Active Trust vs Passive Trust and Post-Affair Marriage Recovery

In this video I’m going to talk about the difference between Passive Trust and Active Trust, with special reference to what it’s like after an affair situation, and why the difference between the two of them is so important to know.

Passive Trust is sort of the default setting where you just trust someone. They go off to work and you don’t sit there and wonder if they are talking to anyone at work, are they texting anyone, are there any inappropriate emails? They just go off to work and you don’t think about it. They come home, all is fine. They go out to the grocery store or to watch a movie by themselves and it’s no big deal. For lack of a better term, when they’re not “being supervised ” you don’t worry about what they’re up to. It’s a passive, low key trust.

Active Trust happens when you see or hear something, or you discover something that really is a red flag that something isn’t right. Something like their ex-affair partner sending them a friend request on Facebook and they accepted the friend request. For some of you reading that last sentence, you immediately felt triggered. You’re experiencing Active Trust, where your pulse and blood pressure go up, and you have that sense of dread and anxiety that something really isn’t right. But at the same time, you don’t want to blow up the relationship just yet over this one thing that you’ve discovered.

Now you’re in a position where you convince yourself to trust your partner, you don’t immediately blow the relationship up, you convince yourself things aren’t as bad as they potentially are. You go into a state of actively, consciously trusting. You may talk to your partner and figure out what is going on, but when you are in that state you are Actively Trusting. You are actively forcing yourself not to end the relationship over what you’ve seen.

This is incredibly stressful. It’s so stressful that once you talk yourself down from what you’ve discovered, which may or may not be something completely innocent, the Passive Trust takes a while to come back. If you have a moment of Active Trust, once you get through it, then the ability to trust goes on cooldown where it’s not effective any more before the Passive Trust reasserts itself.

While the trust is on cooldown, you become paranoid and hair-trigger about anything and everything that your partner may or may not be doing. So two days ago, they went off to the grocery store by themselves and you didn’t really think about it. Then yesterday there was some sort of contact that you discovered between them and their old affair partner and Active Trust kicked in. So today they’re going out to the grocery store and now the Passive Trust doesn’t work because it’s on cooldown. You’re starting to wonder if they’re just going out to be by themselves so they can call the affair partner. Are they going to be thinking about them? Are they even going to the grocery store or are the two of them meeting somewhere?

Everything can in a sense start triggering you. Again, there may be nothing you can particularly do about it. There may be nothing they are doing wrong, it’s just them going off to work. But you may still be sitting at home wondering what your partner is doing all day- is there a burner phone, a secret email account? The dark thoughts can cycle around and around.

Let’s talk about those three states and what it does for the relationship. When you are in those moments of Active Trust, the relationship is getting worse. You are less happy about the relationship, you like your partner less, you are incredibly stressed out and very unhappy, and you’re basically convincing yourself not to leave. When you’re Actively Trusting, the relationship is getting worse.

When you are Passively Trusting, the relationship has the chance of getting better. You’re relaxed, you’re calm, you’re not worrying about anything too much in particular. All the good things that happen in the relationship make you like your partner more, you’re happier, and things are improving.

When trust is on cooldown, you’re not actually seeing anything that is making the relationship worse, but you’re in that state where things might actually be happening but you can’t prove it. The relationship neither gets better nor gets worse; it’s in a limbo state. It doesn’t take much to throw it back into that Active Trust moment.

Now here’s the important thing for post-affair cleanup. Every single time that there is some sense of triggering about the affair- whether it is mention of the affair partner, going back to a place where some of the affair started, seeing people who had something to do with covering it up, anything that reminds the cheated on person of the affair- the cheated on person is going to go back into a state of Active Trust. This means it’s incredibly important to not keep having the affair come back in some way, which sets off the person who was cheated on. It’s almost the reverse of the person who had the affair seeing their affair partner and getting re-triggered with that sense of “Oh my goodness, yummy, yummy dopamine” where all those thoughts and feelings come back.

This is why you can get these paradoxical blowups, sometimes years after an affair. It can be something fairly small and incidental, but whatever it is, it’s a reminder that the affair happened. For the person who was cheated on, it puts them right back into that same emotional state that they were in when they first discovered the cheating. It’s incredibly important to find ways to work around not having the cheated on person triggered and thrown back into that state of having to Actively Trust.

When they’re in that state, they are talking themselves into staying in the relationship as opposed to just calling it quits. This is why things like an accepted Facebook friend request ten years after the affair becomes an explosive thing. You really have to watch what these triggers are. This is the difference between Passive Trust and Active Trust and why trust goes on cooldown between those two.

If you are the partner who cheated, and the cheated on partner is triggered into Active Trust, you have to bend over backwards to reassure them and get them through that moment of dread and terror. Reassert that you care for them and love them, that nothing is going on. Be that open book, open up your communication devices, do whatever it takes to convince your partner that nothing is happening.

You can get past an affair. It is not an automatic death sentence to a relationship necessarily, but it will always be a sore spot.

So TL:DR… Don’t poke the sore spot.

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