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How to rebuild trust in your relationship: 11 important steps

We’ve all heard it.

“Trust is the foundation of any relationship.”

According to the Relationships Indicators Survey 2011, there are four main reasons why relationships fail:

  • lack of effective communication
  • financial problems
  • different inherent values and
  • lack of trust

Trust is so important, that as 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.”

But do you know what’s harder? Rebuilding trust.

What do you do when trust is broken but you want to work it out?

It’s not going to be easy.

In fact, it’s going to be challenging. But not impossible.

Picking up the pieces and rebuilding trust and faith in your partner requires a lot of time and conscious effort.

Salvaging the relationship is possible (and this important) if both people are willing to work on it. 

Exactly how?

Let’s take a deep dive into how to rebuild trust in a relationship.

Why does betrayal hurt us so badly?

Once trust is lost, it’s hard to gain it back.

Betrayal causes a psychological pain so deep, it’s hard to ever forget it.

As psychologist and author Jennice Vilhauer explains:

“Betrayal can come in many forms, such as dishonesty, disloyalty, unfaithfulness, or withholding. Each of these feels like a moral violation that cuts to the core of your emotional soul and plunges you into a place of deep psychological distress.”

Betrayal by someone you love implies that this person doesn’t value your relationship. It’s the sense that you’re not being valued, that cuts a deep wound.

This is why trust is so fragile. The pain from a betrayal is something a person doesn’t just forget. It’s psychologically and emotionally damaging.

Steps to rebuilding trust in your relationship

You can’t change the past. You can’t change the situation that provoked the betrayal. But you can change how you react to it.

If you truly want to rebuild trust and fix your relationship, here are the _ steps to do it.

1. Commit yourself to the process.

Before you can do anything else, you must first commit yourself to the process of rebuilding trust.

Because first of all, this is a process.

Some days there will be progress. While some days it will feel like you’re picking on a wound.

That’s just how it is.

So if you’re committed to your relationship, you should equally be as committed to rebuilding the trust between the two of you.

2. Learn to trust yourself again.

According to bestselling author and psychologist, Margaret Paul, there are two parts to rebuilding trust: 1.) Rebuilding Inner Trust and 2.) Rebuilding Relationship Trust.

So it’s clear that you first need to deal with your emotions and resentment before you can start to heal and trust again.

Dr. Paul explains:

“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.”

Put your emotional needs first and listen to what your instincts tell you.

3. Forgive yourself.

Next, you need to forgive yourself.

At one point, you’re going to start questioning your worth. Perhaps you already have.

It’s normal to want to take some of the blame yourself, but not if you weren’t the cause of the betrayal.

Vilhauer adds:

“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.”

4. Work on it.

Dr. Paul believes trust can be regained through conscious effort, saying:

“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.”

The next step is to communicate and try to figure out the root of the betrayal. Talk through every detail of what happened. Be open and honest about everything.

It won’t be easy to go through this process, but it is absolutely crucial to be honest, to listen, and to empathize.

Hash out these deep questions and underlying issues with your partner. Only then can you truly start over and move forward.

(Are you worried your partner is having an emotional affair? Check out our epic guide explaining the key signs to look out for.)

5. Work on yourselves as well.

Dr. Paul also suggests that both partners will have to focus on a self-healing journey by themselves before they can start forgiving each other.

“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.”

It all comes down to being healthy as an individual before you can be healthy as a couple.

6. Put everything on the table.

As painful as it may be, you need to let everything out.

According to Parrot:

“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.”

He goes on to say that couples tend to hold things back, but that will only make things worse. Hash out every detail, if necessary.

Answer every question. Deal with any emotions. Don’t leave any stone unturned.

It may sound excessive, but both of you need to do it.

7. Whoever broke the trust has to apologize.

…Genuinely apologize.

Not just empty words. Whoever broke the trust truly has to mean it.

That means admitting accountability for their actions and feeling remorseful of the pain they caused. 

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.”

But remember, this is not a shortcut. Dr. Cilona says it’s just one step:

“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.”

8. Make each other feel understood.

This isn’t going to work if one person remains stubborn. If you’re both committed to forgiving each other, then you need to listen and understand each other.

Being defensive won’t get you anywhere. It will only make you fight more.

Parrot says:

“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.”

Both of you need to come out of this understanding each other’s side.

Why?

According to Cilona:

“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.”

9. Make the necessary changes.

All of this talking will lead to nothing if you don’t act on it.

Once you’ve understood why the betrayal happened, you can start making changes. You have to do this so you can trust each other again.

According to psychologist and author Paul Coleman:

“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.”

10. Work on things you can improve.

Since you’re committed to reestablishing trust, you must be in this relationship for the long haul.

You need to work on your relationship’s weaknesses so you can have a healthy, long-term partnership.

Again, a relationship can only be as healthy as the people in it.

So if there are toxic issues and behaviors that you need to address, work on them.

Do you fight about money? Do you spend enough time together? Is someone too controlling or to distant?

It’s crucial to deal with your problems so you can become stronger as a couple.

Build your relationship up, not just your trust.

11. Forgive each other.

Once you have communicated and gone through the process of really sitting down with your feelings, you can start the process of forgiving each other.

Forgiveness is a choice, but it is a choice that needs to come from an authentic place. You can’t pretend to forgive one another. You need to absolutely come to terms with it.

Make a conscious decision to choose to forgive one another. Let your resentment go. It will only fester and ruin what you’ve worked so hard for

What if these steps don’t help?

The reality is, not every couple can move on from betrayal. Not everyone can forgive and trust again.

The process of rebuilding trust is very complicated and fragile. Sadly, not everyone has the capacity to go through it.

Remember, there’s no shame in seeking outside help to deal with broken trust. In fact, many couple seek a counselor’s help in situations like this.

How long does it even take? You can’t tell. Sometimes it takes one month, sometimes it takes 3 years.

Cilona adds:

“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.”

When you feel that you’ve exhausted all the efforts and have come to nothing – it might be time to stop trying.

If there isn’t any more you both could do, you owe it to yourselves to move on.

Takeaway

At the end of the day, you have to want to rebuild trust. Let go of the past. Whatever resentments you may have must be dealt with.

From now on, you need to treat your relationship as if you are starting anew.

You need to learn to trust each other again. And no matter what you do, do not withhold trust from your partner out of anger or fear.

Do whatever it takes to move forward in as healthy a way as possible.

Now that you’ve read about rebuilding trust in your relationship, check out our recent article on long distance relationships and how to make them work.


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Written by Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon is a writer, poet, and blogger. She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications at the University of San Jose Recoletos. Her poetry blog, Letters To The Sea, currently has 18,000 followers. Her work has been published in different websites and poetry book anthologies. She divides her time between traveling, writing, and working on her debut poetry book.

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