How to Heal From Broken Trust and Get My Partner to Trust Me Again
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 58
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 28
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?
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.Helpful 27
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?
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.Helpful 4
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?
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.Helpful 12
© 2015 Janis Leslie Evans