Whether we’d like to believe it or not, people betray us. At times, even our significant other betrays our trust. While some may think it’s okay to cover the truth to protect their partner, emotional honesty in a relationship is a must if the relationship is to remain healthy. Studies have found that the impact of dishonesty is far-reaching and can even have an impact on our health.
One of the more common questions we hear 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.
Is broken trust permanent…or can it be repaired?
You may wonder, “Will they ever stop thinking about how they were hurt?” Often times, the partner who committed the betrayal feels frustrated, guilty, and ashamed. They frequently want to move on as quickly as possible, feel discouraged, and even 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.
You may find yourself asking, “Where do I begin if I hope to rebuild trust?”
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 Your Partner’s Hurt
A key aspect to healing after a betrayal is for the betrayed person to believe that the offending person really “gets” their hurt and pain. Be empathetic by trying your best to understand how they feel – 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. Rebuilding trust takes time.
Show Your Partner You are There for Them
People need to know they are 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. It may seem that their partner considered their own needs as more important…this 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. It can be incredibly helpful for couples to identify the low cost and high cost items necessary 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 is 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.
The Bottom Line
You can rebuild trust. If you find yourself struggling with hurt, disconnection and distrust, contact us. We would 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.
If you are working to regain trust after an affair, you might be interested in reading Recovering From the Devastating Impact of an Affair.