How to Rebuild Trust in a Relationship in 8 Steps

Any good relationship is foundationally built on trust. It's what gives us the security to open up and be honest with our friends, significant other or spouse. When that trust is broken, it can be very difficult to trust again. It takes more than an apology or promise to change. Words are basically useless at this point. Instead, there will need to be some action to repair a broken relationship. This means putting in some work and opening yourself up to vulnerability. If both of you are willing to work on repairing the damage, here's how to rebuild trust in a relationship.

An obvious lack of trust would come after an affair. However, there are other ways trust is broken as well. Communication issues like lying, withholding information, breaking a promise or not sharing one's feelings all lead to distrust more gradually. Once the foundation of trust is broken, everything else begins to crumble as well. 

Even when trust is broken in a marriage, friendship or close bond, it is possible to regain trust. It won't be easy and it will take real effort. However, it can be done. Chances are, one of you might not feel like working on the relationship right away. And someone else might be impatient to regain the trust quickly. However, the more patient, empathetic, understanding and intentional you are, the better chance you have of restoring love and trust with each other.

We'll go over the eight steps for rebuilding trust to get you back on track and leave the past behind.

What Does It Mean To Trust Someone?

In a serious relationship, trust means that you feel safe and secure and will be respected both physically and emotionally. There is never any doubt that your spouse will have your back. Communication is strong with each person listening to the other and understanding the real feelings and needs that are shared. You can be vulnerable together and not feel the need to hide anything. 

This also means that you won't feel the need to check up or spy on the other person. It won't be necessary when you trust the other person to have integrity and be honest. There will be no reason to keep secrets, and no need to assume the worst of the other person.

When there is full trust, a relationship is at its healthiest. 

8 Steps To Rebuild Trust in a Relationship

1. Get to the Cause of the Betrayal

The first step is to find out why you were betrayed or lied to. It's important to understand the root or motive to begin work on fixing the problem. This is where honesty is key. Really listen to each other's feelings and needs.

This doesn't mean that what your partner did is okay but it could at least provide a little understanding. It could also clear up any miscommunications or misunderstandings that may have occurred. 

It will be important to address the questions between the two of you without becoming defensive. Being defensive looks a lot like lying. So, get rid of the pride and take a good honest look at yourself before answering. 

Once you know the reason that you were lied to, you can determine whether or not you want to stay in the relationship and commit to working on it (even if it will be a slow process).

2. Offer Genuine Apologies

After a betrayal, or causing any kind of hurt, quickly forgiving and forgetting should not be the expectation for either party. Deciding to commit to the work of rebuilding trust is a big step, but the pain will linger. 

After simply discussing what happened, offering genuine apologies and taking accountability is necessary. After all, it's not just up to the person who was hurt to forgive and "move on," it's up to the person who did the hurting to be heartfelt in their actions going forward—knowing that it will take time to prove themselves worthy to trust again.

A big step would be to articulate the knowledge of the hurt that has been caused, the remorse felt and the determination felt to make things right—no matter how long of a process it becomes—and vocalize that you know it will take time to earn their trust back.

3. Reflect

As you work through the act of forgiveness (if only it was as simple as pressing a button!), spend time reflecting not only on what happened, but on how you are processing everything at the time. Prioritize journaling or meditating to become more in tune with your emotions, responses and needs.

4. Practice Vulnerability

This means being honest about your feelings and needs. You have to open up about what is going on inside your head without fear of rejection. Don't say something just to please the other person but instead learn to vocalize your true feelings. 

This may also mean humbling yourself and admitting and apologizing for mistakes. Being vulnerable will only bring the two of you closer. You may not always see eye to eye, but being respectful of each other will go a long way in rebuilding trust.

 

5. Work on Deeper Issues

This gets back to the reason(s) for the betrayal. To keep the same thing from happening later on down the road, it is important for each person to work on whatever drives their behavior. If it can't be fixed on your own, this may be the time to bring in a counselor.

6. Gain Trust in "Small Things"

Begin rebuilding trust by keeping promises or even making a point to confess small mess-ups either before they are found out, or in lieu of pretending like they never happened. If you say you are going to do something, make sure to follow through with it. Stay honest and be supportive of your partner and again, keep the communication flowing. As Nick Matiash, a men's life and relationship coach, says, "Consistency is your best friend when trying to rebuild trust. Trust is built off consistent actions, words and behaviors."

7. Allow Time To Heal

Allow whatever amount of time each person needs to sort through their feelings and emotions. Be patient with each other and keep communication open. Healing happens at a different pace for each person—that's normal and that's okay.

8. Reignite the Relationship

Start fresh and get back to the dating phase of a relationship. Learn to enjoy each other's company again and do things that interest you both. Make sure to spend quiet time talking and listening to each other, and work on creating future plans together as you align your goals as individuals and as a team.


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