Trust can be compared with glass—once broken, it cannot be joined to make it appear like new. Breach of trust causes the worst kind of pain, even worse than physical pain. Broken trust is accompanied by feelings like confusion, anxiety, irritation, and feeling lost. It is very difficult to rebuild a relationship once either partner does something to break the mutual trust bond. However, it is not impossible. If both partners are willing to work toward the relationship and give it another go, it may well strengthen the relationship in the future.
Broken trust can be caused by many things—cheating, unfaithfulness, keeping secrets, being disloyal. But the end result is always the same. The victim is left feeling betrayed, bitter, and lonely. It feels like a “moral violation of the soul.”
If a couple wants to rebuild their relationship after a negative event, the first step is to forgive. However, simple forgiveness does not guarantee that the relationship will move forward. What the couple must be able to do is to trust each other again.
Whether you are married or not, you may value your relationship with your partner deeply enough to want to pick up the broken pieces and attempt to mend it. Here are 8 ways you can go about reestablishing trust in your relationship:
- Invest in understanding one another well.
When a partner’s feelings are hurt, what they need more than anything else is to be understood. They don’t want their thoughts brushed under the carpet and they don’t want endless promises of better behavior (at least not immediately!). They simply want to be heard and acknowledged.
If you are the partner who has hurt your counterpart, you need to be emotionally available. You need to accept your mistake without giving excuses. You must understand your partner’s point of view and state of mind.
The first impulse of someone who has just been caught making a mistake is to immediately apologize. Apologies are best given after careful thought and consideration. If you apologize immediately, you tend to sound insincere.
- Apologize like you mean it.
It is human tendency to immediately say, “I’m sorry!” when one gets caught. You must avoid doing this because it makes you look dishonest. It also looks like you don’t mean it; you’re just saying it to prevent your partner from getting angry with you.
First things first, you should apologize only after your partner feels that you have clearly accepted your error and you understand how you have hurt him or her.
Next, you should tender a simple, straightforward apology. Don’t tag a conditional explanation along with it. Again, it will make you look insincere. For example, instead of saying, “I’m sorry this happened, but…” say, “I’m sorry this happened.” and leave it at that.
Leave the explanations for later.
- Give an explanation of what happened.
Of course, you should explain yourself to your partner. But there is a time and place for such explanations. If you begin to explain immediately after getting caught, your partner will not be in a mood to hear it. He or she will be caught up in the maelstrom of emotions and will not have the strength to objectively evaluate your explanation. Also, just like a too-quick apology, a too-quick explanation will sound like a way to try to get out of trouble.
So, save your explanations for when they are actually welcome i.e. when your partner asks for it.
- Make sincere promises.
Once you have made your apologies, you need to sit your partner down and chalk out a set of promises that will remedy the mistake you have made. Do keep in mind that these promises should be:
- mutually agreed upon
- reasonable so that the partner can follow them
- clearly understood by both partners
- framed such that it fixes the harm that was done
You may not actually need to commit the promises to paper, but if you’re the sort of couple who likes things in black and white, feel free to do so.
- Keep your promises!
It should be obvious by now that when you are trying to rebuild a relationship with your partner, you need to keep your promises without fail. If you break your promises, you will plunge your partner into the same feelings of hurt, anger, betrayal, and disappointment that you had caused in the first place. It will cause you to look unreliable and untrustworthy.
- Talk about how you are keeping your promises.
Now that you have formulated promises that are important for the good health of your relationship and are diligently working toward keeping them, do not forget to talk to your partner about it. He or she should be abreast of your efforts to make amends. It also shows your partner that you are serious about the relationship.
- Take your time.
Don’t try to rush it, especially if you are the one who made the mistake. It is not fair for you to expect your partner to quickly get over the hurt and confusion, now that you have accepted the error of your ways and apologized. You may well be frustrated at the slow progress of your relationship rebuilding, but you do not have the right to force your partner to rush through it. Nevertheless, your frustration is understandable because your focus is on doing all the things that are needed to make things right again. But you need to realize that your partner, who has been hurt, will have a different perspective on the issue.
If you have been hurt by your partner, it is important for you to take it slow and easy. Do not feel pressured to hurry things up because your partner feels that he or she has done everything by way of reparation and now you must move forward. It is normal for you to feel doubtful and have lingering thoughts of pain and confusion.
The reason why it takes time to rebuild trust is because negative emotions tend to stay longer with us than positive emotions. One way to go ahead is to attempt to focus on the positive emotions and push away the negative ones.