Anger, Integrity and Thou
I damaged my relationship pretty badly and consequently, my boyfriend is now really distant. I want to bring him back, but don’t know how to get him to trust me again.
What can I do?
This is one of the hardest positions to be in as he is really the one in control, at this point.
As you may already know, I am a HUGE advocate for taking personal responsibility and with that said, there is nothing you can do to “get him to….” do anything. The only place you have any power is over what you do, say and think. Consequently, the focus of your behavior needs to be on your own actions, not his. This is true regardless of whether he wants anything to do with you or not.
I would start by addressing his concerns, so it will be helpful for you to know about Integrity Agreements and the emotions underlying anger. I would venture to guess that your boyfriend is mad because you broke an integrity agreement with him. Integrity agreements are either spoken or unspoken agreements between human beings that we will not hurt each other—physically or emotionally. Humanity has a presumption that someone’s word is of value and that when we are in a relationship (of any sort) with another, that we will be considerate of them and their well being. Obviously, this is more fanciful than realistic, but it is certainly what most individuals—and societies— would claim to strive for.
When someone breaks this agreement, anger is a common reaction as is the case with your boyfriend. The interesting thing about anger is that, as an emotion, it does not exist in isolation. Rather, it is like a flag on top of a mountain of other emotions. Immediately under anger is his hurt. Under hurt is his fear (that you will do it again, that you can’t be trusted, that he isn’t safe, etc). Under fear is responsibility (his part in what happened or in how he reacted to it). Under responsibility is understanding, (something he understands about the you, your situation/reason, etc.) Under that is what he wants (to be in a healthy relationship, to be safe, to break up…). Under what he wants is what he appreciates, loves or accepts about you. Once you have addressed all of that, you are in a more powerful position to make new integrity agreements with each other (conscious, spoken ones). No one moves easily from anger to agreement. Until we have heard the other person fully takes responsibility for their part in it, we are usually unwilling to trust them again.
So, what can you do? I would start by acknowledging that you broke an integrity agreement with him. Address his pain—apologize. Be careful NOT to say “I’m sorry, but…” as “but” tends to cancel out whatever came before it.
Address his fear—recommit to the importance of the relationship to you and make a new agreement to be more considerate/responsible/loyal (whatever is relevant). Since I don’t know the magnitude of what you have done, it is hard to say how receptive he will be, however that part is up to him.
Your part is acknowledging what you did and then, and more importantly, living in integrity with your agreements. This may require some soul searching. It may require some personal or spiritual growth, but whether your boyfriend sticks around to witness it or not, your job is to be a person who honors your integrity agreements both with yourself and those you are in relationship with.
Some things you may want to journal on or consider….
- Decide what is really important to you. Identify your values, goals, vision, life-style choices…
- Become self-observant. Look at what you are doing, saying and thinking and be sure your behavior is in alignment with what you want.
- Notice if there are belief systems or self-talk that cause you to self-sabotage: He is too good for me (or the opposite—I’m not good enough for him.) I don’t deserve to be loved. These limiting beliefs signal a self-esteem issue that is often the root cause of relationship-sabotaging behavior.
- Remind yourself of your goal (what you want) and change your words, thoughts. beliefs and behaviors to align with what is really important to you.
If a sense of low self-esteem is the issue, make it your personal mission to elevate your belief in yourself. The irony here is that a lack of integrity damages self-esteem, and consequently, the way to build it is to become a person of integrity. These steps in awareness and self-mastery will help.
I wish you the best.
Intellectual Foreplay Question: What matters to you and what are you willing to do to keep that safe?
Love Tip: Without integrity, there is no relationship. Without integrity, there is no joy or trust. Integrity is the foundation upon which love and respect build.