Trust forms the foundation of healthy relationships. Whether through infidelity or other forms of unmet expectations, a betrayal of trust can place an otherwise healthy relationship in jeopardy. The rebuilding of trust after a betrayal can be a daunting task, but couples who are committed to the process of healing may benefit from a renewed sense of connection when the effort has been put forth.
Increasing Understanding and Empathy
Both partners will undoubtedly have their own perspectives on the events surrounding the breach of trust. It’s important to first make sure the relevant details and facts are made clear to each partner. The offending partner should allow space for the betrayed partner to ask questions and also be able to listen to the concerns and feelings expressed by the betrayed partner. Once both sides have a clearer picture of the situation, it is then possible to begin the process of apologizing. A sincere apology from the offending partner should include the facts of the situation, convey a sense of understanding of the other partner’s perspective, and a willingness to take meaningful steps toward rebuilding trust. For the betrayed, it’s important to commit to actively listening, accept repair attempts, and consider if any of their own behavior has caused distress in the relationship prior to the offense.
Both partners must see value in the relationship before there can be motivation for embarking on the difficult journey of rebuilding trust. Commitment is formed when partners examine their emotional attachment to each other, show a desire to persist, and can envision long term goals for the relationship. Partners can show this commitment to each other by openly asking for what they need in the relationship, have consistent and honest communication, and express their feelings openly without fear of judgment. It may also be necessary to revisit the rules or boundaries of the relationship – what is acceptable or not acceptable behavior? What are each partner’s needs? Setting such boundaries can help to provide a sense of safety and control in an otherwise chaotic period in the relationship.
Making Time and Space for Emotions
It’s important to recognize that both partners may feel very strong emotions during this time. Sadness, anger, fear, frustration can manifest throughout the process of healing. Rather than try to hide or contain such feelings, both partners should allow the other space to express them in a healthy manner while also validating these feelings. During these difficult times, the other party can consider this an opportunity to show empathy by acknowledging these feelings and letting their partner know that it’s okay to feel a certain way or if they share that feeling.
Reigniting the Connection
When both partners have established their commitment to each other, it can help to envision the relationship moving forward as a completely new and separate one. Use this time of heightened awareness to define common future goals in both the short and long term. Try new activities or reflect on any particularly joyous memories from the past in order to ignite a new spark. Focusing on the future and making new positive memories brings new hope to the relationship and strengthens the foundation of trust.
Rebuilding trust after a breach is possible but requires hard work from both parties. With patience, time, and effort, couples may overcome such obstacles and ultimately find a strengthened connection with one another. While it is certainly possible for some couples to rebuild on their own, others may find that attending a couples counseling session with a therapist as a neutral third party can help them navigate the rough waters at every stage of the process so that each partner may make the best decision for themselves. If both partners are not yet ready to take the step toward commitment, individual therapy is a great option for gaining insight into what may be the best path forward.