Living with Integrity
Trust is a critical element for an intimate and fulfilling relationship. When two people commit to a relationship, they typically give their trust as a gift to the other person. When trust is broken, it then must be earned. If one or both partners have been hurt in a previous relationship because of broken trust, then it is possible that trust must be built or earned in the new relationship.
Frequently couples who keep secrets or behave in disingenuous ways. That’s a fancy term for “lying.” It could be anything from secret bank accounts to internet activity to faking it when the baby cries so that the other person has to get up and take care of it. There is an erroneous belief by some people that marriage doesn’t work without lies and what our spouse doesn’t know won’t hurt them. WRONG! Even little white lies count.
The Role of Integrity in Building Trust
When trust is broken by your mate, through a lifestyle of lying, infidelity, abuse, neglect or the revelation of secret or criminal behaviors, you are no longer able to give the gift of your trust to them. The first thing to decide is if you can/should allow them the opportunity to rebuild that trust. If so, this is usually a slow process and takes months to years and requires much work on the part of both partners. For trust to be restored, the partner who broke it must consistently demonstrate honesty, predictability and dependability. In other words, the offending partner must relate to the other with integrity. It’s not easy, but it can be done if you believe that your relationship is worth saving.
What is Integrity?
Webster Definition: 1. Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. 2. The state of being whole, entire, uncorrupted, undiminished; the quality of being unimpaired.
- Comes from the word “integer” which refers to a “whole number”. Integrity points to wholeness or not lacking.
- Means having your words and your actions in
- Integrity is very fragile. It’s slow to develop deep trust in another person and takes years to build, yet quick and easy to destroy. Once it’s destroyed, it takes a long time to repair;
- it’s something that no one can take from you, but something you can willingly give away.
Formula: Integrity = Reliability + Honesty= Trust
Reliability –Not only is it doing what you said you would do when you said you would do it, but it is CONSISTENTLY doing it this way. This is about actions, not just words. Good intentions alone do not warrant reliability.
- Individual reliability: As individuals, reliability implies consistency, no matter if it is at work or on a team, in a friendship or in a marriage. Inconsistency will erode integrity.
- Reliability in Relationships: Don’t promise the moon to your partner. Just deliver what you promise. As the saying goes, “under-promise and over-deliver.” Promises can lead to expectations and, if those expectations are not met, then your spouse will doubt your reliability and integrity. Unmet expectations lead to hurt, disappointment and anger.
Honesty is a key ingredient in the rebuilding of trust. You could say where there is no trust, there is no relationship- or a very tattered one at best. Reliability without honesty is not integrity.
- Honesty when apart
It is important for every couple to have a discussion on boundaries and temptation: interactions at work, in the gym, on business trips, on social media, on cell phones and other online activity. Clearly setting and abiding by the boundaries for both partners will help re-establish trust.
- Honesty of the heart: Emotional honesty
- Avoiding conflict is NOT necessarily walking in integrity. You could just be delaying the inevitable. You don’t have to say everything you think. And, this doesn’t give you the right to have a conversation at the wrong time. It is important that you be honest with your spouse about your feelings. Stuffing feelings only leads to explosive words and actions later.
- Lying or pretending to your spouse about your feelings is dishonest. Even though they hear your words, most often they sense that something is not right. They may even go so far as to feel like there is something wrong with them for not trusting what you are saying. This is “crazy-making”. It is better to be honest, even if it hurts for your spouse to hear the truth. Then change, healing and growth can begin.
- If you are not ok, don’t say you are. It may not be time to talk about it now, but be honest with your emotions to maintain openness with your spouse. You may need a “time out” for a time to run, listen to music, etc. Always be sure, however, to schedule a time to talk later.
Forgiveness Does not Equal Trust
Forgiveness is a very important part of the restoration of a relationship damaged by broken trust. However, forgiveness and trust are two separate issues. Forgiveness does not equal trust! Forgiveness is for the one who is doing the forgiving. It prevents them from building impenetrable walls around their heart and growing bitter, angry and resentful which will negatively affect all areas of their life. When you forgive, you are the one set free to move forward in your life.
To protect yourself from further harm and to promote healing for your relationship, boundaries for behavior need to be established. What is not acceptable needs to be clearly stated. Expectations should be defined as well. If the offending partner is not willing to abide by the boundaries, then it is highly likely that they will not be willing to do what it takes to rebuild the trust in the relationship. At that point a decision should be made concerning the future of the relationship.
A relationship that has been damaged by a lack of integrity and the breaking of trust can be restored IF it is safe to do so and IF both partners are willing to do the work that it takes. More often than not, with heart-felt effort and persistence from both, the marriage/relationship will be restored and even stronger than before!