Trust and Relationships – Pt. 2

Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. But it’s absolutely crucial to a marriage. Without trust, it’s not possible to safely give yourself away. And when the parties to a union can’t give themselves away, there’s really no marriage. Marriage is about the melding of hearts and minds. But  when someone entrusts their heart to another, only to have it crushed, the damage done is not only substantial but also can take years to repair, even under the best of circumstances.

I’m sorry to say that over my many years counselling troubled couples I’ve witnessed very few cases where the disturbed character in a relationship was truly willing to “own” all the damage they’d caused by their breaches of trust and then commit themselves to repair the damage. What follows is an example of one of the more unfortunate cases (as always, any potentially identifying details or circumstances in the vignette have been altered to preserve anonymity and confidentiality):

Looking back on things, “Jane” realized the warning signs were there all along. She should have trusted her gut but took the risk of trusting “Ted.” There was that time, for example, early in their engagement when Ted had a rendezvous with his former girlfriend and didn’t tell Jane about it until she confronted him after learning about it from a friend.  And she chose to believe him when he insisted “nothing happened,” that he was only doing the right thing by affording this woman the “closure” she desperately needed to “move on” with her life, and that he kept quiet about the encounter purely out of concern it would only unnecessarily worry her to know about it.  She chose to believe him despite the fact that by all appearances, this woman didn’t appear to be “moving on” all that much, frequently contacting Ted at odd times, prompting Jane to finally put her foot down.  It would be a few years into their marriage before Jane learned that something indeed “did happen” between Ted and his ex, and as much as it hurt for her to learn the truth, she chose to accept Ted’s explanation that “it was a stupid mistake” that occured only happened once (it didn’t) and only because he felt sorry for an emotionally vulnerable person with whom he was once close. And he insisted it would be wrong to dwell on something that happened in the past and over and done with anyway, so it was time to “forgive and forget.” But it was only a year or so later that Jane, while taking Ted the cell phone he’d forgotten on the kitchen counter, found a truly unnerving text message from one of his female co-workers. Her heart sunk. And she confronted him as soon as she got to the office. But somehow he made her feel guilty for adopting an “accusatory tone.” Again, he insisted, “nothing happened” and there was nothing to really worry about. He admitted that he’d “probably let a harmless flirtation get a little out of control” but promply promised it “would never happen again.” He even offered to leave his job (which would certainly hurt them financially) “if it would make [her] feel better.” But it’s what happened next that should really have clued her in to the kind of person Ted really was. After he’d made his so-called apology, Ted launched into a diatribe about how “paranoid” Jane was “because of that one little mistake” he made years ago with his ex girlfriend and how sad it was to think she might be checking his phone all the time now, when all she really need to do was “just get over it.” At the time, however, she wasn’t seeing things clearly. In fact, she remembers only feeling guilty herself for finding it so hard to trust. But looking back, Jane realized how many red flags had been raised not only about the kind of person Ted really was but also about the kinds of heartless actions he was capable of because of his apparent lack of honesty and empathy.

So here they were, in a therapist’s office (at Jane’s insistance, of course), trying to salvage some semblance of a relationship after the sudden revelation that Ted and yet another co-worker had been having an affair for several months. Just going to therapy with Ted was hard enough, but when, on only the second visit Ted dared to suggest that she had “some part in this too” because her “paranoia” and “emotional distance” probably “drove him” into someone else’s arms, and then on top of that the therapist appeared to agree that “there’s always two sides to any infidelity story,” Jane had her epiphany. How could she have been so blind, she wondered?  Who was this person she had married, anyway? Could he really be such a selfish, heartless fraud? And if he was, as she had now come to believe, why couldn’t the therapist see it? Moreover, how could any reasonable person think a marriage to someone so deceitful and untrustworthy could ever work?

Now, there are plenty of lessons to be learned from this story and the hundreds I’ve seen very much like it. When people of decent character “make a mistake,” they not only take responsibility for it but they’re also willing to do what it takes to repair any damage they may have done.  And even when folks with significant character impairments deliberatly do bad things, if they have any shred of decency in them (i.e. any modicum of empathy and conscience) they certainly don’t add insult to injury by blaming the vicim of their trust violations and chiding them to “get over it” (for more on this topic, see the relevant articles on remorse and contrition, especially, Shame, Guilt, Regret, Remorse, and Contrition). A decent person who violates trust, works both diligently and unbegrudgingly to earn some trust back. Disturbed and disordered characters feel no obligation to do so, content to put the burden on others to “forgive and forget.” That’s the lesson Jane unfortunately didn’t learn until it was too late to save a heartbreak. If she’d only known the signs that would have revealed the kind of character Ted really was, she might not have married him in the first place. But she didn’t know what to look for and she trusted Ted instead of her gut. Worse, she entrusted her heart to him. Ted knew very well the wound he’d inflicted on Jane’s heart. And his actions testify to the fact that he was never really sorry (i.e. never had genuine remorse) for anything he’d done. As I assert in my books In Sheep’s Clothing, Character Disturbance and The Judas Syndrome, the truly contrite person hurts precisely because they’ve hurt the other person. Jane didn’t see it early on but she saw it clearly now: Ted was all about Ted – a narcissist lacking in conscience, empathy, shame, guilt, or remorse, and he always had been. He could never give himself over to her or to anything other than his own selfish desires, which made him an untrustworthy partner from the very beginning. And because of all the damage he’d inflicted on her heart by his betrayal of the trust she’d placed in him, it would be a very long time before Jane could allow herself to even think about trusting anyone again.

There will be at least one more post in this series, as trust is one of the more important topics.

Changes will continue to the blog over the coming weeks and information about the upcoming webinar and advance registration details will be posted in just a couple of weeks.  Details are being worked out for some regional seminars for professionals and some of those workshops may also be open to the general public.

There will be a lot to talk about on Character Matters this Sunday evening (7 pm EDT, 4 pm PDT), which will again be a live program, so tune in, and if you have a mind to, call in and join the discussion.


30 thoughts on “Trust and Relationships – Pt. 2

  1. All I can say is you just told my story word for word. Spent a decade with someone who had an affair with a co worker 20 years older than him, swore he was sorry, but continued the affair, just got a second cell phone. Did nothing to repair but wanted to stay married…….. A total Narcissist and Borderline… Good riddins Divorce is final next month.

    1. My ex-wife displayed the same behavior. She would cry and pretend to feel bad but wouldn’t stop her affair, even moved out so I couldn’t keep her accountable. But she didn’t want to get divorced. I filed two weeks after discovery. It’s been two months now and I feel so much better. No who would treat you like that deserves you time, never mind your love.

      Stay the course Brittney! It’ll get better.

      1. Yah it has been a year ago now that I found out about my husband cheating with that middle aged woman. I figure I am only 27 I have at least five more decades to live, and create new memories to block him out. The only thing missing from this story is that mind threatened, stalked, and abused me when I tried to leave our marriage or gain any control over my own life. We did see a counselor and he has been diagnosed with personality disorders. Sorry to hear about your wife, people can be so disgusting.

    2. All I can say is I thought he was talking about me. It just goes to show how non-unique the disordered are in their relationships.

      I can look back now and all the signs were so clear (only they weren’t so much signs as bricks), but relationships with people like that are so toxic. So much damage is done a little bit day by day in such subtle ways. I think the worse is how they manage to make you doubt your perceptions, which in itself has such repercussions for years to come.

  2. My story is eerily similar. At the very beginning of my relationship, when I was just starting to date my ex-wife, she admitted to cheating on me with an ex-boyfriend. Her excuse was she went back to his place to get some of her stuff, but ended up sleeping with him because she was afraid of him. In my head I framed this to be her getting him out of her system. And she freely admitted it, so I took it as her conscience getting to her and since we had only been dating exclusively for a week, I forgave her. She eventually changed all her contact info and had no contact with him. We got married a year later.

    But I was a chump.

    Cut to two years later. One night in bed she told me she emailed him a week ago. The next day she told me she already cheated and promptly moved out while I was at work. In the two weeks to follow, I tried reaching out to her to save the marriage. She continued to sleep with this man and didn’t lie about it. But each time I would ask her if she wanted to save the marriage she would say, “I don’t know”. I’d ask why she doesn’t stop cheating on me and she’d say, “I don’t know how.”

    Me: “Why don’t you just come home?”

    Her: “It’s not that easy. I could be pregnant by him.”

    I realized I was being played and filed for divorce. Her lack of remorse lead me to various articles and forums about narcissism, sociopathy and psychopathy. It was the most painful experience in my life. I eventually arrived at Dr. Simons writings and that’s when everything made sense. All her past behaviors that I ignored thinking they were just quirks because no one is perfect, and her current state of no remorse, all fell into place and I began to see things as they were.

    I was being manipulated, made to hang on until she made a decision about which man she wanted to be with. I realized this was not about love but about power. It was not about either man but all about her and her sense twisted ego. I realized I was playing a game that was rigged and the only winning move was not to play. I had to deal with the one armed bandit face to face and take the high road out.

    As time passed and I saw things from the right perspective, I slowly realized how twisted my relationship really was.

    When she became exclusive with me, she was actually still dating this other man. I overheard a phone conversation one night. She spoke Spanish and I didn’t understand so she often spoke to him right in front of me without me knowing. Until that night I heard him scream, “YOU’RE CHEATING ON ME!” Only then did I realize who she’s been talking to. When I confronted her, her explanation was that she had broken it off with him six months prior and that he was the possessive type and had a hard time letting go. It made me even more protective of her. But I’ve come to realize that this was a lie. She was actually securing a relationship with me before cutting him off. A cold and heartless act.

    And at the end of our marriage she did the same thing, only in reverse. She secured her relationship with him before walking out on me while I was at work. Only after I knew anything about disturbed characters did I see her pattern and her pass behaviors that were all red flags.

    1. It’s difficult to wrap your mind around the fact that someone can be that cold, calculating and duplicitous. It’s also hard to accept the fact that this person you loved with all your heart could have held you in such little regard. It’s a painful truth that makes you feel completely invalidated as a human being.

      They say not to spend a lot of time untangling the skein, but do read and research enough to reinforce your knowledge and resolve about who they really are. These are going to be difficult times, and you at no point need to start second guessing yourself. They are manipulative enough to make you try. Sites like this are a Godsend, because here you can get your experience and your perceptions VALIDATED, and you’ll know you are absolutely right and that will give you strength.

      I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but there will come a time when this will be behind you. You may or may not be a better person for the experience (but I bet you will) but you will be wiser.

      1. In Gavin de Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear” which I just started reading he tells story after story of how victims of rape and murder didn’t listen to all those gut feelings. We (particularly women) don’t want to be judgmental, rude, cause a scene, or we second guess ourselves, give others the benefit of the doubt when they have done nothing to deserve it, and the manipulators and narcissists (or rapists and murderers) use our good nature against us.

        GdB explains that some red flags are so subtle we can’t rationally explain it to ourselves in the moment, yet we nonethless get a sense that not all is well. And we need to train ourselves to listen to those nagging voices ’cause they’re there for a reason. And 99.99% of the time they’re right.

        1. Oh GG that makes me so sad, all those who lose their lives to these creatures just because they wanted to trust in another human being. There it is that how often we worry about strangers but it is those who become close to us through their manipulations that are the most dangerous. Gift of Fear is an apt title…in some ways I often think the fear was a gift (one I could have done without mind you) but I now know so much more about behaviours of these people because of it and train myself up to never make the same mistake again. So many don’t get that opportunity. :(

        2. I had an interesting experience after I read the Gift of Fear. It was late evening, I was at a pool in a gated community in Florida, visiting. Nobody else was around. I went there often in late evening.

          But that particular time, I felt fear. At first, I discounted my feelings, and then did something really stupid, marching through the locker room and the sauna checking, trying to prove myself wrong! (If someone had been there, I would have been a sitting duck.)

          Then I remembered Gavin’s words. I turned on a dime and hoofed it out of there. I never felt it there before or after.

          That was a giant lesson in trusting that sense, and immediately acting on it, rather than rationalizing it away (as I had been taught).

          1. Good for you Vera. I know that books such as de Becker’s and Dr. Simon’s work is saving lives, literally, as well as emotionally and mentally. In Sheep’s Clothing saved my sanity!

            Tori, it is really sickening to think how our kindness and empathy towards others have been turned against us by these disturbed creatures.

        3. The day I began reading “The Gift of Fear” is the day I knew I had to get out of my 7 year relationship with my finance. It took me several months but one night I exploded and all the pain and fight I had left in me came out and that was 4 months ago. I truly believed he loved me and as he told me I was just too sensitive. I remember who I was before I meet him but I am forever changed. The pain is beyond imagination when you know you have ignored your intuition and gone along with this manipulative, borderline personality, liar! I am in therapy and all the therapist wants to concentrate on is my codependency issues and all I feel is panic. I told her I feel like I was in some type of cult, brain washed and I have no tools to deal with that. I keep repeating to people in my life, that you can’t even imagine how horrible he was and they say he seemed so nice. This site gives me some comfort this morning as I try to get though another day. Thank you.

  3. Dr Simon, this is the story of my life with my ex husband. It also started when we were dating. I stayed married to him for 25 years! He broke trust over and over and always blamed me. Eventually, due to the fact he was let off the hook so often, he became blatant and kept a woman for 2 years as a ‘tenant’ in one of our rentals. I divorced him. I was devastated and it took 7 years alone for my healing ( there is still distrust in my heart at times).

    I have since remarried but feel scarred by my past.

  4. The ‘therapist’ in this story really needs to go back to school. The most recent CDs I’ve dealt with weren’t a spouse (although I’ve dated CDs in the past that thankfully didn’t work out) but rather a group of individuals claiming to be extended ‘family’ although their overall behaviours proved to me that they were never anything of the sort. It’s the same CD story though… No empathy, no conscience, no remorse, not even for the relationships they’ve destroyed with my husband and children as a result of their behaviours. But to be honest, there were huge red flags present even before these disturbed people began to hone their radar in on me. I wonder what the so-called therapist would say in this case? “What was your part in it?” Well let’s see… My part was being completely ‘selfish’ for wanting healthy and positive family relations, my part was being silly to think I was an equal and therefore deserving of the same type of respect that was afforded to select others, my part was having the nerve to be furious over the fact that these people were emotionally abusing me and also lacked regard for my husband’s feelings and the impact their toxicity had on our marriage and family, and my part (for real this time) was ignoring my voice of inner wisdom telling me that something was wrong with these people and to proceed with caution rather than serving them my heart on a silver platter. So if I have remorse or regret for anything in my dealings with them it’s that I’m truly sorry for being such a ‘know it all’ against my inner wisdom. I’m trying to make amends to it now by taking my power back from those CDs and listening more and more each day to my soul rather than my perceived image of what reality ‘should’ be.

  5. Wow, so many sad stories. I can’t recall who commented, ‘they’ say not to try too hard to unravel the skein of the CD experience. On other forums, you will read “he or she isn’t thinking about you so don’t waste time trying to figure them out.”

    When you have been the victim of a deep deception by a CD, you want and need answers.

    It isn’t just emotionally confusing, it doesn’t make rational sense. Particularly with a P, there is an inconsistency with regards the whole concept of ‘acting in their own interest’. When we are dealing with very selfish liars, there is a repeating pattern of self interest. But what about those who lie in a transparent manner and then cover those lies with even more idiocy? Their pathological lying doesn’t just destroy relationships, it wrecks their own lives.

    If we don’t understand the curious combination of scheming within the context of very shallow temperament we won’t get it. I sometimes think that this type is so averse to following any kind of dictates, they can’t or won’t heed the rules of internal consistency that a good lie commands.

    This is a really puzzling feature of the P liar.

    1. Being in a relationship with someone who is personality disordered is such a debilitating experience on so many levels, that you are almost driven to try to understand what the hell just happened. It’s healing – at least it was for me. It validated my experiences in crazy-town.

      The skein is in reference to Chump Lady’s site….an excellent infidelity site (Dr. Simon has interviewed her) that I would recommend for anyone dealing with it. She covers cheating in the disordered, and Dr. Simon covers “what color was that bus that hit me.” Both sites share the same view on what makes them tick — that being some particularly nasty stuff.

      1. And God bless them both for what they do. I think those two have saved more people than all other sites combined.

        It’s a labor of love, and I for one am very appreciative.

  6. One thing I’ve noticed about CDs is that they’re hardly ever honest…you always have to drag the truth out of them, kicking and screaming. They hate being truthful. Everything is always lies and omissions.

    And don’t ever expect an apology from them. After repeatedly, publicly, and rudely insulting me, one CD casually just said, “Whatever it was I did, it wasn’t intentional.” There was no way this person could utter the apology I deserved it, this was the only thing she could come up with. Meanwhile, if I hurt anyone, I always feel very badly. But that’s the difference between CDs and most people, no matter how badly they hurt people, they just don’t feel badly, they’re only worried about hiding it and getting away with it, and getting what they can from other people.

  7. Hi to all
    What a great topic and comments. I still get caught in the mire. I know about the gut feeling now and even my head, but what about the heart? The heart is torn apart, isn’t it in sickness and health till death do we part! So much trust and love built within, how long does it take to heal? The deep pain and heartache each day, wanting to shake some sense into the one you placed all your hope, trust, love, dreams and future to find out it was all a lie. The CDX said “I trusted you.” But then there is no ownership by him to take responsibility for his character disturbed conduct. The XCD would never had left nor had an interest in others. However, he felt he had the right to define me! The right to determine my identity, I was the crazy one, even though I was the bridge to reality.

    What is really hard to understand is his pathological behavior has been evolving from early childhood. This is who he is as a person, in certain respects I don’t believe the CD is even aware of his conduct, although, he has the sense that something is wrong.

    Blessings to all who have felt this terrible pain of betrayal of our trust. Thank you to all for sharing your heart felt stories, it can be a lonesome road without others who know what it is like.

    1. And how many people outside of here do you know who truly walk with you on Lonesome Road? Me–Zero. This community we all have built does walk, support, love and care. The walk through the pain, as horrendous as it is, has to happen before the healing can start. You are a strong woman
      In some respects, I feel fortunate in my situation. I no longer had any feelings for CD before we separated. He was completely unavailable emotionally, didn’t even bother to act like he was.
      On a different level, I was devastated by the thought that we couldn’t make it. I had made a commitment that I wasn’t keeping. Yes, it takes two, yes, life was unbearable (oh, the depression..worst ever) which I got in my head, but not in my soul. I was a quitter for the first time in my adult life. When there were roadblocks, I worked hard and long, and I always found a way around it. Couldn’t do it this time, very difficult to accept.
      However, as I came across more and more times he had lied, a gigantic gut punch that stayed around for quite a while. Meanwhile, his real self, the CD part, exploded and I was constantly dealing with unpredictable, outrageous lunacy. My anxiety level was sooooo high, which greatly diminished my ability to process. So many days lost to debilitating anxiety and/or depression.
      As I wandered in my mind, sort of working my way back to the beginning, more and more behaviors which were kind of curious at the time, now made sense. Specific instances of lying so smoothly and easily, manipulating, devious-ness, covertly wounding me just because he could, the overt stuff–being so sorry ,sometimes even crying that he had hurt me and doing the same thing over and over, so unavailable emotionally when I needed him. When I got all the way back, I knew every bit of those 35 years had been a sham. That took a while to process.
      With the help of the Angels, I walked to the end of Lonesome Road, paused a bit to the corner to ponder– get more money or get out. When I chose get out, I walked around that corner to Glorious Lane! It is unimaginably beautiful here!

    2. One more thing, I don’t think CD even had that sense of something being wrong. He could pretend to know at times because he did want me there. Who doesn’t want someone who cares for his every need?
      Interested in hearing what others think: did he or did he have any sense of being wrong? (Your CD)
      Also I find the how early in life did he become CD question intriguing. I met CD when he was about 25, definitely a CD then.

      1. Hi Lulu, Great post and yes went through all your saying and felt the pain you describe. A fellow that I know married a CD and divorced, he said he couldn’t stand the sound of her voice anymore. Yes, I am glad to have peace, yes, lonely but not alone. I am on my journey alone too, except I had phenomenal doctors in my corner.
        From my understanding part of the process of the CD took place very early in life, I would estimate when a baby. The process continued in order for him to survive the rejection of his father and the mother abusive. So there we have it a Narcissist in the making and the personality disorder continued to evolve into hate, anger, paranoia, entitlement and more. This holds true for siblings that are CD, I can see clearly Alice Miller’s, Shengold, Kernberg, Kohut and so many others perspective on narcissism.
        The most loving thing for me, personally, was to cut all ties and in the long run it proved healthy for me. There is a lot of sorrow and regrets. I pray a lot and that helps sooth the pain but none the less I have to say I miss the good things we had, not his CD personality, he had a lot of good qualities and I see a wasted life.
        Lulu, more than anything the CD behavior is a choice. The CD would never allow himself to be treated the way he treats others. Out of everything I have read and it voluminous I believe it is as Dr. Simon says they don’t want to change and until then………. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. Blessings

  8. For about the dozenth time, I’ve started a post, had to save it in a docs folder , when I had time I went back and finished.

    Except this time the post I started and saved, responding to comments above, has disappeared. If anyone knows where it is, please let me know.

    Happy to see some familiar names back here today, GG, Vera, Tori …..

    My comments were in response to: that could be my story, with slight variations and a bit of surprise in tone. When I was new to this site and read those posts, I felt, in tremendous quantities, right at home, validated,and relieved.

    As I’ve said, roughly 1000 times, the puzzle pieces came together, I saw the big picture. Agreed Michael, ToriO and Einstein, the need to know was powerful, making sense of the lunacy was both devastatingly painful and healing. There are so many warm, caring, supporting, non-judgemental Angels here. Overwhelming gratitude.

    Being a financially dependent former spouse gave him all the power. If you are whack-o enough to go to the first therapy appointment, say that you want to shoot my attorney because you want to get committed and written out of work, how do you fight back? As it turned out, this was part one of the grander scheme. The opportunity to sneak out of town, move to another state and avoid alimony without any consequences. Only for me…no income.

    After two and a half years, endless corporate hoops to jump through and more legal fees,alI of his pension money is direct deposited into my account. Half the alimony I was awarded and enough income to cover my basic needs. With the strength I’ve gained through all of you Angels, I’m saying “Uncle”. There are ways I could get more money from other sources of income he has, but once I realized that I could manage without it, DONE.
    All the chains that have been tightly wrapped around me, are gone. It is so freeing. Goodness has poured into my life. My sons have been released from a hell they had no part in creating;their joy is a beautiful thing to see. We have our relationship back. Life is so good!

    On Thursday morning, the Judge will okay the ridiculously generous agreement I gave CD. (CD has signed the agreement once to get our deal done. Today I found out that we both have to sign it again. Microscopic chance CD will refuse, just because he is so CD, a chance to hurt me must be tempting.) I can’t let negative thoughts take over, I must focus on the positive, seeing my attorney handing the papers to the Judge.

    1. Tomorrow morning is your date with Freedom?? Hallelujah Lulu!
      I’ll be sending positive vibes your way.

      1. Oh, GG, the positive vibes worked! CD got his signed papers back in time for Court today, yes! The Judge said whatever, stamped the paper. Magnificent!

  9. Lulu, your divorce went better than mine, the CD wouldn’t sign anything because he didn’t want a divorce, claims all of it is fakery. This is a whole new level of understanding the mind game and mine isn’t over yet. I’m very glad for you and was wondering where you were at with the D. I always have to remember to stand outside myself and look at everything to put in perspective. I understand it but at the same time it is mindboggling rational and the idiocy of the CD mind. Stubborn like a rotten child. Your in my prayers and will look for your post.

    1. BTOV, thank you so very much, the prayers worked. And being kind enough to think of me while you have such struggles. Friends, attorney have meant to help me, with logical statements. He has already done this, so he won’t back out now, not following through hurts only him, not you. Must have been channeling you, because I realized what the disconnect is between their reasonable comments and my anxiety. At the same time, it is mind boggling rational and the idiocy of the CD mind. Bingo!
      So what exactly is your status? Are you divorced or still trying to be?

      1. Oh Lulu so happy that things are starting to work out for you. Much the same has happened for me. I just need to get a divorce but at least all the financials are done and dusted which allows me to get the divorce.
        I hope you are feeling a new sense of freedom. To have your own life without the controls of the CD. Take care Lulu!!! Hugs to you!!

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