Tips to rebuild trust
If your relationship has been damaged by a betrayal, you may fear that you'll never be able to regain the trust you once shared with your partner. However, whether you're struggling with the aftermath of an affair, learning about the full extent of an addiction or discovering financial secrets that were kept from you, there is hope.
Trust problems cannot be solved overnight, but they can gradually be healed by honesty, hard work, persistence and self-awareness. Here are eight things you can do to aid the process.
1. Speak openly and candidly
A relationship crisis can be emotionally and physically draining, so you might be tempted to repress some of your thoughts, feelings and questions in the wake of a betrayal. Unfortunately, taking this route typically leads hostility and resentment to grow, which may then emerge explosively and unconstructively in the future.
If you're hoping to rebuild trust, deep and honest conversations will be necessary. These types of discussions can be painful and may make you feel exposed, but facing this uncertainty and committing to listening to each other will be instrumental in sustaining intimacy and respect.
2 Avoid the “blame game”
It's easy to fall into a destructive pattern of throwing insults back and forth, arguing with your partner about who is really to blame for the current problems in your relationship. However, if you grit your teeth and make a genuine effort to understand each other, you'll be better able to prevent similar issues from arising in the future.
Whether you've broken your partner's trust or had your trust broken, avoid using a self-righteous or self-pitying tone. The goal should be figuring out how unmet needs have led to poor judgement calls for one or both of you.
3. Try to be patient
It's common to be out of step with your partner when you're trying to rebuild trust. In particular, the person who broke the trust tends to be ready to move on more quickly, and may feel they've already enough to fix the problems in the relationship. Meanwhile, the other person may feel the situation is more complex, and may find that their emotions fluctuate erratically.
Both partners will benefit from seeing recovery from betrayal of trust as a grieving process–one that involves the betrayed partner accepting the loss of what they thought they knew about their loved one. Consequently, patience is required by both parties in what can often feel like a “two steps forward, three steps back” situation. With patience, you can reach sustained improvement.
4. Strive for consistency
Committing to being reliable and consistent is one of the most helpful things that you can do after betraying your partner in some way. If you make your intentions clear, stick to all agreements you make, and repeatedly demonstrate ways in which you can keep your word, you'll be giving your partner a steady dose of evidence that it is safe to trust you again.
Meanwhile, you'll also know you're doing something productive and proactive to improve the relationship.
5. Take responsibility for your role
Firstly and most obviously, you need to take responsibility for any betrayal you have engaged in, accepting that you have chosen to deal with your feelings or underlying needs in an unhealthy and hurtful way.
Meanwhile, if you are the betrayed party, it's also important for you to take responsibility for any impact you had on the relationship's decline. While you are not responsible for your partner's deceit or irresponsibility, you may have played a role in letting the relationship get to a point where negative choices seemed appealing.
6. Explore a temporary reduction in privacy
Privacy and autonomy are important commodities in any relationship, but there may some value in temporarily relaxing your views on these aspects of your partnership. When someone has had an affair, openly allowing access to email, phone or social networking accounts can be useful in rebuilding trust and security.
However, if you choose to go down this road, make sure you have a clear agreement on how long this type of access will last–in the long run, it can detrimental to happiness and stability rather than helpful.
7. Investigate couples therapy
Couples therapy isn't only suitable for those whose relationship is right on the verge of collapse. A therapist can help you and your partner explore what led to your trust problems and work through your complex, conflicted emotions in a space that is safe, supportive and neutral.
Further, therapy is an ideal place to consider how trust can be rebuilt, and to learn new communication strategies that will bring you closer in the longer term.
8. Nurture the relationship
Finally, in addition to dissecting your problems, exploring your feelings and engaging in a serious quest for self-knowledge, it's important to make simple, compassionate gestures when you can.
Some couples benefit from spending more time together as they try to recover from a betrayal of trust (revisiting old hobbies and places that remind them of the roots of their intimacy), while others consider acts like renewing their vows or moving to a new place.
Be sensitive to the fact that you're both in a more vulnerable, raw place at the moment, and look for opportunities to show kindness in the quiet moments between your deeper discussions.
As suggested at the outset, rebuilding trust is not a simple or quick matter. However, if and your partner still feel love and are determined to move past this crisis, it's possible you can find the resilience to do so. And if you find that trust cannot be regained, you can leave the relationship knowing you sincerely tried to fix the damage first.