This week's question:
"I've been in a relationship for nearly two years. Recently we had some misunderstanding issues, regarding privacy, boldness, and respecting each other's feelings. How can I solve the problem, and regain trust?"
I'm so glad you're asking. Rebuilding trust is so critical to staying together- and most of us are clueless when it comes to relationship repair work. Thanks for bringing this up!
Trust is touchy because it's so difficult to build up and so easy to lose. It gets built up in the tiniest of everyday actions - so small it can seem invisible. And so tiny building it back can seem like it takes forever.
And building trust back after it's been broken is a struggle because we rarely can see the full impact our actions have on a partner. Just as it's built in tiny increments, it can be broken in tiny increments- so tiny we can miss them if we're not invested in paying attention.
I offer that information only to help give you a little perspective. Lots f folks get impatient when trying to earn trust from a loved one after we've broken it. But it takes time- sometimes, lots of time to get back to a similar trusting place. And getting impatient isn't going to help.
You can do it though. If you stick with it.
The keys to building trust after a break are twofold: you have to both repair the specific break, and you have to keep momentum building on the tiny incremental trust-installments you've already made.
Repairing the Trust Break
When trust has been broken you have to apologize. But that doesn't mean just saying you're sorry. Apologies have four essential parts if they're going to work.
- Acknowledge the specific behaviors you did that broke trust
- Acknowledge the emotional impact on your partner
- Suggest an alternative behavior you'll do if a similar situation comes up in the future
- THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: Follow through on what you said in #3
The more specific you can be when taking ownership of your actions and the more clearly you can connect to the impact it had on your sweetie the better. But above all, be sure when you suggest alternatives for the future, you offer something you KNOW you can commit to following through. Follow through is where trust is built.
Keeping Trust-Momentum Building
The other part of regaining trust is to keep the day-to-day trust nourishing behaviors you already have in place moving in the right direction. We build trust when what we do and what we say are in alignment.
So start paying extra close attention to the agreements, promises, and commitments you make with your partner and be especially careful not to over-promise. And start looking for ways to make more promises you KNOW you can follow through on. As you create verbal agreements and follow through on them- even tiny ones- trust between you will slowly return.
I'm sorry you and your sweetie are in the difficult place of repairing trust. But with care and intention, you can get back to a sweetly connected place again. Let me know if you'd like help along the way.
Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a retired couples therapist, sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and keeping non-traditional relationships healthy and vibrant.
She can help you:
- rediscover passion in long-term relationships
- repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
- move past jealousy, insecurity or codependecy
- open your relationship and practice polyamory with care
- resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnection
- break stale or unhealthy communication patterns
Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.