Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. You trust your spouse or partner in the little things, i.e.: “He said he’d go grocery shopping today.”
And you trust them in the bigger things like, “She vowed to remain faithful until death do us part.” While trust may be more visibly violated in the big things, the little ones can add up as well.
Loss of trust in a marriage or committed relationship is one of the more common causes for couples to seek counseling. A frequent question is, "I want to trust him/her again, but I don't know how."
Once you’ve breached trust in a relationship, is it possible to repair it? If so, how do you even begin this process?
Like almost anything in life, the first step towards restoring relationship trust is to cultivate awareness. Acknowledging a partner’s betrayal may be easier for some than for others, but it’s crucial to accept your situation and then to acknowledge your feelings about it.
In order to embark on a healing process, you need to first recognize the full magnitude of the hurt that you feel. Without allowing yourself to acknowledge the entirety of your pain, you may leave room for problems to fester in the long run.
The other side of the coin is for the partner who violated trust to fully hear and understand the impact of their actions. In more serious breaches of trust, this means being willing to hear it more than once.
Only when the hurt partner feels truly heard can healing begin in a healthy way that does not leave residual resentment.
The hurt partner will also have to come to terms with their sense of self-betrayal. Yes, you may think the betrayal was in some way your fault. Acknowledging these thoughts can lead to self-forgiveness.
Thoughts such as, “He cheated on me because I’m not good enough” or “She wouldn’t have betrayed my trust if I was a better person” etc., will only worsen the deceit that you feel. Not only will you feel betrayed by your partner, but you’ll begin to feel betrayed by yourself as well.
Once you establish inner peace, you gain the capacity to realize that you are not the cause of your partner’s betrayal. At this point, you can begin taking healthy steps towards working on your relationship.
Steps towards restoring relationship trust
Foster a mutual understanding
Once you’ve come to grips with your feelings, it is important to verbalize them to your partner.
By communicating a transparent explanation to your spouse or partner, it allows them the opportunity to recognize how their actions impacted you. While it may be painful, it’s also helpful to let your partner explain their actions.
If you are the one responsible for the betrayal, do not use this opportunity to make excuses. Instead, express your authentic feelings. This allows your partner to see things from your point of view. You want them to understand you as a human being, not just for the actions you’ve taken.
Give or receive a proper apology
A casual apology for a big betrayal will not suffice.
Instead, the betrayer needs to go a step further and acknowledge feelings of genuine remorse along with an understanding that there are consequences to their actions.
Timing is also critical. By apologizing mere moments after an accusation, you are showing your partner that you haven’t even absorbed what they’ve said to you. Instead, let it sink in and put thought into your sincere apology.
Make and maintain promises
Once partners have established an even ground, it’s important to re-establish boundaries, expectations, goals, etc.
In a sense, this is a renewal of your vows or commitment. This will prove that both partners want the same positive outcome, and are willing to put in the work to ensure this happens.
Betrayed partners should know that it is okay to ease into trusting their partner again.
The old saying that trust is “hard to earn and easy to lose” is not just a cliche. Those who have done the betraying should not place pressure on their partner to quickly forgive.
It took a while to establish relationship trust the first time. It may take equally as long (if not longer) to restore relationship trust after a betrayal.
The regaining of trust is possible, but only through complete honesty, transparency, and a willingness to forgive and rebuild a relationship based on solid values.