When a couple goes through a significant crisis, such as one partner having an affair or even struggling with an addiction, the breach of trust in the relationship can be devastating. Trying to pick up the pieces and heal the marriage, you can often feel paralyzed by the doubt or distrust created in the aftermath of your partner’s (or even your own) actions. However, what many couples don’t realize is that doubt needn’t only be seen as an obstacle, but can be transformed into an essential part of the recovery process.
Doubt is not the opposite of trust. Doubt is actually a necessary aspect within the dynamics of trust. The root of the word dynamic in ancient Greek is strength and power (similar to the word dynamite). Though it sounds contradictory, some sense of doubt is necessary to strengthen and bring power back to trust that’s been broken.
Doubt means that you are thinking. And thinking is good. Before this crisis you may have had the luxury of not thinking, of not evaluating. While you may miss that luxury, rightly longing for the days when your emotions weren’t so on guard, a crisis draws your attention to things you may have taken for granted. Things that very well may need your attention. And the right amount of doubt can bring much needed consciousness, perhaps even wisdom, into your life and your relationship.
If you are the one that broke the trust in your relationship, it’s important to understand that trust takes time and the doubt you feel from your partner must be passed through, experienced, and navigated patiently and successfully on the road to rebuilding the trust you desire.
Doubting your marriage after a crisis doesn’t necessarily mean you are walking away from the marriage. It may mean that you are walking away from the image of the marriage that you held before the crisis. That image may need to be walked away from in order for the marriage to repair.
Doubt may mean that you are walking away from the belief that your marriage is something that you can control. While having some sense of control over our lives is essential, there are many aspects of our lives – and our marriage – which we simply can’t control. Letting go of the illusion of control, however, does not mean letting go of expectations, boundaries, and choice.
Whatever else doubt is, it is indicator of transformation. A transformation in belief, in understanding, in knowledge, in perspective. The transformative power of doubt is often a necessary dynamic in repairing a marriage and rebuilding trust after crisis. And a marriage that has experienced crisis is often in need of transformation.
One thing I hear time and time again is couples telling me they wish they had sought out therapy earlier in the wake of a crisis. Honestly, many times I wish they had, too. Don’t wait until things get worse. Get the support and tools you need in order to begin healing the wounds and repairing your relationship.
Andy Young, LCPC, CADC, CPAIP
New Prairie Counseling Center