Relationships Spouses & Partners Marital Problems How Couples Can Rebuild Trust in a Relationship By Sheri Stritof Sheri Stritof Sheri Stritof has written about marriage and relationships for 20+ years. She's the co-author of The Everything Great Marriage Book. Learn about our editorial process Updated on November 07, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Carly Snyder, MD Medically reviewed by Carly Snyder, MD Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Verywell / Cindy Chung Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Picking up the Pieces Rebuilding Trust Rebuilding the Relationship Getting Professional Help Trust in an intimate relationship is rooted in feeling safe with another person. Infidelity, lies, or broken promises can severely damage the trust between partners. That, however, does not necessarily mean that a relationship can't be salvaged. Although rebuilding trust can be challenging when there is a significant breach, it is, in fact, possible if both partners are committed to the process. Picking up the Pieces It takes much time and effort to re-establish the sense of safety you need for a relationship to thrive and continue to grow. Recovery from the trauma caused by a break in the trust is where many couples who want to get back on track can get stuck. Research has shown that couples must address the following five sticking points in order to effectively move past a breach of trust: Knowing the detailsReleasing the angerShowing commitmentRebuilding trustRebuilding the relationship Whether you were the offending partner or the betrayed, to rebuild the trust in your relationship, both of you must renew your commitment to your relationship and to one another. Know the Details Even in seemingly clear-cut cases of betrayal, there are always two sides. The offending partner should be upfront and honest with information, in addition to giving clear answers to any and all questions from their partner. This will give the betrayed party a broader understanding of the situation. What happened, when, and where? What feelings or problems may have contributed to this situation? What were the mitigating circumstances? Release the Anger Even minor breaches of trust can lead to mental, emotional, and physical health problems. Partners may have trouble sleeping or diminished appetite. They may become irritable over small things or be quick to trigger. While it may be tempting to stuff all of the anger and emotions down, it is imperative that betrayed partners tune in and reflect on all the feelings that they have. Consider the impact of your partner's betrayal on you and others. Reflect on how life has been disrupted including thinking about all the questions and doubts that are now emerging. Make your partner aware of all these feelings. Even the offending partner is encouraged to express any feelings of resentment and anger they may have been harboring since before the incident. Show Commitment Both parties, especially the betrayed, may be questioning their commitment to the relationship and wondering if the relationship is still right for them or even salvageable. Acts of empathy—sharing pain, frustration, and anger; showing remorse and regret; and allowing space for the acknowledgment and validation of hurt feelings—can be healing to both parties. Building off of this, defining what both sides require from the relationship can help give partners the understanding that proceeding the relationship comes with clear expectations that each person, in moving ahead, has agreed to fulfill. Both parties must work to define what is required to stay committed to making the relationship work. In communicating this, avoid using words that can trigger conflict (e.g., always, must, never, should) in describing what you see, expect, or want from your partner. Instead, choose words that facilitate open conversation and use non-blaming "I" statements. For example, favor "I need to feel like a priority in your life" over "You never put me first." Rebuilding Trust Together, you must set specific goals and realistic timelines for getting your relationship back on track. Recognize that rebuilding trust takes time and requires the following: Decide to forgive or to be forgiven. Make a conscious decision to love by trying to let go of the past. While achieving this goal fully may take some time, committing to it is what's key. Be open to self-growth and improvement. You can't repair broken trust with just promises and statements of forgiveness. The underlying causes for the betrayal need to be identified, examined and worked on by both partners for the issues to stay dormant. Be aware of your innermost feelings and share your thoughts. Leaving one side to obsess about the situation or action that broke the trust is not going to solve anything. Instead, it is important to openly discuss the details and express all feelings of anger and hurt. Want it to work. There is no place in the process for lip service or more lies. Be honest about and true to your wishes. Once the above points have been taken to heart by both sides, talk openly about your goals and check in regularly to make sure you are on track. Press Play For Advice On Forgiveness Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares why it's OK to give second chances, featuring Purple Heart recipient Craig Rossi and Fred. Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts For the Offender As the person who compromised the relationship, it may be hard or even painful to be reminded of your wrongdoings. Remember, though, that the above steps are essential to the process of repair and recovery. As you work on them: Show that the errant behavior is gone by changing your behavior, if you are the one in your relationship who lied, cheated, or broke the trust. That means no more secrets, lies, infidelity, or anything else of the sort. Be completely transparent, open, and forthcoming from now on. Be honest and work to understand and state why the bad behavior occurred. Statements such as "I don't know" don't instill confidence or help you get to the root of the issue. Take responsibility for your own actions and decisions; apologize for the hurt you caused and avoid defensiveness, which will only perpetuate the conflict or crisis. Justifying your behavior based on what your partner is doing or has done in the past is also not productive. For the Betrayed While moving forward hinges a lot on what your partner is able to show you, remember that work that you do also have a lot to do with your potential success. As you proceed, day by day: Work on understanding why and what went awry in the relationship before the betrayal actually took place. While this won't help you forget what happened, it may help you get some answers you need to move on. Provide positive responses and reinforcement to help give your partner consistent feedback to things that please you or make you happy once you have committed to giving your partner a second chance. Know that it's also OK if you do not want to continue the relationship after considering the above steps or beginning them. Just be honest with yourself, and your partner and don't go through the motions just because you feel that is what is expected of you as a devoted partner. For the Couple While there's independent work to do, remember to listen completely to one another. Remind one another that you each deserve open and honest answers to your questions about the betrayal. Rebuilding the Relationship Once couples have committed to rebuilding trust, they must work on treating the relationship like it is a completely new one. Both sides must ask for what they really need and not expect their partner to simply know what it is they want. Do not withhold trust in this new relationship, even though it is with the same person. Withholding trust out of fear or anger will prevent you from emotionally reconnecting with your partner. This keeps your relationship from moving forward in a healthy way. Instead, work toward rebuilding the relationship by doing the work required in building trust and rebuilding a mutually supportive connection. Come to an agreement about what a healthy relationship looks like to you both. Some examples include establishing date nights, working on a five year, ten-year and even 20-year plan together, finding your love languages, and checking in with your partner about how you feel the relationship is doing or if it is living up to your expectations. Remember that all relationships require work. Even the closest of couples have to work hard at renewing the spark while working to grow in the same direction together, year after year. Getting Professional Help You can work on building a healthier, happier, and more honest relationship if you address the five issues listed above, and hold onto the bigger picture: that getting through this is only possible if you stay strong and commit to working on it together. A therapist can help you process what, why, and how of what happened to help you both move forward. Both parties must be open to seeking counseling to have a better understanding of what caused the trust to be broken. But you may want or need to seek individual therapy in addition to couples' therapy. There are several forms of treatment for couples that are designed to re-establish trust, communication, and connection that can be especially helpful. Through continued work and therapy, you may even end up with a more solid relationship after going through such a crisis. The 6 Best Online Marriage Counseling Programs 1 Source Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Winek J.L. & Craven P.A. Contemporary Family Therapy, 2003; 25: 249. doi:10.1023/A:1024518719817 By Sheri Stritof Sheri Stritof has written about marriage and relationships for 20+ years. She's the co-author of The Everything Great Marriage Book. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Relationships Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.