Heartbreak

How To Rebuild Trust In A Relationship After A Serious Betrayal

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couple looking into each other's eyes with hopeful facial expressions

Rebuilding trust after an affair, financial dishonesty, physical and emotional abuse, and constant lying over small things can be intimidating challenges. Likewise, previous childhood trauma or relationship pain from their ex-partners can cause overwhelming obstacles with trust.

Be wary of any clichés that promise quick solutions to rebuilding trust. We cannot expect trust to come back instantly. It takes time to restore and the process cannot be rushed.

To help make these hurdles easier to overcome, it's essential to create a plan. The plan should account for the kinds of considerations that the "wounded spouse" needs and appreciates, as well as listing the necessary changes in the relationship in order for the couple to become closer again.

How is trust broken?

Trust can be likened to a bank account. With every person we meet in life, we have an account of how much we trust them and how much they can trust you.

Typically, when we start a new relationship with someone, we start at zero. That is, unless we have been badly hurt before, in which case we may come into a new relationship with a deficit in the account, which happens when we have learned not to trust, or have never been equipped with the skills to trust due to childhood events.

The amount of trust increases in the account when your spouse does things that make you smile, show they care and are thoughtful and considerate of their needs; when they share their secrets, keep their word, and are faithful to you.

On the other hand, when they break their promises to you, lie to you, hurt you, or do other things that lack integrity, they make withdrawals from the account. It may be lying over something very small. Yet, if stacked up over time, small things can become big things.

Let's say that, for many years, your spouse had been making ongoing deposits into the trust bank account you have with them and, if things are going well, they make very few withdrawals.

Then, they do something that breaks your trust. All of a sudden, your trust account plummets into the red. Perhaps there was sexual infidelity, emotional infidelity, or some form of abuse.

It could go so far as to make you close the account permanently and end the marriage. Or, you might continue the marriage, but feel insecure and second-guess everything they say and do. You end up constantly evaluating whether or not you are safe with them, which is emotionally and physically draining.

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How to rebuild trust after betrayal in a relationship (and avoid destroying it)

In order to move forward, you need a plan of action. There's nothing that person can say that will allow you to trust them again if it’s something important to you — especially if you do not understand the underlying motive for why it happened.

Trust is not like a light switch that you can just turn on again after it’s been turned off. It is more of a dimmer switch that grows brighter over time. However, this doesn't come with verbal reassurances alone. You must keep your word and follow through by acting on your best intentions.

Ways to rebuild trust

  1. Every time you tell the truth you can rebuild trust.
  2. Acts of kindness.
  3. Giving quality time and undivided attention.
  4. Explain honestly everything about the betrayal or breach of trust.
  5. Answer any questions again and again with patience and understanding.
  6. Express appreciation in a meaningful helpful way.
  7. Show affection, whether physical or not, to demonstrate how you care.

Ways to wreck trust

  1. Lack of responsibility and exhibiting blame and deflection.
  2. Lack of transparency and withholding information.
  3. Further dishonesty (especially after full disclosure has been asked for and promised).
  4. Unkindness.
  5. Refusal to talk about the breach of mistrust and answer any questions.
  6. Lack of empathy and patience.

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What to do if you've betrayed your partner's trust

If you've broken your partner's trust in a serious way, you need to be sure that you avoid the above if you want to avoid divorce. Otherwise, the trust may deplete to an alarming level that destroys the relationship.

The problem is, many couples will try to ignore them and put the past behind them by not talking about it, but this never works — there is no way around it, you have to go through it.

Often, this can be an uncomfortable and sometimes painful process. But lasting happiness cannot be rushed.

Both partners need to be committed to telling the truth, being honest with one another, and investing the time and energy into rebuilding the trust in their account.

You need to see the mistrust as an opportunity to strengthen the marriage.

In order to have a great marriage, you need to focus on turning any crisis or challenge into an area of growth, where —as a team — you get through it.

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Nicola Beer, NLP, is UK certified in Coaching, Grief and Loss Recovery for Adults, Children and Pets, Time Line Therapy and Hypnosis. She is also the co-author of four books, including Manifesting A New Life: Money, Love, Health and Everything in Between.

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