It is a well-known truth that trust in a relationship takes years to build, moments to break, and forever to fix.
We also know that trust is essential in a relationship and it cannot survive without trust. And, it is human nature to make mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes can be serious enough to create a breach of trust.
When trust is broken in a relationship, what is the best course of action for both partners? Is it alright to ignore it and move on? Or should the wronged partner forgive and forget no matter what? Most important of all, are all kinds of trust issues equal in impact?
This article tries to decipher the trust conundrum faced by couples and presents the multiple choices you have to resolve this. You will also find here suggestions on activities to rebuild trust in a relationship.
What is trust in relationships? How is it broken?
Trust is the faith in your partner that they care for your well-being and will only act with your best interest at heart. It is the belief that they will keep their promises and will try their best to fulfill your expectations. Trust is one of the keystones on which a healthy relationship is built. Trust makes partners feel safe and secure but at the same time exposes their vulnerability to each other.
Trust is often broken when one partner places own needs and desires above that of the other or the health and stability of the relationship. Trust is also broken when one partner breaks their promise/s or dishonors major expectations.
Minor trust issues are common in all relationships and are repaired when the offending partner owns up and apologizes for their mistake. However, not all mistakes can be rectified with simple apologies. Damage control needs to be commensurate with the severity of the offense.
In a life-long relationship, it is hard for any partner to maintain trust without a single episode of a minor or major breach. And, it is also too much to expect from anyone to honor all their promises and live up to the expectations of one’s partner. As priorities and circumstances change over the years, the trust may get broken without any mala fide intention.
The fickleness of trust is so unfair and cruel that what took years to build comes tumbling down in an instant.
What to do when trust in a relationship is broken?
A relationship hardly survives a breach of trust. When trust is damaged, the relationship will no longer be a source of joy, love, safety, and security for the partners. All it will do is breed anger, frustration, despair, and mistrust.
Moreover, the repair needs to be done quickly to control the damage caused by the violation of trust. A delay may result in further deterioration of the relationship and this can make it harder to repair the breach of trust.
Can trust be rebuilt? It is not easy to give a generalized answer to this question as it relates to the feelings and emotions of two individuals in the relationship. Another major factor is the severity of the breach in the eyes of the wronged person.
Need help fixing a relationship after trust is broken? You may download our free couples communication exercises PDF to get started.
What should be your approach if you are the offender?
Though you are the one who started it all and is willing to do whatever it takes to repair the damage, it can still be hard to be reminded of your mistake. If your ego prevents you from admitting your mistake and apologizing, this can be really hard for you. You feel as if you are caught between the devil and the deep sea, though it is of your own making.
The positive steps you can initiate now are:
- Take responsibility for your actions. Don’t try to shift blame, especially on your partner.
- Offer a heartfelt apology. Don’t say something like, “If you are offended, …”
- Avoid justifying or defending your action. It can only worsen the situation.
- Take an honest approach. Say why you did it matter-of-factly.
- Don’t resort to “I don’t know” as it can backfire. It doesn’t instill confidence.
- Prove to your partner that you have mended ways.
- Try to be more open, honest, and transparent in your relationship.
- And ultimately, appeal to the good senses of your partner to forgive you.
What to do when someone breaks your trust?
Your partner indeed did something to betray your trust. But do you want to continue in the relationship or use this to further your agenda? If your partner is showing genuine regret and willingness to mend ways, it is up to you to forgive. Dragging your feet on this can make matters worse and make you an offender as well.
- Try to understand why your partner did what they did. This can help you find closure.
- Make sure that the signals you send to your partner are clear and easy to read. Sending confusing signals can only complicate matters.
- Don’t start the blame game. There is nothing constructive about it.
- Convey to your partner in clear terms that you are willing to give them a second chance.
- Give consistent feedback to let your partner know how their corrective measures are working.
- Don’t deny yourself the option of walking out of the relationship.
- Just be honest with yourself.
8 activities to rebuild trust in a relationship
Honesty plays a huge role in rebuilding trust in a relationship. Here are some activities for you to consider. It is important to choose an activity that works for you, your partner, and your relationship.
- Make an honest evaluation of where you stand in the relationship and think of the healing process in realistic terms.
- Take up couples’ activities to reconnect with each other. Ensure that the activities are enjoyed by both.
- Discuss with complete honesty future violations of trust.
- Discuss vulnerabilities and reveal secrets as a positive step towards more openness in the relationship.
- Develop an attitude of gratitude and practice it regularly to make it part of your habit.
- Lighten the mood with playfulness.
- Add more intimacy in the relationship with cuddle sessions. Do this only when both partners are ready for it.
- Take stock of progress periodically.
Broken trust in a relationship is not easy to repair or heal. This is possible if both partners want to fix broken trust and want the relationship to move forward.
The healing process may be an uncomfortable time for both partners. No matter how much you want to put the past behind you, healing broken trust is a slow process that cannot be rushed. Be patient and make sure that the same act of transgression is not repeated. Time is said to be the best healer.