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. 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 and make your relationship stronger.

© Copyright 2018 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Angela Bisignano, PhD, therapist in Palos Verdes Peninsula, California

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

    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
    Thanks

  • AJB

    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

    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

    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

    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

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