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Relationships With No Trust: 3 Potential Outcomes

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Can a relationship with no trust ever work? That’s the question you’re asking because that’s likely to be the situation you face.

The simplest answer to this is one single word: NO.

There are countless different reasons for this, but the most basic one is that trust is an essential ingredient in any type of healthy relationship.

Families fall apart without trust. Friendships crumble when trust is broken. As for romantic relationships, if there’s no trust, how can there be any kind of future?

Sure, people could keep going through the motions to maintain a status quo, but no real bond could ever be created.

This article will break down the three potential outcomes that you might face if your relationship lacks trust. The first step is to ask:

How did the trust get broken?

What happened to destroy your trust in one another? Was a lie told and then discovered? Did it involve infidelity? Were promises broken?

And was one person to blame, or did both of you act poorly?

Perhaps your relationship evolved out of an untrustworthy situation? For instance, if both of you were married to other people, cheated together, and left your spouses for each other. That may cause a whole lot of worry in the vein of “if they’ll cheat with you, they’ll cheat on you.”

Regardless of how trust was shattered, it can be pretty much impossible to have a long-lasting partnership without it.

3 Potential Outcomes To A Relationship With No Trust 

When there is little or no trust in a relationship, it can go one of three ways. Take a look at them, and determine which of them best fits what you’re experiencing right now.

Outcome #1: An uneasy masquerade that covers over the cracks of mistrust.

When one partner has their trust broken by the other, they may not realize the full effect it has on them straightaway. They may convince themselves that nothing needs to change because they believe they have forgiven their partner for the betrayal.

Only, that forgiveness is superficial at best. Trust isn’t something you can force. Trust is built over a period of time. So when trust is broken, it can’t be regained at the flick of a mental switch.

After the initial outburst of emotion has subsided and some level of normalcy has returned to the relationship, the person who was betrayed may experience various emotions. And those emotions may bubble away beneath the level of consciousness, meaning they can’t put their finger on what they are feeling or why.

Anger may show itself as nagging because the betrayed partner feels the need to punish the betrayer by making them do more things for them and around the house.

Resentment might be seen as nitpicking or fault-finding.

Regret over giving their partner a second chance may mean the betrayed party puts less effort into the relationship because deep down they are no longer sure they want to be a part of it.

The betrayed partner may feel unloved or deeply saddened that their hopes and dreams have been shattered.

All of these emotions, and more, affect the way partners interact with one another. There may be something resembling a loving relationship on the surface – and they will certainly try to keep it that way when others are present – but something isn’t quite right beneath it all.

The lack of trust – which can go both ways if both parties have done something to break it – puts great stress and strain not only on the relationship but on the individuals in it.

At this point, the relationship cannot be described as happy, healthy, or fulfilling. It may still include some good times, but those will be outweighed by the bad.

This can continue for a long time, or it can descend into one of the two other outcomes below.

In some circumstances, a bond of trust might grow spontaneously over a period of time as their lives continue and the emotions caused by the betrayal finally subside. Or maybe a shared trauma such as the illness and death of a child brings them back together. It’s possible, but it’s not all that likely.

Outcome #2: A toxic and hostile environment that does nothing to hide the mistrust.

In contrast to the couple that tries to put on a happy facade all the time, there’s the couple who are openly hostile to one another. Instead of pretending like everything’s okay, they constantly snipe at each other. They’ll refer to one another’s missteps and betrayals on a regular basis, and their treatment of the other may range from passive-aggressive to flat-out cruel.

Neither of them can trust one another, likely for a variety of reasons. These may have been fuelled by an initial betrayal, but have since run riot on both sides of the relationship. One might have put the family in dire financial straits because of a drug or gambling addiction, and the other might have cheated several times.

They know that they’re both keeping secrets from one another, and both of them hate it. Sometimes people have double standards, in that they feel absolutely justified with their own actions, but get resentful and angry when their partner does the same thing. Other folks will be quiet and guarded, and offer the silent treatment instead of flat-out fighting.

However these people choose to express their misery, it’ll be ugly. Accusations will fly in all directions, and both will have their privacy overstepped. Each party will likely go through the other’s phone, drawers, pockets, and other belongings to look for “clues” to fuel their fury. They’ll both lash out at the slightest provocation, and as a result, will both be highly defensive.

If there was real love present at the start of this relationship, the resentment and never-ending conflict is likely to kill whatever may be left of it.

At this point, some people choose to stay together “for the kids,” if they have them, or because of cultural or familial obligations. For example, if they’re part of a very close-knit community that frowns on divorce, they might just live separate lives while under the same roof. They won’t, however, try to put on the pretense of good chemistry when they’re with others because they no longer care whether other people hear their dirty laundry.

As you can imagine, this kind of hostile dynamic can’t last forever. There’s only so much toxicity that anyone can bear, especially if they have to shoulder it for years.

Outcome #3: The complete breakdown of the relationship.

Once the relationship has degraded to the point where partners are cursing at each other and throwing plates around in public, it’s over. There isn’t even a pretense of care and affection anymore.

Where there was once love and compassion, there’s now loathing and contempt. Literally anything each partner says or does will be eyed with suspicion. If they say that they’re having lunch with a friend or family member, the other partner will assume they’re off having sex with someone else. Similarly, if money goes missing from the joint account and one partner explains it away as a work or personal expense, they’ll be expected to provide receipts because they won’t be believed.

Anything and everything will be grounds for an argument. When a partner proves time and again that they can’t be trusted or depended upon, it wears away at every part of the relationship. The other partner feels like the entire weight of the family responsibilities are on their shoulders. They’ll feel taken advantage of, and will either shut down, or lash out at every opportunity.

In turn, the one who has been doing the lying, cheating, or other betrayals will feel constantly defensive. They’ll take every word or glance as an attack, and retaliate with harsh words or actions. There won’t be any civil conversations, shared meals, or movie nights. Just tension, stress, accusations, and crying.

The two spouses or partners are unlikely to be able to be in the same room together without a shrieking contest ensuing. We’re not just talking about harsh words, either. Things may have degraded to such an extent that they’re getting physically violent toward one another.

If they’re not slapping or punching one another, they might take their frustrations out on the furniture or other inanimate objects. Clothes may be shredded, the car may be set on fire, etc. You’d be amazed to see what kind of behaviors people are capable of when love turns to absolute hatred.

This is the havoc that betrayal and distrust can wreak.

It starts with hurt, then retaliation. Then promises on both sides to be better… but by that point, the damage is done. From there, unless some serious action is taken to try to reverse things, the situation spirals down into a seething pit of anger and despair.

Once things get to the point where trust, love, and even basic investment in mutual well-being is gone, the relationship is done. When you look at a person and have absolutely no care for them at all anymore, there’s no point in even trying to be friends anymore.

There’s no coming back from that. There’s literally nothing left at all.

Not just potential futures, but stages you can expect to go through.

The potential futures mentioned above aren’t just possibilities. They’re the stages that a relationship with no trust can (and inevitably will) go through. Some may take longer to run the course than others, but they’ll get there in the end.

This is because no relationship can survive without trust in the long run.

If you’re in a relationship with a person you can’t trust, it’s important to ask yourself a very simple, but very important question: why?

Seriously, why on Earth would you choose to cultivate an intimate, romantic partnership with a person you can never trust?

Do you enjoy the feeling of constantly being on guard?

Or wondering where they are and what they’re doing at any given point in time?

Is it fun to stay awake all night because you don’t feel safe sleeping next to them?

Or do you get a thrill going through their texts and emails to see who they’ve been talking to behind your back?

Ask yourself what it is about this person that makes you stay with them despite the fact that they’ve betrayed your trust. Do you sincerely love them? Or do you love the lifestyle they can offer you? Is the sex really that good? Are you staying together because you’re raising children together and you don’t want to be a single parent?

Be absolutely honest about your reasons for staying in this terrible situation. Only by doing that can you determine what steps you’ll need to take next.

Do you want to try to salvage your relationship?

If you and your partner sincerely still love one another and want to make things work (i.e. you’re in outcome/stage one or have just entered outcome/stage two), then you have a lot of work ahead of you.

First and foremost, you’ll need to be honest with yourselves – and one another – about why trust was broken in the first place. You’ll need to dig down deep and figure out the contributing factor(s) that led to the betrayal(s) you’re dealing with now.

If there was infidelity, what circumstances led to it? Were they initiated from some deep, old hurts that needed to be worked through (such as fear of commitment, low self-esteem, etc.)? Or were these spur-of-the-moment things that occurred when inebriated?

When we understand the reasons why certain things happened, it’s a lot easier for us to come to terms with them. We can try to be understanding, and work with one another to find a healthy middle ground to re-establish trust.

Once trust is broken, it can’t be repaired… but it can be rebuilt. It’ll never be the same as it was before, but all things change and evolve over time. The key to making things work is for both parties to be invested in moving forward as a team.

This can be really difficult to navigate without help. Quite often, people who try to fix their relationship problems on their own find that it’s a lot harder than they thought. We tend to be more open and honest when there’s a mediator like a counselor involved. We see them as a neutral party we can express ourselves to.

When we’re trying to work things through with a partner one on one, we often hold a lot of emotional stuff back. This can be because we don’t want to “set them off” into a rage or weeping session, or because we’re uncomfortable voicing our real thoughts and feelings. This can lead to a lot being repressed instead of worked through and resolved. Those unresolved issues are the ones that lead to long-term resentment and contempt.

If you and your partner are living in distrust, but you both want to stay together and move forward, then relationship counseling is absolutely vital. Furthermore, you both need to be sincerely dedicated to making this work out.

For example, if you’re the partner who betrayed the other’s trust, you’ll need to step up and make sure you prove that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to heal the relationship. Remember that actions speak louder than words. Apologizing is a great start, but you’ll need to show up and keep proving that you mean what you say.

Similarly, if you’re the one who was betrayed, you’ll need to decide to forgive your partner for their transgression(s). This means working through the hurtful emotions you’ve experienced, and letting go of them as best you can. If your partner is taking real steps to heal your relationship, don’t punish them by bringing up their betrayal over and over again.

Some people claim that they’ve forgiven someone for hurting them, but they’ll use that hurt as a manipulative ace up their sleeve whenever it suits them. That isn’t forgiveness: it’s a form of revenge.

If you both feel that you are capable of forgiving, and stepping up to make things right, then it’s worth a try. Seek out a counselor you’re both comfortable with, and book some appointments. Make sure you each have time alone with this counselor, as well as appointments together as a couple. This will allow them the opportunity to get to know each of you individually. They’ll be able to hear your stories from your own perspectives, without you feeling like you need to “hold back” in front of your partner.

Honesty and openness will work wonders to heal this rift, if it’s salvageable. And if it isn’t, then the counselor will be able to offer you support during the separation process.

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About The Author

Catherine Winter is an herbalist, INTJ empath, narcissistic abuse survivor, and PTSD warrior currently based in Quebec's Laurentian mountains. In an informal role as confidant and guide, Catherine has helped countless people work through difficult times in their lives and relationships, including divorce, ageing and death journeys, grief, abuse, and trauma recovery, as they navigate their individual paths towards healing and personal peace.