When broken trust is irreparable

Solid relationships are built on trust. So what happens when one of the pair does something that strains — or completely breaks — that trust?

If it’s a one-time, never-to-be-repeated event, and the bond is strong, often the offending party receives grace and forgiveness and the relationship continues.

But what if there are multiple fibs, lies or less-than-forthcoming responses to direct questions? What if someone chooses to keep certain facts to themselves to keep their options open?

A friend shared that early in the relationship, a now ex-girlfriend had fibbed to him on several occasions. The most egregious was when she announced her ex-boyfriend was coming to visit her. My friend asked where he’d be staying. With her, she said matter-of-factly. Not feeling completely comfortable with this arrangement, he probed deeper hoping to quell any doubts he had. Knowing she didn’t have a guest room in her small apartment, he asked, “And where will he be sleeping?” “I don’t know. We haven’t discussed it. Last time we shared my bed.” “Did you have sex?” “No.”

Knowing how amorous she was, he said he didn’t feel comfortable with this arrangement. She asked the ex-beau to sleep on her couch.

Later she admitted that the last time they’d shared a bed they indeed did have sex. She lied, she explained, as she didn’t want my friend to be concerned. I think she didn’t want to lose him and thought that information might have driven him away. She wanted to keep her options open.

They broke up six months later over other issues yet kept in contact. A few weeks later, she accepted his dinner and movie invitation. They held hands, cuddled and seemed like they were back together. She neglected to share that she had a new boyfriend with whom she was already sleeping. She wanted to see if it might work out with my friend — she wanted to keep her options open. She held all her cards close and didn’t want to put any on the table.

It would have been more mature if before accepting the dinner invitation to say, “I really like you and understand why we broke up. I’d love to see you and discuss if we might be able to sort out our differences. And I need to let you know I’ve started seeing someone and we’ve become close. I want you to know what’s happening with me so we can talk openly and candidly.” That would have allowed my friend to make decisions that were right for him based all the information — not just the information she wanted to share.

Have we all been duplicitous at times? I’m guessing yes. I know I have. But now as I’ve gotten older and hopefully wiser, I see how disrespectful, controlling and selfish it is to withhold information that the other really should know. If I were on the other side and would want to know it I am now better at sharing it. It is usually not easy to say, yet if you take your time to share the information with care and compassion, it will be easier to discuss. I have been sincerely thanked after sharing something I knew the other didn’t want to hear, and have thanked others for telling me things that stung at first.

Trust is built by keeping your word, acting congruent with your words, being willing to discuss difficult topics without upset, and consistent action that shows you care about the other person as well as yourself. When trust is strained or broken early in a relationship, it’s nearly impossible to repair.


Moving On GracefullyGet ideas on how to know it’s time to break up and how to do so without drama in Moving On Gracefully: Break Up Without Heartache.


2 responses to “When broken trust is irreparable”

  1. Mitsy Avatar

    All I can say is that if your friends’ former girlfriend were a guy, he’d be called a player or lying sack of S x x t. Since it’s a woman we’re talking about here, there are names for those types as well but I’ll spare you the description as I’m sure you could figure out what I’d call her. The fact that she slept w/her former guy even ONE time should have been a dealbreaker for her guy. I question why he’d give her even one more chance when she’s clearly not into fidelity. I’d tell him what I’d tell a woman under similar circumstances and that is “You can do better..say BYE!”

  2. Juggler Avatar

    It’s ok to juggle when things aren’t serious. And I don’t think if you are getting to know more than one person at a time you are obligated to disclose you’ve had a date with someone else.

    The problem is people don’t tend to wait for sex too long (and I’m not saying they should) and once you have sex, it’s almost a given that one of the parties, if not both, will expect exclusivity — unless it’s a “friends with benefits” thing agreed upon by both parties.

    It’s complicated. I think in the example DG gave the woman was a bit over the line. Sure, go out with the old flame and have a nice evening and see how you feel, but the cuddling and touching was a bit misleading. Instead go out, keep some distance, and talk about it a day or two later and see if you want to resume something. I don’t see that she was obligated to talk about a new boyfriend before she had her evening with the old one.