Rebuilding trust in a relationship

May 25, 2019 - 12 minutes read

Relationships can reach a point where cracks start to appear in its foundation: Trust. Rebuilding that takes some very active steps, and I’m going to walk you through how to put trust back together.

Being a man means owning your mistakes, and I recently made one that caused a fair amount of damage to a relationship I was highly invested in.

I’ve had to make a full reassessment of how I acted and adjust my behaviours with a view to growing and developing within the relationship. I won’t go into specifics, but when people think about mistrust in a couple, they normally imagine other people entering the equation.

But it can stem from a range of causes. A person might fall in with the wrong crowd and end up getting smashed every night. They might lie about a substance or gambling habit. Another couple might simply not be communicating properly and grow distant, or a husband might consistently promise his wife things in life that do not come to fruition.

Whatever the reason, this is a definitive list of ways to take ownership, improve yourself, and communicate effectively throughout the whole process.

  1. Being transparent

If you have done wrong, the main first step is to come clean.

It takes major balls, but don’t congratulate yourself too hard. It’s the bare minimum she deserves, and needs doing because it’s the right thing to do, not because it exonerates you.

Avoiding having an all-important discussion because of the possible repercussions will multiply those consequences tenfold when the truth eventually comes out – and it will come out.

So take ownership of what you’ve done, whatever it is. Be the one that brings it to the table as something to fix. There will be a range of ugly emotions that were the natural outcome of whatever decision you took to break trust.

From that point onwards, you need to be completely transparent about your comings and goings.

  1. Don’t act defensive

Let’s make one thing clear: No finger-pointing or blame-gaming is going to make her any less mad at you. Quite the opposite.

Taking ownership means you also take any flak coming your way as a consequence of your decision. You forgo the right to get defensive and confrontational, however great the temptation. It’s also going to make the whole argument harder to get past.

Listen wordlessly. Let your partner express their disappointment and rage to you. And then let them know that they are completely entitled to feel that way and give them space to process what has happened and their next steps. 

  1. Validate what they are right on

Part of not getting defensive is accepting that they are right about certain things.

You might not agree with everything they’re saying, but they will be justified in at least some of their expressions of betrayal.

Vocally accept that they are right. These are the first signs that you accept your actions and whatever effects come with it. You also need to show a willingness to try repair the damage, and this starts with communication. 

  1. Don’t talk the big game on how things will change. Actually implement changes.

Now more than ever before, you have to be a man of your word.

Lofty ideas or grand plans (such as a couple trying to conceive a baby to “save a relationship”) might provide a brief papering over the cracks, but they won’t reinject trust into the relationship on a sustainable basis.

Likewise, a single grand gesture or promise won’t cut it. Trust is difficult to rebuild, but it is based on actions rather than words.

Don’t promise anything you’d be unable or unwilling to follow through on, such as a spontaneous marriage or long-term agreement you know you’re not ready for.

Instead, start by making and keeping small, achievable goals. This might include cutting down the amount of times a week you stay out late, taking your partner out when you say you will, and even little chores and responsibilities you take on throughout the day.

Building a good track record of these smaller fulfilments will help a partner have more faith when you make the bigger promises. You’ll also be in a better headspace to uphold them.

  1. Have patience. Time is a healer.

Expecting these problems to go away after one conversation is wishful thinking.

In real life, it’s far harder to generate real, lasting trust after breaking it for the first time.  Your partner will take a while to process your actions and work out their next steps.

Don’t try to rush or pressure them into feeling better about the situation. They will need space and respect. If they see you keeping promises, they’re likely to start feeling better about being with you. But don’t expect it overnight.

  1. Be consistent when checking in with her using daily texts or call

The more your partner has to check up on your whereabouts, the worse they’re going to feel about your recommitment to the relationship.

As part of working on your transparency, you have to keep the one you love updated on your whereabouts. Let them know if you’re going to be late from work, or if you grabbed a spontaneous drink with your friends. It takes 15 seconds to compose a text message.

When you’re on nights out, take 5 minutes to step out and call them. Ask how their evening has been and let your partner know they’re in your thoughts.

That five-minute conversation can allay their fears for a whole evening. If you make this a habit, you’ll find trust starts to develop again. 

  1. Move forward and avoid dwelling on the past

Everybody makes mistakes, and anyone with a moral compass feels bad about them. On the road to rebuilding trust, you’ll no doubt apologise countless times.

However, it’s not only about apologising profusely. You’ve also got to move forward. There’s no point in getting stuck in that headspace, because in the long run, that’s only going to inflict more damage to the relationship.

Start having fun together again. Remind your partner why they fell in love with you in the first place. It sounds easier said than done, but if you take the lead on it, you can start building new memories.

It’s a slow process, but it’s the start of healing within the relationship. 

  1. Don’t try to rush the reconciliation

While you both have to move forward, you have to leave space for your partner to be mad at you from time to time.

These darker moments in a relationship take time to move past. Memory tends to play on the negative, and no matter which direction you try to take things, there will almost be moments of doubt when you’re rebuilding a dynamic.

Open up channels of communication and let your partner know that if she wants to talk about what happened, she can. If you’re avoid being defensive, talking matter-of-factly, and staying true to your word, those conversations will become less and less tough over time.

It’s a long road, but it is walkable.

  1. Treat the moment as a turning point.

Understand this: Although it’s a shitty time, you have to see it as the best thing that could’ve happened to your relationship.

Treat this fork in the road as a correctional moment knowing that you could actually lose each other. If you’ve truly changed and have expressed that you’re sorry in authentic ways, the fallout from poor decisions can show you the stakes of a relationship.

Getting to rebuild the relationship might actually make it stronger in the long run. You’ve had to work harder and fight to hold on to what makes the two of you special together.

  1. Be consistently kind and caring

That’s it. You might not get any more second chances. So take back responsibility, stay in control of your place in the relationship, and start looking after their feelings again.
You have to step back up to the plate. It’s not about grand gestures or expensive presents (although neither hurt when they’re sincere). Instead, listen when your partner talks about their day at work. Make them nice meals from time to time. Look after them when they’re sick.

And, it goes without saying, make a point of never hurting her again.

As a forewarning, there’s no rebuilding trust after some actions. If you’ve cheated on a partner with a friend, for example, you might not see all that much more time left in the relationship.

You can at least give it a fighting chance using these tips.

For more advice on rebuilding connections, visit www.johnnycassell.com/pua-training.