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


    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

    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.

    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

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