How to Rebuild Trust in Your Relationship
Trust gets broken in so many ways in a relationship. Small white lies that add up. Cheating. Big lies. Once trust is gone, it can be difficult to imagine how to get it back.
If you’ve screwed up with your partner and want to rebuild their trust in you, you’ve got some work to do. Jack and Jill Adult asked a few experts for tips on what you can do.
Take Complete Responsibility
You screwed up and you want to make things right again. Now is not the time to point the finger at anyone but yourself.
“The first thing that must be done is for the person who violated the trust to take complete and specific responsibility for their actions,” says marriage coach Lesli Doares. “They also need to be fully transparent about everything going forward even if it isn’t about the betrayal. Being caught in any kind of lie, even a “white” one, or lack of full disclosure about anything will make your partner wonder what else you are keeping from them and be considered another trust violation. It is important to adopt a position of total, though gentle, honesty.”
Understand the Pain Caused
“It is also critical to understand how much pain you caused,” continues Doares. “This may require revisiting your actions repeatedly, even though you don’t want to. The person who decides when you have gotten it is your partner. Then, and only then, will they begin to heal and start to trust again.”
Issue a Clean Apology
“A clean apology is necessary,” advises Doares. “This means owning the behavior without any defense or explanation about why it happened. That may come later but must be separate from the apology…Don’t throw any of their stuff back at them. There is a time to do that but not now. You messed up and it’s up to you to make amends.”
Figure Out Why You Screwed Up
“When we betray someone, it’s time to look at who we are,” advises Manya Wakefield, life coach and the founder of Narcissistic Abuse Rehab. “Betrayal is usually an indication there may be some confusion as to what our values are. In the absence of solid values, integrity is elusive. There are four steps to earning an opportunity to regain your partner’s trust after you’ve let them down, and they are acknowledgment, accountability, apology, and amends. These four actions take a tremendous amount of bravery because we have to be willing to humble ourselves.”
Doares agrees. “There needs to be a deep understanding of why you chose the behavior you did. Unless you understand, there is no way your partner can trust you won’t choose it again.”
Work on Becoming Reliable and Sincere
“For the person who broke trust, they need to work on becoming sincere, reliable, and capable of keeping their word,” says relationship coach Sara Russell. “That means they need to mean what they say, and not just tell their partner what they think they want to hear; show up the way they said they are going to; and have both the time and skill-set to do what they promise. Guilt and willpower are powerful motivators, but often you need more than just the desire to change, and instead need to practice embodying new habits.”
Can’t or Won’t Change? Let Them Go
“If we know we aren’t able to stop causing our partner harm, we need to admit it to ourselves and them,” says Wakefield. “It’s wrong to deceive our partner with promises to change when we lack the commitment and ability to do so. if we lack the strength to grow and change, we need to have the decency to let them walk away and find someone who will meet their needs.”
To the Other Partner: Forgive Yourself For Staying
Are you the partner whose trust has been broken? Russell has advice for you, too. “Forgive yourself for staying. Putting yourself in the position to be hurt again is an incredibly tender position, and you need to make sure you can forgive yourself for opening up enough to hope and run the risk of more hurt.”
If the problem seems too big to tackle on your own, all our experts agree that therapy and professional help is an excellent option, as well. Partners can overcome these problems, but both of you have to want to put in the effort. Not every relationship can bounce back. But that means you may find new partners and build stronger relationships.