How to Fix Broken Trust in a Relationship

TRUST: the bedrock of any relationship

Trust is the cornerstone of a healthy and deeply satisfying relationship. In a trusting relationship, partners, friends or colleagues are honest with each other. 

In a trusting relationship, words and actions are not shrouded in deceit; a partner doesn't sacrifice the other's needs for their own or pursue their goals at another's expense. Most importantly, they make a full commitment to help both parties in the relationship feel emotionally supported, nourished and when necessary, comforted. 

In relationships, trust is the single most important mark of lasting happiness. 

 

Trust in a Couple / Marriage

The most common breach of trust in a couple or marriage happens through infidelity. Sadly, when adultery occurs, the core issues in the relationship that could have catalysed the betrayal are overlooked because the unfaithful partner's mistake takes centre stage. 

In my personal and humble belief however, the concept of trust goes far beyond sexual fidelity... it in fact intersperses itself into every aspect of a couple's daily life.

  image by Kelly Sikkema

image by Kelly Sikkema

What is a Trusting Relationship?

  • In a trusting relationship, the man and woman make their commitment to each other a priority.
  • In a trusting relationship, each partner nurtures empathy and advances their emotional intelligence by respecting and accepting any feelings of anxiety, anger, fear, without judgement, condemnation or disparagement. 
  • A trusting partner encourages and supports their significant other's goals and dreams, showing genuine happiness for their joys and successes as well as concern for their sorrows and setbacks.  
  • In a trusting relationship, you can depend on your partner in every way.
  • In a trusting relationship, both partners understand the concept of inter-dependency and know how to live and love inter-dependently.
  • In a trusting relationship, control and possession are foreign concepts. A relationship based on trust offers both partners the freedom to be self-responsible.

 

When is a partner violating the trust

  • When a partner always or often dismisses or ignores the other's feelings, needs, ideas or dreams,  failing to validate their perceptions.
  • When a partner is unfaithful (emotionally and/or physically).
  • When a partner repeatedly fails to make key decisions about family finances.
  • When a partner shows a lack of interest in disciplining and protecting the couple's children in a responsible and consistent manner.
  • When a partner fails to follow through with their promises and commitments.
  • When a partner fails to keep their significant other's personal concerns and insecurities.
  • When a partner is always late or absent to events that are important to their significant other.
  • When key information is omitted in communication, in order to manipulate the situation/reaction.
  • When dates or anniversaries are repeatedly forgotten.

A lack of trust can go unnoticed at first but with time, can become a huge strain on the relationship. Slowly but steadily, mistrust chips away at the foundation of the relationship.

 

What are the consequences of violating the trust?

The long-term effects of living with someone you cannot trust are devastating. Why? Because when a partner doubts their significant other's integrity or authenticity, he or she can become insecure, anxious, doubtful and even fearful.

  image by Greta Arday

image by Greta Arday

I experienced this in my own marriage and parental relationships. For years, I blindly ignored the signs warning me of the violations of trust occurring in my relationships. As a result, I felt trapped, guarded and very vulnerable. I started to act out unkindly, pushing those whom I loved away. Many of my clients over the last 15 years working as a coach and counsellor, have shared similar stories of their own. When trust is broken, it is natural and instinctual to no longer feel safe emotionally, physically, intellectually or even spiritually. This is because you are brought to question the person in front of you, no longer recognising them due to their distrustful behaviour.

Restoring trust takes time, but can be done, but being the bedrock of relationships, it's the most difficult aspect of one to repair. Re-building a sense of self-worth as the hurt partner is just as difficult and takes just as much time but is essential to do.

 

How to restore trust once broken

When a relationship is shattered by a betrayal, continuous lack of commitment or because of any of the above reasons, we can still move forward by learning to unpack what caused the shift in trust to begin with. We must look at the breach in trust as a red flag that underlying issues need to be recognised, addressed and managed, rather than as the catalyst for the inevitable conclusion to your relationship. With a change of perspective, the actions of mistrust can be observed and discussed in order to transform them from a negative to an opportunity for change and growth.

 

Steps for Rebuilding Trust

  1. Both partners have to first be motivated to restore the trust in their relationship. Only one of the two will not be enough to re-build the relationship. 
  2. Give the wounded person time to feel angry and if necessary, vengeful. It takes time to process hurt and pain. 
  3. Seek professional help, preferably together. If one partner resists, I would still highly recommend that the other go alone. In time, the wounded party may see that the event that led to the break of trust, was signalling that something under the surface needed to be acknowledged.
  4. The hurt partner in the relationship needs reassurance, recognition and admittance of responsibility from the significant other who broke the trust, for the pain and hurt they endured.
  5. Wait patiently before taking any decisions, it's hard to think clearly at such a challenging time. 
  6. The hurt partner must remind themselves that what occurred doesn't have to undermine their self-esteem and sense of worth. They are not unlovable or inadequate because of the breach in trust, they are simply experiencing issues in their relationship that can and must be confronted and resolved for the survival of the relationship.

Many fear that once broken, trust can no longer be restored. I sincerely believe otherwise, that through unraveling the crisis, a couple can heal and share intimacy again and that, in time, a new foundation can be built for an even stronger relationship than before.

header image by Aaron Burden

This article was featured on Thrive Global


Read my blog post, Why Am I Addicted to Toxic Relationships, for more information on some of the topics touched on above.

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