Can You Repair Your Relationship When Trust Is Lost?

Rebuilding trust is possible, if both parties are committed.
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It can take only a second to destroy the trust you have built in a relationship. Possibly, you or another person told a white lie or maybe you shared information told in confidence; or, maybe you didn't follow through on a commitment. You can repair your relationship when trust is lost, although it is neither easy nor quick. The couples who are able to repair their relationship do so by slowly and purposefully rebuilding trust in themselves and then in their significant other, says Lynne Foote, a licensed professional counselor and author of "Creating the Foundation for a Healthy Relationship" on the website,

1 Heartfelt Apology

A sincere apology can begin the process of repairing trust in your relationship. The more honest and non-defensive the betrayer is, the more likely a resolution will be found, says Linda and Charlie Bloom, both therapists and authors of "7 Steps to Healing Broken Trust" on the website, PsychCentral. The betrayer needs to accept responsibility for his behavior. He shouldn't try to rationalize his actions or blame it on others. Taking responsibility for your behavior shows that you regret what you did and plan on not repeating the behavior, says Michael J. Salas, a therapist and author of "How to Get Your Partner to Trust You Again" on the website, PsychCentral. For example, the betrayer might say, "I'm sorry that I was flirting with so-and-so in math class. I shouldn't have done that and it won't happen again."

2 Underlying Contributor

The betrayer needs to look within herself for the reason behind the betrayal. For example, if the betrayer said she was staying in to study for the night and instead went to a movie, what is the underlying reason for the lie? Did the betrayer feel like she needed space from the betrayed? Did she feel like she couldn't be honest without the betrayed becoming angry or upset? Whatever the reason behind the betrayal, the betrayer needs to work on fixing the issues that contributed to the situation. The ability to be completely open and honest is the only way for trust to be developed.

3 Ongoing Communication

To start repairing your relationship, both the betrayed and the betrayer need to be aware of how the other is feeling. The person betrayed might have a lot of questions and confusion regarding the situation. For example, he may not understand why he was told the betrayer was going to dinner with her family and instead, went out with the girls. He may feel an array of emotions from sadness, hurt, betrayal, anger to bitterness. The betrayer needs to be available to answer his questions, listen to the way he feels and to discuss why the betrayal occurred. Once the hurt and anger has been worked through, you can start repairing your relationship by rebuilding lost trust.

4 Have Patience

Repairing trust in your relationship will take time. It will probably take more time than you think it should to rebuild trust, which will require self-discipline and compassion, says Linda and Charlie Bloom. The person betrayed may need regular reassurance that the betrayal won't happen again. In order to have trust in a relationship, both partners have to show that they are reliable, responsible and dependable, according to the article "Trust" on the Palo Alto Medical Foundation's website. For example, if you tell your girlfriend you will call her after football practice, follow through on your word, and call her. If you were caught snooping through your boyfriend's phone and told him it wouldn't happen again, don't do it again. Be patient with the process of repairing trust and don't try to rush it.

Stacey Elkins is a writer based in Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a Masters in social work from the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she specialized in mental health.