If trust in your love relationship has been broken because of infidelity or another betrayal, your situation might feel bleak and even hopeless. You may remember a time when you felt close and connected with this person. Now, that time seems distant. Or it could be that you never felt a strong bond of trust between the two of you. In either case, the kind of relationship that you want to have may appear elusive and even impossible.
In difficult times, it is vital that you stay focused on what you want and also on your next step. If it feels overwhelming to think too far ahead, don’t. You can keep what you want in mind as a goal and then look only as far as your very next decision. Believe it or not, a trust turnaround can happen after a series of seemingly small steps. They all can add up to that relationship you desire– whether it’s with your current partner or down the road with someone else.
Consider these 8 steps toward a trust turnaround as a starting point. You can learn and practice them in-depth in our new guidebook, Relationship Trust Turnaround.
Step #1: Step back and determine your situation. Take off all blinders as well as your perceptions that may be biased by fears, jealousy or anger. From as “objective” a standpoint as you can manage at this moment, really look at your situation. Where do you stand now in the aftermath of the trust violation? Keep yourself focused on your feelings and what you absolutely know to be true rather than guesses or suppositions you may be making.
Step #2: Understand your relationship rules and values. Each person brings to a relationship rules and values. These might be things you were taught from an early age or beliefs and preferences you have developed over time. Nobody’s rules or values are necessarily “right” or “wrong.” But often, in relationships, we don’t make our rules and values clear to the other person or we don’t truly listen to the rules and values of our partner.
This lack of information and sometimes lack of respect can lead to hurt and betrayals. On the flip side, when you really listen to your partner’s relationship rules and make clear to him or her your own, you two can make agreements that feel good to both of you. This allows trust to rebuild.
Step #3: Learn to trust yourself. How many times do you discount your own feelings because you’ve learned that it’s easier to shove aside how you feel, that what you feel isn’t valid, or for other reasons? Maybe you’re confused because your gut seems to be guiding you one way and your mind is guiding you in another. When you learn to trust yourself, you can move forward with your truth with confidence and clarity. From this place of self-trust, you can also set the boundaries you need to set within your relationship.
Step #4: Learn from what happened. Just about nobody wants to go back and revisit the infidelity or other betrayal that contributed to trust being broken in a relationship. While we don’t encourage you to revisit all of the details of what happened, we do urge you to learn what you can from the events.
Listen to yourself and to your partner with openness and find out what need was not being met at the time of the infidelity or betrayal. This is not about assigning (or re-asserting) blame or about making any behaviors okay, but it can be useful for you to learn from the past as you move forward.
Step #5: Decide what you each want and determine steps you are willing to take. Come back to the present moment and take a good hard look at what you want for yourself and your relationship at this time. If you are staying in the relationship, listen closely to what your partner wants. Now see where there is overlap or areas of convergence and from those spaces, determine the steps you two are willing to take. Write them down as a reminder.
Step #6: Make the commitment to rebuild trust. Every time you take another step toward healing in your relationship, make sure that it is backed up with a commitment to rebuilding trust together. In order to make a conscious commitment to rebuild trust, you both may need to look at your individual beliefs and attitudes about yourselves, each other and your relationship. Sometimes those beliefs and attitudes can block your movement and keep you stuck in the past, the pain and the disconnection. As you let those limitations go, you can commit to turn trust around.
Step #7: Determine the specific skills and strategies you need to learn. What new skills and strategies might be helpful to bring you two closer together and rebuild trust? Identify the specific skills that could be beneficial and then seek out resources to aid you both in developing them. This might include learning how to communicate more effectively, assistance in dealing with past traumas, or other skills.
Step #8: Rediscover fun, connection and love. As much as you can, allow yourselves to have fun along the way. Yes, you may be working through some difficult issues, but you can also make room for fun, connection and love. Try out activities that you two used to share and enjoy and see if they make you feel good together again. Explore some new activities that make you both feel alive. Remind yourself of all of the aspects about your partner that you used to love and adore. He or she is probably different now (as you are), but we bet those endearing qualities are still there to be found or rediscovered– especially as trust begins to rebuild.
We encourage you to look for what’s going right in your relationship. There might still be issues of disagreement and bumps as you proceed. But you can facilitate fully opening up to one another and to the rebuilding of trust more easily when you acknowledge and celebrate the trustable moments along the way.