It is said that one of the inevitables of life is to hurt and to be hurt by the ones we love the most. When that happens our reactions are very different, some just want to run away and some will fight to keep the relationship going, and some will pretend.
These the six steps that emerged from our evidence-based results that create the highest probability for increasing trust and rebuilding trust:
Build positive relationships. We are far more likely to trust those we like and even in circumstances that are difficult to deal with when you actually like someone you are willing to see the human side of them and be willing to rebuild trust when a breakdown is experienced.
Many people, after going through school, playing sports and going through the process of dating, have the opinion that they are in competition with others, and they bring that perspective to their marriage/relationships. We assume we will need to impress our partner by being outstanding, believe it or not, we do compete with our partners, we are socialized to be better than the other person. We find it difficult to forgive not because we cannot identify with mistakes, we always make them, but we fear if we pardon we are weak. If an individual can change their attitude from competition to partnership, it will have a profound impact on the success of our relationships and trust-building would be so much easier. Often we find that as we cooperate more, our ability to trust and rebuild trust improves.
Throw others a bone
We are not perfect, we are not going to make the same mistakes, but mistakes we will make and so if we are willing to forgive each other then certainly trust-building is possible. Rebuilding trust after a betrayal is possible but it takes time.
Release the Anger
Even minor breaches of trust can lead to mental, emotional, and physical health problems. Partners may have trouble sleeping or diminished appetite. They may become irritable over small things or be quick to trigger.
While it may be tempting to stuff all of the anger and emotions down, it is imperative that betrayed partners tune in and reflect on all the feelings that they have. Consider the impact of your partner’s betrayal on you and others. Reflect on how life has been disrupted and all the questions and doubts that are now emerging. Make your partner aware of all these feelings.
Even the offending partner is encouraged to express any feelings of resentment and anger they may have been harbouring since before the incident.
Track your commitments
Carefully track the commitments you make to your partner. Often, with good intentions, we agree to do something but then forget the commitment. Trust comes from reliability and if broken can be reestablished by careful considerations and nurturing.
Release the Anger
Both parties, especially the betrayed, maybe questioning their commitment to the relationship and wondering if the relationship is still right for them or even salvageable.
Acts of empathy—sharing pain, frustration, and anger; showing remorse and regret; and allowing space for the acknowledgement and validation of hurt feelings—can be healing to both parties.
Building off of this, defining what both sides require from the relationship can help give partners the understanding that proceeding the relationship comes with clear expectations that each person, in moving ahead, has agreed to fulfil.
Both parties must work to define what is required to stay committed to making the relationship work. In communicating this, avoid using words that can trigger conflict (e.g., always, must, never, should) in describing what you see, expect, or want from your spouse. Instead, choose words that facilitate open conversation and use non-blaming “I” statements.
For example, favour “I need to feel like a priority in your life” over “You never put me first.”
Rebuilding the Relationship
Once couples have committed to rebuilding trust, they must work on treating the relationship like it is a completely new one. Both sides must ask for what they really need and not expect their partner to simply know what it is they want.
Do not withhold trust in this new relationship, even though it is with the same person. Withholding trust out of fear or anger will prevent you from emotionally reconnecting with your partner. This keeps your relationship from moving forward in a healthy way.
Instead, work toward rebuilding the relationship by doing the work required in building trust and rebuilding a mutually supportive connection. Come to an agreement about what a healthy relationship looks like to you both. Some examples include establishing date nights, working on a five year, ten-year and even 20-year plan together, finding your love languages, and checking in with your partner about how you feel the relationship is doing or if it is living up to your expectations.
Remember that all relationships require work. Even the closest of couples have to work hard at renewing the spark while working to grow in the same direction together, year after year.