Trust brought us here into the 21st century. The earliest humans couldn’t have survived the harsh living conditions without counting on each other.
Only when they started trusting each other with their lives did they start cohabiting as social groups.
At night, they went to sleep after eating and huddling around a bonfire, while some kept an eye out for predators. During the day, the mothers worked as a community, and each child was every mother’s child.
Trust gives safety, dependability, and respect to our relationships. Break the trust, and you wreck their sacred sanctuary, lose their respect, and risk the relationship itself.
“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on, I can’t believe you.”— F. Nietzsche, rebel philosopher and cultural critic
However, you can build trust in a relationship again. Let’s dive in to know the approved strategies.
What destroys trust in a relationship?
The most frequent causes that destroy trust in relationships are physical or mental abuse, lying or gaslighting, breaking promises, hiding facts, cheating, and dishonest or deceiving behavior.
Check your relationships and ask yourself if they are positive and stress-free. If you notice that some of your most crucial relationships are not going well, think about why. If you uncover some trust issues and want to change things, look for practical strategies to rebuild trust in your relationship.
What does it mean to be vulnerable in a relationship?
Being vulnerable in a relationship means expressing one’s deeper emotions, revealing the scars, and opening up to a loved one.
Vulnerability is an act of courage that can strengthen a relationship. When a person is sure that the other would not exploit their vulnerabilities, it builds trust, intimacy, and sensitivity in a relationship.
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How To Rebuild Trust In A Relationship
To rebuild trust in a relationship, first, be the one they can trust again.
Research suggests the following about trust-building:
- Trust grows over time when a person keeps fulfilling their promises. You gradually learn to expect others will keep their promises (Rotter, 1967).
- In romantic love, a partner trusts the other only when they believe that person is benevolent and honest (Larzelere and Hudson, 1980).
When trust breaks in a close relationship, the betrayed partner feels pushed out of commitment and security. It casts doubts on the partnership’s future.
Here are 12 strategies to help you rebuild trust in your relationship:
1. Find out if you are compatible.
You would never fully trust an incompatible partner.
Start your quest by asking yourself, Is your partner compatible with you?
Finding a compatible partner or friend is not easy, but it is a vital part of life. We build our lives around social connections, and ideally, we seek to bond with those who share our values and goals.
Spending 24 hours a day for a week or two in a different city is one way to find out how compatible you and your partner are. At the end of this period, re-evaluate your compatibility with this in mind: No one is a perfect match in every way for anyone.
This will give you both an idea about how you feel about your life together and whether you have moved on from the trust breach.
Can you accept each other’s limitations? If yes, and if that doesn’t make you both feel that anything vital is missing from your relationship, you are most likely a compatible couple.
But if you find your core values and life goals do not sync, it may be time to end the relationship. Instead of saying goodbye, you might consider changing the type of relationship, such as from partners to friends.
2. Be transparent. Be vulnerable.
True transparency, not dishonest translucency, is required to rebuild trust in a friendship or partnership. Choose to be completely honest about your intentions, decisions, and actions.
Let yourself be vulnerable. Let them see your scars and know your weak points.
Vulnerability is being present with your entire emotional repertoire. Studies show that acknowledging your vulnerabilities strengthens and prepares you to protect yourself.
When you’re in love, you are vulnerable. Paradoxically, this vulnerability adds strength to your relationship. You feel secure they won’t exploit your flaws and secrets, but stand guard for you.
Vulnerability is reciprocal sharing built on mutual consent and healthy boundaries. Trust makes vulnerability possible, and in turn, vulnerability makes trust stronger.
Vulnerability begins with transparency. Being 100% (okay, maybe ~90% is a better goal) transparent about thoughts and feelings with your partner is necessary, even though difficult.
Building healthy levels of trust in a relationship requires time and effort from both. You need long patches of time together to share freely and grasp tenderly each other’s needs and dreams.
And to communicate openly, the couple must have (or, at least, attempt to have) full honesty and transparency with one another.
Remember, though, that love and trust don’t always go both ways. You could trust someone without loving them, but you can’t love someone without trusting them.
3. Communicate clearly and frankly, but don’t force yourself.
Trust is steadily built through healthy two-way communication.
The biggest threat to trust is disengagement. Trust fades when you stop caring, stop engaging, or stop showing up for them.
If they forgive you after you have violated their trust, you may prove your renewed commitment to the relationship by being there and communicating more than ever before.
But you can’t force trust. If they choose not to trust you again, accept their decision and let the relationship die.
The rule is to communicate more. The more you interact with people you need in your life, the more trust they have in you and the relationship.
Keep your commitments and expectations clear. They should know exactly what you can or cannot do for them. Make yourself available when you’re needed.
Tell them when you desire their presence or require their support. Let them show how dependable they are.
When trust breaks in a relationship, and you set out to rebuild it, first admit to them that you broke it.
Often, without accepting their offense, partners in relationships try to repair the damage with endearing words like “I love you!” and “I trust you!” These attempts usually backfire, making the hurt person get more suspicious of the offender’s intentions and creating further mistrust.
Be clear in a way your partner understands you. Do not beat around the bush with your communication style. But, please, be kind when you do that.
When answering questions or suggesting solutions, use an assertive and compassionate tone of language, so they are clear about your intentions.
However, even when what you propose is crystal clear, do not hound the person to follow it through. You have supplied the information; how they use it is their privilege. They have free will; don’t dare take that away.
In times of need, what one most expects is their partner’s positive response to their calls. Once again, the onus is on you. You must show your partner you’re worth their efforts to entrust you with their love.
The toughest decision hangs on treading the commonest path, when you like some of their qualities and abhor others. Two questions to ask here are:
- Would they change some of those behaviors or goals for being in the relationship?
- Would you tolerate some of those things that they wouldn’t change for the rest of your lives together?
4. Keep your promises. Walk your talk, always.
The first unwritten rule of all relationships is that once you earn their trust, they believe you will keep it safe. When they do not feel sure if you can keep their secrets and complexes safe, you cannot expect a lasting relationship.
If you want to build trust in a relationship, you must show and maintain integrity and consistency.
- Do what you say you’ll do.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
- Make sure the same rule set applies to both of you.
For example, if a friend asks you for help and says they’ll repay the favor by getting coffee for both of you next time, make sure they keep their end of the bargain. If they don’t follow through, don’t accept their offer again.
Give them a chance to walk their talk. If they misuse it, close that door forever.
As another example, if a friend asks to borrow money and promises to pay it back with interest, ask how much interest they would pay and how long would they take. Get a written record (like an email) from them.
If you have doubts that they won’t keep their word, then decline politely and boldly. If they make you feel pressured, then help them out with such a small amount that you wouldn’t mind losing forever.
The “keep your promises and walk your talk” applies most to how YOU act in relationships. To have trustworthy relationships, make sure you live up to what you say.
Either don’t make promises or do everything that you promise, whatever the situation (unless it feels like the end of the world). Make it clear what they can expect from you.
Finally, use your intuition. Let your gut feeling be the best judge to test the viability of your promises.
5. Be truly thankful. Keep a diary of your blessings and gratitude.
Gratitude for other people’s kind acts is a key to our happiness. A true sense of gratitude involves three steps:
- feeling it
- appreciating it
- expressing it
A gratitude journal records the things you are grateful for. To help yourself be more thankful, start a relationship-specific gratitude journal.
Write three things your partner did that day that made you smile or feel happy about your relationship. Then, read aloud that list to them.
It could be little things, like when they laughed their heart out at your joke. A record of your appreciation shows your partner you notice and cherish them.
Gratitude stops you from taking your partner and your relationship for granted.
If you missed this one, now is the time to make it right and learn how to do the three good things.
6. Don’t always put the relationship under a microscope.
You will have occasional doubts about your partner. No relationship goes untouched by it. The point is to find out where it stems from.
Does it come from their unfamiliar behavior or your mind playing probable scenarios? Before putting them under a microscope, ask yourself if you are expecting too much of your partner?
Consider your nagging inner voice as your lighthouse—it can show you if the waves are stormy, but can’t tell you which direction to take.
If your mind plays out negative loops about your partner’s behavior, do not amplify it by overthinking. Ask them about it. But first, make it clear to yourself what direction would you take if they accept your doubts as true, or reject them.
Assure them you are ready to open up honestly about their doubts about you.
7. Show and expect honesty and authenticity at all times.
You can’t fake your way into a lifetime relationship. Eventually, they’ll know. And you’d lose your entire investment—time, energy, feelings, emotions, commitment.
Rather, be authentic and honest; it’s less work and more pay.
This is especially where the question of rebuilding trust comes. Think about what happened in the past that led your partner to want you to be completely honest with them.
You may have broken their trust by being dishonest or by doing something you should have known was wrong. If they agreed to forgive you, then change your outlook and behavior for the better.
If trust is what you want, then trust is what you give.
So, this time, promise not to break their trust. Show them they can trust you by treating them with respect and caring about what they want in your relationship.
8. Realize and act on your partner’s needs.
Can you correctly point out what your partner needs from you?
Don’t guess and don’t lie. Don’t pretend you know more than they do. Or declare you couldn’t know because of their secretive instincts.
Did you ask them ever? For all, your partner may not even know what their needs are when it comes to you. And they might think the same about you.
Begin with the premise that you don’t know each other well enough.
Ask them what their interests are, what they like, and what they want you to do for them. Similarly, express what you expect from them and how would you want the relationship to shape up.
If you can’t get your partner to share their needs with you, you cannot address what needs to be done to strengthen your relationship. To achieve that, both of you have to be honest about what’s not working.
However, if your partner is holding out on you, they might have reasons to hide their needs and desires. Don’t jump to the belief they don’t care about you.
When you’re not on the same page, talk it out. Schedule spare time for knowing each other better by asking and listening.
9. Accept your mistakes and failures without arrogance.
Take ownership of your role in the relationship.
Be honest about your flaws, shortcomings, and mistakes. Do not hide important aspects that could your relationships. Your partner should never have to feel insecure or wonder what you’re up to.
If you lost the job, tell them. If you squandered a boatload of money, let them know. If you felt attracted to another person, let them know.
Look for your partner’s strengths rather than pointing out your own. Help each other grow and nurture.
Never call out your partner’s imperfections. Their flaws made them what they are today. They may not have the same level of flaws as you do, but that doesn’t make you any superior.
Accepting a person with their flaws eventually makes them feel honored, adored, and treasured.
10. Surprise them with random acts of love and kindness.
Show up with small, thoughtful gestures of kindness and love each day.
When you take their feedback, respond with kindness. When they get upset, let them talk it out while you listen with tenderness.
Set rules before starting tough conversations—no shouting, interrupting, making derisory gestures or expressions, or walking away.
Be creative in finding solutions to your doldrums. For one, you could each sit with a pencil and notebook. Write the thoughts arising in your mind while they talk. At the end of your talk, both of you write at least three points you agree upon.
It would help you get familiar with each other’s preferences.
Don’t be afraid to decide for both of you, as long as you do it out of love and care. If your partner isn’t too happy with the way you planned things, take their opinions on how else you could have done. Then adjust your behavior for the next time.
Put your partner first. If you are all about yourself, you’ll end up being the narcissist in the relationship. Make sure they always have enough space to say what they want to.
11. Be emotionally intelligent when you open up about your feelings.
Emotional intelligence is how you identify and manage your emotions and react to other people’s emotions. It can help build trust in relationships.
First, take responsibility for your emotions and behaviors. You alone are the owner of your emotions, so do not blame others for causing them.
So, when you feel you’re about to react to your partner with toxicity, you also realize it is because of jealousy rising in you.
Celebrating and reflecting on life’s pleasant moments is a key aspect of emotional intelligence. Those who feel more positive emotions are more likely to have fulfilling relationships. They are also more resilient when facing adversities.
Emotional outbursts can occur when you don’t take the time to slow down and process your feelings. To overcome your impulsivity, try mindful meditation, practicing certain yoga poses, or watching a cartoon movie.
So, the next time you and your partner have an abrasive conversation, you could pause yourself before breaking out. This pause helps you check your rash action, and make a more rational response.
12. Create a schedule for a healthy lifestyle together.
Physical activities, eating right and, of course, a good night’s sleep will help increase your energy levels, happiness, and optimism.
When energetic, you can do the tasks you promise them, and even go an extra mile for them. When happier, you bond better and believe more in each other. With an optimistic outlook, you anticipate a brighter future, built on mutual trust.
Plan activities together, like a morning jog. Find time to spend together outside your house. Take an evening off to drop in at the oldest library in your city.
Go on uncommon adventures together. Like visiting an orphanage to celebrate your birthdays and sharing your happiness with those kids.
We do not have a lot of research on what works best in rebuilding trust. A 2016 paper you may refer to is this: Developing trust in close personal relationships: ethnic Chinese’s experiences.
Meanwhile, we have a sizable body of scientific literature on the nature and importance of interpersonal trust in close relationships. But most of those do not spell out the practical strategies for building trust. So, this article bases itself on anecdotal evidence rooted in practical experiences.
✶ Download e-book: 13 Honest Tips To Build Trust In A Relationship
• • •
Love can heal; empathy cannot.
Empathy can even hurt you and end relationships.
Did you know psychopaths can empathize better than many of us?
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, chief editor of its blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.
• Our story: Happiness India
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