As a nationally certified and licensed professional counselor, Janis helps her clients resolve relationship conflicts and trust issues.
How to Fix Your Relationship After a Betrayal
Did you betray your boyfriend in some way? Did you lose your girlfriend's trust? Have you let your partner down?
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 that 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 they 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, their eyes speak to you saying, "Can we survive this?"
The Road to Rebuilding Trust
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
Understanding Violations 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 resides.
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 the 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"
Read More From Pairedlife
How to Get My Partner to Trust Me Again 7 Steps
If a couple makes the decision to put the work in and rise above the sting of broken trust, it is possible to 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 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 boyfriend's trust back is not done purely out of guilt and obligation.
2. Be Honest, 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: anger, hurt, shock, disbelief, resentment, pain, hatred, and rage.
Try to use these feeling words in conversations with your boyfriend to validate his and show cause-and-effect between his 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 p.m, you have to walk through the door at 11:00 p.m. 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. They 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 him 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.
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"
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 reestablish trust. But as the offending partner, you must be the most proactive.
The chances of winning back the trust of the betrayed partner depend 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.
- How to Rebuild Trust in a Relationship
How can trust be broken in a relationship; how to know when rebuilding is possible; and ways to rebuild trust in a relationship.
- Betrayal: It’s Not Just About Infidelity | Psychology Today
7 steps to healing broken trust
- How to Regain Broken Trust in a Relationship
Trust is easy to break but difficult to build. Here's the formula for rebuilding trust in a relationship when trust is missing or broken in a relationship.
- 10 Ways to Rebuild Trust in a Relationship
Rebuilding trust in a relationship is no small task, but it is possible. Whether you've been betrayed or hurt your loved one, we've got you covered on next steps.
- The Benefits of Couples Counseling for Your Relationship | Allure
In the first part of our Let’s Talk Therapy series, we’re chatting about marriage and family therapy (or MFT, also known as couples therapy or couples counseling). It’s often assumed that when people in a relationship go to therapy, that relationship
What If It Doesn't Work Out?
Even if you try all of the methods above, there are some relationships that just can't, or aren't ready, to be fixed. Don't pressure your partner into accepting your apology. If they aren't ready, respect their feelings. Sometimes, it's best to take a step back and spend time apart to reflect on your relationship. If it's really meant to be, you'll come together again one day. Until then, it might be beneficial to seek counseling and work on the root of your betrayal. Good luck!
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
Question: 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.
Answer: 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?
Question: 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?
Answer: 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.
Question: I am in a relationship and love my partner he is very sweet, but he doesn't trust me. Whenever I speak with some guy he feels I am cheating on him I try to do whatever he wants from me, but I couldn't gain his trust, please suggest how I can regain his trust and love because I don't want to break this relationship?
Answer: I noticed you said "regain" his trust. If there are unresolved trust issues on his part due to past events in your relationship, he will need time to heal from his hurt. If you're referring to unwarranted jealousy and control issues, that's something different entirely which may require him to heal from past betrayals that have nothing to do with you. Persons who don't trust are afraid of being hurt again, so they hold the person at bay to protect themselves. Maybe that's what is happening between the both of you. Time, patience, and consistent behaviors that reinforce new trust are keys to saving your relationship. I hope this helps, thanks for reading.
Question: My wife and I have a son. She recently said we are not dating anymore. She has gone out a couple of times and I've changed my behavior, taking it day by day. She also asked me to leave her alone and that we will never get back together. There is something deep in my heart telling me not to let her go because I know I can do better. How can I approach her if we still live together and I really want her to trust me again and have what we had before when we were first dating?
Answer: The fact that you live together and are co-parenting complicates your situation. She may need a lot more time and space to heal from whatever happened in your relationship that caused her to withdraw. You may also have to accept that even if you find your way back together, it won't be the same as it was when you were dating. Too much has happened. Both of you will have to agree to rebuild new trust, learn from past mistakes and start over. But it will take consistency with changed behaviors and reassurance that things can be better.
Question: I got caught by my wife for lying. She says that she can't trust me. It's going to take time. She's also said she's forgiven me, but she is still holding physical affection (not sleeping in bed with me) for almost two weeks. I love her very much, does she?
Answer: It would be impossible to know if she still loves you. Even if she does, it is most likely blocked by mixed feelings of hurt and betrayal. Withdrawal of physical affection is not uncommon when trust has been broken. She may need several weeks before she can comfortably engage in any type of intimacy with you. Be patient with her. Allow her to sort out her feelings. Give her a safe place to share those feelings with you.
Question: I broke the trust my girlfriend had in me and caused our relationship to end. We’ve been working on it together for 10 months. She just recently decided to end everything for good because she feels she can’t trust me again. She made this decision based upon the past. She didn’t even give me a chance to prove myself and earn the trust back and rebuild. How could she make this decision to walk away without actually even knowing if she can trust me again?
Answer: Broken trust, caused by infidelity, affairs and deceptions, is one of the most difficult challenges from which a couple can recover. Many do not. You made an important point with your question: she doesn't actually know if she can trust you again. The fear of being hurt again is what keeps the betrayed person paralyzed. She may not be able to start over due to deep, unresolved hurts from current betrayal and past betrayals. Your girlfriend, unfortunately, is not where you'd like her to be. She may need more time to heal from the deceptions. Her healing may include moving on for now. Thank you for reading, I wish you well.
Question: My boyfriend found some text messages in my phone from a guy I met on a social media site. We never met physically but there was some texting going on that involved some inappropriate pictures and even the phrase "I love you" was used. I don’t have intimate feelings for that guy and it was a mistake to even entertain it. Now my boyfriend isn’t talking to me and I’m and is saying I cheated and betrayed him. Which resulted in broken trust. What can I do to fix this?
Answer: It will take time but you'll have to repair and rebuild by showing him you can be open and transparent. Maybe take a break from the temptations of social media for a while. He will need to see consistency in your behavior. Try to understand the depth of his feeling deceived by your actions and validate how he feels. Also address why you needed the attention from the interaction with this guy you really didn't have intimate feelings for; try to get to the bottom of that and share it with your boyfriend.
Question: I want my relationship to move forward; I really love my boyfriend. We have been dating for two years now. He found out that I had lied after a year. The thing is I lied to him about something that happened in the past, way before we started dating. Now he doesn't trust me. I begged him so he agreed we should try again, but he is acting reluctantly. Every time I try something, it seems not to work. What do I do to get him to trust me again?
Answer: It sounds like he is stuck in his mistrust because of the deception. Even though what you did happened in the past, he still feels deceived. It takes a while to get past the fear of not knowing when someone you trust will deceive again. That's what his reluctance is about. He will need more time, you will need more patience. The fact that he's willing to try again is a good sign. Increase your communication with him; be open and transparent. This will help him rebuild new trust.
Question: I have been in a relationship for two years, and things started to become worse in the second year, I made many mistakes, and he wanted to break up with me every time..but I still promised to change, though I was not able to change completely. I lost his trust and love for me, and now he says that change yourself and learn from mistakes. What can I do to build this trust back, because I really messed up?
Answer: Repeated incidences of broken trust are the hardest to overcome for the betrayed person. If he can still see the good in you and the effort you put forth, there may be hope for him to eventually trust you again. But he will need time. It could take a year or more for him to heal, based on consistent behaviors he can see from you. It's good that you're taking responsibility for your mistakes. Continue to work on showing consistency and remorse. Also, forgive yourself and rebuild your own trust in yourself.
Question: He lost trust in me and stopped the relationship. What do I do?
Answer: Accept that he feels betrayed, give him time to heal and make his own decision about what he wants. Take some time to understand your boundaries, motivations, and choices that led to broken trust.
Question: 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.)
Answer: 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.
Question: My boyfriend doesn't trust me and thinks I'm talking to another guy and sneaking around behind his back even though I am not. He is self sabotaging our relationship by putting these thoughts about infidelity in his head and falsely accusing me of doing something that I'm not. I truly love him but his trust issues have taken a toll on our relationship. How can I regain his trust?
Answer: Unless the unresolved betrayal or broken trust he feels (possibly from another relationship) is resolved, he will continue to project it onto your relationship. You asked how to 'regain' his trust as if you had engaged in some deception. If this is the case, he will need time to receive reassurance and consistency from you before he can heal. If his behavior is negatively impacted you, then you have to decide how much you can tolerate and if the relationship needs a break.
Question: 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?
Answer: 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.
Question: I lied to my partner, and I promised I wouldn't do it again, and I didn't. I broke another promise that I would not drink too late at night, and I did anyway. I kept it from her, and she found out. She said she doesn't trust me anymore and I'm doing my best for her to trust me again. I'm giving her my phone without any problem; I tell her all the people I talk to throughout the day, but I feel like it's not enough. What do I do?
Answer: You will have to determine if the problem is deception in general or if she has concerns about your drinking habits. If it's a combination of broken trust and drinking, you may have to address both. Continue to be transparent about your activities away from her. Also, talk to someone trained, preferably a counselor, if you feel the need to hide your drinking.
Question: My girlfriend and I recently got pregnant. Since she has gotten pregnant, she has seen me message girls that are friends but she doesn’t take it that way. I have since stopped messaging such girls. She went through my phone last night and noticed my ex still follows me on my Instagram and I don’t even use my Instagram anymore it’s just on my phone and a scroll the feed occasionally. She doesn’t trust me and thinks I am doing things behind her back. She doesn’t trust me, what can I do?
Answer: I've seen this dilemma with couples I've worked with before and it is very difficult. It takes a long time for the betrayed person to rebuild new trust. It may feel like more work for you but she will need constant reassurance from you to help her with fears of being hurt again. Be patient with her. Show her that you are trying to help her by taking the extra step to clean out your address books and block any friends with whom you are no longer in touch. She will judge whether or not she can trust you again not by just what you say, but what you do.
Question: I cheated on my fiance of six years, and we had been together for ten at the time. He said he could forgive me and we got married a month after infidelity was discovered and everything was great. We were moving forward. Now almost four years after marriage, it still comes up and he thinks I'm up to no good if I go to the store. He is angry with me over everything. I don't see friends anymore or go out. How can I show him that he can trust me again?
Answer: He may need a lot more reassurance to help him heal and build new trust. It takes a lot of work for the couple to heal and re-establish trust after infidelity. It is one of the most difficult things to overcome. On his end, he will have to decide to let go of your indiscretion and forgive you. But the bulk of the work will fall on you by displaying transparency and consistent behaviors that reassure him of your fidelity. For example, as outlined in the article, if you go to the store, give him a time you'll be back. But if you're running late, let him know. This lets him know you're thinking about him and considerate of his feelings. Be patient with him and remember he's still in fear of being hurt and betrayed again. Reassure him verbally and with your behaviors.
Question: I lied to my boyfriend about past sexual partners now one of them keeps coming up to harass me. How do I gain my boyfriend's trust?
Answer: Although you don't deserve to be harassed, understand that it's a way of punishing you because he is hurt. It will take time at his pace, but if you can validate his pain and fear of being deceived again, it may help to regain his trust. Deception is hard to heal from, but it is possible. Show remorse, not defensiveness.
Question: I was with my significant other for 7 months and I withheld and lied to my S/O about personal information that I should have disclosed in the beginning of the relationship. He wants nothing to do with me now and I don't know how I can cope. I know I have betrayed his trust and I want to do anything possible to have him back in my life and rebuild what I broke. What do I do?
Answer: First thing to do is accept him where he is and give him the time he needs to process the betrayal. Based on what the two of you have built in 7 months, it's possible the relationship can survive. However, it will be his decision to make at his own pace. It is very difficult to bounce back from betrayal; the key is not to fix what is broken but to build new trust based on consistency and new behavior. Hopefully, at some point, he will be able to take that journey with you.
Question: I broke my partner's trust in the past. Today, something happened and even though it was not my fault, he doesn't trust me. I tried to explain but he didn't listen - - what do I do? I can't live without him. I love him but this was the last warning he gave me and now I broke his trust, his faith, his love, and his respect for me. What do I do? How do I get him back?
Answer: You will need to accept his feelings instead of trying to convince him of yours. He will need time if he's able to forgive and heal. He probably was not completely over the first deception so this makes it more difficult. He is afraid of being hurt again. His worst fear came true, regardless of the circumstances you tried to explain. Let him know you understand his position and will give him the time he needs to heal while you work on your boundaries with others. I wish you well.
Question: My girlfriend is very mad at me. I've made promises that I will be a better person for her so that she could forgive me. After months, I made a mistake that broke her trust. And after a week of her avoiding me, I swear not to make unfulfilled promises again. But this time, she won't believe me. Because of the broken promise, I left her. How can I gain her trust again and convince her that I'm not the person in past?
Answer: She will need time to see consistency in your behavior and your words. Maybe you can agree to give both of you some time to rebuild as you keep in touch. She is hurt and afraid of the same pattern. Show her the different person you proclaim to be by your actions over a period of time.
Question: 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?
Answer: Have you tried couples counseling? It can be helpful, giving him a safe place to be validated for how he feels deceived. He is stuck in his betrayal understandably. You can only be remorseful and take responsibility for your mistake. The rest is up to him when he's ready. It will take time and realization that you have more together as a couple than the mistake you made. Be open with him about all decisions, no matter how small. This will help him see your ability to be consistently open with him and rebuild new trust. I wish you both well, thanks for reading.
Question: I've broken my partner's trust over and over again with lies and withheld truths. I've made fake promises to gain back his trust but have broken them. I really want my relationship to work with him. I've hurt him so much I don't see a way I can get back his trust. What should I do?