Whether we’d like to believe it or not, people betray us. At times, even our significant other betrays us. In a recent study, researchers discovered that in personal relationships, women told an average of 3 lies per day to their partner, boss, or colleagues and men admitted to 6 lies per day to the same individual.
One of the more common questions we hear from people in couples therapy is, “How can I ever trust my partner again after they’ve hurt me like this?” Whether they are talking about a lie, an affair or another type of betrayal, the idea that they might ever be able to trust their partner again feels scary and overwhelming. So how do you repair trust? How will you ever stop thinking about how they’ve hurt you and start to feel safe again? Often times the partner who committed the betrayal feels frustrated, guilty, and ashamed. They frequently want to move on as quickly as possible and feel discouraged and impatient that their partner is having difficulty moving on. Rebuilding trust can feel like a slow and daunting journey but there is some good news: trust can be repaired.
So how do you know you can trust someone and how can you repair trust that has been broken?
Be reliable, honest and transparent
Individuals determine trust by how reliable their partner is. Can your partner trust you will do what you say you are going to do? Be reliable. Call when you say you will call, be home when you say you will. Be honest. People learn to trust when their partners are honest and forthcoming with information. Don’t make your partner work to get information – offer it freely. Transparency is key. What does your partner need to feel safe? If they need access to your phone or email, offering it to them for a period of time can help them feel more secure.
Acknowledge they have been hurt
A key aspect to healing after a betrayal is the hurt party believing that the offending person really “gets” their hurt and pain. Be empathetic by trying your best to understand how they are feeling, really putting yourself in their experience. Don’t be defensive, own your actions and let your partner know you plan to work hard to make things better. Be patient with their process, they are likely experiencing a multitude of emotions and struggling to understand them.
Show your partner you are there for them
People need to be loved, accepted and feel a sense of belonging. They feel injured when they believe someone they love was not there for them in their time of need. They perceive their partner considered their needs more important and that fosters a sense of distrust. They question if you are going to be there when they need you. Communicate your desire to listen, support and be there for your partner.
What is your partner looking for? You can’t be there for them when they need you if you don’t know what they need. Ask them what they need, listen, be open and receptive. Often times, couples have to decide what are the low cost and high cost items needed to repair the relationship. Low cost items might be sending texts or calling regularly, letting your partner see your phone regularly, or writing an apology letter. High cost items needed to repair trust might include changing jobs, moving, or giving up your extracurricular activities or hobbies. Keep in mind there is no timeline for repairing trust and each person is going to experience the trauma and the healing differently. Communicating your experience to one another can help build a sense of connection and trust.
Experiencing betrayal and distrust in a relationship can be a scary time. It’s often difficult to work through those issues alone. Seeking therapy can help. Some of the things you can expect from couples counseling:
- Processing the trauma of the betrayal and helping each partner feel understood
- Rebuilding trust
- Improving communication
- Strengthening the connections and understanding one another’s needs
- Understanding conflict cycles and how to “fight fair”
Repairing trust can be a long journey but it’s worthwhile. A secure healthy relationship is extremely fulfilling. When you have a loving relationship with a solid foundation of trust, it also has many benefits to your physical health, including longer life, decreased blood pressure, decreased fear and anxiety, and fewer illnesses.
Bottom line: Trust can be improved and it can be rebuilt. If you find yourself struggling with hurt, disconnection and distrust, contact us, we’d love to help you improve your relationship and answer any questions you might have about couples counseling.
Or, if you’re ready to get started, you can schedule now.