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Cracked cement symbolizing broken trust between people or parties

7 Steps to Healing Broken Trust

Honesty is the best policy


Few people would argue with the idea that honesty is the best policy. However, policies are not always adhered to even those that we believe in and support. Regardless of how much we may desire to live a life of integrity in which we “walk the talk” and live in accordance with our inner principles, it’s likely that there will be times that we miss the mark. Nobody’s perfect. Every relationship is going to have occasional slippage.
Great relationships require a high level of integrity in order to thrive. When a violation of trust, large or small, occurs it’s important to examine the conditions that contributed to the situation and to engage in a healing process that will restore trust and goodwill to the relationship.
A betrayal is a broken agreement, implicit or explicit, that is considered vital to the integrity of a relationship. The capacity of a relationship to recover from a betrayal has a lot to do with the responses, particularly on the part of the betrayer to the situation. The more open and non-defensive they are, the more likely it is that there will be resolution. When both partners are committed to this as an outcome, the likelihood increases exponentially.
When there has been a cover-up to a transgression, the lies and denials can do much more damage to the integrity of the relationship than the violation itself. Even if the offense is never revealed, there can still be great harm done to the foundation of the relationship. Trust is inevitably sacrificed even when secrets go undetected. Most, but not all betrayals and acts of deceit can be healed. While there is no generic template to apply to these situations, there are some guidelines that can facilitate the recovery process.
1. Acknowledge What Happened

arguing couple

When there has been a transgression or a betrayal in the relationship there is always a diminishment of trust between the partners. It’s always better to acknowledge the violation as soon as possible. Waiting and hoping that one’s partner will not find out about what happened increases the likelihood that he or she may find out from someone else (which they usually do) and this inevitably diminishes the trust level exponentially. When this occurs there is a compounding of the damage done and an increase in the amount of time and effort needed to repair the broken trust. We’re all human and therefore capable under certain circumstance particularly when we’re under stress, of behaving in ways that violate our own code of ethics. Acknowledging our missteps and addressing them honestly with our partner is always he bet way to handle these occurrences. Doing so can sometimes strengthen and deepen the relational bond, not weaken it.

2. Get Honest

couple couch fight

Drop the justifications that you use to rationalize lies and other forms of deception. Adopt a zero tolerance policy for dishonesty in your relationship. It’s easy to justify lies with excuses like: “It’s only a white lie.” “I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. ”It’s no big deal” “Sometimes it’s mean to be honest and I don’t want to be mean”. “ I didn’t actually lie, I just didn’t include certain details in the story.”
Zero tolerance is not equivalent to absolute and total disclosure about everything that we do in our lives or ever have done, but rather it’s about behaving and speaking in ways that reassure your partner that you can be counted on to be truthful and that we are not concealing secrets about our experiences that are relevant to our relationship. Doing so often takes more time than we think it should. Try not to rush the process or your partner. If you do, it will only slow things down.
3. Answer Your Partner’s Questions

Don’t be defensive in response to their need for information even if you think you’ve already answered their questions. Sometimes things need to be repeated, especially when there’s been damage done to the trust level of a relationship.  Your partner may need to make sure that you aren’t withholding anything else and they probably have a lot of questions that only you can answer. Be guided by the question “Is this information necessary for the healing of our relationship?” Keep in mind that your intention in this process is to communicate in a way that will restore trust and good will. Try to see your partner’s questions as reassurance that they haven’t given up and want to repair the breakdown in the relationship. and an opportunity for you to demonstrate the kind of truth telling that they may need to see in order to begin to trust you again. Even if the questions seem to be repetitive or unnecessary, they need answers in order to come to terms with the situation.

4. Listen To Your Partner’s Feelings

Outside divorce

Don’t analyze, evaluate, judge, or try to reason with them in regard to any of their emotions. Listening without disputing is not equivalent to agreeing with someone’s point of view. It’s possible to listen respectfully even if you don’t see eye to eye about everything. Feelings aren’t necessarily rational, but they are real. You will have your turn to express your perspective, but not until they’ve expressed what they want you to hear. It’s not unusual to feel defensive when you’ve contributed to a breakdown in a partnership, particularly when the other person is saying things that cause you to feel hurt, angry, or unjustly accused of something that you don’t see yourself as being guilty of. their accusation The hardest part of the repair process  for many people has to do with the ability to resist the temptation to “set the record straight” by straightening out your partner’s “misperceptions. Keep in mind that what they need from you is not to set them straight, but to be willing to hear their feelings without being made wrong or dealing with your defensiveness. They won’t care how you see  things until they feel that you have at least heard them out. After they feel heard (which does not mean that you agree with everything they said but that you understand and accept their experience) they will be more open to hearing your side of things.

5. Be Patient

Fighting Couple

Don’t rush the healing process or pressure your partner to “get over it”. Reassure your partner that that you are willing to take whatever time is needed for trust to be restored and that you are willing  to do whatever it takes to support that process. The process will probably take longer than you think it should and in addition to patience, will require time, self-restraint and compassion. In the end however, it is likely to bring about a deepening of the connection between the two of you. Resist the temptation to urge them to “get over it”. Give your partner reassuring words like: “ I know that I am serious about this commitment and I understand that you need more time to see the evidence and trust me. I can give you all the time you need”.

6. Take Responsibility

Fighting Couple

Acknowledge your part in the situation and what you have done that has contributed to the breakdown Avoid any explanations, rationalizations, excuses, or justifications for your behavior. There will be a time to view things from a larger context when your partner may be more curious about what conditions in the relationship were contributing to the situation, but that will come later. Remember that talk is cheap and that ultimately your partner’s trust will return and perhaps even expand when they see you truly walking the talk with consistency and respectfulness. Also, try to avoid demanding or even asking them to admit to their part in the situation. Keep in mind that if your partner  feels that she has been on the receiving end of a betrayal of any sort, she will not b inclined to self-reflect until she feels assured that you have owned up and taken responsibility. Resisting the temptation to defend yourself doesn’t mean that you are admitting that you are singularly and completely to blame for the breakdown. It does howeve3r require the willingness to be vulnerable when that may be the last thing you feel like being.

7. Stay Focused on Your Intention

Fighting Couple

The work of recovery from a breach of integrity in a committed partnership takes time and effort and can be humbling. The stakes are high, and the benefits from doing the work are enormous. A successful healing can transform a damaged partnership into a sacred union. Many couples have told us that in the end, the crisis that came from the betrayal ultimately led to a profound deepening of the love and trust that they both currently share. Such outcomes are not uncommon but they don’t come without both partners doing their own work and keeping their eye on their own ball rather than trying to coerce the other into operating from their own game plan.

happy couple

When both partners have the intention to bring greater healing, trust, responsibility and mutual respect into the relationship and act in accordance with that commitment, the likelihood of a full recovery is greatly increased. Keeping your word in the first place will spare you the anguish of healing a betrayal. But in those cases in which the damage is already done, most of the time, recovery is a real possibility. And the benefits greatly outweigh the costs of reconciliation. Take it from the many couples who have found out for themselves.
Keeping your word in the first place will spare you the anguish of healing a betrayal. But in those cases in which the damage is already done, most of the time, recovery is a real possibility. And the benefits greatly outweigh the costs of reconciliation. Take it from the thousands of couples who have found out for themselves.
By Linda and Charlie Bloom


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