Nobody likes a backstabber, but you know what makes it even worse?
When the person who stabs you in the back is someone you love. Or at least somebody you thought you loved.
Right while you’re reading this hundreds of breakups are taking place in your city or state. People are crying and swearing at the sky liked bugged out characters in an amateur Shakespeare play.
Dreams are being crushed and codependent patterns are being reinforced and worsened by heartbreak and disappointment.
Not exactly a happy image, I know, but nobody clicked on this to read comforting – and false – bullshit, right?
The reasons for breakups vary, but lack of trust is right up there, and betrayal in a relationship is a brutal experience.
This Relationships Indicators Survey found for main reasons why relationships fail:
- poor communication
- financial problems
- clashing values
- lack of trust
You might be so attracted to someone that you feel like you’re having a heart attack around them.
You might be so in love that just the thought of them makes you turn into a blushing, bashful idealist full of fantasies about the future.
But without trust, you’re in a sinking paddle and stranded up a creek that rhymes with spit.
As the psychologist Les Parrott says:
“If you don’t have trust, you don’t have anything. There’s nothing to build on. It’s just sand that washes away.”
Without trust, you’re basically spinning the Roulette wheel and if you lose your heart gets shredded.
It’s a big risk, and I’m not going to lie, it usually ends with you getting emotionally stomped.
But even when trust is lacking there is something worse (I know, the news just keeps getting better …)
Indeed, what’s even harder than fostering trust in a relationship is its second, mean cousin. Think of him as a petty, loud-mouthed gangster who just got out of jail and has a permanent scowl etched on his fully-tattooed face. Let’s call him “Second Chance” Steve.
This guy makes Mike Tyson look like a soft-hearted kindergarten teacher.
That means second cousin Second Chance Steve is even worse than a lack of trust in a relationship.
He’s what happens when trust has already been broken badly and you’re now in a position of having to rebuild the trust that’s already been shredded, stomped, and vandalized seemingly beyond repair.
He’s back telling you he’s changed and he wants a second chance, but you know that anger and time behind bars are still festering in his psyche.
You’re still in love but you’ve also seen trust and your romantic dreams trashed on the floor. You want to give Second Chance Steve the opportunity to prove he’s changed, but you don’t want to get obliterated again and find yourself talking to the bottom of a Jack Daniel’s bottle and forgetting what year it is.
How the hell do you rebuild?
Welcome to the rodeo, cowboy
So you’re trying to rebuild the trust that’s already been broken. It’s basically like piecing together a broken window with no gloves. Cuts and bleeding are common and success can be elusive.
But it’s not impossible.
It’s important not to become a nihilist if you’ve been badly hurt in love. This risks the chance of creating your own self-fulfilling prophecy and – trust me – that’s not a prophecy you want to be part of in any way.
Picking up what you once had and remaking it into a healthy relationship with a future will take both time and hard work. It will also involve compromise.
If the desire to give love another chance after a betrayal is only coming from one side it’s going to crash and burn.
But if both people are willing to get involved and really do their best to make things work this time around then there is a chance to come back strong and find love once again.
Here’s how to rebuild trust in a relationship after it’s already been broken.
First, it’s important to understand what it is about betrayal specifically that shatters relationships and hurts so especially much.
What You'll Learn
- Welcome to the rodeo, cowboy
- Why does betrayal hit you right where it hurts?
- 16 steps to rebuilding trust in your relationship
- 1. Any new start must be based on truth and loyalty
- 2. Don’t downplay the pain
- 3. Dedicate fully or hit the road
- 4. Trust yourself before you trust your partner
- 5. Know your own worth and forgive yourself
- 6. Communicate clearly and face reality
- 7. Work to resolve your individual issues
- 8. Commit to complete honesty and full expression
- 9. Whoever betrayed the relationship has to say sorry – and mean it
- 10. Support an atmosphere of understanding and compassion
- 11. Look deep in each others’ eyes and forgive
- 12. Put the necessary changes into action
- 13. Start implementing improvements
- 14. Consistency is key as you move forward
- 15. Don’t weaponize betrayal
- 16. Starting over …
- What about getting professional help?
- What if these steps don’t help?
- Betrayals can sometimes lead to better relationships …
Why does betrayal hit you right where it hurts?
Trust is crucial, and once it’s gone it is very hard to get back.
Betrayal hits us right where it hurts because it invalidates and crumbles the foundation we thought we were standing on.
Betrayal of trust that had already been broken is like getting hit in your weakest spot with a fastball pitch.
In a business, if you sign a key deal only to find out the other party was actually going behind your back with the competition and no plan to honor your agreement you promise you will never work with that partner again.
And when they come to you saying sorry and promising they’ve changed and you see all the benefits of working with them again you may begin to consider it. But you’re much slower this time and the seed of doubt and resentment can remain.
Relationships are similar: if you’ve been stabbed in the back you don’t just get up with a grin like a Cheshire cat and ask for more.
You’re wary, cautious, and hurt – understandably so.
As psychologist and trauma expert George Everly explains, betrayal hurts particularly badly in an intimate relationship because it hits us where we’re most vulnerable.
“It is a gut-wrenching experience, a searing knife into your heart. You feel it before you even think about it. Then, when you start thinking about it, it plagues you day and night,” Everly writes, adding that “in a psychologically intimate relationship, powerful attachments and bonds are formed. Not only does the bond let us know that we are understood, appreciated, and unconditionally accepted, it says we are safe. So powerful is this bond that there is evidence that the presence of a psychologically intimate partner can positively affect blood pressure and stress hormones.”
When that trust gets broken everything we thought our partner valued and everything we trusted in our intimate bond is cut down mercilessly.
As Everly puts it, “psychologists have long known that the deepest cravings of human nature are the desires to be appreciated and to be safe. Betrayal by an intimate partner violates these core human desires and needs. It destroys the core assumptions upon which all enduring relationships must rest.”
In other words, intimate betrayal hurts us so much because it gets us right where we opened up to someone: with our trust and vulnerability. We liked someone enough to open up to them and share our heart and then they did something – or didn’t do it (such as neglect or valuing many things above the relationship) that makes us feel betrayed, cut off, and emotionally destroyed.
However, with the right approach, there is still hope.
16 steps to rebuilding trust in your relationship
The past is over and done. If an intimate partner has cheated, let you down or mistreated you in an awful way that broke your heart then your only power now is to leave that relationship or work together with your partner to heal the wounds and move forward.
If you truly want to rebuild trust and fix your relationship, here are the 16 steps to do it.
1. Any new start must be based on truth and loyalty
There’s no room for lies, cheating, evasion, or neglect if you want to make a new start after betrayal.
As life coach Dr. Karen Finn puts it, “infidelity is mentally, emotionally, and physically painful to the betrayed spouse. Be gentle with yourself as you heal.”
You need to give yourself time and make a fresh start from the painful image of a partner who lets you down, cheated on you or mistreated you. They truly need to make changes to themselves and how they treat you.
In the many cases where both partners have fallen short of ideal relationship health then both must own up to their errors and pledge to do better.
And then actually do it.
If cheating and infidelity were the root of the betrayal then it needs to be absolutely over. Whoever was playing on the side needs to stop completely.
That includes no more texting and sexting, too.
If you are deeply in love or even codependent and want to “save” your partner from their poor behavior you may be tempted to let them try to salvage the relationship halfway and continue being vague about how committed they are.
Avoid this temptation at all costs.
You can only rebuild trust if both partners are fully committed.
2. Don’t downplay the pain
You might think that one of the biggest problems with rebuilding trust is focusing too much on the betrayal and the pain.
But it’s actually the opposite, particularly in a relationship where one person is more forgiving and self-effacing.
One of the biggest roadblocks to rebuilding trust and intimacy is downplaying the pain and refusing to fully face just how much it hurt.
If your partner or you cheated it is a big deal. Unless you face this and really grapple with it you’re going to be rebuilding on a shaky foundation that will blow down at the first sign of trouble.
For those who did the cheating, it is absolutely crucial that you acknowledge and absorb how harmful your actions were.
This is not about “showing” how sorry you are or “proving” it. It’s about … actually being really, really sorry and regretting your decisions.
As family therapist Anna Osborn puts it, “although all choices are made in the context of what is happening for you, that won’t help you when you’re asking for forgiveness.”
Trying to downplay the pain or your own guilt will only hurt your partner more.
“Offering any sort of justification for your actions or minimizing them (i.e. ‘at least I didn’t do X’) will only make your spouse shut down and feel doubly hurt.”
When it comes to the partner who was cheated on it’s also key to face how much it hurts and how the betrayal hit you and intensified your issues with trust, abandonment, and self-worth. Pushing down the pain never, ever works and it’s necessary that your partner who hurt you understands just how deeply it cut into you.
As marriage therapist Sheri Stritof explains:
“while it may be tempting to stuff all of the anger and emotions down, it is imperative that betrayed partners tune in and reflect on all the feelings that they have.
“Consider the impact of your partner’s betrayal on you and others. Reflect on how life has been disrupted and all the questions and doubts that are now emerging. Make your partner aware of all these feelings.”
3. Dedicate fully or hit the road
If you’re trying to figure out how to rebuild trust after you’ve been betrayed it is absolutely necessary to be fully committed.
Rebuilding trust and intimacy isn’t a light switch you turn back on. It’s a journey filled with ups and downs and even apparent impasses.
Depending on the depth of the betrayal the comeback could take months or even years, and there will be days where you feel like it’s not working.
There’s also no “formula” or magic rulebook. Every couple has a different connection and communication style, and every person has a different way to absorb and recover from pain.
Nonetheless, the best way for how to rebuild trust after you’ve been betrayed is to have the following five steps as a general guideline for the healing process:
- Talking about what happened openly
- Expressing the pain and anger
- Dedicating to the healing process
- Rebuilding trust for as long as it takes
- Being committed to the relationship long-term
These steps don’t have an exact time frame or formula.
They may take time, tears and struggle. But at the end of the day it is possible to rebuild trust with committed partners who are willing to take the time, energy, compromise and risk to start over again.
4. Trust yourself before you trust your partner
Rebuilding trust and love in a relationship has two main components according to psychologist and author Margaret Paul.
- Rebuilding Inner Trust
- Rebuilding Relationship Trust
Whether you are the one who was wronged or the one who did something wrong, rebuilding the relationship with yourself has to happen before any real chance of the relationship becoming healthy again can actually take place.
As Paul outlines: “Before you can even begin to trust your partner again, you first need to trust yourself — your inner knowledge of what’s right and wrong for you.
“We have all been blessed with two sources of knowing — our feelings and the wisdom that pops into our mind from our higher guidance.
“When you learn to trust your feelings about your partner and learn to trust the wisdom that is always here for you, then you become truly trustworthy of yourself. This means that you stop ignoring that inner whisper and start listening to what you know in your heart and soul.”
If your partner cheated on you then you need to reach a place of deep trust that your response to what happened – and recovery from it – is reasonable and justified.
If you are the one who cheated then you must arrive to an inner knowing that you are able to control your impulses, mean what you say and follow through on the necessary actions to rebuild trust in your relationship.
5. Know your own worth and forgive yourself
The next step is to forgive yourself and be sure of your own worth.
If you’ve been cheated on or done some cheating you likely have a lot of feelings of low self-worth or guilt, or both. You may feel inadequate, ashamed and full of blame for yourself for doing something wrong or for letting someone do it.
As psychologist Jennice Vilhauer puts it:
“Self-forgiveness requires self-compassion and learning that, even with your flaws and vulnerabilities, you still have tremendous self-worth and deserve to be treated well. It is important to know that the behavior of the other person was his or her choice and reflects who they are, not who you are.”
The key part of this to keep in mind is that even if you’ve made mistakes or been treated poorly, you are a worthy person who deserves forgiveness and is able to make a second try.
If you have been betrayed by someone you love that does not say anything about your worth. If you have betrayed someone in love it does not define you forever.
Self-forgiveness is key to moving on and healing the rift that broken trust can create.
6. Communicate clearly and face reality
Dr. Paul emphasizes that rebuilding trust takes time and effort. It isn’t as easy as just saying sorry and switching the forgiveness button. You need to have clear communication and honesty about what actually happened.
As Paul says:
“Broken trust can definitely be healed, but it takes deep work. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you can repair broken trust with a quick statement of forgiveness and a warm embrace. The underlying causes for betrayal need to be identified, examined and worked on in order for betrayal not to resurface again.”
If you don’t isolate the root of the betrayal as a couple and address everything that led to it you won’t really rebuild trust or heal.
This brutal honesty may hurt and you may be hesitant to even “go there” with your partner in terms of talking through it, but without this hard and messy work the truth is your long-term future has no chance.
Be brutally – and I mean brutally honest – and don’t stop listening or twist what your partner is saying just to feel right, morally superior or to inhabit a victim mentality.
Look at what led to the affair and betrayal, talk about your issues with the relationship, with yourself, with everything. You need to drill down past the sunny surface into the dark depths if you want to find the gold nuggets of love that still remain in your relationship and start rebuilding from scratch on a solid foundation.
(Are you worried your partner is having an emotional affair? Check out our guide explaining the key signs to look out for.)
7. Work to resolve your individual issues
Whatever exactly happened in your relationship there is no doubt that both of you also have individual issues you need to work on as well.
It can be hard enough to work on ourselves without also trying to solve a relationship.
So while the process of rebuilding trust continues it’s also vital that both partners do some self-healing and self-forgiveness. You need to build trust with yourself and validate your needs before you will be able to clearly share and explain them to your partner.
As Dr. Paul writes:
“Both partners need to learn to love (and trust) themselves enough to be able to approach the relationship from individual places of self-respect and personal integrity. When you make a commitment to treat yourself with love and compassion and authentically trust your needs, you will not harm yourself or your partner by lying or cheating.
“You will listen properly to yourself so that you can welcome honest communication into the relationship with open arms.”
You need to be healthy with yourself before you can start to genuinely start bringing the relationship back to what it once was – or something even better.
8. Commit to complete honesty and full expression
The more you hold back in the process of rebuilding broken trust, the more you will walk forward into the future with a relationship limp.
No matter how much you think you have moved forward, those unexpressed, repressed emotions and perspectives will fester and cause problems in the future, coming out in even stronger and more destructive forms.
That’s why it’s vital that you be fully honest and let it all out during the healing process.
As Les Parrott explains:
“The only way to overcome a breakdown in trust is to just be completely honest and put it out there, whatever the issue is, so you both know what you’re dealing with.”
You need to go down every dark corner and ignore the part of you saying it’s better to just let the past be the past. The past and its problem will be your future unless you honestly let out all your emotions and thoughts with your partner.
Be honest and answer questions truthfully. If one of you asks if their weight gain was part of what prompted your loss of attraction and this is the case then be brutally honest and say yes.
If questions are bothering you and you want to start dodging or downplaying don’t do it. Even if an honest conversation leads to a decision not to continue the relationship it’s also the only chance you have to rebuild and salvage something on fully honest bedrock.
Therapist Dr. Linda Mintle advises that the partner who was betrayed should feel absolutely entitled to ask as many questions as they want and have them answered in full honesty:
“Once trust is broken, the person you betrayed should be free to ask questions in order to better understand what happened. The betrayer cannot complain about having to answer questions that might be uncomfortable.”
This part of the process is a bit like ripping off a band-aid, but it absolutely needs to be done if you want the healing to begin.
9. Whoever betrayed the relationship has to say sorry – and mean it
It is not necessarily too late to say sorry. But sorry doesn’t really mean anything unless it’s sincere, detailed, and voluntary.
“Say you’re sorry or else there’s no chance …” is not the starting point for a genuine apology. This should not be “pre-planned” or even really considered as a step.
It is more like a necessity.
And if it doesn’t happen then rebuilding trust isn’t really going to happen.
True remorse, accountability and genuine empathy going into an apology can go a long way, but it has to come from the heart spontaneously and be a natural part of the healing process.
If it’s a tactic or something the cheating partner does just to get back in the good books then it’s worth less than nothing.
Whoever betrayed the relationship has to say sorry and mean it fully.
As clinical psychologist Joseph Cilona says:
“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.”
An apology and taking responsibility for one’s actions is crucial, but it has to be a full apology that addresses everything and it can’t include attempts to back out or all sorts of buried half-excuses. It just has to be an honest, from-the-heart full-on apology.
“Although feigning accountability and remorse might be effective in the short-term, if there are truths being hidden that relate to the damage to trust, it’s not likely to last,” Cilona explains.
10. Support an atmosphere of understanding and compassion
Two individuals will never rebuild broken trust in a relationship if the atmosphere is toxic and hostile. That’s why I advised everyone to work on trusting, forgiving, and valuing themselves first before moving further in the process to fall back in love.
If you are in a hostile, combative atmosphere the rebuilding process will never go anywhere and will actually just lead to intensifying fights and eventually an even worse, final breakup.
What’s necessary, instead, is to really pause for just a moment – even if your partner is illogical or wrong in your view – and hear and feel things from their perspective. As Parrot puts it:
“Rather than being defensive, they need to set all that defensiveness aside and truly work at understanding the other person’s perspective. And that comes down to empathy.”
Even if one of you is much more in the right morally than the other it is vital you truly understand where your partner is coming from and empathize – even if you don’t sympathize – as much as possible.
It’s vital because no matter what justification the one who betrayed the relationship feels they have, they need to understand how their actions affected their partner, and the individual who was cheated on and betrayed needs to be able to see the reality of their partner’s struggle with guilt and betrayal as well.
Even if you believe emotions or perspectives your partner is sharing are crazy, stupid, over-sensitive, cruel or otherwise wrong in some way, it’s important to hear them out. If you genuinely believe they are intentionally twisting things or being dishonest it’s important to call them out but not in an accusative or angry way, more in a gently corrective way.
As Cilona writes:
“Engaging in this kind of dialogue not only provides an initial roadmap of what specifically needs to be addressed to begin to try to rebuild trust, but it can also provide important validation of the hurt and damage the violation of trust caused.”
11. Look deep in each others’ eyes and forgive
OK, things are about to get a bit schmaltzy, so look away if you need to.
But seriously … when you’ve done all these other steps and you’re ready to fully get on the road to a better relationship with rebuilt trust it’s important to look deep into each others’ eyes and forgive.
Never underestimate some good old-fashioned deep eye contact and a meaningful commitment to move forward together and forgive the wounds of the past.
It sounds so simple.
And sometimes it is.
If you can find a way to authentically forgive through empathy and personal strength then there is the chance to salvage what you once had and move forward.
According to Vilhauer:
“Learning to forgive and make peace with things that happened in the past can happen more easily when you take your focus off of the specific events that occurred and instead try to see the perspective of the other person.
“Seeing someone else’s perspective can help you understand the events that occurred and make them less personal.”
Consciously choosing to forgive each other doesn’t mean forgetting. It doesn’t mean you are weak if you forgive. And it doesn’t mean you are stupid.
It means you are strong.
It means you are smart enough to still see your partner’s potential and value the love they have for you.
It means you are ready to move forward instead of living in the past.
12. Put the necessary changes into action
Healing, communicating and honest expression will start the process rolling, but none of this list will really accomplish anything unless you begin putting positive changes into action.
There are ways for both partners to commit to heal the pain of the past and begin rebuilding the bridges that were burned.
But once you understand what happened, face the pain, and communicate honestly it’s time to start over better this time around.
This means changes to your life together from how you spend time together, to how you communicate your feelings to how you deal with disappointments and disagreements.
These changes need to put in place in an atmosphere of trust and shared responsibility.
As psychologist and author Paul Coleman outlines:
“This is important because when trust is seriously betrayed, the hurt person needs evidence of honesty in order to feel more reassured.”
The person who was betrayed, meanwhile, has to remember something important:
“Trust involves ‘not knowing for sure’ and being able to give the benefit of the doubt. So the hurt person has to learn to tolerate the anxiety of ‘not knowing for sure’ without constantly seeking reassurance or demanding proof.”
This is basically a two-way street going forward where both partners will have to continuously face their insecurities and also have confidence that this time around the commitment really is full and you will both face the future together.
13. Start implementing improvements
Any relationship is only as good as the people in it. As you begin implementing changes to your relationship going forward you will be laying the groundwork for a healthy future together.
Instead of just saying sorry or expressing hurt over how things have gone, make sure that you also have constant communication and adjustments for how things are currently going.
According to Stritof:
“You can’t repair broken trust with just promises and statements of forgiveness. The underlying causes for the betrayal need to be identified, examined, and worked on by both spouses for the issues to stay dormant.”
In the previous steps, you may have identified specific relationship and life issues that led to betrayal or contributed to the atmosphere in which it occurred.
These could be everything from one partner’s struggles with anxiety and feeling of being overlooked or unappreciated, to another partner’s feeling of being expected to do everything in the relationship or work long hours to support their significant other.
Whether it’s issues with money, intimacy, communication, shared values, or anything else, these issues need to be faced head-on and resolved going forward so that the trust that’s been rebuilt can actually lead to something meaningful and long-lasting …
14. Consistency is key as you move forward
The famous philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
And this is how it is in relationships that have been ripped apart from betrayal.
As you rebuild trust and move forward in your improved relationship you need to keep coming back to the building block of everything. That one thing is simple but crucial:
According to Osborn:
“Consistency demonstrates to your spouse that they have reasons to trust you again and also allows you to appear safe to them again. Don’t discount the power of consistency when it comes to rebuilding trust.”
The memory of lies and betrayal – even though it has now been forgiven – will be doubly painful if consistently starts falling away.
An inconsistent, up-and-down atmosphere will lead to all sorts of problems no matter how much trust you think you’ve rebuilt.
Stick to your commitments and communicate clearly without half-truths or promising things you don’t actually intend to do.
Take it slow, trust each other, and do everything you can to be consistent.
15. Don’t weaponize betrayal
This will remain an underlying temptation of the relationship and its Kryptonite.
It has the power to destroy almost any relationship, even one that’s been rebuilt with trust and improved with love and clear communication.
This relationship-ender is weaponizing past wrongs.
Even when you’ve forgiven wrongdoing by your partner, there can be a part of your egoistic, calculating brain that hangs on to what they’ve done.
Think of it almost like a balance sheet or a receipt from the store.
Even if you’ve emotionally moved on it can be hard for some to drop the feeling that your partner who cheated owes you.
This conviction can then lead to bringing up the betrayal the next time there is a relationship issue and trying to use it to win fights and get what you want.
According to author Peg Streep, there are two main reasons people engage in “word wounding” and weaponizing past wrongs:
“There are those who are thoroughly intentional when it comes to word wounding; they refuse to take responsibility for their words and act out of impulse, self-involvement, and self-aggrandizement. They usually need to win, no matter the cost to the other person, and insist on having the last word.
“And then there are those who revel in their meanness and love the power their words give them over others.”
Even if you really were wronged and a victim in your relationship’s past, clinging to that or using it to manipulate your partner in the future is very much the wrong decision and will wreck all the other progress you made.
16. Starting over …
As the above point gets at, you need to really be willing to start over.
This is only going to work if both of you return to the starting line and make an honest effort. You can’t saddle each other with the baggage, praise, and blame of the past and then move forward conditionally.
You need to reestablish trust, ground rules, and honest communication and then move forward in a responsible, consistent way.
According to Klow:
“The couple needs to let go of the parts of their [partnership] which were not working, and then move towards creating a new dynamic in the relationship. Couples can emerge from an affair with a better sense of who they each are and what they want from their relationship.”
As you start over and keep to a new, rededicated commitment it’s important to manage your expectations.
It’s fine to have high standards and expect your partner to live up to what you agreed, but you can’t always expect the relationship to be the same as before the betrayal.
The truth is that it’s always going to be different than it was and even though you’ve forgiven and moved on, your relationship has gone through a major trauma and “growth” process and it’s not going to return to a more carefree, innocent days.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“It’s not going to be the same, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be strong in some ways stronger than it was originally. But you can forge something through it,” explains therapist Sherry Amatenstein.
In other words: approach this new start with gratitude and see it for the more mature, complex love it has become.
What about getting professional help?
Sometimes professional help really is the way forward.
Therapy can have some stigma attached to it or the idea that you need help can seem like weakness.
But it’s not at all. It’s a sign that you are inviting a third party into your relationship to help you try to heal and move forward.
It’s a clear indication of commitment and dedication to the process of rebuilding trust.
It’s absolutely necessary, however, that both of you be agreeable to seeking therapy and professional help.
It will never yield positive results if one partner is dragging or guilting the other into attending.
“Both parties must be open to seeking counseling to have a better understanding of what caused the trust to be broken, but know that you may want or need to seek individual therapy in addition to couples’ therapy,” explains Stritof.
What if these steps don’t help?
Let’s face it: not everyone is going to come back from betrayal and be able to heal their relationship.
In some cases, it may only be months on the road to recovery, in other cases years. In other cases, the relationship is best put to rest right where it stands.
These “do not resuscitate” situations depend on those involved and the issues in the relationship.
There are many reasons and situations where betrayal will be the final end of a relationship.
This is often the case when a relationship’s issues became so deep that the cheating and betrayal was only the final straw on the camel’s back that broke everything.
The truth is that not everyone is going to be able to rebuild trust and intimacy.
And not everyone will even want to.
And that’s OK.
“In some cases, trust is completely destroyed and can never be rebuilt. Sometimes the time required to repair damaged trust is too much for some people to sustain,” as Cilona says.
As sad as it is, sometimes leaving is the only option that will maintain dignity and open the door to finding a more balanced, healthy future with someone else.
Betrayals can sometimes lead to better relationships …
The other side of the coin is that sometimes betrayal can lead to even stronger relationships.
According to author and psychology professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne:
“As painful as they are at the time, betrayal incidents can even lead to improved relationships. When the perpetrator issues a sincere apology, vows never to engage in the betrayal again, and repay the debt to the victim, both partners now emerge with a better understanding of what’s important in their relationship.
“If the perpetrator does not do so, the victim has learned something important and now has, if not a better, at least a more realistic view of the partner.”
Many of the causes of relationship problems are illusions we cling to about ourselves and others. Codependent patterns and the need for someone else to fix us or satisfy all our needs are also common reasons that love falls apart or turns into needy attachment.
If betrayal has left you reeling as a couple but you have taken the time, energy, and heartache to rebuild and restart, it can leave you even stronger.
Whether it was responsibilities like sharing a home, having kids, or having committed through marriage, the decision to keep going and see someone turn the corner into becoming a better and more trustworthy person – while being together with them during this transformational process – can be an encouraging experience and can actually deepen your love and trust for them long-term.
Betrayal isn’t easy and it hits your right where it hurts.
But if you are committed to rebuilding trust and establishing a better way to do things in your relationship this time around there is sometimes a chance to continue moving forward.
The wounds of the past will continue to hurt, but forgiveness and mutual trust is key.
The other vital thing to remember is that you weren’t betrayed because of something wrong with you.
As psychologist Susan Whitbourne says:
“If you’ve been the victim of serious betrayal, your path to resolution is to reframe the betrayal in a way that doesn’t put the blame on you.
“An apology may help set you on that path, but if the apology isn’t forthcoming, you have to take care of your own feelings about the situation.
“Ultimately, as impossible as it may seem, you may actually be able to work your way toward forgiveness.”
Whether you decide to start over and try again or end your relationship, know that it is possible to heal from heartbreak and betrayal and that whatever you choose, you are a valued and worthy person with an enormous amount to offer who deserves respect, love, and trust.
For those dealing with other challenges in their love life, take a look at Ideapod’s article on how to succeed in long-distance relationships.