Trust. A small word that’s tremendously powerful. An intangible concept with a far-reaching, consequential impact – for better or worse. It’s the most important and fragile element in a relationship . And it’s the one thing we have no control over.

Trust can make or break a marriage. It can build strength in a family or tear it apart.

Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.
~ Unknown

Just what is trust?

In relationships, trust is a belief that your partner is reliable, dependable, honest, consistent, tenacious and transparent. When you trust your partner, you can answer “yes” to the following questions:

  • Will our relationship be your top priority?
  • When it’s needed, will you sacrifice for the team?
  • Can I depend on you?
  • Will you be faithful to me?
  • Will you tell me the truth, even when it is difficult?
  • When I need you, will you be there for me?
  • Will you keep your promises?
  • When we have conflict, will you persevere and work through it together?
  • Will you be vulnerable with me?
  • Is it safe to be vulnerable with you?

Trusting someone is a choice, and a gift. It’s something most of us don’t give away lightly. It’s a scary proposition.

Loving someone is giving them the power to break your heart, but trusting them not to.
~ Julianne Moore

No one gets through this life without giving trust and having it broken. Being let down, disappointed or betrayed hurts. Automatically we withdraw, like a turtle pulling back into its shell. The degree of trauma we experience, and the amount of resilience we possess, will determine when we come back out and assume the risk of giving trust again.

Why is a breach of trust so potent?

Two reasons come to mind: First, the person you gave the gift of trust to, discarded it, let it go, rejected it. Wasn’t trust supposed to last a lifetime? One client described the hurt:

After he left, I didn’t want to exist. I was part of a pair, and then all of a sudden, I wasn’t. It felt like an amputation. I couldn’t get out of bed. I lost 25 pounds. The tears and the pain wouldn’t stop.

Second, most of us blame ourselves when a partner leaves. A client whose husband left for his affair partner felt so sad and depressed initially, she couldn’t find her anger. She turned her rage into self-blame and beat herself up. Negative thoughts raced through her mind:

  • What did I do wrong?
  • Why wasn’t I good enough?
  • What does she have that I don’t?
  • I must not be attractive to him anymore.
  • The affair was my fault. I didn’t want to have sex much.
  • I was too focused on raising the kids.

In our therapy sessions, both of these women worked on grieving the loss of their relationships. The initial rumination and self-blame slowly abated and healing followed.

How does a partner move on and ever trust again?

Coming to a therapist is a wonderful first step toward moving on. It’s the one place where people can find someone who will fully listen with empathy, and without judgement. And it’s somewhere safe. Over the last 30 years, I’ve worked with many people who have survived the loss of a relationship or marriage. With time and therapy, people do heal. I’ve had many clients say:

I didn’t think I’d ever feel happy again. It’s a year later and I’m moving on and feeling hopeful about life and future relationships. I never thought the sadness would go away. Believe me, I still have my moments, but it’s not what I predominantly feel. Most days I am happy.

I have seen and witnessed people walk this journey many times. That allows me to bring hope to people who have experienced a break in trust.

Next week, we’ll talk about ways to build trust with your partner.

If you are in a relationship that hurts and feel disconnected, have difficulties communicating, and/or are experiencing a crisis, Bob and I can help. Call us at 410-363-2825 or email

Photo by StockSnap on Pixabay