Are you one of those who are looking for an answer to "How To Fix a Relationship After Trust Is Broken"?
Loving relationships are ones that are built on a solid bedrock of mutual respect, intimacy, and trust. Trust provides safety and connection to relationships and it is singularly the most essential component for a healthy and emotionally intimate relationship.
Trust is a crucial building block for all relationships, but it isn’t something that is built overnight. Once you lose trust it’s difficult to re-establish. Whether it's a sexual relationship or a platonic relationship with friends or family, trust is far easier to lose than to build back up once lost. The rebuilding of trust requires concerted effort, patience and time.
What is Trust?
Trust is a choice that people in a relationship choose to make. You can’t force trust in a relationship or make anyone trust you. Trust means different things to different people. In most romantic relationships signs of trust are:
- You are committed to your partner and relationship
- You feel safe with your partner
- Your partner respects your physical and emotional boundaries
- You feel heard, and you can communicate your needs and feelings with your partner
- You don’t hide things from your each other
- You have mutual respect for each other
- You are not afraid to show your vulnerable side
However, it is important to know that trusting someone doesn’t mean that you have no personal space. You don’t necessarily have to share every thought that crosses your mind. It also does not have to mean that you give your partner complete access to your personal phone or computer, personal bank accounts, or even social media.
While you may share these things in a loving relationship if you choose to, but the presence of trust means you wouldn’t need to constantly check up on your significant other.
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What causes loss of trust
Falling in love and getting married is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. When you think about the things that could cause one to lose trust in your relationship, infidelity is often the first thing to pop into your mind. However, cheating is not the only thing that may cause a loss of trust in a relationship.
Many couples develop feelings of mistrust facing everyday life challenges together. Everyone is born with the inclination to trust others however through life experiences, some people may become less trusting as a self-defence mechanism of self-protection.
The inability to trust your partner may manifest itself in many different ways; feeling that your significant other is being secretive or dishonest; having doubts about their intentions to honour their promises or be dependable, consistent, and accessible when we need them to be; being afraid of being taken advantage of; distrusting their moral and ethical values; or not feeling secure enough in the relationship to express our real true selves in the relationship.
A relationship can be damaged by Jealousy
The jealous are possessed by a mad devil and a dull spirit at the same time.Johann Kaspar Lavater
Jealousy has its roots in the core personality aspects of personal insecurity or the fear of abandonment. In relationships, we find that we often try to control or constantly monitor the other person because we are afraid that our partners will find somebody who is better than us and eventually leave us. It is particularly difficult for people who come from broken homes, have had an abusive childhood, or have been hurt in previous relationships, to trust their partners or allow themselves to be vulnerable. Negative cycles of communications caused by jealousy can also erode feelings of trust and safety.
Repercussions of Losing Trust
Loving relationships provide the adequate support required to explore, learn, and grow within a relationship. It brings in new interests and passions that broaden the horizons for both partners. Arthur Aron, PhD, a marital intimacy researcher at StonyBrook University in New York, says that loving relationships help people to expand themselves whereas the absence of trust makes our worlds smaller.
This happens when we attempt to control our partners or try to suppress our needs to accommodate theirs. When two people in a relationship don’t have much in common, have different basic values, or if they feel they can’t trust their partners, fear and insecurity creep into the relationship.
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Some signs of lack of trust are:
- A habitual pattern of going back on your word
- Not being physically or emotionally available when your partner needs
- Keeping information to yourself constantly
- Patterns of manipulations and lies
- Not being able to share your feelings openly
Lack of trust makes us behave in weird ways, and leads us to behave in a way that may anger and alienate your partner. When we unconsciously push people away due to lack of trust, we close ourselves to the genuine love we may receive.
How to fix a relationship after trust is broken
Lack of trust is a common issue in relationships that can kill love and happiness if left unaddressed. It is possible to fix and rebuild a relationship after trust has been breached. As long as you deem the relationship worth saving, and if you feel it’s possible to trust your partner again, even the most challenging relationship complications can be healed.
If you are interested in how to build trust in a relationship, or how to fix a broken relationship, you should keep in mind that rebuilding trust will take some time. It will also require dedication and motivation from both parties. If you are willing to put in the work to salvage a relationship, here are some steps you can take.
1. Think about what caused the betrayal
When you have been on the receiving end of a betrayal or you feel you have been lied to, the reason why it happened might not seem important. But you have to keep in mind that sometimes people lie when they feel they have run out of options. While it doesn’t make it okay to have lied, but it can help you to put yourself in their shoes.
Your significant other may have lied to protect themselves, protect you, make the best of an impossible situation, or maybe the betrayal of trust was caused simply because of miscommunication or a misunderstanding. No matter the reason why it happened, you should make it clear lying is never okay, and once you have learnt the reasons that caused the betrayal, you will be in a better position to decide if you are ready and able to begin rebuilding trust.
2. Communication is key
Talking about betrayal and your feelings about broken trust is never the most comfortable discussion, but painful as it may be, it is one of the most fundamental aspects of rebuilding trust. You should talk to your partner openly about the situation and make sure you communicate your views clearly. You should make sure you communicate the following:
- Your feelings about the situation
- Why the breach of trust hurt you
- What they need to do to earn your trust again
When you communicate, try to gauge their sincerity. Some things to look for are whether their apologies are sincere and whether they are actually regretful. Some red flags to watch out for are if they seem unwilling to accept their mistakes or try to defend their actions.
Another thing you should keep in mind is that such conversations can be upsetting and you may find yourself getting emotional. While this is a completely natural way to feel under the circumstances, resist the urge to fight, take a break and step away if you feel that emotions are hampering productive conversation.
Remember to express your feelings functionally, particularly when having tough conversations. Emotional intimacy develops trust when one realises that you can express your feelings and they will be willing to listen. This requires the maturity of being able to discuss feelings without having the conversation escalate into shouting, verbal attacks, or shutting down the conversation entirely.
Watch this video of Stephan Labossiere where he describes how important communication in a relationship is.
3. Don’t accept empty promises, and don’t make them
We have natural instincts for self-protection that help us recognize false promises and empty threats. Typically one would adjust their behaviour and expectations accordingly, for instance learning to not take seriously the teacher who always threatens to punish you, or the parent who always promises a trip or a present but never really comes through.
We learn to recognize this behaviour and learn not to trust this person quite as much as to not be let down. So when rebuilding or trying to increase trust in your marriage, it's essential that you stop accepting false promises or things that you know your significant other won't follow through on.
Similarly don’t say things that don't reflect your true feelings. Don’t sugar coat and don’t make promises you can’t keep.
4. Give them the benefit of doubt
When you have been in a relationship with someone for a long time it is easier for you to be comfortable with and trust them. If the relationship has been mostly devoid of red flags, give your significant other the benefit of the doubt based on your history and trust together.
When you are trying to rebuild trust in personal relationships, temporarily setting your doubts aside and giving them the benefit of doubt may allow you to breach the gap and let the person come through for you. However, it is not wise to completely put aside all doubt immediately, especially if the cause of the betrayal is infidelity, abuse, or another serious issue.
You should corroborate their story, and be cautious about letting them into your life completely, making sure you are not setting yourself up for further harm. But gradually over time, if your relationship is worth salvaging, you should be willing to let the doubt go, or suspend it until they have proven themselves and regained your trust.
5. Respect goes a long way
If you or your partner are constantly belittling each other, making each other feel inadequate, or viewing each other with contempt and condescension rather than respect, this is the most emotionally lasting way your relationship and trust.
A certain level of respect is essential to be maintained in all relationships, whether the relationships are personal, professional, romantic, or platonic. It is more important to keep up the level of respect for your more emotionally intimate relationships. Unfortunately, we often reveal our worst selves to the people we are closest to emotionally.
We lash out at our parents, children, and other loved ones the way we wouldn’t ever even imagine doing to someone like a grocery store clerk. In relationships of the heart, we sometimes forget that lack of respect can do significant damage over a period of time.
While this does not mean that you shouldn’t show vulnerability to your partner, it does mean that if you treat them (or they treat you) in a manner that demeans or violates basic dignity and respect, your connection is being harmed and your trust will erode over time. Similarly, continuing to show respect even if you have hit a rough patch will help significantly in rebuilding trust.
6. Practice forgiveness
Forgiveness is the key factor when it comes to repairing a relationship after trust has been broken. Sometimes you need to forgive your partner, and sometimes you may need to even forgive yourself. This is because it is natural for some of us to blame ourselves for whatever caused our partner to betray us. Blaming yourself in some way keeps you trapped in self-doubt, which can greatly restrict the chances of recovering trust and rebuilding your relationship.
Depending on the nature of the betrayal, it may seem difficult or even downright impossible to forgive your partner and move on. Just keep in mind that just because you are forgiving your partner, doesn’t mean that you are condoning their behaviour.
Instead, think of it as empowering yourself enough that you have accepted and come to terms with what had happened and are prepared to leave it in the past. By practising forgiveness you are also allowing your significant other another opportunity to learn and grow from their mistakes.
7. Trust relies on reciprocity
In any solid relationship, reciprocity is an essential component. Reciprocity does not mean that you and your partners have to bring the exact same amount to the relationship. It is also not necessary that both partners give only as much as they receive in terms of emotional investment, time, money, work, love, housework, etc. It is not a tit for tat concept.
Reciprocity means that both partners feel comfortable with what they bring, do not feel like they are being taken advantage of, and feel relatively equal in the relationship.
In close emotional partnerships, it is natural that this balance doesn’t remain forever constant; it shifts and adjusts every once in a while. Maybe at times, your partner relies on you heavily for support during a rough patch, or you depend entirely on them at another time.
When there is trust in a relationship, you know that through good times or bad, you will not always be the only one who is constantly “giving” to the relationship without your partner ever coming through for you in return. So, when rebuilding trust after betrayal, it is important that you let this process take place and let your relationship balance out.
Maybe you will have to give more in the beginning, in terms of patience, love, and understanding. Be willing to give and receive and you will soon create a comfortable, caring relationship instead of feeling undervalued or unappreciated.
8. Don’t rehash the past
After you have had the conversation about the betrayal, avoid dwelling on the past. When you decide to move on, do that but be sure to leave the baggage behind. What this means is that neither you nor your partner should be allowed to bring up this incident in any future arguments. A blow by blow rehashing of what is dead and buried, will do nothing but rekindle old memories and the pain and hurt associated with that time.
Additionally, when you agree to let the past go, do let it go. Don’t allow your behaviour to be guided by the past and avoid constantly checking up on your partner to ensure they aren’t deceiving you or lying to you again. Letting go to this extent can be tough, especially in the beginning.
You may find that it is not easy to let bygones be bygones and may have a tough time moving on from the betrayal. It may be especially challenging to start trusting your partner again if you keep worrying that they will betray you again.
If you have decided that your relationship is worth saving and that you want to give the relationship a second chance, you must keep in mind that you will eventually have to trust your partner again. You will not be able to do that straight off the bat, because as mentioned earlier, it takes time to rebuild trust.
You may not be able to trust them completely right away, but over time you will have to give trust a chance to regrow. If you don’t stop thinking about the event or situation that caused the breach of trust, or you continue to have misgivings about your partner’s faithfulness and commitment to you, you may want to look into couples counselling.
A good counsellor may take you through several trust building and relationship saving exercises and activities that will help you reconnect.
If both you and your partner are committed to the process and are genuinely invested in the rebuilding of lost trust, you may discover that you come out stronger than ever before — both as a couple and on your own.
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