Brene Brown uses a marble jar analogy for trust, how trust is a collection of marbles slowly gathered over time, one marble here and one marble there. One cannot wait for it all to work out to start collecting marbles, but one is entitled to dump the entire collection and smash the jar when betrayed.
In fact, this betrayal usually happens long before the other ones. I'm talking about the betrayal of disengagement. Of not caring. Of letting the connection go. Of not being willing to devote time and effort to the relationship. The word betrayal evokes experiences of cheating, lying, breaking a confidence, failing to defend us to someone else who's gossiping about us, and not choosing us over other people. These behaviors are certainly betrayals, but they're not the only form of betrayal. If I had to choose the form of betrayal that emerged most frequently from my research and that was the most dangerous in terms of corroding the trust connection, I would say disengagement.
When the people we love or with whom we have a deep connection stop caring, stop paying attention, stop investing, and stop fighting for the relationship, trust begins to slip away and hurt starts seeping in. Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears--the fears of being abandoned, unworthy, and unlovable. What can make this covert betrayal so much more dangerous than something like a lie or an affair is that we can't point to the source of our pain--there's no event, no obvious evidence of brokenness. It can feel crazy-making.
We may tell a disengaged partner,"You don't seem to care anymore," but without "evidence" of this, the response is "I'm home from work every night by six P.M. I tuck in the kids. I'm taking the boys to Little League. What do you want from me?" Or at work, we think, Why am I not getting feedback? Tell me you love it! Tell me it sucks! Just tell me something so I know you remember that I work here!
...Like trust, most experiences of betrayal happen slowly, one marble at a time. In fact, the overt or "big" betrayals that I mentioned before are more likely to happen after a period of disengagement and slowly eroding trust. What I've learned about trust professionally and what I've lived personally boils down to this:
Trust is a product of vulnerability that grows over time and requires work, attention, and full engagement. Trust isn'\t a grand gesture--it's a growing marble collection.