“I Love You But I Don’t Trust You” by Mira Kirshenbaum

book cover

Subtitle: The Complete Guide to Restoring Trust in Your Relationship

This book really is what it says on the tin. Mira Kirshenbaum is a couple’s therapist who shares both her own and clients’ stories to illustrate the stages of responding to betrayal and rebuilding trust.

  • How to evaluate whether the relationship is worth investing in
  • How to manage the anger which is a natural response to betrayal
  • The need for evidence that the betrayer cares
  • The need for the betrayer to see the situation from the betrayed person’s point of view.
  • Reconnecting with the good aspects of the relationship
  • Discuss root causes without (hearing) blame
  • Discuss needs and how to meet them
  • The (eventual) decision to forgive

The book is compassionate to both sides. Yes, big mistakes happen. They are sometimes not forgivable. The betrayed person naturally feels a strong need to re-establish safety, and may not use the most skilled techniques to achieve that.

There are no “shoulds” about leaving or staying. While the book naturally focuses on relationships that are worth rebuilding, there are also clear call-outs for danger signs, such as people who are power-seeking for its own sake, or people who are suspicious for its own sake, or relationships that don’t have enough good in them to be worth the work.

Small ongoing betrayals such as unreliability are addressed, as well as big betrayals like affairs or squandering shared money. Ongoing power imbalances can also be a source of mistrust. There is an in-depth discussion of differences in being open or hidden causing mistrust.

I winced at the section title, “Sleeping in a Nazi’s bed.” As a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, I am emphatically not a fan of metaphorical Nazis. But the author meant real Nazis! Her mother was a German Jew who survived the Holocaust, and brought her safely out of Germany afterward. When she went back to Germany to visit as a young adult, a sudden illness caused her to accept the hospitality of kind strangers who were admittedly Nazis during the war. She talks about how trust can make sense, even though we have reason to be mistrustful.

Sadly, all the couples in this book are heterosexual, and there’s no indication they’re anything other than white. And it was published in 2012! On the positive side, the men and women are depicted as having a variety of frailties and strengths, and a variety of relationships together.

Recommended for a better understanding of trust, betrayal, and relationship dynamics.

Available at Powell’s Books.

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