Long-lasting relationships are often the ones built on mutual trust and respect, giving both you and your partner a sense of security with each other. However, breaking promises in a relationship can negatively impact this trust, which can sometimes damage the relationship for good, especially when done often enough.
After all, trust is considered a fragile thing, and it can be tough to earn it again once you lose it. While breaking a promise doesn’t signify the end of your relationship, you and your partner will need to take steps to ensure that it’s not damaged beyond repair when it happens.
So, how do you deal with it when either you or your partner ends up breaking a promise you made to each other?
In this article, you’ll learn more about broken promises, such as the consequences, typical reasons behind them, and how to deal with their effects on your relationship.
What happens when a promise is broken?
One of the most significant consequences of breaking promises you made to your partner is that they’re more likely to lose their trust in you, which can sometimes irreparably damage your relationship.
After all, even for non-romantic relationships, trust is a critical component that can determine how strong and long-lasting a bond between two people can be. For couples, trust is even more vital, especially for making things work.
According to one social psychology professor at the University of Minnesota, Jeffry Simpson, trust is a crucial aspect in relationships and one of the critical factors of attachment security.
He states that trust can determine just how well you and your partner can handle any conflicts you encounter while together. Moreover, he also stated that having enough trust in each other can affect more than just your relationship; it can even extend to your overall well-being.
After all, broken promises in a relationship can sometimes result in trust issues, which can affect not just your relationship with your partner but also your other interpersonal relationships. Trust issues have also been linked to certain conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Why do people break promises?
If broken promises have such negative consequences on relationships, why do people break promisesat all?
In this case, there are numerous reasons people break their promises to their partners. Some of these include carelessness, a difference in beliefs, commitment issues, and unreachable expectations.
In some cases, a person may make promises they know they can’t keep, not because they don’t value or respect you but because they have a tough time saying “no” to people. For others, they fail to keep their promises because they want to avoid appearingtoo dependent on their partners.
However, regardless of why you or your partner broke your promise, it can still negatively impact your relationship’s integrity. So, when promises are broken, you and your partner will need to take steps to ensure you and your partner overcome this challenge.
10 Ways to deal with broken promises in a relationship
So, what should you do when you or your partner break a promise you made with each other? How do you deal with it and its effect on your relationship?
With that said, here are some tips that can help you and your partner deal with the consequences of breaking promises and allow both of you to overcome them.
1. Take the time to reflect on the broken promise
Before you or your partner consider each other as someone who doesn’t keep their word, it’s best to take the time and reflect on the broken promise.
For example, you can ask yourself questions like “was the promise realistic?” or “was keeping it really important for you or them?”
Aside from this, it would be best also to consider how many times you or your partner made empty promises in relationships. Is this a regular occurrence or a one-time thing?
Answering these questions, among others, can help you identify the root cause of the issue and allow you to find proactive solutions that can help both of you move forward.
2. Discuss with your partner why it happened
Aside from trust and respect, healthy and long-lasting relationships are also built on healthy and open communication between two people. So, when one of you ends up breaking a promise, the first thing you can do is talk it out with each other.
By doing so, you’ll learn the reasons behind the broken promise, allowing both of you to understand each other better. Just remember to remain respectful the entire time and ensure both of you are open and willing to listen to each other.
Although this can be a tough conversation to have, this can help bring you and your partner closer together.
3. Come up with solutions together
Breaking promises in a relationship can potentially damage your relationship, but this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do about it.
So, apart from discussing why either of you did what you did, it would be best if you and your partner also used this time to talk about the potential solutions for this issue and prevent it from happening again.
For example, you can establish protocols that can ensure neither of you agrees to anything you can’t fully commit to. You can also discuss what the consequences would be if it happens again.
Doing so won’t just help you establish boundaries with your partner, but it can also help you regain that lost trust little by little.
4. Forgive but don’t forget
People make promises all the time, and sometimes, they can’t keep them. However, this doesn’t make them bad people since mistakes can happen. So, once you and your partner are on the same page regarding this incident, you can start the healing process by forgiving each other.
However, forgiving doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting, especially if the promise was valuable to either of you. Of course, this doesn’t mean holding a grudge against your partner. Instead, it means holding them accountable for their actions and vice-versa.
Accountability is a critical component of regaining lost trust, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships. So, if you can’t hold each other accountable for your actions, it can be tough to re-establish the relationship’s stability.
5. Practice honesty moving forward
To avoid being considered as someone who doesn’t keep their word, it would be best if you and your partner adopt a policy of honesty as you move forward from this incident. By being honest, you can avoid making promises you can’t keep and regain any lost faith.
In fact, even in cases wherein you already agreed but found that you couldn’t keep your promise, being honest can help you prevent any lasting damage to your relationship. While your partner will undoubtedly be disappointed, they will likely appreciate your truthfulness even more.
Check out this insightful video by Tara Brach, who discusses accountability as a ground for happiness in the relationship:
6. Lead by example
Another way you can prevent either of you from breaking promises is by leading by example, especially if breaking promises in a relationship has become a habit. Habits, no matter what it is, are often difficult to change, so you’ll need all the support you can get from each other.
For example, one way you can encourage your partner to keep their word is if you don’t make a promise you can’t keep. By ensuring you agree to something you’re fully ready to commit to, you can encourage your partner to think things carefully before acting as well.
Aside from this, you can also ensure that you’re only committing when you’re level-headed and thinking more clearly. This means you don’t make promises when you are happy, angry, or sad.
7. Spend more quality time together
Since breaking relationship promises can often result in rifts between you and your partner, you can overcome this struggle and mend the relationship by spending more time with each other. While it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll regain each other’s trust, it can be a step towards healing and moving forward.
However, in this case, you need to ensure that you’re not just spending time together in the same room. In this case, you should ensure that your time together can help strengthen your bond and help both of you remember how much you value and cherish each other.
If you and your partner find it difficult to move forward after breaking a promise, some time apart might help. Spending some time away from each other can help both of you view the relationship from a newer and fresher perspective.
Moreover, it can sometimes be challenging to keep a level head and remain calm if you’re always together, especially if the incident is still fresh. So, if you or your partner feel it’s best, some distance can help clear your mind and analyze the situation more carefully.
In some cases, the time apart can even help strengthen your commitment to each other and allow both of you to tackle the issue with renewed resolve.
9. Seek the help of a professional
There can be many reasons for breaking promises in a relationship, ranging from honest mistakes to deeper-seated issues that affect your relationship. While broken promises due to mistakes can often be resolved with clear and open communication, some issues are more challenging to tackle alone.
In this case, it might be best for you and your partner to seek the help of professionals, particularly if you or your partner regularly break relationship promises.
A skilled therapist can help you and your partner identify any underlying reasons for this behavior and guide you through the process of addressing them.
Moreover, with a skilled therapist present, the likelihood of heightened emotions getting in the way of honest communication is reduced since your counselor can serve as a mediator during the process. They can also help both of you cope with intense emotions resulting from this incident.
10. Realize and accept that some situations are beyond your control
Another way you and your partner can move forward is by realizing and accepting that some situations are beyond your control. In some cases, people break their promises because of inevitable circumstances.
For example, you promised to go with your partner to that restaurant they’ve always wanted to try, but scheduling conflicts at work prevented you from pushing through. In such cases, the key is to practice honesty and engage in open communication.
After all, breaking promises in a relationship only becomes a problem if you have an active role in choosing to break them, not because of unfortunate circumstances.
Frequently asked questions
1. Is it ok to break a promise you made to your partner?
As mentioned, sometimes, breaking a promise is inevitable, especially when life and other responsibilities get in the way.
However, as long as you don’t do it regularly or intentionally, your partner would most likely understand. Nevertheless, it’s still best if you don’t make promises you can’t keep since it can ultimately damage your relationship beyond repair.
2. Is breaking a promise considered a lie?
Breaking promises in a relationship can be considered a lie if you do it with full knowledge and intention. This is because you’re letting them believe that you’re committing to that promise while knowing you’re not.
3. What does it mean when someone breaks their promise?
Broken promises can harm your relationship since doing so can make your partner lose their trust in you. Moreover, frequently breaking your promises can also make your partner consider you as someone who doesn’t keep their word, affecting your relationship as a whole.
4. What should you do if you break a promise?
Whether intentional or not, breaking a promisecan break someone’s trust in you, so you’ll need to take steps to repair the relationship. First, you need to acknowledge your mistake and honestly explain why you broke your promise to your partner.
Then, you should express genuine remorse for your actions and take steps to make it up to them. Lastly, it would be best if you avoided further breaking promises in a relationshipto show them your remorse and regret over your actions.
5. What do you call someone who breaks their promises?
One of the most well-known terms for those who break their promises is “promise-breaker.” This means they tend to commit and make promises they can’t keep.
People make promises all the time, but unfortunately, sometimes they fail to keep them. While failing to keep a promise doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad people or partners, it can still significantly and negatively impact your relationship.
With trust being a critical aspect of any relationship, breaking promises in a relationship can be incredibly damaging. After all, it’s not easy to regain someone’s trust once it’s been lost, and its effects on each person vary.
With that said, there are still several things you can do once a promise has been broken, but you and your partner will need to work together to re-establish your relationship’s integrity.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.