7 Steps to Rebuilding Trust in Your Relationship

Close-up shot of two joined hands over tall grass in fieldRebuilding trust in your relationship can be difficult after it has been broken or compromised. Depending on the nature of the offense, convincing your partner that you can be trusted again may even feel impossible. The good news is it’s not. Trust can, in fact, be rebuilt if both partners are willing to put in the time and work.

Any healthy relationship is built on a foundation of mutual trust. Depending on the circumstances surrounding a breach of trust, the steps for reparation may vary. Certainly, there is a difference between a “little white lie” and an emotional or physical affair. If your relationship has experienced the latter, you may benefit from couples counseling.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all guide to restoring trust in a relationship, the steps below serve as a basic outline for reparation.

1. Own Up to Your Role

If you have offended or hurt someone by breaking trust, it’s critical to reflect on your actions and acknowledge and own your role. Dismissing, deflecting, minimizing, or casting blame will not help you in your efforts to come to grips with what happened and work toward repair. You must own your part to yourself before you can convince your partner you have taken ownership.

2. Make an Apology Plan

For many people, apologizing doesn’t come easily. It can make a person feel vulnerable, bringing up feelings of anxiety or fear. Be intentional about moving forward with your apology despite your discomfort. Gather your thoughts in advance. Writing down your thoughts can be helpful. Rehearsing what you want to say by standing in front of a mirror and practicing may help put you at ease. If you do rehearse, though, it’s important to mean what you intend to say. Don’t plan to simply say what you think the other person wants to hear in the hopes you’ll be forgiven and the offense forgotten. It doesn’t work that way.

3. Ask for a Good Time to Talk

The adage “timing is everything” can make a difference when apologizing. Ask your partner when a good time to talk would be. Let them know you have something important you would like to discuss. Let them dictate the timing of that discussion so they can give it, and you, their full attention.

4. Accept Responsibility

You have already owned up to yourself. Now it’s time to show your partner that you accept responsibility. Be sincere and use “I” messages: “I am so sorry to have hurt you,” “I really care about you and feel terrible that I have let you down.” Be specific, when possible, regarding what you are sorry about: “I am so sorry I told you that I went to the store when I was actually somewhere else,” “I feel awful that I lied to you about how I spent that money.” Communicate that you want to make things right. Let your partner know you recognize that you broke their trust and you are willing to work hard to regain it.

5. Actively Listen

After apologizing, hear your partner out. You’ve spoken; now it’s time to listen. Use active listening techniques. This means being receptive not only verbally but with your body language as well. Lean in and look your partner in the eye rather than folding your arms in a defensive posture. Be aware emotions may be heightened, yours included. Stay calm and validate your partner’s feelings; they have a right to them.

6. Back Up Your Words with Actions

A genuine apology is worth its weight in gold. However, in the absence of follow-through, your words become meaningless and future attempts at repair may be rejected. If your apology is accepted, it is up to you to demonstrate a pattern of dependable behavior over time. Go the distance and commit to being your best self: be humble, be kind, be affectionate, be appreciative, be loyal, be loving, and be trustworthy.

7. Be Patient

It takes time to rebuild trust in a relationship. Be patient with the process and with your partner. Also, recognize that being remorseful doesn’t mean beating yourself up. No one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes. Take responsibility but be kind to yourself. It is normal to experience some guilt, shame, or self-loathing; just don’t let it overwhelm you. Look at this as an opportunity to grow rebuild trust and make your relationship stronger with your significant other.

© Copyright 2018 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Angela Bisignano, PhD, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Gea

    February 8th, 2018 at 11:06 AM

    I cheated on my boyfriend after 4 years when he was gone and also in a bad place (being borderline abusive to me but not any more) we decided to stay and work it out but still not trusting 100% seems like a long road ahead but we are meant for eachother so worth it for sure
    I did #1 and #4 mainly always reading internet for more ideas how to be better girlfriend and keep us together

  • AJB

    February 9th, 2018 at 10:24 PM

    Wow, it’s good to see an article by a therapist acknowledging that people have accountability to their actions. (Most things I’ve read about rebuilding trust or relationship repair want to put the burden and blame squarely on the person who was hurt, in the name of “taking responsibility for your feelings.”) Thanks.

  • Angela B

    February 12th, 2018 at 8:32 AM

    Accountability by the person who has broken trust is important for the health of the relationship. Thanks for taking the time to read the article.

  • gargantua

    May 14th, 2018 at 12:24 AM

    Hi, I have been hurt twice in 3 months. So I went though the rebuilding again and it was possible I was almost there. But now, even if I wanted to, its physical stifness I feel and fear..Game over.

  • Sam

    June 8th, 2018 at 7:52 AM

    Hello dear,

    I need your help…I’m married for 20 years..we have two son. Elder one 16 years. My husband loved me lot. But from last 5 months he involved in affair with 32 years coworker. He is now at 47. I never imagined it. But somehow his attitude towards me and children, his late coming from office..made me think over the matter. And 15 days before he confessed that yes he involve and they have had sex too. He brought her in my bed…when I was out for office. Even on my 20th anniversary on march…I keep myself away from sex…as we do it on the anniversary day …it will be our honeymoon again…he knows that…but he did it before the anniversary day…on my bed…it means my feelings was totally valueless to him…he seeking forgiveness…and avoiding the affair partner….and rejected her. It’s true…but my mental condition is full of agony, feelings dishonor by him…never can ignore the image of their love making. He discovered recently that girl has so many relation with other man. She was not loyal to him…so there is hatred only in his mind for her…and he wants me like before…he wants to love me more….he is basically a good man, good father. There is not any previous record of him doing so. Is he really loved her? What should I do now? I’m feeling pain….I loved him very much. But now feeling dishonored by him….I think I can’t forget and recover the pain……I’m valueless to him….always I thinking to give him pain…emotional detachment….but can’t. Cause he’s trying to come close to me….please help me….can I forget this?….does he loves me? What should we both do….as he did this on my anniversary….what crazy love and sex it was…that he ferget my feelings for him… don’t like to spend any occasion with him…. and any good time with him…i always thinking what sex and fantasy he got from her he can never forget it and , as I’m 45 years…i will not able to give him this…..when ever he will come to me he will remember her and compare it….One think the girl is trying to fix the relationship still now. Want to inform him how much he love him, sometimes threaten him. Sometimes informing him if he able to leave his family…she will marry him. And she want to convince him I’m as a wife not proper for him…I too may be have affair…I should not live with him. In fact she want to win over me…as she is divorced…she told sometimes she was jealous about our relationship…and she wil ruin me…by taking my husband.
    .waiting for your reply…please help me….your every article is helpful…
    Love you

  • Mimine

    July 19th, 2018 at 2:07 PM

    There is a book call “I love him but I don’t trust him” by Mira kirshenbaum it might help you understand the pain and betrayal you are feeling

  • Rebecca H.

    September 7th, 2019 at 6:13 AM

    I have been with my husband 21years and married 11. I started talking to what I thought was his friend. It took a turn and I sent him photos that I shouldn’t of. We never did anything together. He kissed me one time and that made me realize that that was not what I wanted. What I wanted was my husband. My husband found out about it and confronted me. The pictures were sent to him. My husband’s trust in me has been broken. I wasn’t thinking of anyone but myself. I didn’t think how it would hurt my husband and our two kids. I really want to earn his trust back and him to know that I only want him for life and no one else. I have apologized several times to him and I have apologized to our kids for what I did. I really hope I can earn his trust back.

  • nae

    October 11th, 2019 at 10:34 AM

    will this work for my parents

  • Jericho

    October 22nd, 2019 at 6:44 AM

    i broke my friend’s heart her ex had crush on me so i started chatting on her on facebook then my friend later on finds out somebody can help me out

  • HW

    November 28th, 2019 at 7:43 PM

    Seriously, ask for forgiveness and wait.
    Forgiveness is what the other person does.
    It’s entirely up to her. It’s important. I must recognize that it is another my desire to be forgiven quickly.
    Even if you are not forgiven, Have a attitude that can not help.
    When that emotion is passed to the opponent, trust can be restored.

  • ethan

    October 27th, 2019 at 3:48 PM

    hi its not trust, but how do i stop overthinking. like im happy with my girlfriend of one month, but how do i stop overthinking. ive been hurt so many times, that im used to it. but ive also known my girlfriend since middle school, can someone please help…

  • Robert

    March 27th, 2020 at 11:14 PM

    I thank trust very important in relationships if it has been broken you have to ask yourself can’t you every trust him our her again if you answer is no then you live. If you decide to and work you have start working on to forgive that person. First thank is to set down a discus everything how you feel. And person should apologize for they did wrong and understand everone make stupid mistake. It will take time and the most of all pray. To god for help.

  • Katty

    April 15th, 2020 at 9:42 PM

    I feel terrible because I broke my sister’s trust…It’s a very complicated one and now she took my phone away…that’s fine but my friends need my reply and i’m kind off worried!
    This article kinda helped but i need more help so we can be the same way like we were before spending time…Right now she acts as though i’m some piece of sh*t or something…come on dude…She hates me…She hates me touching her…Spending time with her is a dream now!
    I don’t blame her i know it’s my fault but like u said both the parties should make efforts i’m not going to be the only sheep to do this f***ing sh*t!
    I need her to learn how to f***ing forgive…She’s being an a**hole.

  • Carl

    April 30th, 2020 at 3:52 PM

    Well , you broke your sister trust but you put first your friends instead of your sister ? you do not want your sister forgiveness , only your stupid phone , if YOU BROKE YOUR SISTER TRUST , she is not the one that should be blamed , is you …

  • emily

    May 31st, 2020 at 8:14 PM

    i lost my mothers trust by lying to her and i feel so sad and angry at myself so when i read this it give me ideas how to earn her trust and i have so many!!!! it’s going well

  • emily

    May 31st, 2020 at 8:17 PM

    i lost my mothers trust and i feel so angry and sad at myself but this website helped me get ideas

  • Paige

    July 7th, 2020 at 8:36 AM

    My husband and I have been married 30 years . We had everything we wanted and needed. Boat/cars/ a beautiful home. Last year I was fired from my job after working there 25 years for stealing. My husband was unaware of what I have done. When I came home to tell him he said to me I ended us.. we still live in the same home and eat together and share in some laughs together like really good friends. He said it will never be the same but I have to have hope in my heart. My betrayal of trust was the end to all the beauty we had. It has been 10 months now and my heart is still broken. He is a wonderful man that I destroyed.. I hope time can be the answer..

  • Tricia

    July 12th, 2020 at 5:30 PM

    Good advice..its really helpful

  • Mary

    July 20th, 2020 at 2:30 PM

    I cheated on my boyfriend twice and lied to him, he got to find out and broke up with me. I Love him and am sorry been apologizing and he said its a no. I’m confused right now. I need Help

  • Khetsiwe

    August 10th, 2020 at 11:38 PM

    I need help to regain trust with my husband

  • Joseph

    August 31st, 2020 at 5:02 AM

    am joe, 27years of age,I Cheated my spouses whom we have been together for 7years, we have 2 boys 1 is 3years of age while the other is 1year months,Ever since the incident i lost trust in my partner to whom we are in a long distance ralationship, am at jhb n she is at cpt. I feel she is seeing some1. In which lead to me confronting her without evidence, i confranted her several times, reason being the communication between us has broken, this days she has lots and lots of friends of which she never had before. I am afriad am gonna loose her. I went to get help from a paster around where i stay hoping i meant get help instead i was told she is cheating as we african, things mostly are done by traditional healers…the healer told me she is seeing some1…at first i didnt wanna believe what i was told.thus as time goes the whole stories the healer told me started to show up all the signs i was told mean…the issue went feather where she called my mom n told her to address my insecurities as am accusing her of something she is not doing…recently everytime am asleep i keep seeing her with another men. i dont know if am insecure or what should i call it. i need help…i dont wanna loose the love of my life all because the healer told me she is cheating. can some1 tell me what to do before is little to late. because my spouse suggested i should get therapy.

  • Barbara

    October 27th, 2020 at 5:42 PM

    I’ve lose my he passed away now I have remarried he has 4 kid and so do I he keep on saying where I sell my house I have to divide it up in 8 way so not knowing I let my daughter homestead and she trick me in giving her 1/3 and her brother 1/3 and I get 1/3

  • barbara

    October 27th, 2020 at 5:45 PM

    And I bought a tractor and now he dose not trust me I have knowe acknowledge it said I’m sorry asking for his forgiveness

  • james

    November 10th, 2020 at 4:11 AM

    i was going out with my girlfriend for a long time and we both loved each other so much and she is the one for me i know she is but then i stupidly messaged other girls whilie going out with my girlfriend and i have 4 chances and i lost all my chances doing the same thing and its been 6 to 5 mouths now and ive changed and im not like that anymore but no matter what i do or what i say she cant forgive me and she doesnt trust me and i still cant get over her i need her back in my life as shes the one but she just cant forgive me pls help

  • far

    February 23rd, 2021 at 12:59 PM

    My daughter is mad at me because we had a fight in front of her In laws and she is embarrassed. how can I apologize to her . plz advise

  • Javohir

    March 10th, 2021 at 5:19 AM

    how should I do this. I lost my Nintendo Switch and broke by trust on my older brother. HELP ME PLS

  • Ella

    August 11th, 2021 at 6:07 PM

    Hi, so I’ve recently literally caught my boyfriend with his pants down in our bed. It’s easy for my friends to tell me to leave him however I’m just not ready to let go over 2+ years that we’ve been best friends/ lovers. 5-6 months ago I came home from traveling, and I let him know that I love him and I’m ready to be in an exclusive relationship, ..I really wanted to know if he was also ready for that, and he said he was too. We had this conversation 3 times , And now . He is making excuses saying “we were in an open relationship “
    He also throws in my face when I was an escort for us to financially be ok. I didn’t want to escort, I dragged my feet all the way there. So he’s justifying his actions with that , I don’t know what to do , I don’t know how to work with him, I’m willing to work to make us work but how do I get him involved?

  • Michel

    October 12th, 2021 at 8:51 AM

    How can you really gain trust back with someone you’ve mistreated? So I was with this girl, off and on, for my whole junior year. We’ve been friends since late Sophomore year, and I’ve liked her since. We went back and forth from trying to be something to taking a break, and eventually at the end of the summer of our junior year, we we’re dating and I was having so much fun. I tended to overthink a lot though, and we would argue over small things, we would get upset, but at the end of the day I still loved her and cared about her. We went to a concert together with a couple friends of hers and I was pretty rude, and I ignored her and didn’t treat her well at all. After that night, she was done with me and we argued about my actions for a week and she blocked me. After 3 months, I still like her and think we should try again, but we’ve talked about it and she doesn’t want to because of how it ended last time and that she doesn’t trust me at all. I feel so bad and I want to gain her trust back, but it’s weird. We don’t talk in school anymore and she talks to all my friends in front of me but not me. I hang out with her sometimes outside of school and things are fine, but it’s just weird. I don’t know what to do.

  • Aaron

    October 15th, 2021 at 9:32 AM

    So I’ve been with my girlfriend 15 years,I trusted her more than I ever trusted anyone in my life..I NEVER thought she would cheat on me ,we’ll in the past 6 months I’ve learned she’s cheated on me 3 times..guy number 3 she decided to have a relationship with,he bought her a car was paying her phone bill and I guess they at one point planned on getting a house together..that hurt BAD! She was coming to me for sex but kicked me out of my own home so this punk could come stay with her,she’d hang out with him but be calling and texting me all day ,I found out she was messing around with this dude for a year before I found out, after a month of agony I decided screw it and started to move on I signed up for dating apps ,started getting responses immediately when my girl found out she decided she wanted to work on us again..then she got put in rehab for addiction for 60 days…things HAVE changed with her but me being hurt so bad I have a hard time regaining my trust for her..especially considering this dude just won’t quit facebooking her he sent her cards in rehab etc. She tells me that I have nothing to worry about anymore ..I want to believe her SOO bad and right now I do believe she’s being honest ..but she’s a really good manipulator…so how do I KNOW she’s being 100% honest with me without me being a jerk and going through her phone and tagging along everywhere she goes? She swears things have changed..I see a lot of changes…but I also believed I’d never be in this position…does this go away over time? We’ve actually been engaged 3 times now…the first 2 times she sold the ring for drug money. I love this women more than life itself we ordinarily have an amazing relationship we’ve been through ALOT together in 15 years and I just want to get things back to at least somewhat normal …please someone help ! Thanks in advance!

  • A

    December 2nd, 2021 at 1:45 AM

    I hope you didn’t get back with her, and I really hope you’ve worked on your own self-love, self-worth, dignity, and boundaries. I highly suggest seeking out therapy for the trauma you’ve suffered. There is no way you ever had an “amazing relationship” if she cheated on you, didn’t cut of contact with the other guy, and broke your engagement multiple times. Do you dream of “The One” being a cheater? You seem so afraid of losing her, when she’s not afraid of losing you at all. She’s shown this through her actions over and over. This girl sounds incredibly toxic. You don’t need to feel guilty for not giving her another chance. She more than damaged the trust. Not you. Please have some self-worth and move on. She does not deserve you. You deserve much better.

  • Evan

    September 26th, 2022 at 7:23 PM

    the love of my life just broke up with me on our 8 month anniversary because we are both not mentally stable right now for each other. Earlier in the year I went to a friend’s graduation party and saw my first ex there. I gave her a second chance and unblocked her and started texting her. My girlfriend found out and wanted me to block her and I did but then my friend changed his phone number so I had to ask the ex what it was. I then proceeded to lie about adding her back to my girlfriend and even changed the ex’s contact name so my girlfriend wouldn’t find out. I talked to the ex about meeting up and that my girlfriend didn’t have to know but as friends only. I completely disrespected my girlfriend and our relationship and now she can’t trust me and resents me for it and so broke up with me. We still text and say how we think that we are meant to be but she doesn’t know if she can ever trust me again. What should I do because I love this girl and I want to have a future with her and marry her. I’ve apologized and owned up to my mistake and I can guarantee that anything like that will never happen again. I don’t know what to do because I see her as my wife and I do not want to lose her and I want her to trust me. She wants me to be with her but at the same time she doesn’t if she can ever trust me again. What should I do to help her trust me again so me and her can get back together?


    April 7th, 2023 at 8:42 PM

    If Maria include in my rebuilding life journey then I got to apologize to her and she probably will accept it because I want to make things right for me and her and that we both can communicate and hopefully I will ask her to hold my hands and kiss her on the forehead at the right time because I will make sure that she is still safe, protected and comfortable when I am around her. I really can’t wait to include her in my rebuilding life journey because I am so excited to start things over with her and hopefully she will end up being my girlfriend if the plan goes well. I will start slow because I will make sure that I don’t tell my coworker about the plan and It will change my and my friend/coworker, my crush and my potential girlfriend Maria life dramatically because I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with Maria because it going to be a great thing for me and having Maria support me.

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