He Did Bad Things

Q: I'm sorry now, but I did some bad things to my girlfriend and my family, without thinking them through. Nothing criminal, and I didn't cheat on her, but I've lost my girlfriend's trust. I have turned things around and love her very much. How do I gain her trust back, without it taking years? I'm not so young. PLEASE HELP!! -- Lou

Dr. Susan: I understand your desire to rebuild trust quickly, but that's not how it works, Lou. It takes a long time to build trust, and then when it's ruined, it can take an even longer time to rebuild it. That must be very frustrating to you, because deep inside you know you'd never mess up again in the same way. But those you hurt don't know that, and can't know that, and would be fools to simply believe your word about it.

Are you even on speaking terms with your girlfriend now? If so, perhaps you could very gently discuss the matter, telling her exactly how you know you'd never do those "bad things" again. Have you changed something about your environment that would make it quite impossible to slip again? Have you entered -- and stuck with -- therapy so that you have much more insight into your own behavior than before? If you had cheated, for example, I'd say you could promise to let your girlfriend know where you are at all times, without resentment. That would reassure her. Since I don't know what the "bad things" are specifically, it's hard to be more specific.

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