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Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

A question of broken trust

March 28, 2017

At 36% approval rating, Trump is at a historic low for a POTUS in office less than 100 days. People don’t trust the guy, for lots of good reasons. Consequently, I’ve been focused for months on what’s going on in our government. Blogging about anything but politics feels less important than being part of the resistance. Of course, I’m still responding daily to teen email from around the world, as I’ve done for the past 20 years. For teens, there are no political crises. What threatens a teen’s world is an upended peer relationship. Nothing catastrophic on a national or global scale, but still deserving of compassion and attention.

Like this one:

Without trust all sense of safety is gone.

Without trust all sense of safety is gone.

Teen: I used to be friends with these boys until I started bullying them. I’d make fun of them everyday, move their stuff, occasionally resort to violence. I did it to feel in control. I don’t do it any more and I want to be friends with them again. My best friend is now friends with them and I’m jealous. One of the boys ignores me and sometimes says rude things to me. On one hand I did the same sort of thing to him, but on the other hand, I hate it and I don’t want him to end up being mean to everybody, because of how I treated him.

I’m probably overthinking this because I always overthink everything. Can you give  me any advice?

Annie: You’re not “overthinking” it. This demands a lot of thinking, so I’m proud of you for putting in the time and for reaching out for advice. I’m also impressed that you stopped harassing these boys. What made you stop?

Teen: Because I lost my best friend. He was the only male friend I’ve ever had who really understood me, so when we stopped being friends I started to think about what I was doing and what I hoped to achieve through putting others down and bullying them.

Annie: Have you apologized to each of them?

Teen: Yes, except for the one who ignores me/is mean to me. I don’t really know what to say to him. I feel like even if I did apologize to him, it wouldn’t make a difference.

Annie: Here’s what I know about apologies: for the hurt person to truly let go of those hurt feelings, you (the hurter) need to dig deep. “I’m sorry” is a start, but maybe not enough, depending on what you did. The boy who “ignores” you does not trust you. And you can understand why. You can’t trust someone who bullies you, so you don’t feel safe around them. You don’t believe their words. You can’t count on them, as a real friend. Trust is the key to all healthy relationships (friendships and romantic relationships). The question is: How do you regain someone’s trust after you’ve betrayed him? Think about it this way, if the situation were reversed, what would you need in addition to an apology?

If a friend had been harassing you, what would you need in addition to “I’m sorry”? What would it take for you to trust him and feel 100% safe with him again?

Teen: I’m not sure to be honest. They’d need to prove they were trustworthy and weren’t just going to start the bullying again.

Annie: I agree. Someone who betrays a friend needs to “prove” they are trustworthy and not just apologizing only to start the harassment again.

Teen: But don’t boys think extremely differently? I don’t know if any of them think about when I bullied them. I don’t even know if any of them want to be friends again. What if they’ve just forgotten about it completely and I’m just overreacting?

Annie: I don’t believe that boys think “extremely differently” when it comes to friendship and trust. Some boys may show their feelings differently than some girls. Boys may not talk about the “bully” behind his/her back, the way girls tend to do. But when trust is broken, boys are not likely to “just forget.” Humans have very long memories, and for a good reason. If you are punched and kicked by a close friend and you “forget” and continue the friendship, it’s very likely you will be punched and kicked again… or worse. No, boys don’t “forget.” But they may pretend that it doesn’t bother them.

You said something important… a friend who bullies need to “prove” that it’s never going to happen again. Your goal, moving forward, is to figure out how to prove you’re truly sorry and that you are someone who can be trusted 100%. HINT: We prove things by our behavior.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

 

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For Teens: What do you do after someone has lost trust in you?

December 28, 2009

When someone like a bf/gf or a bff trusts you enough to tell you personal, private information it probably makes you feel pretty special. And it should! Because this person means a lot to you and you want those feelings of trust to continue growing, you promise not to tell a soul. And you totally mean it. But then you find yourself talking to someone else and without meaning to hurt anybody, you tell the thing you promised you wouldn’t! As soon as the words are out of your mouth you get that “uh, oh” feeling. And things usually go downhill from there.

Has anything like this ever happened to you? It’s not uncommon.

Hey Terra,

My boyfriend broke up with me because he said I’ve changed. I have lost his trust, because I was telling people things he told me.  For example he told me that he was going to beat up this guy and then I told my friends. The topic of that particular person came up in the conversation and I thought my bf wouldn’t mind me telling my friends because they are like best friends with him.

I regret that I told them anything. I want to gain his trust back but I don’t know how to really “show” it. When I chat with him online he seems like he doesn’t want to talk to me and that really annoys me.  Today I was talking to him and he said that nobody could ever gain his trust back and that people only get one chance. I screwed up my chance. I really want his trust back again. I told him that but he said I should have thought before I acted. I’m not sure what to do please help !

Sorry Serena

Hi Serena,

We all make mistakes. (Welcome to the club!) But not everyone knows how to use a mistake to learn something about yourself and other people… and move forward with your new wisdom. I admire your self-awareness and I respect the fact that you’re not making excuses for what you did. You made a mistake, you’re sorry and it’s over. You need to forgive yourself.

If you can, try to remember what was going on in your head at the moment you decided to tell your friends what your ex told you. Whatever pressures or temptations you were feeling, it’s important to be honest with yourself about it. That’s really the only way you can avoid doing the same thing again. As for your ex not trusting you 100% any more, well, I’m sure you can understand that he feels betrayed. It’s a human response to pull back and protect oneself from being hurt again.

You’d probably like things between you to be back the way they were… instantly. But that’s not going to happen right away. It takes time to build trust in a relationship, and that can all vanish in an instant (as you’ve experienced). The long road back from betrayal to trust is just that… A long road. You can’t apologize or talk your way back into someone’s trust. Your actions, over time, will either prove to him that you are trustworthy or not.

My advice (since you asked) is that you forgive yourself for your mistake and continue to be the best, most trustworthy friend you can be. That’s all you can do. The rest is out of your hands. No sense stressing about it. Just promise yourself that in the future you will try to be more aware of what you promise and what you deliver through your actions.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,

Terra

Filed under: Teens — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 8:02 pm
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