It was the vacation kids dream about: a trip to Disney World during the middle of the school year! Not only did I get to skip classes, but I got to visit the happiest place on earth! Talk about a carefree week! As I cozied up to the huge banana split I was going to share with my cousin at Captain Cook’s Ice Cream parlor, I literally had visions of a sugar rush dancing through my head…
When my cousin leaned over and said, “Hmm. Smell that! Does our ice cream smell funny to you?” Bad ice cream? I leaned over and SPLAT! My cousin pushed my face in the ice cream in a flash! I giggled and wiped my face off, excited to share the fun with my grandfather as he sat down.
“Pa, Pa! You’ll never believe it!” And as I told the story to my grandfather, without realizing it, I started acting it out and bent down. SPLAT! She did it again! This time, I wasn’t laughing quite as hard. But for the rest of the trip, I thought twice before following my cousin’s requests.
Sadly, most trust issues don’t stem from incidents as simple and innocent as my ice cream experience. From being abandoned to cheating in relationships, unfortunately life sometimes deals us a hand that we never saw coming. And even in situations where we want to be able to trust someone again, we’re just not sure how to do it.
If we were to put trust into a mathematical formula, it would look something like this:
When we think about trust, one thing we want (and need) to see is something different, AKA a “change in behavior.” So if we’ve been lied to, then we’ll need to see and hear the truth, even blunt honest truth, in order for us to believe them. If someone has kept secrets from us, we’ll need to see more open and honest communication and actions. No flinching every time the phone chimes with a text or incoming call.
Time is another big item on our trust list. It’s one thing for someone to do the right things for a week, but it’s another for them to do the right thing for a few months. This change has to start somewhere, so it’s helpful to recognize and celebrate the small achievements along the way. But the only way for trust to truly form is when it continues over time consistently.
To help keep things on the right track when building trust back in a relationship, try these tips:
1. Show consistency with your words and actions. It’s confusing for both sides when sometimes things are OK, but in other situations, things slide. If you need to amend the “rules” that’s OK, but just make sure to point out the reasons and differences so everyone understands.
2. Be firm but kind. When addressing situations that are questionable, being firm shows respect for yourself. Being kind shows respect for the other person. It allows the conversation to actually get somewhere instead of going around in circles.
3. Develop a routine for reflecting and talking. It’s important to reflect and point out what’s working and what may need some tweaking. Having a routine for this makes it less awful and painful, and opens the way for better conversations that really make progress. A routine can be bringing things up when they occur, checking in every day before bed, or during a weekly set time.
4. Seek outside help if you need it. In some situations, you may need an outside opinion or help from people such as counselors, mediators, pastors or others in positions to give such assistance. Try to avoid sharing the dirty laundry with family and friends in such a way that gives them permission to get involved, make judgments, or add to the severity of the situation. Sometimes they may need to know things, but not everything. Share with caution.
5. Listen to your gut. Our gut instincts are often right. But sometimes our thoughts (head) and our feelings (heart) can make it difficult to know if it’s a gut talking or a heart. Try to decipher where the worry is coming from.