There are some actions whose impact on trust is obvious and catastrophic. Infidelity, sudden abuse, revealing or withholding important information and financial betrayal all sever the ties of emotional security with one brutal slash.
Yet many times, the erosion of trust is much more subtle and the belief in your partner happens slowly, one frayed stand of reilance at a time. It’s possible (and even common) for neither partner to realize the deleterious and compounding effect of these actions; they remain unnoticed until it becomes too late and trust may be beyond recovery.
Learn to recognize these crafty threats to trust so that you can address them before it’s too late:
1 – Not Showing Excitement
Ask any dog guardian about their favorite part about having a dog, and you will most likely hear something about how good it feels to be greeted every time with a wagging tail. Likewise, we want our partners to be excited to see us, no matter if we just returned from a month away or just walked in from a stroll around the block. A lackluster welcome can begin to make your presence feel unnoticed or even unwanted.
Apart from enthusiastic greetings, we want our partners to share in our successes. When we have reached some goal or garnered some praise, we want them to share in our sense of achievement. When we initiate a conversation with excitement and that energy is not returned, it is a feeling of trying to play tennis with a partner who refuses to return the serve.
Over time, you may begin to withhold your good news, refrain from sharing your passion, deciding that it’s less painful to celebrate alone than to have your smile countered with a shrug.
2 – Disappointment
Sometime disappointment comes from a person who deliberately fails to follow through on their promises. Their words soon become meaningless as their actions never manifest. You begin to expect that they won’t do as they say and you find yourself surprised when the behavior matches the claim.
Other times, the intention of the promise-maker is good and the lack of follow-through is more sporadic. Strangely, this situation is often more painful and causes more damage to trust than the first case, because the intermittent rewards keep you hoping for the desired outcome.
Especially if you have experienced major betrayal, these disappointments can register at a larger magnitude than they actually are. Furthermore, past injuries may encourage you to assume intent where there is only carelessness.
3 – Overreacting
We expect (and rightfully so) our partners to be our “safe space.” We want to be able to express our inner worries and reveal even our ugliest thoughts without the fear of being ridiculed or rejected. And if name-calling commences or the tone turns abusive, the impact on trust is overt and clear.
Yet the damaging impact to trust can occur even without a negative word uttered or a thought belittled. When every reaction to a statement is over-the-top, a five-alarm response to a two-alarm fire, your partner shifts from your safe space to someone you feel you have to keep safe from your thoughts and feelings.
Part of trust comes from consistency. And when you’re unsure how your partner is going to respond in a given moment or to a given piece of information, faith can be replaced with a sense of unease and wariness.
4 – Dismissing
When your perceptions and conclusions are constantly called into question or continually brushed aside as inconsequential, you can begin to doubt yourself. This doubt and confusion can spread, permeating the relationship. Additionally, a continual disregard of your thoughts and opinions can easily lead you to conclude that you’re not that important to your partner.
There is a balance between overreacting and shrugging everything off as “not that bad.” Trust comes from listening to everything with an open mind and with a mouth that often remains closed.
5 – Not Showing Support
When you’re falling and you’ve been led to expect a safety net, the sudden appearance of hard ground will cause you to question the dependability of the person who pledged to have your back. This can be as minute as a late pickup without communication at the airport or not picking up the slack around the house when you’re under a deadline at work.
None of these are relationship deal-breakers on their own. They are not unforgivable offenses and, in most cases, no offense was meant by them. In each case, the underlying cause of the erosion of trust comes down to unexpressed expectations and poorly communicated reactions. And the road back to trust is relatively straight forward: Talk more. And assume less.