How to Rebuild Your Relationship After Breaking Trust
Trust is essential to any strong relationship. This is especially true in a marriage or intimate partnership. It takes time to build; breaking trust can happen in a heartbeat. And rebuilding trust in a relationship after it has been broken can be a formidable task.
However, there are some concrete steps you can take to rebuild the trust that has been broken in a relationship.
1. Decide that the relationship is worth saving
It seems obvious, but the first step when trust has been broken is to decide if the relationship is worth saving. Do you want to work to rebuild it? This decision should always be up to the wronged party.
A person guilty of breaking trust can desperately want to rebuild the relationship, but if the person who was hurt is not onboard, then the relationship is over. If your partner has broken trust, think through the reasons to rebuild the relationship.
It’s OK if you decide the relationship is not worth saving but if you do decide you want to rebuild, be very clear about why you want to do so, and what you will need to be able to trust again.
2. Forgive the person guilty of breaking trust
Forgiveness does not mean that you absolve the person of wrongdoing or say that what they did was acceptable. Forgiveness does mean that you agree to work together to move past the wrong and that you will not hold it against the person or use it as a weapon moving forward.
It can take time to rebuild the lost trust depending on the infraction, and you may wish to seek the help of a therapist or other professional to help you work through your emotions around forgiving your partner.
3. Make your expectations for repair clear
Make it very clear what you will need from your partner to rebuild the broken trust.
This can include concrete actions, changed behaviors, or new levels of transparency. It can help to lay out a timeline so that you can check in with each other as you work to build trust. Also, make space to hear what your partner needs from you in the rebuilding process.
4. Set boundaries
It might be tempting to jump straight back into the relationship after your partner has broken trust, but you will have to recognize that things have changed and will be changing.
Set boundaries around what you are willing to do and accept in the relationship.
If you need to cut contact of limit contact with your partner for a time, set this boundary clearly and hold to it. If there are things, you need your partner to do, such as not having contact with someone with whom they cheated, state these clearly. Most importantly, hold to your boundaries once they are set.
5. Build in accountability
Accountability will be key to rebuilding trust. Agree with your partner on a system of accountability. This can include having access to texts and email for a time (though this should have a start and end time), regular check-ins, external accountability (such as AA or therapy), and set times to discuss progress and the state of the relationship.
6. Take care of yourself
If you have been betrayed by your partner, you have taken a huge emotional blow. Give yourself whatever self-care you can. See a therapist on your own, even if you are also doing couples counseling.
Spend time with friends who make you feel good about yourself. Allow yourself time to rest and recover. Also, allow yourself to have whatever emotions come up. Journaling and making art can be excellent ways to express these emotions.
Be sure to take good care of your body too — sleep, eat, drink, and exercise.
7. Realize that things might not return to “normal”
It is possible to rebuild trust after it has been broken, but you can never go back to the time before the betrayal. Accept that the relationship as you knew it is gone, and that you’ll never get back to what you knew as “normal.”
Instead, you are creating a new normal.
Grieve for what has passed, and welcome the new. You have the chance to build a healthier “normal” after a breaking trust. Hanging on to what was, or trying to recreate it, will slow your healing.
Rebuilding broken trust takes time. Do not let anyone including your partner, pressure you into healing on an arbitrary timetable. Also know that there will be times that the feelings of betrayal and the associated hurt might flare up, even after you’ve forgiven your partner and taken all the “right” steps toward rebuilding.
Expect this process to take time, and give yourself all the time you need.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
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.