The earliest humans couldn’t have survived the harsh living conditions without counting on each other. They entrusted each other with their lives while cohabiting as social groups.
While most of them huddled around a bonfire, someone was on the lookout for predators. Their mothering duties were community-based, and each child was every mother’s child.
Trust builds the foundation of any intimate relationship. It provides safety and respect. If you break the trust, you wreck their sanctuary, lose your respect and dependability, and risk the relationship itself.
Once broken, you can try to rebuild it. But only if the person who stopped trusting you allows it. If they decide to forgive, you can begin to show them your honest commitment to the partnership. But if they decide against it, the relationship begins its death march.
The rebel philosopher and cultural critic Nietzsche said, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
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How To Start Rebuilding Trust In Your Relationship
When trust breaks in a close relationship, often due to hiding facts, lies, broken promises, infidelity, or betrayal in any other form, it erodes one’s confidence in the partnership. With it, the other partner immediately feels pushed out of commitment and security.
Research suggests the following about building trust:
- 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, you trust the other person only when you believe they are benevolent and honest (Larzelere and Hudson, 1980).
Ask yourself if you have good relationships and reflect on them. If you say ‘No’ to your most crucial ones, explore why. Probably, you’ll find there are trust issues. If so, and you want to move past the status quo, here are some honestly helpful tips to fortify the trust in your relationship again.
1. Find out if you could align your compatibilities.
You would never fully trust an incompatible partner. Start your quest from there.
While it’s difficult to find a compatible partner or a friend to live with, yet it’s important to have them. Ideally, you’d want to bond with someone who shares the same values as you and has similar goals in life.
One way of finding out how compatible your partner will be is by going through a week or two trial period of spending 24 hours together. This will give both of you an idea about how you feel about your life together.
At the end of this time, evaluate your compatibility alignment with this in mind: No one person fits anybody’s perfect idea of a partner.
If both of you feel nothing vital is missing from your relationship, then you are likely a suitable match for each other.
If your values and goals in life are not aligned, then it may be best if you consider ending the relationship before committing. Alternately, instead of saying goodbyes, you could try changing the type of the relationship, as from being partners to being friends.
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 they wouldn’t change for the rest of your lives together?
2. Be transparent, without hiding your vulnerabilities.
You want to trust and be trustworthy in a friendship or a partnership. This act of building trust starts with honest transparency. Let them see your scars and know your weak points.
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 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, 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.
The first rule is to communicate more. The more you communicate 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. And tell them when you need them. Show you are dependable and ask when you need their support.
When trust breaks in a relationship, the first step of rebuilding it is admitting you have broken it.
But partners in relationships often try to repair the damage with endearing phrases like “I love you!” and “I trust you!” without accepting their offense. These attempts backfire, make the hurt person often get more suspicious of your intentions, and 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 suggest 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.
4. Keep your promises and walk your talk, always.
The first unwritten rule of all relationships is 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 they would take. Get a written record (like an email) from them.
If you have doubts, they’ll not 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 to people 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 gratitudes.
Gratitude to 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 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 of 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 either 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 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 improve your relationship. To do 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 free 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 in a foul way, 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 to face 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.
Specific Tips To Regain Trust In Your Relationship
You can regain trust and rebuild the relationship. But you must be willing to work at it with honest intention and commitment.
A. Trust Rebuilding Tips For The Offender
What to do when you are the one to break the trust? You can do a few right things while waiting for your victimized partner to reach a decision about the relationship. You would find the following tips useful:
- Apologize sincerely and unconditionally. Ask for forgiveness with simplicity and humility. Do not coerce your partner to forgive you because you pardoned them in the past. Do not suppose they have forgiven you because they no more bring up the issue.
- Show behavior to prove you are honest and candid about your dealings and events. Keep your partner updated about your engagements that do not involve them, at home and outside home.
- Assume responsibility for your mistakes and stop blaming your partner or other people, or situations, for your act of betrayal. Do not indulge in victim-shaming and victim-blaming, even if you want out of the relationship.
B. Trust Rebuilding Tips For The Victim
When you lose trust in your relationship because of the other person, it takes a lot to bring it back. There are two problems: getting over your anger and believing you won’t do it again. The following tips would help:
- Decide conclusively if you want to end the relationship, or you want to rebuild the broken trust. If you want to continue, then talk to them. Try to understand why they betrayed you and how did they reach that point. You might see the red flags you missed or your own missteps you overlooked.
- Choose to forgive. Remember, forgiving does not mean you are condoning their act of infidelity. It also does not mean you foget what they did. Forgiving means you no more harbor any bitterness or anger against your partner. Release resentment and stop overthinking.
- Remind yourself people can be trusted. Give it a second chance, if you want to, with a mindset of resilience and growth. Take the betrayal as a temporary setback and decide to bounce back from it and re-grow your relationship. If they are trying to be good, notice and praise their efforts (this is positive reinforcement).
C. Trust Rebuilding Tips For The Couple
Once you both agree to renew your fidelity vows and decide to restore the mutual trust, the following tips are extremely helpful:
- Re-analyze the experience with empathy
- Be open to change, grow, and improve
- Reveal your feelings and vulnerabilities
- Discuss what both need from each other
- Communicate freely and stay accessible
- Make fresh commitments and new promises
- Reignite the old passions and memories
- Stabilize and then strengthen your bond
- Plan future goals and dreams together
- Get professional help from a counselor
What is trust?
Trust is the “confidence that one will find what is desired from another, rather than what is feared.” (Deutsch, 1973).
Research describes trust as an attitude or state that changes depending on circumstances. But, according to Jane Penaz Eisner, in close relationships, trust is a trait, that is, a specific feature determined by genes, environment, or interactions between them. There are 3 dimensions of trust—predictability, dependability, and faith.
Penaz, introducing the Interpersonal Trust Questionnaire in her Ph.D. dissertation Interpersonal trust in close relationships, says, “Departing from current state approaches, I argue that (1) trust in close relationships is a trait, and (2) dispositional trust importantly influences friendship formation.”
Why is trust important?
Trust is vital for us to survive and thrive as humans.
We are here today studying our minds and brains because our forest-dwelling ancestors laid down the first rules of mutual trust. That mutual trust keeps modern humans secure from physical, mental, and emotional harm.
Researchers Larzelere and Hudson found when one person in a romantic relationship trusts another, they base it on: 1. benevolence (whether the other person is interested in their good or merely seeking their own gain), and 2. honesty (whether they can believe in their declared intentions).
Without trust, we go through the motions of keeping alive a relationship merely for the sake of it.
How do you lose trust?
Trust is presumptive in nature, and there will be times when the future will not mirror the past. Even if they were completely trustworthy in the early days of the relationship, your expectations from them in the future might go somewhat less fulfilled.
There has been little research focusing on factors that contribute to the erosion of trust. Research by Holmes, 1987, found distrust in marriages is marked by:
- perceptions of neglect by the other partner, and
- perceptions that the other person is trying to control the relationship.
From the non-scientific sources, we found the following anecdotal explanations:
- Trust is lost when you break promises
- Trust is lost when you show disrespect
- Trust is lost when you are not honest
- Trust is lost when you attack or abuse
- Trust is lost when you are not dependable
- Trust is lost when you are not open
- Trust is lost when you are not committed
- Trust is lost when you break the rules
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 the ebook: 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?
• • •
Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, chief editor of its blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.
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