Here’s what it’s not:
Abuse (any kind) including physical, sexual, or emotional
Addiction (any kind) including drug, alcohol, sex, shopping, work, or porn
Poor sexual performance
To clarify: For many people these behaviors certainly can be deal breakers, particularly if there is no motivation, intention or willingness to stop or change the disturbing pattern.
What one person will tolerate in a relationship isn’t necessarily what another might accept. The conditions that we are willing to tolerate in a relationship vary from person to person. Most of these conditions, however, are not the source of the problem, but rather are symptoms of an underlying issue that is manifesting itself in behaviors that are self-destructive and/or destructive to the relationship.
Yet, regardless of how many deal breakers exist in one’s relationship, there is almost always what you might call the mother of all deal breakers. The one that underlies nearly all of the symptoms that it generates. And that issue is trust. When interpersonal trust is missing or insufficient, it’s absence all but guarantees a difficult, painful, frustrating, and ultimately unsatisfying future for both partners.
According to the dictionary, trust is grounded in a sense of confidence that we can rely on another to be there for and with us, and to provide “safety, protection, and support.”
In the context of relationships, it means (among other things) that we can depend on another to be honest, to care about us, to appreciate what we contribute to their life, doing things for each other that make life easier, listening really listening to each other when we talk, being truly interested in our words and the feelings that underlie them. And of course, these expectations and desires work both ways. Relational trust requires mutuality and reciprocally.
Taking responsibility for bringing these qualities into your relationship will bring about a higher level of mutual trust and will reduce the likelihood of having to deal with deal breakers. If you don’t, it’s very likely that the trust level of your relationship will keep dropping. When it does, your happiness level drops as well.
So, there’s a lot to be gained by taking on the challenge of trust building and trust repair in your relationship, particularly since you’re probably going to have an abundance of opportunities to practice this skill.
Trust repair will be needed whenever one or both partners feel that the trust level has diminished. While it is frequently tempting to rationalize an excuse to avoid having to talk about a topic that we may fear could degenerate into a swamp of hard and hurt feelings, doing so when it is necessary has the potential to provide enormous benefits to the trust-level of the relationship.
While the desire to avoid stepping on what could be an emotional landmine is completely understandable, it might be better to keep in mind the consequence of not doing so, particularly if avoidance has become a habit for you. If so, consider breaking it.
If you’re interested in doing so, here are a few things that can repair damaged trust and increase trust even if it isn’t necessary now.
Tell the truth: The quickest and most efficient way to damage trust is to lie. Damage is done even if the lie is never uncovered. Lies inevitably beget other lies needed to conceal the truth, and deceit invariably causes distance and guilt to permeate the relationship.
Despite the tendency that many of us have to distinguish “white lies” from “real lies,” lies are lies and all lies cause damage that needs to be acknowledged and repaired. The antidote is simply telling the truth.
Whatever you may believe you stand to gain by any form of intentional deception the cost of doing so will inevitably be greater than the negative consequences. Breaking the dishonest habit and the habit of collecting rationalizations to justify doing so is never worth the relationship damage that these practices cause.
Keep your word: Do what you say you’re going to do. If you decide to do otherwise, try to renegotiate your agreement. If that isn’t possible and you choose to disregard the agreement anyway, accept responsibility for choosing to do so and make an effort to determine what the other person needs or wants to compensate for your violation of the agreement and provide it.
Strive for integrity: Walk your talk. Embody your truth.
Live from your principles and values. Align your words, actions and values.
Be there, with, and for your partner: Don’t just talk about supporting your partner, give him or her evidence in your behavior that you can be counted on to stand up for them even if that requires you to inconvenience yourself. Elevate your relationship to a higher status in your life. If necessary, readjust your priorities.
Get Real: Commit to being real and genuine rather than constantly trying to contrive to create a favorable impression for others. Most people know inauthenticity whether they witness it. Authenticity invites trust and respect even in the face of differing points of view.
Take care of yourself: That includes your body, mind, and spirit. Provide yourself with the nutrients that you need to strengthen and enhance the physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects of your life.
Seek to have all of your relationships characterized by trustworthiness, respect, mutual support, and goodwill. When we take responsibility for providing ourselves self-care, our partner is relieved of concern, anxiety, and worry about our well-being. If we don’t, they may feel obliged to carry that responsibility themselves out of fear for our health and well-being. Such worry on their part greatly diminishes others’ perception of our trustworthiness.
Trust doesn’t automatically occur in committed partnerships. It must be earned by demonstrations of caring, responsibility, and accountability. Since no one is perfect, lapses in trust are inevitable. Resist the temptation to justify such lapses by acknowledging your behavior, and make whatever amends you can to restore trust between you and your partner.
While deep trust and mutual reliance take time and effort to cultivate in a relationship, they can easily be damaged when we accidentally or deliberately lapse into old behavior patterns. The good news is that with a clear and sincere intention to repair damaged trust and a willingness to make the necessary corrections, trust can not only be restored to its former level but it can be elevated to increasingly higher levels.
Given a clear intention to bring high levels of trust into our relationships, it is possible to not only restore trust but to elevate it to consistently higher levels on an on-going basis.
Although breakdowns may continue, they will occur with decreasing frequency and the harm they cause will be diminished because they are repaired quickly and effectively.
Once we’ve mastered the art of trust building and trust repair, deal breakers become a thing of the past. You can trust us on that one!