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Rebuilding Trust in a Relationship: Step-by-Step Guide

how to rebuild trust in a relationship

Finding yourself in a relationship where trust has been shattered can be an incredibly painful and disorienting experience. Whether it was due to infidelity, breaches of confidence, or other betrayals, the loss of trust can leave you feeling wounded, vulnerable, and unsure about the future of your relationship. However, it's important to remember that trust can be rebuilt, and with the right guidance and effort, you and your partner can restore the foundation of your connection.

In this blog article, we will explore the journey of reestablishing broken trust in a relationship. We will delve into effective strategies and practical steps that can help you and your partner heal, grow, and ultimately rebuild a stronger, more resilient bond. From cultivating open communication and vulnerability to seeking professional guidance, we will provide you with valuable insights and tools to navigate this challenging process.

How is trust broken?

At some point in our lives, we may experience the painful rupture of trust in a relationship. Trust can be broken in many different ways, and the consequences can be significant, leading to emotional distress, detachment, and even heartbreak.

Some common examples of how trust can be broken include:

  • Infidelity: The discovery or knowledge that one partner has engaged in a physical or emotional affair outside of the relationship.
  • Dishonesty: Deliberate deception or withholding of truth, whether about significant matters or smaller everyday occurrences.
  • Betrayal of Confidence: Sharing sensitive information or secrets that were entrusted to one partner in confidence, causing a breach of trust.
  • Broken Promises: Consistently failing to fulfill commitments or breaking important agreements, eroding trust over time.
  • Lack of Communication: Withholding or misrepresenting thoughts, feelings, or important information, leading to a breakdown in trust and connection.
  • Financial Infidelity: Engaging in secret or deceptive financial behaviors, such as hidden debts, excessive spending, or not being transparent about finances.
  • Addiction or Substance Abuse: Trust can be damaged if one partner hides or lies about their addiction or substance abuse issues, leading to broken promises and deceit.
  • Violation of Boundaries: Disrespecting personal boundaries, emotional or physical, that were established within the relationship.
  • Emotional Neglect: Withholding emotional support, empathy, and affection, causing a sense of disconnection and a loss of trust.
  • Lack of Reliability: Breaking commitments, being consistently late, or not following through on promises can erode trust over time.
  • Emotional or Physical Abuse: Any form of abusive behavior, including manipulation, control, or aggression, can significantly damage trust and the overall safety of the relationship.

When trust is broken, it can feel like the very foundation of the relationship has been shattered. This can make it incredibly challenging to navigate feelings of hurt, confusion, and betrayal. That's why it's important to remember that trust can be rebuilt over time, with mutual effort, understanding, and patience.

Remember, trust can be rebuilt with time, open communication, and a commitment to healing. There is hope for a renewed and stronger bond in the face of trust breaches. Seeking professional help, such as couples therapy, can provide valuable support and guidance on this journey of healing and rebuilding trust.

How to Rebuild Trust in a Relationship

One study done in 2022 found that couples who stayed together after infidelity followed these steps. It should be noted that the study was relatively small, only following 16 heterosexual couples. However, the steps presented here contain common themes throughout the literary world. 

This process includes:

Assess the damage

Trust can be broken in many different ways. Maybe a promise wasn’t kept one too many times, or follow through wasn’t there, or maybe there was an affair or infidelity. Recovering from infidelity is hard, but is possible. Sometimes, couples are willing to move through the pain after broken trust, but sometimes they aren’t. Neither is a wrong option—what is right for you may be wrong for someone else. 

That’s why it is crucial to assess the damage. Ask yourself:

  • What else besides trust is broken or damaged? Faith in each other, companionship, vulnerability, ease, communication, etc. 
  • How badly was the trust broken? 
  • In what ways was it broken? Can you still trust them in some aspects, but not others, or was the trust broken completely? 
  • How much do you feel like you know them? A betrayal can tip your idea of your partner on its head. Do you still feel like you understand the person you’re with, or do you have to get to know them all over again? 
  • What are you feeling? Betrayed, hurt, angry, sad, outraged, depressed, shocked… All of these and more are understandable emotions after a breach of trust. Be open and honest about what you’re feeling and how long you think it’ll take to let those feelings pass. 

After you assess the damage, you can decide: are you willing to work through this together?

Affirm mutual commitment

Healing after an affair, lie, or other betrayal requires mutual effort. You both have to be 100% on board with the process. Affirming mutual commitment means being clear. Maybe you even want to write down your commitment to each other and post it somewhere you can both see so you are reminded every day about your commitment to one another. 

If you are both not 100% on board with this, assess why. Attempting to start the healing process when you’re not willing to actually heal can result in a messy and painful ending. Remember, you don’t have to forgive someone for a betrayal. You don’t have to continue the relationship. If you do, make sure you’re willing to commit to healing.

Establish accountability

Deciding to forgive without holding one another accountable for actions is also a recipe for failure. Forgiveness alone does not change behavior or heal relationships. Decide with each other what your accountability system will look like. For example, you could:

  • Have daily check-ins
  • Share each other’s locations
  • Go to therapy once a week 
  • Avoid going to triggering areas alone 
  • Be honest about what you’re feeling 

Accountability will be different based on the couple and what they are going through. 

Seek reconnection

Often, trust is broken after couples begin to drift apart. Or, it can feel like you no longer know them after the betrayal. It’s important to reconnect with them fully. Not every interaction has to be about working through the broken trust—you can and should also get to know each other again. How do they act in different situations? What do they find funny? What hobbies do you share? How do they (and you) feel loved? Relearn each other's quirks and personalities. 

Communicate deeply

Communication is key after a betrayal. Broken trust often stems or is encouraged by miscommunication or too little communication. As you’re healing, and after you heal, it’s important to maintain deep, consistent communication. You can do this by:

  • Having nightly check-ins
  • Asking a list of pre-established questions (How are you feeling? Have I done anything today that annoys you? What can I do to make you feel loved?)
  • Have a crisis word that means “I’m too emotional right now and need to take a break.” Make sure you circle back around to the conversation later. 
  • Be honest with yourself and them about your emotions. 
  • Learn each other’s communication styles. We all communicate differently, how does your partner? 

Communication is key to rebuilding trust in a relationship.

Re-establish trust

Depending on how your trust was broken, rebuilding trust will look different. For example, if there is an affair, trust will have to be re-established by nightly commitments, avoiding areas of temptations, and going to therapy to work on yourself. If trust is broken by repeated lying, maybe you’ll have to focus on being fully honest with your partner. 

In general, reestablish trust by doing the opposite of whatever you did that broke that trust.

Move from initial to deeper forgiveness

The initial forgiveness is the “I want to work on this with you”. Deeper forgiveness is “I don’t hold this against you. It doesn’t affect my view or love of you. I forgive you.” The biggest component of this deeper forgiveness is simply time. It takes time to move through the stages of grief and establish trust. Take all the time you need, but make sure you’re moving forward and not backward or coming to a standstill. Check in with yourself often and ask how you feel if you can trust them a little more than yesterday, and if you feel like the relationship is moving in a positive direction. If it’s not, reassess your approach to re-establishing trust in your relationship.

Tips to communicate effectively

Communication is key in most of the above steps. Some tips to communicate effectively include:

  1. Listen attentively: Show genuine interest in what others have to say, validating their feelings and experiences.
  2. Use "I" statements: Express thoughts and feelings without attributing blame, fostering understanding and empathy.
  3. Stay present: Minimize distractions and give your full attention, showing respect and building trust in conversations.
  4. Clarify and ask questions: Seek clarity when uncertain and ask open-ended questions to deepen understanding and connection.
  5. Practice empathy: Acknowledge and understand others' perspectives, demonstrating compassion and nurturing meaningful interactions.
  6. Be mindful of non-verbal cues: Pay attention to body language and tone, as they often convey emotions and intentions.
  7. Express gratitude: Acknowledge and appreciate others, promoting positive communication and strengthening relationships.
  8. Cultivate assertiveness: Communicate your needs and boundaries respectfully, fostering healthy and balanced interactions.

Remember, effective communication is key to nurturing understanding, empathy, and supportive connections.

How to Trust Somebody Again: For the Betrayed

Being betrayed is a horrible pain, and it’s okay if you can’t move past it. One of the most important things for someone who’s been betrayed to know is that you don’t have to continue the relationship. Your forgiveness is yours alone to give. If you do decide to embark on a path of healing in your relationship, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Work on yourself: Give yourself space to heal from the pain of betrayal. This could look like getting individual therapy, engaging in your support system, or taking some time to yourself. 
  • Provide consistent feedback: Your partner should be taking active steps towards bettering themselves and making sure nothing like the betrayal happens again. To help them, provide consistent feedback. How are their actions making you feel? What would you like them to change?
  • Maintain boundaries: Your partner may slip up, that’s just being human. When they do, have a plan as to what you’re going to do. What boundaries have to be in place so you feel safe and secure, no matter what they do?

How to Ask for Forgiveness: For the Offender

As the person who did the betraying, you may have complicated feelings. You may feel guilty, awful, and horrible. Remember that this mistake does not make you an awful person, and you can seek redemption through forgiveness and changing your actions. However, you have to put in the work. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Change your behavior. Whatever behavior led to the broken trust in the first place has to be changed. If this means changing friends, hobbies, or habits, then put in the effort to do so. 
  • Be consistently honest with yourself and them. If you’re struggling, talk to them about it. If you thought about lying, cheating, or doing whatever broke the trust, be honest with them. Remember that you’re not perfect and that these minor slip ups are to be expected. They’re manageable so long as you catch them before they grow into physical action. 
  • Take responsibility. This is one of the most important steps: acknowledge when and how you messed up. Your partner is hurting because of your actions, and as much as it hurts to acknowledge that, it’s something you have to do before you’re able to move on. Apologize sincerely for what happened, and avoid being defensive or pushing some of the blame onto them. (Even if it was a mutual blame situation, own up to your part without pushing blame onto them.)

Can Couples Therapy Help Rebuild Trust in Your Relationship?

Going through a period where trust has been broken within a relationship can be incredibly challenging. It's normal to feel lost, hurt, and unsure about how to move forward. This is where couples therapy can offer a guiding light in the darkness.

Therapy provides a safe and supportive space for both partners to express their feelings, fears, and hopes. A skilled therapist can help both individuals understand the root causes of the trust issues, navigate difficult conversations, and work towards rebuilding trust step by step.

Through effective communication techniques, empathy-building exercises, and personalized strategies, couples therapy can empower you and your partner to heal together. Remember, rebuilding trust takes time, effort, and patience, but with the right guidance and dedication, it is possible to strengthen the foundation of your relationship and move towards a brighter, more connected future together.

If you're considering couples therapy to rebuild trust in your relationship, know that you're taking a brave step toward fostering understanding, healing, and growth. Our team at Lifebulb is here to support you on this journey and help you navigate the path towards rebuilding trust and creating a stronger, more resilient relationship. You deserve to live your brightest life, and we're here to help you get there.

Frequently Asked Questions

Absolutely, trust can be healed in a relationship. It takes time, effort, and commitment from both partners. Rebuilding trust involves open communication, honesty, and consistency in actions. With the support of a skilled therapist, couples can work through trust issues and gradually restore a healthy, strong foundation for their relationship.

Yes, a relationship can recover from lying. Rebuilding trust after a breach of honesty is challenging but possible. It requires sincere remorse from the person who lied, a willingness to be transparent, and the passage of time to demonstrate reliability. A therapist can guide both partners through this process, helping them navigate the pain and work on rebuilding trust.

Couples therapy has the potential to save a relationship. It provides a safe and supportive environment for partners to address conflicts, improve communication, and gain a deeper understanding of each other's needs. With the guidance of a skilled therapist, couples can learn healthier ways to relate to each other and work towards a more fulfilling and harmonious relationship.

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