This is not like a punch list on a house where you do each thing once, mark it off and continue until you finish the list, and then “move in.” Hopefully, there will be things on this list that you can do several times a day. You are in the process of refilling a giant tub with little thimble-sized containers. There are not “big buckets” of things you can do, typically. It is the little things done over and over that refill a trust tub.
I also want you to consider developing what I call an “attitude of the exceptional.” This is an attitude that understands the importance of exceptional effort during this trust building time. If you call before leaving your office and say you will be home by 6:00, even if it is only a matter of being 15 seconds late, you call and let your spouse know how much later you will be than you promised.
If you tell your spouse you are going to a restaurant to celebrate a coworker’s birthday, and when you get there, you discover it is temporarily closed for renovations, you call on your way to the alternate restaurant and let your spouse know about the change. Remember, it will get better eventually.
Until you refill your partner’s trust tub to his/her satisfaction, you are always looking for opportunity to exceed normal expectations in trustworthy behavior. Ask your partner to feel free to add more
things to the trust list. Ask your partner to put a star beside the ones that are most important to him/her. When your days are hectic, making sure a starred item gets done may make more of a difference that day than the three you had previously planned to do.
If either of you becomes lax in doing the tasks or noticing the effort, journal what you do as the trust builder or what you notice as the receiver, and then compare notes periodically. Since rebuilding trust can take a long time, it is easy lose your drive and motivation to work the trust list. It is also easy to take your partner’s efforts to rebuild trust for granted.
Next week, we will talk about how to deal with repetitive hurts in a relationship.
Remember, recovery is hard work, but it is good work.