Mending Broken Agreements

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Trust is the foundation of every relationship, yet it is often taken for granted. We don’t realize how much our relationship relies on it until it is tested and brought into question.

Consider the importance of trust and the necessity of making, and keeping, agreements.  There are many seemingly unimportant agreements made every day in our day to day lives, as well as extremely important ones. In both cases, we are counting on the other to do what they say they will do. And if the agreement is not kept, our lives are thrown into chaos. But more important than the temporary inconvenience and frustration when someone doesn’t keep their word, is the loss of trust that results.  This loss of trust can be temporary, or it can be more permanent, especially if agreements are broken regularly, whether it be unimportant and important matters.

So what can you do if your mate is unreliable and does not keep his/her word? How does this affect the relationship?

Listen to Andrea’s story:

“I no longer trust my husband. He makes promises to follow specific guidelines and limitations we agree upon and then fails to keep them. I admit I have growing resentment towards him. I have grown so distrustful of him that it has impacted every area of our relationship, including our physical and emotional intimacy.”

Andrea’s story is a story I hear every day. Agreements made and broken, and each broken agreement leading to the erosion of trust, and the sanctity of the marriage.

Agreements, especially within the context of a committed relationship, are sacred oaths that must be kept. What happens if these agreements are broken? Is it possible to rebuild trust and restore the relationship?

Here are three action steps that I believe are necessary for mending broken agreements:

First, apologize sincerely.  A heartfelt, sincere apology goes a long way. We all know the difference between a superficial, ‘I’m sorry’ and a sincere apology that comes from the heart. When one is truly sorry, their entire countenance will reflect their remorse. True remorse changes us and makes us want to act differently, to turn a new leaf and head in a new direction.

Second, accept responsibility. It is not enough to say, ‘I’m sorry,’ as important as that is.  The violator of the agreement must acknowledge and accept full responsibility for the damage caused by the broken agreement. A broken agreement has a ripple effect on the relationship and the one violating the agreement must speak fully to that impact.

Third, make appropriate amends.  Understand the need to make restitution for damage done, and accept that it will take time and effort. The frequency and severity of the damage will determine what and how long it will take to restore broken trust.

Finally, between the broken agreement and the act of restoration, there needs to be a temporary break in the relationship. While a time of emotional, or even physical, separation may seem extreme to some, boundaries without consequences are not boundaries, but only wishes and complaints. Complaints yield little more than growing resentment. Boundaries must have some teeth to them. So, for a time life cannot continue ‘as normal.’ Rather, the relationship is ‘on hold’ until remorse, repentance and restoration have taken place.

It might sound something like this:

“Greg, I love you very much, but your repeated failure to keep your agreements has created a break in trust and in our relationship. I cannot be in relationship with you until you acknowledge and take full responsibility for how you have harmed me. I will not pretend that things are okay when they are not. You made agreements with me and I expect you to keep them. When you don’t, I can no longer trust you. Please reflect on how you can take responsibility for the broken agreement and how you might make amends. I look forward to restoring the trust, intimacy and connection in our relationship.”

I realize that these are hard words to hear. However, if you don’t have clear boundaries with clear consequences, your relationship will remain in chaos. I offer these guidelines as a means for healing for your marriage.

If you are struggling with broken agreements in your marriage, we would love to help you repair what’s been broken and find healing for your marriage. Contact our office at frontdesk@marriagerecoverycenter.com or (206) 219-0145 to get started.