This guest article from PsychCentral was written by Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW.
Few people would argue with the idea that honesty is the best policy. Policies however are not always adhered to, even those that we believe in and support. Regardless of how much we may desire to live a life of integrity in which we “walk the talk” and live in accordance with our inner principles, it’s likely that there will be times that we miss the mark. Nobody’s perfect. Every relationship is going to have occasional slippage.
Great relationships however, require a high level of integrity in order to thrive. When a violation of trust, large or small, occurs it’s important to examine the conditions that contributed to the situation and to engage in a healing process that will restore trust and goodwill to the relationship.
A betrayal is a broken agreement, implicit or explicit, that is considered vital to the integrity of a relationship. The capacity of a relationship to recover from a betrayal has a lot to do with the responses, particularly on the part of the betrayer to the situation. The more open and non-defensive they are, the more likely it is that there will be resolution. When both partners are committed to this as an outcome, the likelihood increases exponentially.
When there has been a cover-up to a transgression, the lies and denials can do much more damage to the integrity of the relationship than the violation itself. Even if the offense is never revealed, there can still be great harm done to the foundation of the relationship. Trust is inevitably sacrificed even when secrets go undetected. Most, but not all betrayals and acts of deceit can be healed. While there is no generic template to apply to these situations, there are some guidelines that can facilitate the recovery process.
1. Acknowledge your actions to your partner before, not after they find out. The sooner the better. The longer you have been living a lie, the deeper the damage, the more difficult the possibility of a full recovery, and the longer the healing process takes. Acknowledging the transgression before your partner affirms it from another source creates a higher level of trust than waiting until you’ve been found out.
2. Get honest. Commit yourself to zero tolerance for dishonesty in your relationship. Even after you’ve successfully demonstrated your commitment, don’t be surprised if your partner needs a lot of evidence that you are trustworthy before they’ll be ready to believe anything you say. This will take time and will require patience on your part.