The lack of trust that couples and families have for one another is widespread in our western culture. It is not uncommon to hear wives saying they don’t trust their husbands, husbands not trusting their wives. It’s no wonder that children grow up not trusting their parents, their siblings or their friends. Our children are growing up learning how to defend themselves from trust breakers by withdrawing and isolating themselves in their rooms. Adolescence often turns into a time that otherwise loyal young adults refuse to allow others to get emotionally close because the price is to high when trust is broken.
I, often times hear clients asking how long it might take to mend a relationship once trust is broken. Unfortunately, I cannot give them a specific amount of time. It is always interesting hearing couples or families share how they have attempted to rebuild trust in broken relationships. Maybe if you just comply with the parties involved, become a yes robot, not cause such a big stink about things or how about ignoring the issues or attempting to not communicate with each other. These are usually the things we try prior to seeking outside help.
The good news is that relationships can indeed be made well again. Healing can happen where trust has been shattered. Healing relationships is far from impossible. But, no doubt it is hard work for all parties involved. Where once we have seen trust placed on the sacrificial altar of our lives we have the option to sacrifice even more things on the altar of our relationships. It is culturally appropriate to sacrifice the relationship altogether. But, is that the best thing to do?
Over the last 30 or so years the families that I have loved to watch the most are the families and couples that forgive each other the most and that do not give up on each other when trust is broken. The couples that chose to do the hard work of resuscitating a relationship that was thought lifeless. The families that go the extra mile to make sure that their relationships with one another are healthy and robust. The families that are willing to be vulnerable with each other.
Does this mean that you must remain susceptible to abuse, ongoing affairs or other serious hurt or pain? Most definitely not. Is only one person in the relationship expected to be vulnerable? No! When I speak of vulnerability in healing broken trust in relationships I am referring to total transparency. I am speaking to the related parties that want to heal from broken trust. When both partners accept their responsibility in the brokenness of their relationship and their desire to work towards reconciliation. Brene’ Brown puts it this way:
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it is our greatest measure of courage.”
And then Brown throws out this gem;
“What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful.”
Vulnerability is a big word and a hard word to bite into when considering mending what has been torn. When the doctor says that you need stitches for your wound you know that it would be painful without a local anesthetic. But, we know that sucher’s are vital to our healing.
Likewise it is eminently necessary that we sucher the wounds of our relationships which, in effect, make us susceptible to pain. This susceptibility to pain and hurt is what it means to be vulnerable while healing a broken relationship. One must muster courage and bravery to withstand this open, vulnerable transparency. When two people humbly collaborate with one another healing, slow as it may be, can begin to do its work.
It sure seems easier in our damaged relationships to be the opposite of vulnerable. I think it would be considered to be much easier to be guarded, strong-minded, protected and closed off. We feel justified in defending and protecting ourselves. But, what happens to your heart when you spend all of your time defending and protecting yourself from emotional hurt? When we spend our lives fully guarded and closed off we fail to find beauty and joy in our world. Love itself is diminished when we over protect ourselves from emotional pain. Vulnerability is the door that opens our hearts to freedom and joy in our lives. And, when our spirit is free and full of joy we are able to experience relationships with confidence and trust. Only when you are full and free can you experience life to its fullest. To experience life is to experience relationships and we are blessed, in large part, because we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.