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Rebuilding Trust in Family Relationships Ravaged By Addiction

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We all understand the damaging effects of lying. Knowing the ways to rebuild trust in a relationship is critical if one or more partners have a history of addiction.

While most of us want a trusting and open relationship, understanding how to regain it after lying or cheating can feel emotionally draining. Fortunately, healing can and does happen, and it is possible to foster healthy relationships and create open communication no matter the wreckage.

The journey of getting sober requires painstaking examination of these lies for both parties. If you’re the one getting sober, it’s unfair to expect your partner to automatically forgive your lies just because you were “not thinking clearly.” It’s also unfair to expect that telling the truth now takes away the fact that you lied in the past.

On the other hand, if you are the loved one of someone getting sober, it’s important to know that lying is often characteristic of addiction and other mental illness. While this doesn’t make the actual act of lying okay, it can provide some baseline understanding of why it happens.

Consequences of Lying in a Relationship

In general, lying creates a toxic foundation full of shame, secrecy, and manipulation. If you’ve ever been caught in a lie, you know how embarrassing and it painful it feels for the other person to find out the hidden truth. You may even know that anxious urge to defend yourself or lie “to protect your lie.”

On the other hand, if you’ve ever been lied to, you likely know those feelings of shock, anger, or betrayal. You may feel like a fool for believing him “so easily.”

While the consequences of lying in a relationship can be severe, there is hope for change.

Fixing a Broken Relationship One Truth at A Time

Those who actively work a 12-Step program learn the importance of ruthless honesty and acknowledgment of past wrongdoings. They make amends to the people they have hurt and ask how they can improve. They continuously hone in on acceptance of others and positive, healthy actions. This helps people stay sober and helps them rebuild a positive future.

Even though it may seem foreign, it’s important to practice honesty in all affairs. This can be a simple as saying no when you mean no or as difficult as fessing up when you make a costly mistake.

Eventually, telling the truth will feel more natural and you can learn to forgive yourself and others. You will learn that letting go of anger or pain actually feels much better than holding onto it, and you will learn to be more comfortable with yourself. When you can be more comfortable and secure with yourself, you will feel less of an urge to lie or omit.

If you’re on the receiving end of being lied to, it’s important to model your own truth-telling behavior. Be honest even when it hurts. Show--not just tell--your partner how important this process is. After all, it’s hypocritical to pinpoint the lying in someone else when you struggle with honesty yourself.

Remember, the journey towards honesty is not always linear. Your partner might make mistakes along the way. This is a normal part of any recovery. Ups and downs are to be expected. While you should be clear about what you will and will not tolerate, patience and compassion can go a long way in this process.

Gaining Trust Back in a Relationship Takes Time

Patience and acceptance of another person’s process for gaining trust back show the necessary maturity and compassion a partner needs to know he or she has the appropriate space for healing.

If addiction is built on instant gratification, sobriety is built on patience and tolerance and learning to accept what is beyond one’s control.

Yes, this process can be painstaking, especially when the person getting sober has done so much work on himself to become a better person.Still, it’s important to know that every individual has a right to his or her own healing process. Pressuring or putting a deadline on this process can create resentment and hostility.

Ways to Rebuild Trust in a Relationship

Actively listening and reflecting your partner’s thoughts and feelings show a true commitment to connecting and understanding. Often, these are the stepping stones for gaining back trust.

Some other beneficial communicative methods include:

  • Focusing on showing action

  • Validating your partner’s emotions

  • Showing affection

  • Openly describe individual needs

  • Acknowledging mistakes openly

  • Resisting the desire to “fix” problems

  • Openly acknowledge “your part” in what’s working/not working

  • Examining what’s working/not working regularly with your partner

Consider Professional Help and Support Groups

Just like many people struggling with addiction need treatment to obtain sobriety, relationships can profoundly improve with counseling and work.

Couples therapy focuses on:

  • Identifying and exploring interpersonal boundaries

  • Improving effective communication

  • Collaborating on mutual strategies for increasing relationship contentment

  • Increasing overall intimacy

Even if one partner is unwilling to attend couples work, individual therapy can be beneficial. This helps explore potential trust issues, insecurities, and fears about the relationship.

Loved ones who have experienced addiction within their marriages or families can also greatly benefit from attending support groups, such as Al-Anon or Codependents Anonymous. These meetings focus on healthy boundaries and personal recoveries from enabling others and maintaining unrealistic expectations for them.

Identify Your Needs and Boundaries

One of the best ways to rebuild trust in a relationship is to understand what you need from your partner. If you cannot identify what he or she needs to do in order to improve, you may never feel satisfied.

Consider the following question: What would (my partner) need to do or change for me to fully trust him or her again?

If your answer is, There’s nothing that can make me trust him again, you might want to reflect on your motives for staying in the relationship. After all, why stay with someone if you’re unwilling to believe the trust can ever be restored?

Think about what trust means to you. Is it being able to know where is at a given time? Is it knowing that you can depend on him to do what he says? Is it having the reassurance that he’s there for you, even the relationship may be rocky?

Consider these needs and openly talk about them with your partner! Nobody is a mind-reader (not even your partner), and rebuilding love entails that you will have to talk about your feelings and needs.

Work on Yourself

One of the best ways to improve a relationship is to focus on your part and where you can grow. Take an honest inventory of your strengths and weaknesses in your current dynamic. Be open with your partner. Ask him what he’d like to see change. Focus on being able to validate and affirm yourself, rather than depend on earning it from a partner.

Gaining trust back in a relationship takes time, but you don’t have to wait to start making improvements on yourself. Whether your partner notices or not, this will make you feel more confident and assured.

Remember to Identify why you love your partner. It’s important to lose ourselves in all the negative thoughts and fears, but it’s also very important to acknowledge, why am I in this relationship?

Reflect on those reasons and practice accepting gratitude for them. No, your partner may not be perfect, but are there some positive traits you can identify.

Acknowledging effort goes a long way for both parties. Acknowledging gratitude for your partner being there for you as you figure this out also goes a long way

Lying is a symptom of addiction, and broken trust is often one of the consequences. The process of healing takes time and patience.

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