The Issue of Trust

Visitor's Question from a 21-30 year old Female
My ex-boyfriend and I have had an off again on again relationship for the past 8-9 years. More off than on. When I was younger, 18, we dated for a few years off and on during which time I cheated and was dishonest. We had a period of about 3.5 yrs where we did not date and were just friends, or so I thought. Recently, we attempted once again to pursue a romantic relationship...

After a few months he said we should just be friends again because he does not trust me because of what happened all those years ago. We've talked about the past and I'm truly sorry that I hurt him and I've made attempts to show him I am different, but during this time he distanced himself, treated me very "unfriendly" like, and seemed unconcerned with how I felt about the situation.

Even though we continued to see each other occasionally and have had an intimate relationship. He says he has forgiven me, but he does not trust me. He says he is in love with me and that the trust issue is the only issue that is keeping us apart. Now he just calls me up to talk like we are buddies again. And it really bothers me because how can he claim to be my "friend" when he can't trust me. Trust is the basis for any relationship and I feel that if he can not trust me then he can not be a friend to me. How can he be my friend when he's not willing to get to know me as a person. How can he be a friend to me if he believes all these negative things about me? Am I wrong for feeling this way? Advice
People can certainly have friends that they don't trust with their life, it happens all the time. A friend is someone you get along with and have fun with. It's not necessarily someone you would let take care of your newborn baby and new home while you were gone for a few weeks. That would be someone extremely special to have that level of trust. Trust isn't an "on/off" thing. It's a long continuum. Many friends you trust reasonably well. But you wouldn't trust them with something critically important. Your partner in life is that person that you DO trust with your entire life and being.

So what your guy is saying is that yes, he forgives you for betraying him in the past. And he's willing to be friends with you. But when it comes to being *partners* - to giving that ultimate level of trust again - he can't do it. Probably his argument is that you were younger, yes, but you were still 18. You were a mature adult able to get married, go to war, buy a house, and be tried and prosecuted as an adult if you got into trouble. At that stage in life the basic moral foundation that you have is there. That's why they call you an adult at that point. So if you felt at that point that it was OK to lie and betray him under certain circumstances, then perhaps now the circumstances have changed .... but maybe he feels since it's a "circumstances" thing and not a "all lying is bad innately" thing, if circumstances happen to come up again that you feel require lying, you might do it again.

In any case, repairing trust is something that is incredibly hard even for married partners of decades to do, and often it requires serious therapy to resolve. Trust is so key because it can't be broken - if it is, the destruction is often impossible to repair. As you're finding out. That's why it's so important. It can't just be easily fixed. If you really want this to work, suggest going to therapy and working it out. But you might have to accept that your actions at age 18 had permanent results, and to live with those results as his friend ... but not as his partner.

-- from Jenn
One of Your Friendly Advisors at

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