HOW DO YOU REBUILD TRUST WHEN IT'S BEEN BROKEN?
What to do if you don’t trust each other
When trust is broken in a relationship, it’s often hard to rebuild. There’s nothing more painful than feeling betrayed by someone you love and trust. Especially when circumstances involve an emotional or physical affair – or layers of consistent lies and dishonesty.
Whatever the scenario, rebuilding trust is crucial to the happiness and longevity of a healthy relationship. According to the Relationships Indicators Survey 2011, ‘lack of trust’ is one of the four main reasons why relationships fail. The others are lack of effective communication, financial problems, and different inherent values.
It all makes sense. If you’re unable to trust your partner in day-to-day life, there’ll always be doubt in your mind, making it hard to connect entirely and wholeheartedly. In the long term, this can lead to vulnerability, resentment, and overall unhappiness in yourself and the relationship.
Trust is the most important part of a healthy relationship. It makes the two people involved feel safe and secure, with the sense of always having each other’s backs.
Here are five key steps to start rebuilding each other’s trust.
1. Commit to the process
The first step is to commit to learning how to trust each other again. The depth of betrayal and/or distrust will also play a significant part in the length of time it takes to repair and rebuild. Regardless of cause, you need to acknowledge there’s a process involved and it’s going to take time. Some days will be harder than others.
If you’re committed to working through the issues, you’re halfway there. However, sometimes it may take your partner a little longer to be on the same page. So it’s important to remain patient and give them the space or time they need to process their own emotions.
2. Acknowledge and apologise for your own actions
Now you need to recognise and take responsibility for your actions when trust has been broken. Even if you feel like the victim, your partner is likely to feel the same way in some shape or form.
While it might be hard to admit, consider the ways you may have hurt, let down, or cast blame on your partner. Even if you only played a small role in the breaking of trust, you need to recognise it yourself, acknowledge it to your partner, and apologise before you can even begin to move forward.
Taking responsibility, acknowledging your partner’s hurt, and being fully transparent is crucial to rebuilding broken trust. Aim to use ‘I’ language. For example, “I feel that….”, “I’m so sorry that..” and “I really care that you…”
According to clinical psychologist, Joseph Cilona:
“Accountability and apologies only have the power to help repair trust if they are truthful, so being conscious of sincerity is essential, even if it requires admitting things that might be hurtful.”
Now you’ve said your part, it’s time to listen to your partner’s side of the story. Stay calm as possible and use active listening techniques, like:
Making eye contact
Open body language (i.e. no crossed arms)
Paraphrasing to ensure you understand
Don’t try to argue with or make excuses for anything they say. Be open to any questions and remember the importance of transparency.
4. Accept responsibility
What are you willing to do to improve the situation? Ask your partner what you can do to rebuild their trust. In the case of an affair or hidden addiction, they might ask questions to create more transparency. Or suggest future actions to make them feel more safe and secure in the relationship. Be open to their feedback. Then do the same in return.
Remember to be genuine and follow through if you both promise to change something. Otherwise, your words just become meaningless and the trust level is unlikely to change.
5. Forgive and move forward
When it comes to forgiveness, it’s tricky. It can only begin once you’ve gone through the process of communicating all your feelings, felt heard, and have agreed to find a way to move forward. You’re not denying or forgetting the breach of trust, but you are willing to try and move past it to get on with your lives. Holding onto resentment can affect both your emotional and physical well-being.
Remember, when a relationship has been impacted by broken trust it can cause a huge amount of hurt and heightened emotions. Therefore, you do need to be patient and kind to yourself. It can take some time to work through the forgiveness stage.
When it comes to rebuilding trust, everybody’s situation is different and will come with it’s own challenges. The steps above are best used as a guide only. Couples counselling should be considered an important step in the repair and recovery of your relationship, especially where there’s greater betrayal.
If you’re interested in finding out more about what happens in relationship and marriage counselling you can read the FAQ here.
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Kylie Lepri is a registered Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Clinical Supervisor, and Training Consultant. Since 2003 she has helped individuals and couples work through life stressors, develop new goals and create better relationships. Get Kylie’s FREE ebook: 5 Proven Strategies to help manage stress today, by joining her newsletter below.