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Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.
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long does it take to rebuild trust?
it’s couples where one partner has had an affair. Other times it’s between
parents and a teen where the teen has stolen, lied or has been doing drugs. The
issue is trust and the question is, “How long does it take to rebuild trust
refers to being able to rely, depend or have confidence in someone or something.
It is not simply based upon a statement of intention given at some place or
time. It’s certainly more than a promise, which too is a statement of intent,
but perhaps asserted with greater intensity giving the impression of greater
meaning. Between people, real trust is an outcome of observed behaviour over
time where one’s commitments are consistently met.
on either the severity of the non-trustworthy behaviour or the frequency of
non-trustworthy events, the length of time to redevelop trust can vary greatly.
low frequency, high intensity event such as an affair can undermine trust so
significantly that the rebuilding process can take years. Other events such as a
child stealing change on an intermittent basis may also take time to repair, not
because of the intensity of the event, but due to the ongoing and intermittent
nature of the event. Single, low intensity events generally take the shortest
time to repair.
key to rebuilding trust is understanding that rebuilding takes more than just
time and an apology. While an apology is an important part of the rebuilding
process, as stated above; rebuilding real trust is a function of observable
behaviour over time where one’s commitments are consistently met. Thus trust
is an outcome of behaviour, just as lack of trust is also a function of
the non-trustworthy behaviour, the person who broke the trust will have to
understand that for the present and foreseeable future, they cannot be taken at
their word. Their trustworthiness will be a function of their deeds or actions.
Hence, their behaviour must be observable and subject to scrutiny. Those who
have had an affair will have to better account for their time. Those who gamble
will have to account for their money. Those who steal will have to account for
their whereabouts and those who make inappropriate use of the Internet may have
their access restricted or use monitored. The person who violated the trust will
have to appreciate that this burden is the consequence of their non-trustworthy
behaviour. Talk and promises are no substitute for observable behaviour over
time to the rebuilding process.
rebuilding process continues generally to the satisfaction of the person whose
trust was violated. It may be that certain safeguards will be required for a
substantial length of time, such as regular attendance at sobriety meetings or
phone calls during the day to state one’s whereabouts. In other cases, the
rebuilding process may bring the level of trust quickly back to the pre
non-trustworthy event and hence further ongoing efforts to scrutinize behaviour
would no longer be necessary. The length of time to satisfy the person whose
trust was violated will vary according to the significance of the event and
prior or ongoing other non-trustworthy behaviour the other person displays.
Hence, once must be fully trustworthy in all aspects.
to rebuild trust then? Start with an apology and then commit to observable and
appropriate behaviour. Where necessary, repair or put in safeguards to protect
against further non-trustworthy behaviour. Repair may require counselling or
attendance at special programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Repair may also
require restitution. Safeguards may include regular phone calls home or
accounting for one’s whereabouts.
the responsibility for rebuilding trust lies with the person who demonstrated
the non-trustworthy behaviour and to the reasonable satisfaction of the person
whose trust was broken. The process will take as long as it takes!
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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