Regardless of whether your relationship is romantic or platonic, there’s always the possibility of breaching the trust of those you’re closest to. People aren’t perfect, and if a mistake occurs, you’ll need to figure out a way to recoup the trust that was lost if you want to continue moving forward.
If you find yourself in this situation, here are nine steps for rebuilding trust in your relationship:
1. Identify the Behavior That Broke the Trust
When you’re the party suffering from a breach of trust, the first step is identifying what exactly is causing the issue. In this case, you need to pinpoint the behavior that broke the trust and why it had that effect on you.
Generally speaking, loss of trust occurs when the other person does something unexpected that violates your wishes or expectations.
Since this is the case, it’s important to think about whether your expectations were reasonable to begin with.
Had you vocalized your concerns previously?
Are you reacting to something within yourself, such as feelings of insecurity?
Or, are you reacting to something external, like evidence of your partner cheating?
Thinking about the answers to these questions will help you determine whether it’s worth it to salvage the trust in your relationship.
2. Take Responsibility for What Happened
If you’re the one who caused the loss of trust, you need to own up to your part in what happened. When expressing this, don’t make excuses for yourself, even if you think there were other contributing factors to your mistake.
Not making excuses is important because any explanations you make will sound like you’re not sorry for what happened. This makes it difficult for the other person to forgive you, and may extinguish any desire to mend the trust in your relationship from the other person.
3. Give the Other Person Space to React
Everyone deals with adversity in different ways. Some people need time to themselves, while others need to vent and shout it out with the one who wronged them. Regardless of which method the other person chooses, give them space to deal with things the way they want to.
This means that you shouldn’t take offense or get defensive if the other person chooses to attack you with their words or treat you in a way that you normally wouldn’t appreciate.
By letting the other person’s reaction run its course, you signal that you respect the depth of the other person’s feelings, which helps with the rebuilding process.
4. Listen to the Other Person’s Concerns
When the other person expresses their concerns about what broke their trust, exercise patience and pay attention to what they’re saying. Listening to someone outline how exactly you hurt them isn’t pleasant, but it’s necessary if you want to avoid minimizing the other person’s experiences.
It’s important that when the other person approaches you talk about how they feel, instead of being bogged down by semantics or the blame game, be an active listener and empathize with the core message of what the other person is saying, even if it is hurtful or uncomfortable to listen to.
5. Be Open and Honest from Here on Out
To reestablish trust in your relationship, earn that trust back by showing that you’re no longer hiding anything from the other person.
Keeping communication open is vital as well, since keeping those channels free and unobstructed is a clear signal that you’re respectful of the other’s right to voice his or her opinion. This will gradually make the other person feel comfortable around you again.
If you’re having trouble figuring out how to reestablish communication with the other person, ask for help.
Going to see a therapist or counselor can help because he or she can provide a safe space for you to discuss uncomfortable topics, while also pointing out communication pitfalls between the two of you. The skills you pick up at these sessions will help facilitate future communication and renew trust.
6. Change Your Behavior and Keep Showing Up
To fully convince the person whose trust you’ve damaged, you need to provide evidence that you’ve actually changed. This means being accountable for your actions and being there when needed. Consistency is key in building trust again, so if you promise to do something, keep showing up until the other person is satisfied with your change.
For example, if you pledge to always let your friend know in advance whether you’re going to cancel plans, make sure that you consistently do so. This will take practice and lots of discipline, but it will also show your friend that you’re taking his or her concerns seriously and are actively changing your behavior.
7. Be Patient and Reassure the Other Person
While you’re rebuilding trust, it’s normal for the other person to question your intentions or commitment once in a while. When this happens, don’t take offense. The other person isn’t a mind reader, so he or she can’t tell how much effort you’ve been putting in to change.
Instead, when the other person starts asking questions, be patient and reassure them that you’re devoted to improving the relationship. However, if a long period has passed (at least a year), and it seems that the other person will never stop questioning you, you might want to pull the plug on the relationship. At this point, the trust has already been broken beyond repair, and it’ll be healthier for both of you to just call it quits.
8. Wait for Them to Come to You
Although you may be eager to carry on right where things left off prior to the breach of trust, you shouldn’t expect the other person to recover quite as quickly, especially if you’re the one who did the hurting. Instead of trying to rush the recovery process, wait for the other person to come to you.
Keeping a respectful distance allows the other person to order his or her thoughts about you and to heal. This is crucial to restoring trust, and will ensure that the other person won’t resent you for pushing him or her to make a decision he or she isn’t comfortable with.
9. Keep the Past in the Past
You know those couples who bring out a laundry list of wrongs they’ve suffered every time they argue? This kind of keeping score is sure to sink any efforts to repair trust. If you’re constantly reminded of everything you did wrong, then that other person has not truly forgiven you. This behavior is a clear sign that there’s no real way to move forward, and that any effort you put forth to rebuild trust will be wasted.
This is why it’s critical for both parties to agree to start with a clean slate, no matter how difficult it is to forgive and forget. Keeping the past in the past is the ultimate show of a willingness to move forward with the relationship that the other person can give you.
Only after you’ve mutually decided to do this, can you begin to reconfigure boundaries and decide what is acceptable behavior and what is a transgression.
Rebuilding Trust is a Process
Trust is difficult to recover once you’ve lost it. However, some relationships are too valuable to give up once a mistake has been made.
If you’re willing to follow these steps, your hard work and patience may lead to slowly regaining the relationship you had.
Just make sure that you’re respectful of the other person’s feelings throughout the whole process, and be ready to cut your losses if it seems that the other person may never be able to bounce back.