If an affair or other betrayal of train has damaged the trust in your relationship, you may be concerned that you’ll never be able to rebuild that strong bond. While there is certainly no miracle cure for trust problems, they can be addressed with hard work, honesty and self-awareness. Here are nine things that can help rebuilding trust.
1. Have Candid Conversations
Dealing with relationship conflict can be exhausting, so there may be a temptation to repress feelings, questions or thoughts about trust problems. However, this approach often leads to a background sense of hostility and a later explosion of negativity. To regain trust, you need to be open to having in-depth, honest conversations. These discussions are often painful and may make you feel extraordinarily vulnerable, but confronting the most frightening questions and truly listening to each other promotes deeper intimacy.
2. Work to Understand Each Other
It’s easy to play the “blame and punish” game with your partner, but you’re more likely to move forward if you make an earnest effort to understand one another’s behavior. If your partner has broken your trust, trying to understand what led to these actions can help to reassure you that similar choices won’t be made in the future. Meanwhile, try to avoid being confrontational or self-righteous if you’re the one who has broken your partner’s trust, and be willing to explore how your underlying needs have led to errors of judgment.
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3. Be Patient
Trust issues can be tough to resolve when one partner feels they have done enough to mend the relationship and the other doesn’t feel that the situation is that simple. The betrayed partner needs to learn to be patient with their own fluctuating emotions, accepting that they are going through a grieving process in the wake of discovering that there are less pleasant parts of their loved one that were hitherto unknown. At the same time, the partner who has broken trust needs expect these fluctuations and learn how to acknowledge the pain without succumbing to the urge to mount a constant defense.
4. Focus on Consistency
A commitment to consistency and reliability can help both parties move on from a betrayal of trust. If the person who broke the trust can repeatedly keep their word, stick to agreements, keep promises and be entirely predictable, they can get a sense that they are actually doing something concrete to improve the relationship. Meanwhile, the betrayed partner can use this mounting evidence to fuel their belief that it is safe to develop trust again.
5. Take Responsibility
Firstly, the betrayer needs to take full responsibility for having chosen to deal with their emotions, needs or impulses in a way that has hurt their partner. However, their partner must also take some responsibility for whatever role they played in allowing the relationship to reach a point at which such actions seemed appealing or appropriate.
6. Discuss the Possibility of Less Privacy
While it is potentially abusive to demand your partner provide you with access to their email, phone and social networking accounts for the rest of your days, some couples benefit from a time-limited agreement to let their partner see such communication records. Just like the above suggestion regarding consistency, having access to typically private areas of a partner’s life can increase feelings of security and help to strengthen beliefs in reliability. If you do come to such an agreement, however, be clear about how long it will last.
7. Consider Therapy
You don’t need to be at breaking point before you go to therapy. A trained counsellor can help you and your partner work through your misgivings, confusions and mixed emotions in a safe, neutral environment. In addition, you can discuss how to sustain trust in the long term, explore ways to improve communication and learn new coping mechanisms that help you both deal with anger, hurt or jealousy.
8. Spend More Time Together
Although you may feel emotionally drained from rehashing your difficult experience, it’s important to spend plenty of quality time together after the impact of a betrayal. It’s particularly wise for the partner who broke the trust to avoid late nights at the office, weekend trips or other commitments that might elicit anxiety in the early days of recovering from a betrayal. However, try to make the best of your time together when you are not actively discussing the trauma, nurturing your relationship with kind gestures and compassion.
9. Renew Your Vows
Finally, married couples often feel their commitment has been devalued in the wake of a significant betrayal, so a decision to renew your vows can be a powerfully symbolic way to signal a new start. Writing your own vows can be especially significant in this context, as it gives you a chance to swear you will do things differently and explain how you will be making important changes in the relationship.