partner or a coworker or who knows what. Why those events can be so damaging is because they hurt our ability to trust other people.
Dedecker: Just in general for the rest of our lives?
Jase: Well, if we don't do anything about it. All of this as we talked about in the positive psychology episode. There are actually very few things about ourselves that are permanent, set in stone. That's why this is worth talking about. I also think it's why it comes up in all these Google searches. People are being like, "I realized that I would be happier in this relationship if I could trust my partner or if they trusted me. How do we get to that?"
Emily: Apparently in psychology, trust is shown to start really early on in childhood where we have these first experiences of trust being established or violated by our caretakers. Then our willingness to trust is often shaped by that which is really interesting. [laughs] If you're, I don't know, every single day, you get fed at five or something, this is like a pet or something.
Seriously, every single day, you get fed at five. Then all of a sudden, your mother waits until 5:30 or something, you feel like your trust has been violated at that moment. Your mom, when you cry, always brings a toy and then doesn't do that one time. Do you feel your trust is violated? Is it something like that or is it bigger?
Jase: Tiny little things.
Dedecker: Yes, but those still have an effect.
Dedecker: As a baby, you don't have your adult, logical mind to talk that away or to realize that's not a big deal. You have a baby brain.
Emily: Yes, everything is so big at that part of your life.
Jase: You also don't know when it's five oçlock.
Dedecker: I guess that's true.
Emily: Well, come on. If dogs and cats know what the fuck time it is and they're like, "Okay. It's seven, you need to feed me now."
Dedecker: You need to feed me now.
Jase: Yes. Well, so what I was trying to get to actually was that these are very little things. It's a good example of, that our trust is going to be broken by our parents or our caretakers, whoever that is.
Dedecker: Regardless of their intention.
Jase: Right. It's going to happen. They're going to say, "Yes, we'll get you that toy." Then they end up not being able to afford it. They say, "I'll be home at this time. We can play." Then an emergency comes up. They can't do it. Even with the best of intentions, there's going to be some betrayals of trust. The question is just, how bad is it?
Emily: How egregious is this sin?
Jase: Exactly. This can be everything from very, very heavy things, really traumatic things for the child, for you as that child to things like we were saying that are a little bit more mundane. This is the whole question about Santa Claus, of are you teaching your children that they can't trust people by telling them that Santa's real-
Dedecker: By lying to them about Santa?
Jase: -knowing that someday, they're going to find out you lied to them? Not only that you lied to them once but that you continually lied to them for years.
Dedecker: Are there some strong arguments against Santa on the psychological standpoint?
Jase: I've heard people talk about it but I've never looked into if there's any real research on that.
Emily: I did have a friend who recently told me [chuckles] that her sister just lost her shit entirely when she found out Santa Claus wasn't real and ran into the bedroom and slammed the door and was like, "You lied to me for years." It was really bad. That's probably a traumatic event that they'll remember forever.
Jase: Yes, absolutely.
Dedecker: That's traumatic on a child level, right?
Emily: Well, yes.
Jase: That's the time when we're learning what trust is.
Emily: That's a big deal.
Dedecker: That's true.
Jase: I could see someone making an argument on the other side though of saying, "Well, we want to expose our kids to a certain amount of this to teach them to not be gullible, teach that not everyone's going to tell you the truth all the time."
Jase: [chuckles] I don't know. Again, I don't know what research there is to back that up.
Emily: What about families that the parents are together for a while and then they get divorced? Does that have a certain level of trust built in? Then, does that mean that those kids are forever scarred?
Dedecker: Well, okay. That's what I would think. I think that this is much more relatable for us to think about, having known all three of us are children of parents not being together, either divorcing or not being present in various different ways and a lot of people of our generation experienced that as well but apparently, studies have shown that people who grew up in divorced families apparently don't show any greater distrust of their partners or their friends than people who grew up with their parents still together. It seems the likelihood of you being willing to trust or unwilling to trust is about the same even if your parents divorced when you were growing up.
Jase: Right. It seems that other factors are more important to that, which is good news. I was like, "Phew. Okay. All right." At least, I don't have to worry so much about that one.
Emily: We're not all just, "My God, I don't trust anyone".
Dedecker: We're whole, dude, in that regard.
Jase: Yes. Let's start getting into understanding trust on a more practical level, how it actually plays out in our lives.
Emily: Yes. There's these four states of trust which Dr. Riki Robbins wrote about. They include perfect trust, damaged trust, devastated trust and restored trust. The first one is going to be perfect trust. That's the thing that your baby trust-
-you're born with it.
Dedecker: Your baby trust.
Emily: I really just took this one so that I could say baby trust.
Dedecker: You could say baby trust?
Emily: You're born with it as a baby. Then you never get that back ever again. You have perfect skin. You have -- everyone around you puts up with your bullshit. It's basically the things that you're born with as a baby.
Dedecker: Among the things that you're born with and then never get back again. [laughs]
Emily: Exactly, yes. One of them is this perfect trust. Then the next one is damaged trust. That's caused by a very minor breach of trust such as an omission of a detail or a early-caught lie. These little things can over time, severely damage trust and then move into the next form which is...Dedeker.
Jase: I'm sorry. I just need to talk about an early-caught lie. That just sounds so-
Dedecker: That's the name of a soap opera right there.
Jase: An early-caught lie?
Dedecker: The Early-Caught Lie.
Emily: An Early-Caught Lie, a soap opera by Chase Lindgren.
Dedecker: To be honest, an early-caught lie would be not a very interesting soap opera.
Jase: That's true.
That's true. It makes me think of things like in a lot of our romantic comedies and stuff. There will be some lie or omission of a detail that gets set up early on like, "Yes. I do totally work for the rebellion." That's not a romantic comedy. If we're talking about Star Wars that like, "Yes, I'm totally that." Then us as the audience are waiting for, how long is this till this gets found out? It's going to be really bad. Now, all of a sudden, the trust that they had is betrayed.
This early-caught lie thing is interesting. If you think about that, I've heard this as an explanation for why humans blush actually, is that-
Dedecker: To make it easier for us to be caught in our lies?
Emily: That's crazy.
Jase: Blushing and doing other kinds of deception leakage is the term technically.
Dedecker: That is so gross.
Dedecker: You want to take care of that. [chuckles]
Jase: Yes. It's something that gives us away when we're lying. You would think, why would we evolve to have that? Getting caught in a lie seems like a bad thing. Wouldn't we evolve to be more of sociopaths and just able to lie without any problem? It's because, again, if you're thinking about tribal humans, if you don't get caught in a lie for a long time and then you do, how badly betrayed everybody feels by that could very well lead you to be kicked out of the society and probably die. Whereas, on the other hand, if you tell a lie and you get caught right away because you're a bad liar, that that actually is more survivable. People trust you more in the long run.
Dedecker: Interesting, that's really interesting to think about. Well, that leads into the next one which is the devastated trust which, this is distinguished by, it could be a major deception. It can be something that you've been keeping secret for a very long time-
Jase: Like we're talking about.
Dedecker: -as well, like we're talking about. Maybe these smaller things that aren't found out right away, that are just kept or they build up or there's multiple small things that are kept secret for a very long time. Then they come to light. It seems most of the literature on this really recommends that if you suspect that your partner has done something that is a breach of trust, it's better to try to talk about it earlier rather than later.
This is very hard to do. Of course, pretty much all of us are conflict-averse. Nobody wants to rock the boat. No one wants to be confrontational. I think especially, we fear, "If I confront my partner on something and there's truly nothing, then I look like the weirdo or the paranoid one or whatever." The thing is that, bear in mind that the more time goes on, the more there's a likelihood of a much bigger bomb going off much later on down the road.
Jase: Yes. It's so easy to put it off. Whether you're the person who comes clean about a lie or you're the person who feels, "Something doesn't seem right here," that in either way, it's like, "I don't want to cause an argument," or, "I don't -- I don't want to mess things up. Ironically, that might be exactly the thing that does mess it up, keeping a secret.
Dedecker: Can I talk about-- there's this quote here that Dr Rick Robins also says, they say, "Conversely, if you betray your partner either reveal it at the time or else, take a vow of eternal silence. Sharing a betrayal further down the road devastates trust." Now, I don't know, is this the same person or is this someone different basically?
Jase: That's a different one, yes.
Dedecker: Yes, because there is someone you were talking about, some psychologist who actually takes the stands of, if you cheated on your partner and never told them-
Emily: Don't say anything?
Dedeker: -don't tell them which is super controversial and I'm also not entirely sure how I feel about that but I get by reasoning being it's going to cause much more damage because of the fact that you've held on to this long.
Jase: Yes, this person, Dr Ricky Robins who wrote a lot of these things that we're taking these four types of trust or these four stages of trust, she calls them four stages of trust, we've changed that to four states of trust because it's not like they necessarily go linearly in stages.
She actually died in 2010 and this other psychologist who -- I'm sorry I don't remember her name who specifically counsels couples that her stance and this is something that I had in a interview with her more recently so I know it's not the same person, her stance specifically is, if you cheated in a relationship and then decided to end that other infidelitous relationship and to go back to being monogamous in your relationship and they haven't found out, that you should just keep it secret forever because that's the kind of thing to do to them.
Her argument is the reason why we feel this need to come clean about something in the past like that is not because -- we tell ourselves it's like, oh, the deserve to know or something. Her argument is that you're actually-
Jase: -only -- exactly, it's selfish. That you're only doing that to try to assuage some sort of feeling of guilt that you have but that by doing it, you're actually hurting not only your relationship but also the other person. It's very controversial.
Dedecker: Yes, it reminds me of-- I had a former partner who used to have a lot of issues with in monogamous relationships in his past. He cheated all the time and he never came clean. There had been times he'd been caught, but he never proactively came clean and his justification in his mind was-- something along those lines was like, "The guilt that I feel and I have to carry around, that's the trade off. That's my punishment. Essentially is that I carry that." Again, it's the same thing where it's like, I get it but it's also shitty. It feels related to that.
Emily: Yes, I have a very good friend who's cheated on her partner quite a few times and that is the question of -- but never come clean with it. I always wondered that like, "Well, should she tell him? Would it be the kinder thing to do?" I don't know.
Jase: That does bring up a good distinction though just to further talk about this subject. Again this psychologist who I was hearing about-- who was talking in this interview was saying in her example like, "You just need to vow to keep that secret forever." Was specifically in the circumstances that you've now stopped doing it.
Dedecker: Right, I guess that does make a difference.
Jase: It's a different thing if this is an ongoing thing.
Emily: But what if you do it again?
Dedecker: Well, that's going to be different, right? That is different consideration.
Jase: Yes, if this is something that is a repeating behavior or that you're pretty sure that you're going to do it again if you're honest with yourself, then it's a little different story. Then I don't think her argument is, "Still keep that secret." It's line, "No, now, you have to deal with it because you're not able to be in this relationship". This is more-
Dedeker: You have to have that integrity.
Jase: -when something's already happened and you've ended it for whatever reason.
Emily: It’s like ‘eek’ I did a bad thing.
Jase: Yes. It's interesting and in this other article where we pulled this quote from, Dr Robins gives various examples of clients of hers who've come in with these things where a husband admits to his wife 20 years later that he had an affair sometime way back then, he just needed to get it off his chest and said that their relationship never recovered from it.
Dedecker: I've definitely seen that happen a number of times. It's really sad because I've known friends where it's that same thing, they cheated one time, 10 years ago and they told their partner and the really sad thing is that what came back from the other side was like, "Oh, I feel like the past 10 years have been a lie".
Dedeker: When maybe it's technically not the case. You cheated once and then after that it was that -- but-
Jase: But it's more of this-
Dedecker: -yes, I don't know. I feel really uncomfortable right now because I can't tell which side I'm arguing for.
Jase: Well, this whole thing about a lie getting caught earlier being easier to forgive is it's not the fact that this happened 10 years ago makes the thing you did worse but it makes the idea that I could go that long not figuring it out and you never telling me, the fact that you have that ability and that I don't have that ability to figure it out, that's the problem.
Dedecker: Yes, that's painful.
Jase: Again, to go back to our definition of trust, it's that. It's that, "I'm not going to put in the effort to think about all the things you might do because I'm going to choose to trust that you're just going to do what you say you're going to do." When you find out like, oh God, for the last 10 years, that hasn't been true and I haven't known about it, it just throws into doubt that whole system that's let you get by this long.
Well, anyway, we'll let you continue to debate that further, it's a tough one, it really is. Actually, I did want to give a counterexample that couples I do know who have gotten past some kind of infidelity, it is often either found out about or admitted much earlier-
Dedecker: Yes, that's true.
Jase: like the next day or coming home from the business trip or even it's just something like, "I kissed another person. I have to tell you, I'm sorry, it was stupid." That kind of thing that well it still can suck-
Emily: Breach of trust.
Jase: -and damage that trust for a while, I generally feel like I hear that example more often in relationships that do recover and rebuild trust.
Dedeker: That do bounce back from it, yeah.
Jase: Which brings us to our next state of trust which is restoring trust. Restoring trust takes time and it takes work from both parties. Both from the person needing to figure out how to give trust again, how to have trust again and from the person who needs to show that they deserve it, show they earn it.
Unfortunately, the way trust works is it's asymmetrical. It can take a long time to build and can be destroyed really quickly. It's a tough thing and part of this is also realizing that if someone is untrustworthy that it's not just over night that they're going to change that either.
Which is something we've talked about in more vague terms in the past on this show when people are moving towards non-monogamy after infidelity that comes up like, "Okay, maybe this is a better fit but we have this trust problem to deal with first." Because unfortunately, it got to the point where that happened and that trust was damaged.
Dedecker: The important here is that it takes both sides because what I often see people struggle with so much is either one person thinking like, well, this person is just -- going to have to trust me again. They just need to let it go and they just need to trust me again without me putting a lot of emphasis on trying to change my behavior or make any kind of intentional effort. Then I also see people on the other side being like, they need to prove to me every single day, every single minute that I can trust them again. I don't have to give any trust until I've seen a whole year's worth of proof that I can trust them. Both of those attitudes are really problematic-
Dedecker: -if not destructive, they're just not going to get you moving forward. Can I talk about the falling trust thing?
Jase: Yes, we didn't even put that in our notes.
Dedecker: Yes, With Jason, this was a number of years ago when we had a falling out in our relationship, the thing that got us to move forward is that I in that particular situation needed to be conscious in my behavior and acknowledging my behavior in the past and acknowledging steps that I was going to take to change that in the future but then what I had asked from him also was like, "I need you to forward me a little bit of trust."
I need a little bit of an advance payment. It's not 100%, not never worrying about it and not being a dormant or whatever but it's going to require at least a little bit of that advance payment of trust essentially in order for us to actually move forward.
Emily: That's a good way to put it.
Jase: We started getting to this a moment ago which is, how do we know when can we trust people? Can trust be rebuilt with this person? Because we're just saying it takes effort from both sides but there are times when either someone maybe shouldn't be trusted again or where it's just, "Even if I would like to trust you, I just can't and I will never get there."
Dedecker: Well, just to preview a little bit of what we'll get into later, the key here is the fact that trust is not this black and white, it's not either I trust you or I don't which a lot of people tend to talk about it in that way. It is more shades of grey in between there ultimately and especially when-
Jase: How many shades would you say it is?
Dedecker: I would say at least 49. Anyway, especially when it comes to this conversation around trust that's been broken and then need to be rebuilt. That often is not a case of we just switch the trust switch back on, it's a little bit different from that. Anyway, that was just a little preview of later. Please go ahead.
Jase: Yes. Something that I wanted to talk about was how you evaluate if a person is trustworthy enough to be worth building trust with them. Something that I have both read about and heard in a lot of pop psychology advice and things like that is people will say things like, "Trust your intuition, go with your gut if you feel like this person is trustworthy or not."
I actually really dislike this advice. I think that intuition isn't really a thing, it's what I'm getting at. People can treat it like it's this magical thing that knows some truth and gives us a little bit of access to it but it's really just a word to describe these feelings or things in the back of our mind and it could look different for different people.
I think for one person, they might need someone to say, "Hey, you know what, I think you've got this going on in the back of your mind, trust that intuition". But I also think there's a lot of other people who will either stay in a destructive relationship because their intuition they think it's telling them that it's okay or their intuition is saying like, "No, you can't trust this person" is really just their emotional feeling hurt rather than actually that this person isn't trustworthy. I just want to say, take it with a grain of salt.
Emily: Haven't we talked about a gut feeling being a real thing on this show though? I thought that we've spoken about that.
Dedecker: I was going to argue that a little bit because I wouldn't want to say intuition is not a real thing. I think intuition is a thing that people feel. I think where it starts to get sticky is the fact that it can be very easily misinterpreted and misconstrued with many other things-
Jase: That's more what I mean.
Dedeker: -like the particular emotions you're feeling in that moment or getting construed with your values of what you think that you should be doing versus what you're actually doing. It's that. It is a thing. I think people can have that checks, people can have that voice in their head that's telling them not to do something. How much weight you give it needs to really heavily depend on the context, that's my opinion.
Emily: Well, people can also lie to themselves and say like, "This relationship is so hard but I feel like he's the one so I'm going to stick with it or whatever."
Jase: That's what I'm getting at. Is not just say-
Emily: I get you.
Jase: -ignore your gut, ignore your intuition but to know that that in itself is not a good enough reason for anything. It's not a good enough reason to be in a relationship, it's not a good enough reason to say that you could never be in a relationship with someone or have a certain type of relationship or whatever.
Those things still might be true but intuition is not the only -- people tend to think of intuition as being this voice that's always correct and we just are either paying attention to it or not and that's the part that I want to argue. Is to say, no, listen to it, see what's going on there and then also try to look at it logically and be like, "Do I have evidence to back this up? Does it make sense?" If both those things line up once you start looking at it, then you'll have a better idea that, "This a decision I can make confidently."
Emily: Can we talk about honesty?
Jase: Let's do it.
Emily: I think definitely if you're more honest with yourself, then that gives you the opportunity to be more honest with your partner because a lot of times like we said before, if you tend to not tell someone for a long time about something that you've been dishonest about or a breach of trust, then more damage can be caused if you just tend to not speak about it for very long amount of time.
I'd say, yes, work towards talking about things just as soon as you become aware of them and another thing, something that we talk about a lot on this show is a radar or another monthly check in which is a great way to do this without needing to find a specific time to derail your day or just like, "Shit, I've got to talk to you about something right now." Instead, maybe talk about it in your monthly radar.
Dedecker: Yes. It seems like if you are on this path of, "Okay, I need to create trust, I need to rebuild trust". It seems like that the first step out the gate is, if there's something you need to come clean about ideally that happens sooner rather than later.
Jase: Also, this is worth thinking about as you're starting any kind of new relationship as well or in that process of rebuilding trust where it's like you're having to start over from square one in terms of building that trust. That is taking that time to be honest with yourself so that you can be more honest with your partner or your friend or whoever this is.
One thing that's really helpful about having the monthly meeting or some kind of a regular check in that not like,"Hey, we need to have a meeting because I need to talk about this." It's just like, "We have it, we're going to do it anyway." Is that sometimes it hard to know-- if I think about my experience in monogamous relationships in the past and definitely it's something I've heard from other people is it's like, "Well, maybe I might feel some attraction toward other people but at what point is that a big enough thing that I actually need to talk about it?"
I know that's going to be uncomfortable. Again, if it's something that has to get brought up out of nowhere, even if for you it is just like, "Hey, I have these feeling or these attractions toward this friend of ours or this coworker or something". If it's brought up like, "We need to talk about something." Then you bring that up, your partner might think, "Oh gosh, this is a really big deal that they need to act on right now." For you, that might not be true.
Whereas having something that's a pre scheduled meeting where you're already in the habit of sharing your thoughts with each other and just updating on where you are right now, is a good opportunity to be able to bring those up. It's not necessarily going to be comfortable but by getting really honest and some people even take this so far as argue for radical honesty which is where you're honest about everything no matter how uncomfortable or-
Dedecker: How damaging or hurtful it might be.
Jase: Yes, or how hurtful it might be. There's a balance to be found there but anyway, I just wanted to bring that up that sometimes it's hard to know when is something big enough to be worth talking about? When is it real enough? Having some kind of a regular way to check in, is a good way to lessen the barrier to talking about things.
Dedecker: Okay, so far to recap a little bit on this journey of rebuilding trust, we have coming clean about things sooner rather than later, establishing open channels of communication or regular channels of communication in order to be able to talk about these things. Part of this is also having realistic expectations for what that restored trust is going to look like or could potentially look like because like I was saying earlier, unfortunately, we can never get back to perfect trust in our lives.
We can never get back to that perfect baby trust. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just a fact. That's just a part of growing up, that's a part of us figuring out how the world works, that's a part of us figuring out how human beings work. The same things in our relationships is that, if trust has been betrayed either on small level or on a grander level, it's unlikely that you are ever going to be able to return to that same level of trust that you were before hand.
You may be able to return to something similar but it may not be exactly the same. Again, Dr Ricky Robins distinguishes these different kinds of restored trust. The first one that here is guarded trust. You maybe thinking, "I will trust you again but I'm going to be on guard for another betrayal because if it happened once, it could happen again."
Again, this whole guarded trust thing it can manifest in varying degrees, right? At the extreme end it could be that you are on guard all the time for another betrayal and you trust your partner but you're constantly looking out for any evidence that this betrayal might happen again. Verses on the other end of the extreme of largely you trust your partner but maybe in the back of your mind you still have that memory of like, "Right, this did happen once." Maybe you don't put a lot stock into it happening again or whatever but that is still there in your mind.
Emily: Yes and there's another one that I think is a little bit challenging. It's hard for me to be like, "Yes, this is a good thing". It's conditional trust so it's, "I'll trust you again under certain conditions". If you never communicate with the accomplice again, if you cheated on someone or if you cheated with someone, then that person will trust you your spouse or whomever will trust you again if you never speak to the person who you cheated with, ever again. Then I'll trust you.
Dedecker: This was another one that I'm not sure about because it feels like I understand that but I also see it having the potential of being toxic in certain circumstances.
Jase: Well, although if I can just to be devil's advocate here, if I was going to argue for this I would say the important distinction is that this is about the condition of not continuing to do something that was involved with the violation of trust whereas what we see more often in talking with people that's a more toxic version of this is, "I'll trust you but only if you don't communicate with anyone who I'm uncomfortable with". That's a little bit different. Whereas this is limited to specifically -- at least in this example here that this is limited to specifically the person that you collaborated with to do whatever, this breach of trust. I think that's at least worth looking at. That to me makes a bit of a difference-
Dedecker: That makes sense.
Jase: Then the last of these three types here is called selective trust. This is a combination of the other two almost but it's like, "I'll trust you in this one area but not in another area". This could be something like, "I'm going to trust you to raise our kids together but I'm not going to trust you with money anymore and we're going to separate our finances" or "I'm not going to trust you anymore with sexual fidelity if it was a monogamous relationship" and than saying, "Well, okay, that's a boundary for me so we're not going to be in that kind of relationship anymore even though we may still live together, we may still raise our kids together. Maybe we do still share our bank account or a business or whatever it is". That is selective trust that you choose to trust in certain areas and not others. This one makes me think a little bit about the confidence that we talked about earlier too.
Dedecker: Right. That does seem it could be related to this.
Jase: Especially when it comes to money or raising children or something where it's like, "Maybe I just think you can't do this good so I'm not going to trust you in that area because I don't-"
Dedecker: "I'm going to trust you to get this report done but I'm not going to ask you to have it by specific date because I don't think you have the ability or the competence to get things in on time."
Emily: That's an interesting example.
Dedecker: Maybe like that makes me choose what kind of tasks I want to delegate to you. Maybe I can trust you with tasks that are not time sensitive because I know you are competent in that arena but not in the arena of working under a deadline for instance.
Jase: This is a descent segue into something and this comes from David Bedrick who's a counselor, educator, author and attorney who talks about the ways that betrayal is inevitable. That sometimes it's a simple as one person agreeing to be a certain kind of partner and then later learning that they can't be that. For example, it could-
Emily: What is that mean?
Jase: Well, it could be something-
Dedecker: I think we see it all the time. I see it all the time with people who got married monogamously 20 years ago and at that time that was the partner they wanted to be. That was the kind of relationship they wanted to have like they weren't lying with their vows or lying about their love for that person. Then 20 years later they realize, "Oh, actually, I think my values and my feelings might align more with non-monogamy. Either we can explore that together-" or the sad factor is just that like, "I can't be the same partner as I was 20 years ago."
It sad to label that as a betrayal. That sounds dramatic to label as a betrayal but it's like that breach of trust. That doesn't come out of necessarily someone wanting to be mean or wanting to specifically be-
Emily: Be cruel.
Dedecker: Exactly. It's just out of this particular circumstances.
Jase: One of the examples that he gives is if you start off a relationship with the understanding that one of us is going to be the breadwinner and the other is going to be a homemaker. A 100% that's what we want, that's what we're promising to each other all of that. Then maybe 10 years later you realize, "I'm really unhappy working this job when I would like to be pursuing my creative passions instead or vice versa it could be the person that whom realizing, "You know, I'm actually not happy only doing this. I want to feel like I'm making some contribution in the world." That's not that they lied before but it's that we do change.
That's just one example but he goes on to say that, "We also have the shadow self if we want to be Jungian about it." Qualities or needs or capacities that we don't even know about yet that haven't become clear to ourselves yet. That we can't control our own of that and we can't control that in other people. If we try to, first of all, it's just going to fail and second of all, it's going to end up being suppressive, it's going to lead to an explosion of these qualities or more likely into a real betrayal of trust like we're talking about on this.
I think this is also an interesting way of looking other of saying, it goes along with realizing you can have guarded or conditional or selective trust. I think this is especially useful if you're someone who, because of experiences in your life, has a harder time trusting is to realize like, "Okay, if I start from the assumption that perfect trust isn't the thing that that's not the goal and so if I don't have that it doesn't mean I'm failing" but instead it's like, "I'm going to try to figure out who's worth giving trust to and then give them as much as I'm able to".
I think that, again, from a lot of the examples of specific cases that I read about in researching this is a lot of how people have learned to recover and be able to have other rewarding relationships after a really bad betrayal or infidelity or something like that is it does take this step of, "I'm going to start giving some trust to people a little bit of a time as I can." It's like, over here I can't trust and over here I can and maybe what I can is very small, very few categories or very few people but there's this little gray area in the middle where I'm not so sure.
It's like pushing that little gray area just a little bit more toward giving a little bit more trust as a way of getting back some of that well-being like we're talking about earlier with that correlation.
Dedecker: Well, I feel like we're ending up giving the same disclaimer that we gave in so many episodes which is that if you're being abused, if someone is being violent to you, if there's repeated betrayals of trust, even if it's small damages to trust but they are repeating over time constantly, it is okay and encouraged to leave that relationship as quickly and as safely as you possibly can. You should never feel obligated to trust someone that you just don't or that you just feel like you can't.
However, if you're in a relationship and there's been some kind of violation either large or small and the two of you have decided to rebuild trust, it can help to come to it with the understanding that you both will betray each others trust at times, you will. Ideally, it won't be a systemic thing, it won't be repeating thing but you will. It can be a bridge of an agreement, it can be a misunderstanding or someone unintentionally gets their feelings hurt but the most important thing to take away from this is the fact that you can work together, you can come to it from this mutual understanding. I wanted to end it off with something really strong but now I'm rambling.
Emily: Well, just that if you can both come together and realize the process of rebuilding this trust can be the thing that makes us stronger and better rather than being-
Jase: It's a mutual process. It's not just one person trying to do all the work. It's two people working together.
Dedecker: I remember what I was going to say but-
Emily: What Dedecker, what?
Dedecker: It was to reiterate that at the end of the day there is no relationship that will feel 100% safe.
Emily: It's safe enough.
Dedecker: Yes, exactly. It's a scary thing to say but it's really as we pointed out earlier on it's like betrayals are inevitable even when they are on a tiny scale. You may never feel absolutely 100% safe and I never have to worry about anything in a relationship. Honestly, if you did I'll call pretty boring. [laughs] Just bare that in mind. Your relationships should feel safe to you but they may never feel like there's no way anything can possibly go wrong because that's just the nature of human relationship.
Jase: I think that when you don't understand that too, again, if you are rebuilding trust, understanding that it can take a lot of time. Like I said, it takes a lot longer to build trust than it does to damage it or to break it but to understand that if you're willing to do that and really improve your honesty with yourself, your honesty with each other and improve your communication through that process, that understanding that it's not like, "It could have been possible for us to have a perfect trust in our relationship and now we're just go for second best". That's always going to happen. There is no such thing as perfect trust and so this might actually be an opportunity for us to end up stronger that we were originally. That's worth remembering that this isn't just like we're going to get by now as much as we can and even though it may take time and feel discouraging that you can actually get to a place that is stronger and has more of a firm foundation against future challenges than you could have. I'm speaking about this from my own personal experience as well as what I've seen with other people and what I've read about in researching this topic.
Dedecker: Well, great. Let's take it home.