Trust: as Indispensable to Relationships as to Politics

Sep 11 , 2020
By Eden Sahle

A colleague of mine came to work last week looking distraught. While we were waiting to attend a meeting, I inquired if things were going alright outside of the office.

It was the wife. They had been having problems for months. I was quick to suggest a possible solution. It is always the case with relationships that go bad that a breakdown of communications has occurred at some point. They should talk, explain what is bothering them and voila!

But the damage has already been done, I later found out. When they tied the knot four years ago, after dating before that for over a decade, he never mentioned to his wife that he owned a house. When they struggled with rented houses, moving from place to place, he did not say a thing. Even after they became parents to two children, he stayed silent about it. When he sold the house a year ago for 20 million Br, he kept it in a bank account his wife did not know existed.

The jig was up by accident. A broker friend of the couple unknowingly quipped to the wife about the new 20 million Br in "their" bank accounts. When she confronted the husband with this information, he was unable to justify his actions.

Shortly after, they separated. Friends and relatives attempted to intervene but with no luck.

I knew the wife through work, which is why I felt bad for the guy. She is a woman of firm decisions. I wanted to ease his grief, make him believe that things were going to be fine. I did not have much success. In the end, I only asked if it would be possible to write about his story, which he gave me permission to do.

His tragic story portrays the dysfunction of our societal makeup. Egotism has engulfed family, society and politics. People enter marriage, politics and business without the intention of earning the trust of their partners, supporters and customers. They want to be accepted and appreciated, while they walk all over those who trusted and were devoted to them. Many do harmful things in their attempt to satisfy that deep hunger for wants that never get fulfilled.

The inability to be able to earn and sustain people’s trust creates a failure to effectively cooperate. We already see this in our polarised political system and society, where people and parties with opposing views are unable to work together and address problems peacefully.

Individuals feel entitled. With many politicians, this is being convinced that they can have it all to themselves, neglecting the needs and interests of the many. Such people only care about themselves and refuse to understand the importance of reaching across the aisle. The same goes for relationships, which will never work if one party is overtly selfish and unwilling to compromise.

Perhaps, it is because we have become more self-aware, at least of the self and social issues, in this era that we are often able to recognise injustice wherever we see it. But it is also the case that we attempt to externalise our own failures to social and political circumstances that we are not any better at seeing that we struggle to be honest with ourselves. We are not good at seeing that it is our actions that ultimately derail us as much as it does others.

The societies we live in can have a direct influence on how dishonest individuals may be, according to a study conducted by the University of Nottingham. Titled "Intrinsic Honesty and the Prevalence of Rule Violations across Societies,” it found that people living in societies where corruption, political fraud and a higher perception of dishonesty within social settings are acceptable are more likely to be dishonest than those societies where such actions occur at a lower level.

Fragile institutions, which permit breaches to the law such as corruption, not only bring harmful economic outcomes but also affect the behaviour of individuals in societies. This is a socio-psychological issue that has barely made it into conversations during national debates.

Fortunately, it can never be too late for broken relationships to be fixed if the will is there. The couple can yet mend their marriage if they are able to see beyond themselves. The same goes for our politics. Where politicians and supporters are willing to engage in good faith and work to improve the issue of trust they have with one another, it is possible to rise above the dysfunction.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 11,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1063]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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