How To Rebuild Trust (Even If It Feels Impossible)

Relationships flourish when partners trust each other to be honest, faithful, respectful, kind, consistent and open to resolving conflict (among many other things).

Relationships flounder when trust is broken, which, unfortunately, is all too common. Most of us are aware of the obvious trust-breaking situations, such as discovering that your partner has had an affair or has lied about something important.

That said, trust can be broken in far more subtle, but nonetheless damaging, ways. What if your partner consistently says he or she will do something and never delivers on the promise? What if your partner is emotionally unavailable to you during a trying time? These situations may not destroy trust, but they can certainly threaten it.

Depending on the situation, trust can be rebuilt. But the process of building (and rebuilding) trust doesn't just happen. It takes significant inner work on the part of both partners.

Part I: Rebuilding Inner Trust

In order to build a stable foundation of trust with another person, you need to first become trustworthy of yourself and your feelings — that whispering inner voice that tries to alert you when something feels misaligned with your needs.

If you can recall a time that trust was broken in your relationship, think back on what happened leading up to the betrayal. Did your inner voice whisper something to you which you ignored?

I can't tell you how often I work with clients who felt betrayed but decided to ignored their instincts, brushing the issue under the rug. I've had multiple clients specifically tell me that they were aware of a financial betrayal in their relationship, but that their partners overcompensated by acting extra-charming. Often, the disloyal person in the dynamic will preemptively try to "make up" for his or her behavior, as it makes it more difficult for the other person to really see it and deal with the conflict.

Other clients who have faced sexual infidelity in their relationship have expressed regret about having been in denial, saying things like, "I could feel the change when she started her affair, but I didn't want to believe it ... so I didn't."

Regardless of the situation, there is one commonality among my clients who have had to deal with broken trust in their relationship: They did not sufficiently trust their own instincts and ended up sublimating their needs.

Before you can even begin to trust your partner again, you first need to trust yourself — your inner knowledge of what's right and wrong for you. We have all been blessed with two sources of knowing — our feelings and the wisdom that pops into our mind from our higher guidance. When you learn to trust your feelings about your partner and learn to trust the wisdom that is always here for you, then you become truly trustworthy of yourself. This means that you stop ignoring that inner whisper and start listening to what you know in your heart and soul.

Then and only then will you be able to discern what is true and what isn't about your partner and the relationship. With self-trust, you will be able to feel — and believe — when he or she is lying or trying to take advantage of you in a way that erodes trust.

Part II: Rebuilding Relationship Trust

When trust has been broken in your relationship, both partners need to direct real therapeutic attention to the relationship to rebuild it. There is a two-sided dynamic at play, and the reasons behind the betrayal need to be addressed and healed collaboratively. The betrayal is an opportunity for each person to look within and heal their part of the relationship-system in order to understand why it resulted in broken trust.

Broken trust can definitely be healed, but it takes deep work. Don't kid yourself into thinking that you can repair broken trust with a quick statement of forgiveness and a warm embrace. The underlying causes for betrayal need to be identified, examined and worked on in order for betrayal not to resurface again.

Both partners need to learn to love (and trust) themselves enough to be able to approach the relationship from individual places of self-respect and personal integrity. When you make a commitment to treat yourself with love and compassion and authentically trust your needs, you will not harm yourself or your partner by lying or cheating. You will listen properly to yourself so that you can welcome honest communication into the relationship with open arms.

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