Acknowledge the process will be difficult. Rebuilding trust is a complex and difficult task. Accept that there will be progress and setbacks, it will be time-consuming, and that the relationship may not survive.
Reflect on how trust was broken. In order to fix something, you have to know why and how it broke. Every relationship is different, but usually there are signs of trouble in the relationship.
What was each person's role? It takes two to tango. It's important to be accountable for your behavior, however, it's equally important to understand how the distrusting behavior came about. I've written more about this process in a post about infidelity.
Express your pain and uncertainty. People aren't computers. You can't just reboot and wipe out a virus from your system. Share your feelings with the person. Acknowledge that there is pain, confusion, anger, and sadness. You have to purge your emotional world.
Let go. Letting go is not about forgiving the other person, it's about forgiving yourself and moving forward. In order to move forward in a relationship, you have to come to peace with the past. Letting go can be difficult but it doesn't have to hold you back from happiness.
Mutual recommitment. Both people have to recommit to the relationship. If there has been infidelity, all communication has to be severed with the person, all communication. You can't recommit when your mind and emotions are somewhere else.
Communicate. Start from the basics. Seek counseling. If trust was violated, it almost always means the communication was lacking or artificial. Learn how to communicate respectfully and effectively.
Express what you need from one another. Part of the recommitment process is being clear and direct about not only what was lacking, but also what each person needs moving forward.
Set goals together. A therapist may be helpful here to provide balance and a realistic expectation. Setting goals together provides two things: 1) both people are on the same page about the direction of the relationship, 2) it's a healthy exercise of communication and connection, which was probably lacking in the relationship.
Check in regularly. Again, weekly therapy sessions can be helpful here. Or set aside time each week to check in and reflect on progress, difficulties, or changes in the trust rebuilding process. Weekly discussions also keep you invested and mindful of your relationship. Another thing that was lacking that lead to the trust fissure.
Praise and show gratitude. Praise one another for effort and positive growth, even if it's minuscule. Just like letting go, the process of praising can be beneficial not only for the other person, but also for you.
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Salmaan Toor is a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in Knoxville, TN. If you are interested in being notified of future posts, you can “like” The Family Center of Knoxville on facebook here or can follow me on Twitter here. Thanks for your support!