When Trust Breaks

When trust breaks, helping couples rebuild trust in each other and happiness in their marriage.

Recovering from broken trust.

When Joe saw how sad Bob looked, he asked what was wrong. Bob answered, “I don’t know what happened to us. Nobody had an affair. Nobody stole money. Neither of us wants to be divorced, but we just don’t like being married anymore. What happened?” Bob was feeling what every couple feels when trust breaks.

While debated, the best numbers say about 45% of couples divorce. More troubling may be that only 17% of couples who remain married (so 31% of all couples) are happy. What happened to the other 69%?

Why people marry…

People tend to marry their best friend. The person who has their back no matter what. The one who accepts them completely—faults and all. They want the person who says, “No matter what life brings—I’m in it with you.”

On this foundation of trust, happy couples build a safe space for each person to vulnerably share themselves. To be “naked and unashamed.”

To be sure—even in happy marriages–differences arise. Interests clash. Conflicts erupt.  But, when trust flourishes, spouses find a way to work through tough times and find what works. They continue to prove to each other, “You can count on me–even when it’s hard. Even when we see things differently.”

What goes wrong…

Imagine an investor gives a starting business $500,000. Over the next year, the owner withdraws $300,000.00 for a building, $50,000 for licensing, $30,000.00 for set-up and equipment, $10,000 for marketing, $10,000 for a website. The owner keeps going with regular withdrawals for utilities, insurance, meals out for business, joining referral groups, and upkeep on the website. Between the big and small expenditures, how does the account keep from running dry? Obviously, the owner must make deposits that exceed all the withdrawals.

Much like starting a business, couples begin their venture by making a huge deposit into their “trust account.” They commit to life together because they confidently believe that they will take care of each other. This trust in each other ensures their marriage lasts forever. 

In every marriage, withdrawals from this trust account naturally occur. Couples draw on their trust account in making compromises around where to live, how to spend their money, and whether one will give up a job to move for the other’s job. Some withdrawals—like misusing money or having an affair—can put the trust account in immediate peril. But, more often, withdrawals come from the most natural interactions—leaving shoes in the middle of the floor, forgetting to pick up the milk, or overreacting to a comment. For even the happiest couples, these happen.

Happy couples counter the withdrawals with bigger deposits. They find ways to intentionally demonstrate, “I am here for you.” They commit to doing what their spouse needs and having their spouse’s back—even when it’s hard.

Unhealthy couples fail to make these deposits. Instead, they develop patterns that say, “You can’t count on me.”  These include routinely forgetting a spouse’s request, continuing habits they know bother the other, or prioritizing children, work, or friends over spouse. When spouses consistently fail to show up for each other—the stream of failures wears an ever-deepening crack in the foundation of trust. A crack that eventually crumbles the whole foundation.

How to rebuild trust…

For couples to move to the “happy 31%,” they must work to rebuild the trust. Big promises or grand gestures don’t work. Instead, each person must develop daily habits that demonstrate to the other, “You are my top priority. I am here for you.”

Simple habits can include:

  • Begin the day with, “Good morning! I love you. What can I do to make your day good?”
  • Pay attention to what the other spouse needs and then meet that need.
  • Use whatever tactic works (calendar reminder, post-it note, ribbon on the finger) to remember promises to pick up the milk, pay the bill, or get the kids to practice.
  • Affirm the other person to their face, in a note, and in front of others.
  • Prioritize time with spouse over other needed and important goals.

Bottom line—in happy couples, each person finds ways to assure their spouse that, “No matter what, I have your back. You can count on me.”

If trust has been broken, the only remedy is to prove, through small consistent actions that, they are the safe place for their spouse. As spouses build up their “trust account,” they lay a foundation for a happy marriage. And find their way to the 31%!

If you are struggling in your marriage and would like guidance on rebuilding a solid foundation, contact Resolution Mediation by clicking HERE or calling 317-793-0825 and ask for information on Marital Mediation. We look forward to serving you.

As always, the above is for information only. Seek a divorce professional for guidance in your personal situa

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People going through divorce often feel like they are stepping off a cliff. They are keenly aware they don’t know what they don’t know. We offer answers in a process that protects people, preserves assets, and provides a way forward. 

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