Communicating After Trust Has Been Broken: Impossible?

How do you keep the lines of communication open when something has happened to destroy trust in a marriage or relationship? The simple answer is that it’s pretty hard to do!

If you’re human and you’ve been lied to or cheated on–your tendency is to probably shut yourself off from that person so you won’t risk getting hurt again.

As we’ve been gathering information for our “How to Spot a Liar” program

It’s really clear that couples who are coping with lying and mistrust in their relationship have trouble talking to one another.

(No shock there!)

They close the lines of communication with each other, even though they may not want to or think they’re doing it–and it ends up making the problem even worse.

Here’s a question from someone who’s in a similar situation…


“The biggest frustration in our relationship is keeping the lines of communication open while staying friends with each other. That would be the question I would ask–How does one do that peaceably when there’s been so much resentment and mistrust in the relationship.”


If we could paraphrase your question, it might go something like this…

“How do you stay friends and open to each other, even when you talk about IT?”

(IT being what happened to cause the resentment and mistrust in the first place, as well as what still may be going on that damages your relationship)

Not easy and we can see why it is your biggest frustration.

It’s never easy to talk about the uncomfortable stuff, even in a healthy relationship but have a major trust issue happen, it seems like the two people would have to be super-human to listen and talk to one another in a peaceful way.

We didn’t say impossible–but we have to say that it can be very difficult!

Here are some ideas…

1. Discover the truth of what’s really going on right now in your relationship.

Obviously, if cheating and lying are still going on, there’s no way for both of you to come to the table and talk (even about ordinary things) without a question mark being put in front of everything that’s said.

So, we suggest that if you need specific ways to find out if he or she is lying to you, check out “How to Spot a Liar.”

If you find out nothing is going on right now to warrant your distrust–then you have some work to do to start challenging the stories that come up in your mind.

One way to deal with those untrue stories is to practice our “3 minute Jealous Thought Stopper” technique which we explain in detail here–

2. Make sure that your commitment to each other is clear.

If your commitment to each other is clear (ie…”We’re both committed to making this relationship better and will do what it takes to move in that direction”) and you are specific about what that means and actually begin to SEE results that support that commitment–

You’ll be able to gradually start opening to each other again–and that means talking honestly to each other.

But in order for this to happen, you have to see results that show that both people are making an effort to move in that direction.

We say “both” people because it won’t do any good if the recovering liar or cheater is making positive steps toward making your relationship better and you can’t let go of what happened in the past–no matter what he or she does.

“Peaceful” communication comes when both people are honest and trust one another.

They let their defenses down and they really say what’s on their minds in a way that can be heard by the other person.

We go into specifics on ways to talk to each other–especially when it’s been difficult–in our “Stop Talking on Eggshells” course–

3. Be honest with yourself.

Look at your situation with honest eyes and don’t kid yourself about what’s really¬† happening. Not to be a downer but if there’s one thing we learned from reading a lot of stories about lying and cheating, it’s this…

People (men and women) stayed in relationships a long time, hoping that they would get better but without seeing any results that they really were getting better.

While we are certainly proponents of staying in your relationship, seeing what you both want and if you both want to make it work–

We are also proponents of moving on when you are in a relationship that is harmful to you and filled with lies and deceit.

If you need help sorting it all out, check out our “Should You Stay or Should You Go?”

Good communication is the exchange of information or opinions, a sharing of something with others. If trust is an issue, the act of sharing freely and openly can’t happen.

It might sound like the old “chicken and the egg” question…

How can you ever trust again if you can’t communicate and how can you communicate if you can’t trust?

We say that you can–a little at a time–with both people honestly taking one step and then another toward it.


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