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How to rebuild trust in your relationship
by Kim Romen, MSW, LCSW

It can be difficult to rebuild trust in a relationship when trust has been broken, but it is possible.  Often times it can even be possible to get to a much better place in the relationship than before the trust was broken.  Many times it takes something big to happen in a couple’s relationship to motivate them to do the work needed to have a healthy, fulfilling relationship.  Often times infidelity, a separation, or a discovered secret ends up being a sort of “wake up call” and motivation to nurture a relationship.  Many times couples who have successfully worked through something such as infidelity say that they are happier than they had ever been in their relationship and although they wish the infidelity never happened, they may never had taken their relationship so seriously in order to do the hard work to get to the new place. 

I am by no means recommending that you have an affair to spice up your relationship, but I am saying that there is hope for reconciliation if trust has been broken in your relationship.  Here are some tips for the person who broke trust:

  1. Apologize.  A truly remorseful person takes full responsibility for their actions, not make excuses or blaming anyone or anything else for what they did.
  1. Be specific.  “I’m sorry I was mean” is a start, but “I’m sorry that I hid the debt from you” is much better.  It is another step towards taking ownership for what you did and it allows the other person to know that you recognize that you put your needs in front of your spouse’s needs. 
  1. Be real and honest.  Your spouse will be able to see through you if you are faking.
  1. Make sure that you communicate not only with your words, but also with body language. If your words match your body language, your apology will be more clear, reliable and believable.
  1. Offer to make amends.  You cannot erase what you did, but you can show that you are willing to try to pick up the pieces and make up for your actions. 
  1. Go to counseling or get help, especially if the underlying reason for breaking trust is an addiction, if deceit has become a pattern, or if your spouse wants counseling to take place. 
  1. Ask your partner if they need time and space.  Do not push.  Consider their feelings and remember that it takes time to heal. 
  1. Answer your spouse’s questions.  This can be very difficult, but your spouse needs this in order to heal, especially when the offense was very large.  Although it may never-ending, your partner will not ask questions forever.  If the issue keeps coming up, it may be time for counseling. 
  1. Take reasonable measures to rebuild trust.  From here on out, be trustworthy.  Keep your word.  If you had an affair, be in regular contact with your spouse when working late.  If you spent money you did not agree on, offer to your spouse access to review credit card statements.    
  1. Forgive yourself.  We all make bad choices sometimes.  Do all that you can do to make things right, learn from your mistakes, and forgive. 

Article written by Kim Romen, MSW, LCSW. Published in the Ahwatukee Foothills News on October, 2010.

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