Thoughts on Forigiveness and Trust in Committed, Long Term Relationships

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SilentDawning
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Thoughts on Forigiveness and Trust in Committed, Long Term Relationships

Post by SilentDawning » 29 Apr 2019, 03:16

I am here to talk about forgiveness and trust in committed relationships.

I know what the gospel says about forgiveness-- forgive for your own benefit. The person who doesn't forgive is worse than the person who committed the offence. If you don't forgive your fellow people, God won't forgive you. If you don't forgive, the person who wronged you, if intentional, wins. I get it. I have the key chain.

That's fine in arm's length relationships.

But I don't buy it in committed relationships, like marriage where there also needs to be an extra layer of emotional change -- and that is restoration of trust.

I am going to share an example (not happened to me, but captures the essence). You are in a marriage and your partner commits adultery. The person apologizes once, and then apparently stops philandering. For some reason, when there is conflict in the marriage, you keep bringing up the affair. You always wonder if another one is around the corner, even if you have forgiven the past affair. You keep bringing it up.

As someone who has trouble forgetting the past, why is this? For me, it's because trust has been hurt, and it needs to be restored.

Simple cessation of the adulterous behavior isn't enough. For some people, repeated apologies and expressions of regret, coupled with faithful behavior is necessary. For me, I think the other person, as compensation for their act of harm to the relationship, needs to apologize as much as the wronged person needs it. The adulterer also needs to steer clear of ANY behavior that implies or suggests a return to the adulterous behavior. If their wronged spouse needs it, it may mean ending even platonic relationships with members of the other sex until trust is restored, or forever. It's hard to bring up the past when you just had an apology an hour, a few days, or even a week ago. But the apologies need to flow like the Nile on that issue, coupled with BOTH restitutional and repentant behavior.

And this restitution has to continue until the person wronged feels trust. Restitution is about trust as much, or more than it is about righting the immediate consequences of the initial adultery.

In short, in committed relationships, the person who cheated on the marriage needs to show the same kind of repentance we are expected to show to God. This is not only for forgiveness. In fact, you could argue it's not for forgiveness at all, it's for trust restoration. No one ever said forgiveness means trust. It only means an absence of angst. But trust -- that takes effort, and it takes more than can be achieved with a single apology, in my view. It needs to be coupled with consistent, sustained effort and conscious avoidance of any behavior that implies the former infraction.

To me, this separation of trust and forgiveness is something we don't talk about. But it's real. And to go back to a trusting relationship requires a permanent behavior change. And this is necessary for the continuation of committed, long term relationships. How trust is restored really depends on what the person who was wronged needs in my view.

In my case, it's repeated apologies coupled with behavior that shows the infraction is no longer part of the person's character.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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dande48
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Re: Thoughts on Forigiveness and Trust in Committed, Long Term Relationships

Post by dande48 » 29 Apr 2019, 08:37

D&C 64:9 wrote:“Ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
I get the premise behind this scripture, but I think it is often very misused. I think many in the Church use it to excuse themselves and reject responsibility for their mistakes, the moment they feel they are "forgiven" by God.

We should do our best to forgive those who have wronged us. But I think we should also be willing to forgive and empathize with those who can't or won't forgive us. I think we should offer especial care, consideration, and kindness to those we have wronged, regardless of what God or anyone else has to say about the "state of our soul". Forgiveness doesn't excuse us, and is not equated with repentance. Repentance is a long, ongoing process that does not end the moment we are "forgiven".
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Minyan Man
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Re: Thoughts on Forigiveness and Trust in Committed, Long Term Relationships

Post by Minyan Man » 29 Apr 2019, 09:21

I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately.

SD, you asked the following:
As someone who has trouble forgetting the past, why is this? For me, it's because trust has been hurt, and it needs to be restored.
Sometimes I think it's built into our DNA. For example, in another topic started by Heber13 titled: Repentance, confessions & Letting go of the past. I talked about when I was a teenager & got into trouble which brought pain to my Mother & Father. It always bothered me.
Just before my Mother died, we had a discussion & I realized that she had forgiven me almost 40 yrs ago & not only forgiven me but forgot all about it.

Since then, I wondered "What would my Father have said" if he were present during this conversation?
Not only would he not forgotten, he would tell me every detail about what I did, when I did it, and to whom I did it to. It's not that he didn't forgive,
Speaking for my Dad, he would never (ever) want it to happen again. It would of been his way of saying: Have you learned your lesson? Make sure it never happens again. And teach your children not to make the same mistake.

Asking for forgiveness is easy, gaining trust is difficult. For some, maybe impossible.
SD, good topic & always relevant.

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SilentDawning
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Re: Thoughts on Forigiveness and Trust in Committed, Long Term Relationships

Post by SilentDawning » 29 Apr 2019, 09:59

Thanks MM and Dante -- but can I comment on something? Both of your posts seem not to acknowledge that restoring trust, and forgiveness are two different things.

We can forgive people for what they did. But their actions may well end up creating a permanent loss of trust. Particularly if they never apologized or took steps to show they are truly sorry and have changed.

When the relationship is arms length (a business partner who perhaps disadvantaged you on the way out the door), forgiveness is simply a matter of letting go. You don't have to engage with the person again, so you can stop letting it hurt you, feel bitterness, or even sadness about it. You truly forgive the person, and trust isn't an issue because the relationship, which would require trust, doesn't persist.

But if you are in an ongoing relationship with people, and they never apologize, or apologize once but engage in similar or related behavior that wronged you, trust will never be restored. It means the relationship can't work.

The process of restoring trust isn't really described in the scriptures. We tend to subsume trust within forgiveness, but they really are two separate things. I think forgiveness is necessary under all circumstances. I believe it and can be achieved even in the face of arrogance, no apology, or even no restitution to the person who was wronged. This is when there is no further relationships with the person. In fact, not having contact can accelerate or facilitate forgiveness because it lessens memory of the offense and allows more rapid healing, in my view.

In ongoing relationships, trust matters. Nonapologies, repeated behavior of the same kind, or similar behavior that suggests it is insufficient for the relationship to work. Even forgiveness is not enough if the relationship is ongoing and requires trust. In this case, it means the most you can hope for is forgiveness -- not a continued trusting relationship.

To risk repetition -- there has to be a restoration of trust. And this takes much more than typical "repentance" on the part of the wrongdoer. It takes a much more proactive and long-term approach to restore trust, and therefore the relationship.

That is my point.

If you can agree that in forgiving someone, you are not necessarily trusting them. And if you can agree that forgiveness is a different virtue than trust, then we might have some agreement here.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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dande48
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Re: Thoughts on Forigiveness and Trust in Committed, Long Term Relationships

Post by dande48 » 29 Apr 2019, 11:35

SilentDawning wrote:
29 Apr 2019, 09:59
If you can agree that in forgiving someone, you are not necessarily trusting them. And if you can agree that forgiveness is a different virtue than trust, then we might have some agreement here.
I completely agree, trust is different than forgiveness. I wouldn't call "trusting" a virtue though, by any stretch. But I also can't say a person will be happy in a long term relationship, until they feel they can trust the other party. If "forgiving" means moving past and healing from the incident, maybe you can't forgive without a restoration of trust or separation of the relationship. I don't know. I think there are many definitions for "forgiveness", and it's often a process over time. But I don't think "checklist forgiveness" is a healthy approach.

How would you define forgiveness?
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
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SilentDawning
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Re: Thoughts on Forigiveness and Trust in Committed, Long Term Relationships

Post by SilentDawning » 29 Apr 2019, 11:45

dande48 wrote:
29 Apr 2019, 11:35
SilentDawning wrote:
29 Apr 2019, 09:59
If you can agree that in forgiving someone, you are not necessarily trusting them. And if you can agree that forgiveness is a different virtue than trust, then we might have some agreement here.
I completely agree, trust is different than forgiveness. I wouldn't call "trusting" a virtue though, by any stretch. But I also can't say a person will be happy in a long term relationship, until they feel they can trust the other party. If "forgiving" means moving past and healing from the incident, maybe you can't forgive without a restoration of trust or separation of the relationship. I don't know. I think there are many definitions for "forgiveness", and it's often a process over time. But I don't think "checklist forgiveness" is a healthy approach.

How would you define forgiveness?
To the part in bold, when I wrote it, I knew I was being imprecise, but lazy. Us academics are usually strict with our definitions and classifications and this time I didn't have the bandwidth for it. Now it has come back to remind me:)

I would rather define forgiveness and trusting others "states of being".

The dictionary provides a soul-less definition I won't repeat here, riddled with implications not normally associated with the word "forgiveness" in common usage. Therefore, I'll go with a psychological definition from a different discipline:

"Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. ... Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses."

I might add that forgiveness does not mean the restoration of trust either.

I might add -- is it possible to trust someone without forgiving them? We've established, I believe that we can forgive someone without trusting them, but is the reverse true?
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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Holy Cow
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Re: Thoughts on Forigiveness and Trust in Committed, Long Term Relationships

Post by Holy Cow » 29 Apr 2019, 12:48

SD, great topic!
I agree with your thoughts that forgiveness and trust are very different and separate things.
As far as trusting someone that you can't forgive, I would relay a personal experience. Almost 20 years ago, a girl I was dating was hit and killed by a drunk driver in a parking lot. I watched her die, while the drunk driver stood behind me saying that she should have been watching where she was going. For 20 years, I have felt an intense and burning hatred for this man, and even after talking through this experience with a therapist, I have not been able to come anywhere near forgiving him. If someone asked me if I trusted him, I would find it a strange question, because trust has nothing to do with it. I have no idea where the guy is now, or what has happened in his life since then. Perhaps he has served his time and has been completely sober ever since. Perhaps he served his time and went straight to the bar. I don't know and I don't care. But, let's say this man was hired by my company and I had to work with him. If I found that he was a hard worker and could be relied on, then, yes, I would trust him in a professional capacity as a coworker. But, it would take a lot more than that before I could forgive him. So, yes, I do think it would be possible to trust someone without forgiving them; at least to a certain degree.
On the opposite spectrum, I'll relay an experience in VERY general terms. Someone very close to me did something that caused our relationship a huge amount of pain, and nearly ended our relationship. We were able to work through it over time, and I was able to forgive and begin to trust that person again. About 2-3 years later, the person betrayed trust again by doing the same thing that hurt the relationship the first time, only this time it was even more egregious. Forgiveness was much more difficult the second time, but I was able to forgive for the sake of the relationship. However, trust is still strained, even years later. I would say trust has been built to about 80% of what it used to be, but I don't know if it will ever be more than that. There may always be that nagging question about whether or not the person would repeat the offense again if they had the opportunity.
In short, I agree with your assessment that trust and forgiveness are two very different things. Oftentimes, they go along with each other, but, in my opinion, in certain situations you can have one without the other.
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dande48
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Re: Thoughts on Forigiveness and Trust in Committed, Long Term Relationships

Post by dande48 » 29 Apr 2019, 13:54

SilentDawning wrote:
29 Apr 2019, 11:45
I might add -- is it possible to trust someone without forgiving them? We've established, I believe that we can forgive someone without trusting them, but is the reverse true?
If you can trust someone, but not forgive them, you're in a very dark place.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

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SilentDawning
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Re: Thoughts on Forigiveness and Trust in Committed, Long Term Relationships

Post by SilentDawning » 30 Apr 2019, 10:24

HolyCow -- I appreciate those situations, they are very personal and heartfelt, and they do illuminate the fact that you could trust someone to do something in a specific situation, while still not having forgiven them. For example, maybe a person had a physically abusive parent. They've never been forgiven, but you would still trust them to come to your aid financially if you were in a pinch.

I guess my focus, which isn't really coming through in this thread, is about the trust restoration process now. I think it's clear that trust and forgiveness are two different things.

How do you restore TRUST?. Simply forgiving and removing angst from your heart is sometimes enough, but I think it can fall FAR short of also restoring trust at the same time.

What does it take to restore trust in committed relationships? Is trust in the eye of the beholder? (the person wronged) And therefore different in each situation, or are there general steps and principles that can be articulated?
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

Minyan Man
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Re: Thoughts on Forigiveness and Trust in Committed, Long Term Relationships

Post by Minyan Man » 30 Apr 2019, 11:10

Trust is not a light switch that you turn on at a specific moment. It is built & restored over time. I think that's what you're saying?
I don't want to put words in your mouth.

No one can say: I forgive you therefore I trust you again the same way I did before you offended.
Jesus is the exception. I am working on it.

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