Whether either of you cheated, or someone kept that extra source of income a secret, figuring out how to fix a relationship after trust is broken can feel like a herculean task. Though it may seem like a cold shoulder is all you’re getting despite all the effort you put in, we’re here to tell you it gets better, provided you know what you’re doing.
If a lack of ideas drove you here, be assured that you’re going to leave here knowing what to do. No, things probably won’t be rainbows and butterflies by tomorrow, but at least you’ll be a step closer to those perfect lazy Sunday afternoons that now seem like a distant reality.
Let’s talk about what to do when trust is broken in a relationship with the help of psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle (Ph.D., PGDTA), who specializes in relationship counseling and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.
Can A Relationship Work After Trust Is Broken?
“We’re never going to recover from this. This is the end,” might be going through your mind immediately after that big fight. Before we get into how to fix a relationship after trust is broken, it’s important to address these paranoid thoughts you may be having.
“It really depends on what the issue is that caused the breach of trust and how willing a partner is to forgive the other,” says Dr. Bhonsle. “If it’s something like infidelity, it may seem hard to walk it off. If a partner gambled some money after promising not to, it may be a bit more salvageable.”
“A ‘breach of trust’ is a very broad term. When you’re trying to figure out if the situation is fixable, you need to ask yourself a few questions like:
- How damaging is this breach of trust?
- How frequently does it happen?
- Is there a series of different issues or a single one?
- Are you both willing to work on it and move past it?
“At the end of the day, it largely depends on how forgiving a person is. Someone who experienced a lack of trust in their family dynamics will find it a lot harder to let bygones be bygones. It depends on personal temperament and a willingness to forgive,” says Dr. Bhonsle.
So if you’re Googling something like “how to rebuild trust with someone you hurt” after you forgot to wish them on their birthday, perhaps it’d be best if you calm down. But if it’s something like infidelity that you’re trying to work past, Dr. Bhonsle talks about all you need to do.
How To Fix A Relationship After Trust Is Broken
Research suggests that while recovering from adultery, a couple must focus on the following points:
- Knowing all the details of what transpired
- Not bottling up your anger
- Making an effort to show commitment
- Rebuilding trust
- Working on the relationship actively
But since every couple is essentially different, getting the trust back in a relationship after lying and cheating largely depends on how you handle it. Plus, things may be a little different for the person who got betrayed and for the partner who (hopefully) regrets messing up.
Related Reading: Trust Exercises For Couples To Improve Relationships
With that in mind, let’s take a look at each end of the spectrum, and what the betrayer, the betrayed, and both people together as a couple should do. Oh, and if you’re thinking skimming past the part that applies to you and closing this article will do the trick, you’re only buying yourself a ticket back here in a couple of days. See you then!
For The Betrayed: How To Fix A Relationship After Trust Is Broken
If you’ve been able to weather the storm that came after the initial discovery of trust being broken, you’ve already put yourself in a better position than most. Even if you did react like the rest of us, i.e., screamed and stormed out, there’s still a lot you need to start doing. Let’s get right into it.
1. Carry out a thorough risk assessment
No, a SWOT analysis won’t fix the trust issues in your relationship, but you’ve still got to analyze what you need to be doing now. “Before someone goes down a path of forgiveness, it’s important to carry out a risk assessment,” says Dr. Bhonsle.
“How likely is it that your trust is going to be broken again, given the track record of the person you’re in a relationship with? How genuine is their remorse? Do you believe you can get the trust back in a relationship after lying and cheating?” he asks.
Unless you convince yourself about what it is you must do, it’d pretty much be like getting that law degree just because your dad said it’d be a good idea. Four years down the line, you found yourself in debt, despair, and in need of a career change. Figure out what you want before you get to that stage.
2. Communicate with your partner
“Talk with the person who was the so-called ‘offender’ and try to understand what was going through their mind. What caused their judgment to be impaired? Get to know all the details, even if it hurts to talk about it.
“You need to try and gauge their perspectives, to understand what may or may not have caused it. Which in turn feeds into your understanding of whether it’s likely to happen again or not,” says Dr. Bhonsle.
Since you can’t figure out how to fix a relationship after trust is broken all by yourself, make sure you communicate with your partner calmly. Talk about what you’re feeling, get information about what happened, and move on to the next step: making a decision.
3. Which way, western man?
Once you’re over the thoughts like “Our broken trust can never be regained” and your risk assessment has landed you on a fair idea of what to do, you must commit to it.
“‘How much disrespect is too much disrespect’ is a very personal question that you must answer. Once you do, you’ve got to commit to the way forward you have chosen. Respect is the foundation of any relationship. Trust and love are equally important, but without mutual respect, there’s no depth to a dynamic,” says Dr. Bhonsle.
Can you establish mutual respect again, after you were left stranded? If you do make your mind up for it, make sure you follow through. Dipping your toe in the freezing cold water and saying “I tried” isn’t going to cut it. Take your shoes off and jump in with both feet.
For The Betrayer: How To Rebuild Trust With Someone You Hurt
Understandably, the only thing you might want to do right now would be to act like the whole thing never happened and continue to ignore this elephant in the room, hoping one day it’ll just get up and leave.
But much like the uninvited guests, this elephant is here to stay. The only way out, the only answer to “how to repair a relationship after trust is broken” is to confront it head-on. Let’s figure out how you can do that.
Related Reading: 10 Things To Do To Gain Trust Back In A Relationship After Lying
1. Take responsibility
“In an ideal world, the betrayer must accept his/her mistake and make amends. But you and I both know that doesn’t happen, does it? There’s always that phase where people may try to justify it or make it look like the circumstances were out of their control. Or that their partner is what brought them to such an extreme step.
“Instead of pointing fingers outward, it’s important to look inward and call a spade a spade,” says Dr. Bhonsle. Though every fiber of your being might want to say something like, “I was drunk, I couldn’t help it”, try not to. The circumstances of the situation will emerge if your partner tries to get the details of what happened.
2. Believe in your apology so your partner believes it too
“I don’t know why I did it. I’m sorry” isn’t going to cut it. It may not seem too important in the moment, but whether you sincerely apologize to someone you hurt or not can make or break the entire thing.
Make sure you’re remorseful, that you take responsibility for what you did, and that you have a plan to rectify things. This leads us to our third point on how to repair a relationship after trust is broken: make amends.
3. Do you want to get the trust back in a relationship after lying and cheating? Show it!
“There are certain terms and conditions that go into all happy relationships. If you want to hold on to your partner, avoid any kind of compounding of disgruntlement. Along with a change in behavior, there must also be a change in the philosophy that fuels that behavior. You’ve got to rewire yourself to do better and be more active,” says Dr. Bhonsle.
Showing that you are committed to making amends when trust is broken in a relationship can be as simple as being more transparent, proactive, and empathetic. No, breakfast in bed isn’t a quick fix to “how to fix a relationship after trust is broken,” but at least waking up to bacon and eggs will make your partner smile a bit.
For The Couple: How To Fix A Relationship After Trust Is Broken
Though the first thing you did after learning about the betrayal may have been storming out of your house, going forward, you need to work as a team. By working together towards a common goal, you could even end up fixing your toxic relationship. Broken trust can never be regained if the only two members of the team constantly want each other to be sent off by the referee.
1. Couples therapy is probably the best thing you can do
“When couples get their families or friends involved in fights, it turns into a debacle of ‘he said, she said’. It’s like playing football without any goalposts. Run around and tire yourself out all you want; there’s no point in what you’re doing.
“Just like the goals give purpose to the game of soccer, the goals give purpose to the process of conflict resolution and relationship reconciliation. A professional marriage counselor can help you ascertain the goals that your process will lead to,” says Dr. Bhonsle.
If you’re currently in a situation where you’re tackling how to fix a relationship after trust is broken by yourselves, consider seeking a counselor. Bonobology has a multitude of experienced therapists who’d be willing to help you through this trying time, including Dr. Bhonsle himself.
2. Be patient with each other
“If you want to continue your relationship, the couple needs to exercise a superhuman amount of patience with each other. When it comes to being a couple, you’re not going to see eye to eye on most things.
“There will be differences in opinions, ideas, dreams, and goals, but it’s important to talk it out. Don’t let it fester, it’ll eventually come out as a giant volcano of frustration,” says Dr. Bhonsle. When trust is broken in a relationship, so is any other foundation you may have set up. To nurture it again from the ground up is not an easy task.
Related Reading: Top 9 Tips To Build Trust In Relationships
3. Commit to working on the relationship
“You’ve got to demonstrate the change rather than just talking about what you’re willing to do. Prove your intentions every single day. When you want to walk together as opposed to walking away from each other, lay down your arms, figure out what you need to do.
“Things like ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ may seem like cliches, which they are, but they’re also true. Without a shared goal, what are you doing together with each other?” says Dr. Bhonsle.
Regardless of whether you messed up or if you were the one who got hurt, hopefully, you now have a better idea of how to fix a relationship after trust is broken. Though we spoke of what must be done in the long haul and the short run, it all begins with a commitment to change. So strap on your work boots and get to work.