How to Rebuild Trust
In my profession, I help couples rebuild trust that is broken. They want to know if the relationship can be restored. I offer them hope that it can, but will take an effort from both.
Broken Trust is Heartbreaking
Trust is foundational to relationships. Trust establishes security. On this foundation all other elements of the relationship are built.
When trust is broken, it involves a heartbreaker and a brokenhearted person. The heartbreaker is the person who did something or a series of things to violate trust in the relationship.
The brokenhearted is the person who has had their trust violated. It is emotionally painful for the brokenhearted person. Herein lies the formation of mistrust in the relationship. Depending on the offense, a couple may have a crack, crevice, or crater in the foundation.
Questions quickly emerge.
Is the foundation ruined? Can we rebuild trust? If so, how?
The answers to these questions depend on several factors. I will address them by sharing 7 steps to rebuild trust.
1. Both partners must be willing to engage in the rebuilding process.
In order to rebuild trust, the heartbreaker and brokenhearted have to engage in the process. The heartbreaker has to focus on repairing the wound and demonstrating trustworthiness.
The process of rebuilding trust harder for the brokenhearted. Here’s why.
- The brokenhearted partner has to be open to forgive and move forward.
- The brokenhearted partner has to risk being hurt again.
- The brokenhearted partner has to work on letting the heartbreaker in again.
2. The pace of rebuilding is set by the brokenhearted.
Because the work to rebuild trust is harder for the brokenhearted, the pace has to be set by her/him. The heartbreaker must understand this an adjust accordingly. Think in terms of wound and recovery. A wounded person has a slower pace than a non-wounded partner.
If the heartbreaker sets the pace or pressures the brokenhearted to “get over it”, trust cannot be rebuilt. On the other hand, if the brokenhearted uses the process only to repeatedly punish the heartbreaker with anger and vitriol it may stall the process of recovery.
Remember, the aim for both parties is to rebuild trust. Attitude and actions are key.
3. The attitude and actions of the heartbreaker must be sincere.
If you are the heartbreaker that violated trust in your marriage read carefully. Your attitude and actions must focus on the pain you caused your spouse. You may not like to face it, but face it you must. Until you can empathize with the heartache your spouse has endured, you will not be able to rebuild trust.
Going forward your words and actions must be aligned. They must convey sincere remorse for your actions and a clear intent to rebuild trust in the relationship. Honesty across the board is paramount. This is not a time to think about protecting yourself. It is the brokenhearted spouse who needs to feel protection.
4. The brokenhearted at some point has to begin dispensing trust.
This is hard. Mistrust warns against it. Your head and heart have to work together. Lower your risk by dispensing trust in smaller doses. Dispense it based on the heartbreaker’s actions of day to rebuild trust.
Some make the mistake of giving full trust back right away. This may set you up for another heartbreak. Remember, small regular doses works best.
5. Rebuilding trust requires a daily effort on both partners.
Relationships are built on reciprocal patterns. It is a give-and-take process between two people. “I scratch your back. You scratch mine.”
Rebuilding trust requires a similar process. The heartbreaker has to exhibit trustworthiness behavior on a daily basis. Again, attitude and action must be aimed at reestablishing security in the relationship. Do not lose sight of your mate’s heart. Is it healing? Do you remain empathic?
If you are the brokenhearted spouse/partner, every day you will have to work on being open to the effort of your mate and dispense trust in equal measure. This reciprocal process of demonstrating trustworthy behavior and dispensing trust will cause it to grow over time.
6. Issues of forgiveness and fear have to be addressed throughout the rebuilding process.
The brokenhearted spouse/partner is in a lot of pain. Broken trust manifests issues of forgiveness and fear. These will be triggered throughout the rebuilding process and will diminish over time based on the quality of repair work done. Until then, the heartbreaker has to be prepared to deal with these matters in a careful manner. A steady diet of showing empathy, restating apology, and offering reassurance will help rebuild trust.
7. Rebuilding trust is understood as a process over time.
A couple needs to adopt a mutual understanding about trust. It is a process that builds over time. In my work with couples, I give them a “mathematical metaphor” that goes like this: Trust = behavior/time (Trust equals behavior over time.)
Couples must be patient with the process. It takes a lot of work and time to rebuild trust. However, over time the foundation will become stronger and a sense of security will be restored in the relationship. In some cases, couples end up with a deeper level of commitment to each other.
Now it’s your turn
What have you discovered it takes to rebuild trust that can be added to this list of seven? I would be interested in learning from you. Feel free to leave a comment below or post on my social media outlets.
Is your relationship in need of rebuilding trust? Start with step one and ask yourself if you are willing to work on it. Go from there.