How to Heal From Broken Trust and Get My Partner to Trust Me Again
Broken Trust in Relationships Creates Broken Hearts
Broken Trust: Your Secret is Out
It's been a week since your secret was revealed. You feel awful, maybe a little depressed, and incredibly guilty. Every morning you wake up hoping it was that bad dream again you've been having for the past few months. But this is real.
Your secret is out and your partner knows. Your greatest fear is that your lapse in judgment will end the best relationship you've ever had. The question you keep asking yourself, over and over is, "Will she ever trust me again?"
The tension between the two of you in the house is thick, mixed with anger, hurt, love, remorse, and uncertainty. Emotional connection and distance occupy the same space, resulting in a tug-of-war between two souls. Even amid the silent treatment, her eyes speak to you saying, "Can we survive this?"
The Road to Rebuilding Trust is Not an Easy One
This familiar scenario above plays out daily in the lives of couples who are facing the devastation of broken trust in their relationships. Depending upon the strength and foundation of the relationship, many couples do not survive. The betrayal cuts too deep, leaving wounds that can remain raw for years. The betrayed partner often is the one who finds the emotional and psychological injury too painful to overcome.
The impact of broken trust determines whether the relationship can be saved. The severity of the sting felt by the betrayed partner is very individual and will differ for each person depending on the situation. Certain factors make it much harder for the injured party to move forward. These factors typically include:
- Infidelity involving short-term or long-term emotional and sexual affairs
- Deceptions involving lies, including hidden or withheld information
- Leading double lives involving another relationship or family that pulls time and financial resources from the primary relationship
- Repeated instances of infidelities, lies, and deceptions, after repeated promises to change and remain faithful
The lack of trust is so familiar to many couples that they have come to accept it as the status quo.— Dr. Robin L. Smith, "Lies at the Altar"
Traditional Ways to Win Back Trust
How have you tried to make your partner trust you again?
Understanding the Layered Concept of Violation in Relationships
Women will speak of the feeling of "being violated" by a betrayal.To understand the concept of violation, let's return to the scenario of the betrayed woman.
You may wonder why she can't accept your apology and move past your indiscretion. She says to you, "You just don't get it." What you're not getting is your partner's feeling of violation as the betrayal leaves her feeling traumatized to the core of her soul. She believed this to be a "safe place," where the emotional connection between the both of you reside.
Lying and infidelity usually fall within the "no fly-zones" of committed relationships when it comes to what ranks as top deal breakers. So when the promise to be honest and faithful is not upheld, the broken trust not only involves damaged verbal promises but a break in a core commitment to each other, on an emotional and spiritual level. When these lines have been crossed, or even blurred by indiscretion, a painful violation has occurred, resulting in a broken bond of oneness of heart and spirit between the both of you.
The toughest pain to heal in a committed relationship is the pain of betrayal - the wound of a broken trust.— Lewis B. Smedes, "Learning to Live the Love We Promise"
How to Get My Partner to Trust Me Again in 7 Steps
If a couple makes the decision to heal from and rise above the sting of broken trust, it is possible to do the work and save the relationship. But it takes a lot of patience, honesty, self-introspection, and forgiveness.
It also should be expected that you, the offending partner, will unfortunately have the bulk of the work to do, as you attempt to rebuild your relationship and get your partner to trust you again. Here are some practical steps you can take to begin that journey toward healing.
1. Decide What You Really Want - Before making any impulsive apologies and promises to change, make sure you want to remain in the relationship. Consider that you may have been sabotaging your way out of a relationship to which you are no longer committed. Make sure your decision to win your girlfriend's trust back is not done purely out of guilt and obligation.
2. Honesty Upfront - When your girlfriend confronts you, confess. Think of it as your first test which is an assessment by her to see if she can trust you again. Denying what she already knows (or may have proof of) only feeds into the deception, further diminishing her ability (or desire) to trust you. Consider confessing before you get caught; it will increase her ability to believe that you are sincere in wanting to correct the error of your ways and make things right.
3. Take Ownership and Responsibility - It is a fact that when a relationship goes sour, it's usually a two-way street when it comes to taking responsibility for what went wrong. But in cases of broken trust, deception, and infidelity, it's important to take full responsibility for the choices you made in dealing with the issue. Once the secret is out, it's not a good time to divert, deflect, or place blame elsewhere, except where it belongs. Focus on your own behavior and refrain from finger-pointing in an attempt to justify your bad choices.
4. Express Empathy - To be empathic means to imagine what another person is feeling in a particular experience, as if you've stepped into their shoes. To express empathy means you have shown understanding on an emotional level, with words. To that end, familiarize yourself with the feeling words that accompany the emotional impact of broken trust. They include, but are not limited to: anger, hurt, shock, disbelief, resentment, pain, hatred, and rage.
Try to use these feeling words in conversations with your girlfriend to validate her and show cause-and-effect between her feelings and your behavior. For example, "I can see now how my choice to deceive you causes you to feel anger, hurt, and rage toward me."
5. Show Remorse - To be remorseful means to have a conscience. It implies that you are able to assess possible character flaws within yourself and look at the effect your choices have had on the person you hurt. In order to show remorse, you have to come across as sincere in believing that you did something wrong, and be accountable for it. A certain level of guilt has to be evident in an apology, with no excuses or justifications. The easiest way to show remorse is to let go of any bravado, defensiveness, or attitudes that run counter to your goal of winning back your girlfriend's trust.
6. Create New Trust - In order to regain trust after a violation of it, you may have to accept that it is truly broken beyond repair. When trust is damaged by infidelity, memories of the deception are forever attached to the incident, or multiple incidents. So it becomes incredibly difficult to "rebuild new trust" from what has been tarnished without throwing away the "old trust" first.
This is done by making new promises with sincerity by pledging to uphold a new trust bond between the both of you, starting today. Your trust is measured by what you do and not just what you say. For example, if you say you'll arrive home after work at 11:00 pm, you have to walk through the door at 11:00 pm. Your behavior is the yardstick by which your trust is now measured, a day at a time, until consistency is achieved and new trust begins to grow.
7. Don't Create Suspicion - Be careful not to trigger your girlfriend's fears and insecurities by engaging in behavior that reminds her of your past indiscretions. Even when you aren't doing anything wrong, she is now hypersensitive to every ring of the phone and ping notification of an email or text message. She'll wonder who you're talking to if you leave the room to answer a call. She will suspect you are meeting with someone other than who you say you're meeting with for drinks.
Be aware from her point of view of what it looks like if you share your social or travel plans with her and the location changes. It will take months or even up to a year for your partner to rebuild new trust for you, with a lot of stops and starts. The atmosphere you create will play a huge role in the restoration of that trust.
Bouncing Back From Betrayal
Millions of couples in committed relationships suffer the impact of broken trust. The scenario at the beginning of this article is a common one, resulting from the betrayal of infidelity.
Emotional affairs, texting relationships, and drunken one-night stands are shocking revelations of betrayal that suddenly shake the foundation of what was thought to be stable. Relationships don't always survive deceptions when they come in the form of lies, secrets, and cover-ups.
However, it is possible to rise above the damage and do the work of rebuilding new trust, the bulk of which falls on the shoulders of the offending partner.
The chances of winning back the trust of the betrayed partner depends upon how the offender shows remorse, expresses empathy, and makes major changes in attitudes and behaviors. These changes, when displayed consistently, will create an atmosphere of safety, wherein the betrayed partner can begin to forgive and trust again.
Trust is not a gift. It must be earned, and not with verbal reassurances alone, but with specific changes in behavior.— Janis Abrahms Spring, "After the Affair"
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
I want my relationship to move forward, but I've betrayed her trust with lies and lusting. I never slept with anyone, but she's still with me. How can I earn trust and make things right and stay on course to keep it going forward? When I think I overcame the wandering eyes, I try hard to keep myself together, but end up distracted and failing again.
It's a difficult road. Your intention to change is good, so you're on the right track. Think of each day as a new beginning to rebuild new trust. She will need to see consistency in your behavior over time. Also, take some time to look within to see what's behind the "wandering eyes" and distraction; what needs are you trying to fill? In other words, what's missing for you that makes you stray; what are you looking for?Helpful 45
I dont know how to get her to trust me over a white lie. A lie to keep her feelings safe backfired horribly. I am going to keep trying but I need a clue on how I can get her to trust me again?
Patience and consistency on your part will help. There is no magic answer. She will need time to heal. What are you willing to change that would indicate to her that you are sincere? Therein lies the clue you desperately seek.Helpful 21
Months before meeting my girlfriend, I had asked a few female coworkers if they'd like to get a drink/dinner after work. Although the requests were to be friendly/share conversation, they were perceived as more and I was fired. I shared all the details with my girlfriend, and she appreciated the honesty. Now, there has been no communication from her. How do I regain her trust? (she is a sexual abuse survivor.)
Patience is key when in a relationship with a survivor. Every person has their own unique experience, but the common denominator is broken trust. Perhaps you both can attend a couple of counseling sessions together for better understanding. In the meantime, continue to remind her that you are here the support her and listen to how hard it is to renew trust with someone. Ask her to share her fears with you and validate how she feels regardless of how honest you've been. She will need time, and you will need patience. I wish you both peace and productive communication.Helpful 6
I have betrayed my partner's trust by not telling him about my financial crisis. Trust has been the cornerstone of our relationship since the beginning. Now, he has said we are no longer a couple. I don't know what to do to regain his trust and repair the relationship. He is the best thing in my life, what can I do?Helpful 2
Long story short I lied but never cheated or have thought of being with any other women. She took her things and left for her dad's. We had a long talk about everything and about a month has passed. I’ve learned, gained insight, have remorse, and made promises that I have shown and kept true. She has been spending more and more time with me and every time we are together since that talk it’s never been negative. Do you think my experience is a positive progression, or should I not get my hopes up?
Sounds like you've made great progress. Stay positive and keep mentioning to her how pleased and hopeful you are about the progress both of you have made. Emphasize what's been working and how far you've come to reach where you are now. She may have a flashback about the betrayal but don't let that derail your progress. Stops and starts when rebuilding new trust are to be expected.Helpful 4
© 2015 Janis Leslie Evans