I received this question recently:
Dear Mary Jo,
My ex cheated on me with my best friend at the beginning of the relationship. I feel like I can’t trust him anymore, but I have forgiven him. Then he tried cheating again with my friend and my cousin. I chose to stay with him despite losing my whole family because of it. He has lied about meeting with his ex for business and when I asked him not to go to a certain club, he went and lied about it. How can I trust him? I’ve become an insecure version of myself, which I never felt before. Can you help me? Kiley
Answering this question, I would ask Kiley, “Why are you giving this guy so many chances?” He’s a repeat offender. He isn’t going to change. He’s going to keep lying to you. You deserve far better! Give him up and look for someone who will be honest with you and who will respect you. You aren’t the problem here, he is. He needs professional help, which is something you cannot give.
However, the answer is too simple, and Kiley won’t follow it. Trust is interwoven with emotions and far too many people trust people they shouldn’t. Science tells us that everyone has his or her price. I don’t like to think of people this way, but evidence is evidence. Whether you are trustworthy depends on one of two mechanisms according to psychologist David DeSteno who is the author of, “The Truth about Trust.” If you are short-term thinking with gain, you get what you can and run. If you are long-term oriented with gain, you tend to be more community oriented and get what you want in the end. Your method generalizes to your relationships as well.
What should Kiley look for in someone she can trust? Integrity is one component, but you also have to consider what might be required for that person in the particular situation. For example, you may trust your husband/wife in one situation, but not another.
Secondly, it’s important to remember that trust requires vulnerability; as a general rule people in positions of power, socioeconomically or otherwise, are more likely to be untrustworthy because they can be. The more power you have, the less you rely on others, and that makes you less likely to be vulnerable to them.
Lastly, although specific people can look shifty, the only true way to be able to tell if someone is untrustworthy by their body language is if they do a sequence of four behaviors. These four behavior cues are folding their arms in front of them, leaning back in order to distance themselves, touching their face, and fidgeting with their hands. When you see these behaviors together in a sequence, know there is a high likelihood you are going to get thrown under the bus.
All of us get lied to, and although no one likes it, it happens. For Kiley, she needs to quit giving her ex chances. He has proven his untrustworthiness. For you and me, we must be aware of those around us, as well as ourselves. Sometimes it is not us being lied to…it is we who are telling the lies.