It Takes Work to Rebuild Trust – Are You Ready to Do the Work?

Various forms of trust issues are always present in most relationships. When couples come to see me, trust almost always shows up in one way or another. Most couples – even healthy ones – have some sort of trust issue present, even if it’s a relatively small issue. These issues aren’t necessarily connected to affairs or related to any type of infidelity. But they often can indicate how emotionally close couples are and can potentially cause disconnection in a relationship.

Kinds of Trust Issues

Besides affairs/infidelity, other kinds of trust issues include:

  • Dishonest behavior: not telling the truth or at least the whole truth.
  • Degrees of unfaithfulness: such as flirting behavior.
  • Financial infidelity: making a significant purchase without telling your partner.

Trust issues aren’t confined to the above categories. Any aspect of  your life and relationship involving a lack of trust can become problematic for you and your partner.

Trust and Emotional Security

Another, more fundamental, way that a lack of trust impacts a relationship is when one or both partners is not able to be reliably emotionally present for the other. For example, one partner may not have faith that their partner will be emotionally available for them during difficult or stressful times.  In other words, you may not have any confidence that your partner truly “has your back.” When someone is emotionally unavailable during vulnerable times, it can seriously damage your partnership. It destroys confidence that your partner will be there for you when most needed.  Although this situation may not be as damaging as an actual affair, this kind of emotional abandonment is a recipe for having a very distant and unsatisfying relationship.

More Than a Quick-Fix

Couples struggling with trust issues may go to couples counseling for help. This is certainly an opportunity to learn communication tools and discover why trust has been lost.  However, far too often, couples mistakenly conclude that all they need to do is attend a few sessions and presto! They are back on track with their relationship!

The reality is, that with significant trust issues, a “quick-fix” isn’t going to cut it. It does not exist. Both partners need to understand why trust was lost, learn to be truly present to each other’s pain, and gradually rebuild the relationship. The rebuilding process will take time, lots of patience, and effort for trust to be earned again.

Typically, it is really hard for couples to understand that this is a lengthy, in-depth process. The effort required is really significant, especially when the offending partner struggles to “get it.” They may think that apologizing is all that’s necessary and that everything is now OK. Nothing could be further from the truth!  Rebuilding trust isn’t magic. It isn’t accomplished with a few apologetic statements.  A sincere apology is an important start, however, it’s only one small step in a long journey. 

What’s Necessary to Rebuild Trust?

To rebuild trust, break the process down into types of behaviors. Those that require either a high-cost level of effort or a low-cost level of effort.  

High Cost:  Requires a greater investment of time and effort on the part of the offending partner. This requires altering significant behaviors or making different life choices.

Here are some examples:

  • Finding a new job
  • Ending a friendship
  • Getting treatment for substance abuse problems
  • Ending a porn addiction
  • Sharing phone, text, and emails in an effort to be transparent with your partner
  • Being patient, open to scrutiny, and answering identical questions repeatedly

Low Cost:  These are behaviors that aren’t hard to do every day and require less effort. They are also helpful when both partners participate in them.

Some examples:

  • Complimenting your partner
  • Showing your appreciation
  • Being fully present when you have a discussion
  • Initiating an activity you can do together, such as going for a walk or date night
  • Showing affection toward each other

I would recommend that the offending person consult with their partner and choose some high-cost behaviors. In addition, both partners can engage in ongoing low-cost behaviors for 3-4 weeks. At that point, the two of you can decide to either add or subtract behaviors from either category. If your connection to one another doesn’t seem to be improving, it would be a good idea to attend couples counseling.  

It doesn’t take much for trust to start to erode in a relationship. In fact, it can happen in the blink of an eye. However, it can take months, or in some cases, even years of work to regain that trust. If there is a noticeable trust issue in your relationship, ask yourself if you are willing to do the necessary work to reconnect fully with your partner. With a combination of professional support, concrete action, and lots of patience, you can rebuild the trust in your relationship.

Category: Couples · Tags:

Comments are closed.