You cannot build a lasting relationship without trust. If you’re constantly second-guessing your partner’s motives or are suspicious of them, your bond will fall prey to this mistrust sooner or later. A relationship becomes rife with this risk when trust between partners has already taken a hit due to infidelity, repeated lies, or lack of transparency. Fortunately, this damage doesn’t have to be permanent. With some effective activities to rebuild trust in a relationship, you can turn things around and re-learn how to lean on each other.
To build trust in a relationship again, you have to commit to taking conscious steps that reassure your partner that they can count on you. These don’t have to be life-altering changes but small everyday actions that reinstate their faith in you and your relationship. In this article, counseling psychologist Kavita Panyam (Masters in Psychology and international affiliate with the American Psychological Association), who has been helping couples work through their relationship issues for over two decades, tells us how to fix trust issues in relationships. If you’re struggling to figure out how to save a relationship without trust, these actionable and easy trust exercises for two can be a good starting point.
Couples Counselor Recommends 15 Activities To Rebuild Trust In A Relationship
To begin with, you need to have a clear idea about what it means to trust your partner or have them place their faith in you. So, rebuilding trust exercises for couples must focus on figuring out what it exactly means for both the people involved. Does trust, for you, mean total and complete honesty? Is trust synonymous with the absence of secrets between partners? Or is it something more?
You need to have unambiguous clarity about the definition of ‘trust’ if you wish to learn how to rebuild trust in a relationship. For helping couples bridge the trust gap, Kavita shares a worksheet that offers a framework to operate within:
Now that you have a better understanding of relationship trust-building exercises, the next important question is: How do you practice them in a manner that makes your partner see that you’re making an earnest effort for a deeper connection? To that end, here are 15 activities to rebuild trust in a relationship that you can explore:
Related Reading: Drawing The Line Between Love And Privacy In A Relationship
1. Assess where you stand, then begin to heal with kindness
The journey of learning to trust each other cannot begin unless you know where you’re starting from. This requires honest introspection. You must begin by honestly acknowledging what brought you to this point. Was it infidelity? If so, what kind: physical, financial, or emotional cheating? Or has emotional trust withered away because of a lack of respect and support in the relationship?
“It’s crucial to identify and acknowledge the root cause because the course taken to reverse the damage will vary accordingly. For instance, the relationship guidelines for restoring trust after infidelity will be different than the ones for dealing with secrecy in a relationship. And so on. That being said, some emotional bonding activities can be successfully applied to different circumstances, and that’s what we’re going to focus on,” says Kavita. Try to be as honest as possible while attempting this:
- Practice being kind to each other
- Even if you are angry/irritated, try to respond to your partner and not react
- Be as neutral as possible and listen to your partner with an open mind
- Take the time to assimilate and process what they’ve said, and then respond
2. 10-minute cuddle sessions – A simple trust exercise for two
“Rebuilding trust exercises for couples can be as simple as holding each other close and being in touch with how that makes you feel. Try five-minute or 10-minute cuddle sessions, where you embrace each other and stay in that position for the specified time. See how being in such proximity to one another pans out because it will give you a chance to feel each other’s energies and vibes,” says Kavita. Pay attention to the kind of feelings you’re experiencing:
- Do you feel uncomfortable with physical touch?
- Are you angry about past experiences?
- Is this proximity bringing up feelings of jealousy?
Likewise, you can also try to spend time looking deeply into each other’s eyes. Even research shows that eye contact leads to the release of hormones associated with attraction/affection, specifically phenylethylamine and oxytocin. So, this can be among the most effective vulnerability exercises for restoring trust after infidelity (as in these cases, physical intimacy takes a massive hit along with trust).
3. Add an element of playfulness to the relationship
How to rebuild trust in a relationship? Learning to have fun together can be a great place to start. Here are some fun trust exercises for couples:
- Having pillow fights (engaging with each other in a carefree spirit can bring in a lot of laughter/joy)
- Playing board games like chess, Chinese checkers, cards, carrom, etc.
- Making a snack together on a Sunday afternoon
- Pursuing a sport that you both enjoy, like badminton, tennis, or cycling
“When you play games, the release of endorphins induces that much-needed feel-good factor in the relationship. Also, it’s a team-building activity. All the fun and laughter from the experience can make you feel connected and closer to each other. This sense of connection can be an important step to regain trust in a relationship,” Kavita explains.
Related Reading: 10 Things To Do To Gain Trust Back In A Relationship After Lying
4. Do more and more things together
Routine, everyday tasks can be turned into emotional intimacy exercises as long as you practice mindfulness together and focus on one activity at one time. You can be in the same room and be doing different things and yet, it can make you feel more connected. Because this way, you understand and respect each other’s work or interests more.
So, you can both learn a new hobby and evolve in sync with each other. Speaking of activities you can do together, here are some fun trust exercises for couples that Kavita recommends:
- Signing up for workshops/courses (attending an obstacle course can help you lean on each other for support)
- Exercising (even if you both prefer different types of workouts, do them at the same time/space)
- Gardening (watching a sapling grow feels like a collective win and a metaphor to your own progress as a couple)
- Cooking (will help in trusting your partner and also a great stress buster for couples who love good food)
- Shopping together (helping each other pick out clothes/accessories to buy can become a building block of intimacy)
5. Writing letters of gratitude is one of the activities to rebuild trust in a relationship
One of the trust-building activities for couples after infidelity is to express appreciation for each other. Make this a monthly ritual. Write letters of gratitude to each other focusing on:
- The characteristics of the other person that fascinate you
- How they have been there for you in your times of need
- How they have pampered you and blessed you with their support
This builds intimacy and trust, and whenever something about them irritates you, you can reread these letters to remind yourselves how much you both value and respect each other. This can be a great way to mitigate any anger or angst you may be feeling toward one another.
“These letters serve as a guide that helps you learn and be mindful of the best about each other. This way, minor irritants do not come to the fore and rule your life. They stay in the backseat where they belong. Having said that, I’d like to highlight that this practice is applicable for functional couples and not dysfunctional relationships that are marred by gaslighting and manipulation,” says Kavita.
6. Honestly communicate future breaches of trust
“You need to create a plan to avoid any future breaches of trust. For example, if you have done something that betrays your partner’s trust, then you should come clean about it immediately and start a discussion about what happened and why, rather than putting it off so you don’t come across as looking guilty.
“At the same time, the other partner should keep an open mind to understand why it may have happened. That’s why you should commit to sitting together and discussing such issues without getting angry, abusive, or accusatory. The way to achieve that is through meaningful dialogue where you talk, then your partner talks, and then you respond when it’s your turn,” advises Kavita.
Related Reading: How To Trust Someone Again After They Hurt You – Expert Advice
These exercises to improve communication in a relationship help in reaffirming that you’re interpreting what they’re saying neutrally, without letting your perception color it. Some of the questions to rebuild trust in a relationship in such situations can be:
- “Would you like to know something more about this?”
- “Would you like to add something to this?”
- “Okay, this is what I’m hearing you say, is it what you’re trying to convey?”
These are the traits of clear communication between healthy couples, where the relationship is free of any gaslighting or manipulation. On the other hand, if you feel inclined to hide things from your partner and let issues simmer until they come out in an ugly way, then perhaps there is still work to be done in overcoming communication issues in your relationship. For such couples, the following questionnaire can be a good place of introspection to begin with:
7. Share secrets and practice openness
How to fix a relationship after lying? Stay committed to rebuilding the lost trust, brick by brick. One essential component of trust is transparency. So you can exchange your phones and share passwords with each other, if you’re comfortable doing that, and try to not be too attached to your devices.
“Trust-building exercises for couples after infidelity can also include leaving your phone around on the table, thus communicating to your partner that they have ready and easy access to it because you have nothing to hide. Likewise, a relationship can be damaged by financial infidelity. In such cases, try to practice honest communication about your finances – earnings, returns, investments – without fearing that the other person is going to take advantage of you,” advises Kavita.
The key to understanding how to restore a relationship is in being vulnerable with each other. You can share one of your secrets with your partner and they with you. See what your partner does with this information. Is it being used against you or is it held in a safe place? Once you understand that you can’t use such sensitive details (like secrets and passwords) against each other, or to infringe upon the other’s privacy, you would reach an extremely promising level of emotional intimacy in your relationship.
Related Reading: I Had Blind Faith In My Partner But Now I Can’t Trust Him
8. Activities to rebuild trust in a relationship include taking stock of progress
To fix a marriage without trust and respect, it’s vital to not lose sight of your progress and how far you’ve come. “Relationship exercises to rebuild trust take time. So, once a month or in two or three, sit down with your partner and discuss where you have made progress and which areas you still need to work on,” says Kavita, adding that to be able to do that, couples need to address the following questions:
- What have you gone through and survived together?
- What stressors has your relationship borne?
- How have you stood by each other through this difficult time?
- Do you feel safe with your partner?
Stock-taking is one of the activities to rebuild trust in a relationship that has the potential to reaffirm your belief in the bond of togetherness and teach you to have faith in your coupledom. It’s also a parameter to gauge how many feathers you have added to your healing cap and how many milestones you still need to cross.
It is important to know that you understand and value the essence of your relationship. For that, it’s essential that this stock-taking exercise is done with no blame-shifting or name-calling. You should be able to discuss things without indulging in personal attacks. Kavita shares a trust-building exercise for couples that allows both partners can try to gain clarity on their expectations about what a healthy relationship based on trust, love, and mutual respect looks like for each:
9. Schedule sexual intimacy
Scheduling time for sexual intimacy is one of the most underrated but important relationship trust-building exercises. If you’re married with children, it’s not unusual for intimacy to take a backseat. The same can be true of couples in long-term relationships without kids. This lack of intimacy is where the cracks often emerge initially, driving both partners apart, and hampering the connection, love, and trust they share.
That’s why taking the time out to schedule leisurely sessions to engage in sexual pleasures is of paramount importance. These sessions have to be different from the regular, perhaps even rushed, sex you may be engaging in routinely. At least once a week, prioritize your connection with your partner above all else – children, workload, and what have you. Here’s how you can spend quality time:
- Make the effort to dress up, smell good and liven up the ambience with candles
- Try to invite your partner in your space and also go to theirs
- This has to be more than just about physical gratification
- Think of it as a soul connection where you actually take time to explore each other
- Try to truly feel welcome in each other’s physical, mental, and emotional space
10. Apologize genuinely
Which action will best help a relationship survive a conflict? An authentic apology. But it has to be accompanied by behavioral change. Mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada points out, “You need to realize how important this relationship is to you. Apologize for the little things to establish honesty and accountability in relationships. Remind yourself that your partner is important to you and so are their feelings. Be honest about your mistakes. If you can’t speak directly, write them down and share them with your partner.” To ease the process, here are some words to build trust in a relationship:
- “I was wrong when I….”
- “I take accountability for what I did wrong, and I understand why you feel this way”
- “I’m sorry I said something that hurt your feelings. It was insensitive and uncalled for”
11. Understand each other’s love languages
Each one of us has a love language to which we are most receptive. So, building back trust in a relationship will require you to understand how your partner likes to be loved. Here are 5 love languages in a relationship:
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
Let’s take an example wherein one partner’s love language is words of affirmation. If so, frequently use statements such as ‘I love you’ or ‘I am glad to have you in life’. Also, shower them with text messages, or even little love notes and emails. You can even leave comments on their social media posts.
12. Trust fall
This activity is one of the scientifically proven couples therapy activities. You’re supposed to close your eyes and fall backward into the arms of your partner. Research suggests this simple activity can prove effective in building or restoring trust because it requires that you surrender to your partner and trust that they won’t let you hit the ground.
13. Try blindfold games to rebuild trust in a relationship
How to trust again in a new relationship? Google and jot down fun trust-building games for couples. Always be on the lookout for ways to spice up your marriage. Here are some blindfold games for couples that you can try:
- Guess the food (the blindfolded partner needs to guess what food they are being fed)
- Getaway surprise (take your partner on a quick getaway – a day or weekend trip – and open the blindfold when you arrive)
- Slow dance (actively listening to each other’s deep breaths while slow dancing blindfolded)
14. Create a vision board together
Psychologist Ridhi Golechha advises, “For rebuilding broken trust, creating a vision board together/planning a future helps. Sit together and ask yourselves this question, “Where would you like to see yourself three/five/ten years from today?”
“Once you create a vision board, it will create inspiration for a relationship to which you can work together. A pessimistic attitude can always be overtaken by a positive approach in life. So, having something to look at every day will help rather than trying to visualize it in your head, where there is already so much emotional instability and panic.”
15. Ask your partner for help
A study found that you are more likely to trust your partner when they prioritize you and your relationship over their self-interests. Rebuilding broken trust is all about small, everyday actions that compound into big results. You can start with making small requests such as:
- Getting milk/cookies/pickles from the grocery store
- Picking up Chinese for dinner
- Choosing an anniversary card for your parents
- A relationship becomes rife with the risk of falling apart when trust between partners has already taken a hit due to infidelity, repeated lies, or lack of transparency
- With some effective activities to rebuild trust in a relationship, you can turn things around and re-learn how to lean on each other
- The first step in this direction is defining what trust means to both partners
- Once you have done that, small, every day actions can lead to trust blossoming in the relationship again
- Scheduling intimacy, cuddle sessions, genuine apologies, writing gratitude letters, creating shared vision boards are some activities for rebuilding trust in a relationship
We hope these activities to rebuild trust in a relationship help you and your partner turn over a new leaf in your relationship. If you find that despite your best efforts, you’re not trusting your partner, know that couples therapy can be immensely effective in helping you work through your issues. Our counselors from Bonobology’s panel are always here for you.
People say that broken trust can never be regained. But that’s not true. Losing trust in someone hurts but there’s always a way to go back. You can work towards repairing trust in marriage by little things like five-minute cuddle sessions and gratitude letters. You can also ask your partner questions about marriage and family and what trust means to them.
In order to regain trust after cheating, try deep conversation on exactly why it happened. Other important things include genuine apologies and behavioral changes. Losing faith in someone you love can create deep scars. Rebuilding a relationship in such cases takes time. So, be patient and prepared to step out of your comfort zone.
Free fall, blindfold games and creating a vision board are some of the relationship exercises to rebuild trust. “What can I do to understand our different perspectives?”, “Can we hold hands?” or “When are you free for a date night?” are some of the questions to rebuild trust in a relationship.