Trust is one of the most important aspects of healthy relationships. When our spouse cheats on us or our best friend throws us under the bus, we’re left with tons of questions and doubts about our relationship. Why would this person we thought we could trust lie to us? Is that the first time they’ve lied, or have they lied about other things? We often wonder if we’ll be able to trust them again or if we’ll always wonder whether they’re really being honest with us. When we’re the ones who have betrayed our loved one’s trust, we might feel as though our relationship is doomed, no matter how sorry we feel for our actions or words. Fortunately, rebuilding trust is possible, even when the situation seems hopeless. We can rebuild trust in our relationship as long as we’re willing to work hard at it with the help of family counselors who will guide us through the process. We can save our relationship and learn to trust our loved one or take steps to prove that we’re trustworthy if we’re the one who is at fault. We should keep in mind that this will take considerable time and patience, so we don’t become discouraged. In order to rebuild trust, we’ll need to focus on the following steps.

Learning to Trust Ourselves First

When you or the relationship feels like it's stuck and struggling, remember to stop and ask yourself the following question: "How would love respond?
We can’t learn to trust our loved one again until we’ve learned how to trust ourselves. What does this mean? Simply put, trusting ourselves means being in touch with our innermost thoughts and feelings. It means learning to be comfortable trusting our instincts or gut feelings when something doesn’t seem right. We might have developed a habit of ignoring those feelings in order to try and save our relationship or to convince ourselves that our loved one really isn’t being dishonest with us. If we’re really honest with ourselves, we should realize that our inner voice was trying to let us know something was wrong. Instead of ignoring it, we need to learn to welcome its wisdom, which is always there for us. This will help us learn how to trust our feelings about our loved one, and forgive ourselves. It will also help us become trustworthy by helping us trust ourselves.

Understanding the Effort Involved

Our relationships don’t fall apart overnight. We usually start sensing that something is wrong, but it might take a while for our suspicions to be confirmed. Likewise, we can’t expect to fix our relationship quickly, especially if we’ve been in it for years. Rebuilding trust takes a significant amount of time and patience. It might take us several months or even years to fully be able to trust our loved one again. Along the way, we need to continue working on reestablishing trust slowly under the guidance of family counselors. This can be difficult to do if we’re struggling with anger and resentment, so we also need to find a way to cope with these feelings in a healthy manner. Otherwise, they could prevent us from wanting to make the effort to repair our relationship. We need to keep in mind that it will take more than a single conversation to reverse the damage that was done to our relationship and work through our trust issues. We’ll need to talk with our loved one several times over the course of weeks, months or years about what went wrong. During that time, we need to identify, examine and work on the underlying causes that led to the betrayal, so they won’t come up again. This isn’t an easy process, but the help of a family counselor can make it less painful. Our loved one should be willing to work through this with us, no matter how long it takes or how hard it is. Otherwise, we should consider that they might not be as committed as we are to rebuilding trust.

Owning Up to Our Actions 

In order for us to overcome a lack of trust in our relationships, we must be willing to make the effort. This can be difficult for the one who did the betraying, since they need to own up to their actions. If that person is us, we need to be willing to take accountability for what we did wrong. That involves doing the following:
  • Admitting what we did
  • Attempting to explain why we did it
  • Promising our loved one that we will never to do it again
  • Making sure we never make the same mistake
We don’t need to go into great detail about what happened and we should actually avoid doing that, so we won’t cause our loved one more pain. If our loved one betrayed our trust, we need to give them a chance to explain what happened. We also need to let them know that we’re willing to work on repairing our relationship and learning to trust them again. Although it’s painful to hear about how and why our loved one broke our trust, we need to hear them out.

Being a Good Listener 

When we discuss what happened with our loved one, it’s important to listen to them with an open mind. Doing so allows us to hear what they have to say without getting defensive about it. If we’re the one who caused our loved one pain, we should also validate what they say, such as admitting that we would react the same if we had been betrayed or acknowledging that we understand why they feel the way they do. Approaching these discussions with an open mind and validating our loved one will help us rebuild trust and repair our relationship. These steps encourage us to see the situation from our loved one’s point of view, which can help us better understand how they feel. Family counselors can also help us work on having meaningful discussions and really listening to what our loved one is telling us.

Putting Trust Into Action

Practice the three A's: Affection, Attention and Appreciation daily. Show your partner how much you love and appreciate them in big and small ways every day.
Rebuilding trust involves more than listening and talking. We must also display trust through our actions. When we don’t follow up our discussions with appropriate actions, we can’t expect to make any progress. We should focus on practicing showing appreciation, affection and attention on a daily basis, and our loved one should do the same. If we’re the one at fault, we must show our loved one that we’re worthy of their trust. This means we can’t come up with excuses for our behavior. Instead, we need to show that we’re reliable and capable of acting in an honest manner. If our loved one hurt us, it’s alright for us to ask for certain behaviors from them, such as letting us see what they’re doing while they’re online. It’s their responsibility to prove to us through their actions that we can trust them, no matter what they’ve done. We can’t rely on their words alone to show us that they really have changed for the better.

Embracing Change

Although we can rebuild trust and make our relationship strong again, it won’t be the same as it was before. Instead of mourning this loss, we should realize that change is an inevitable part of any relationship. In our case, our relationship has been through a lot more, so it’s understandable that things won’t be the same. We should learn to welcome this change rather than being afraid of it or resisting it. This change is a sign that we’ve overcome our difficulties and can now move forward with our relationship with a renewed sense of trust and companionship.

Salt Lake City Family and Marriage Counselor

Rebuilding trust takes a lot of patience, but it’s worth the effort. Taking steps to regain trust can end up bringing individuals closer together than they’ve ever been. For more information on family or marital counseling services, please call Pathways Real Life Recovery to find the counselor who is right for you.

Michelle Amerman