How to Rebuild Trust

Maybe your spouse cheated on you, your best friend stabbed you in the back, or your co-worker took credit for your idea. On the other hand, maybe you lied to your sweetheart, stole the guy or girl your friend had an eye on, or failed to help a coworker or classmate on a crucial project. Trust between two people means that they can be vulnerable with each other.[1]Maintaining trust is very important to having satisfying relationships.[2] Losing trust is a two-way street, and so is rebuilding it. Both parties must want to work at rebuilding lost trust. Here’s what you need to do from both angles.


Taking Responsibility for your Actions

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    Come clean. If you are the one who betrayed someone else, you need to come clean. In interpersonal relationships, it’s especially important to tell the truth when you would benefit from a lie.[3] If you have betrayed someone, coming clean at your own expense tells the other person that their well-being is more important than your own.[4]Denial will only make the other party’s distrust run deeper, especially if the truth is already clear.

    • Admit all of your mistakes. Even if there are parts that you can keep hidden without getting caught, you should still reveal them to the other person. Only in admitting all your mistakes can you be forgiven for all of them.
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    Expect an emotional reaction from the other person. Admitting that you betrayed someone is not going to make things easier immediately. On the contrary, you can expect an emotional outburst—yelling, crying, and so on—from the other person when she hears you admit your betrayal. But
    remember, the best way to move on is by putting it all into the open.
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    Apologize. This one should be obvious, but unfortunately, sometimes it gets overlooked. How you approach saying your apology will influence whether or not the apology is accepted and you both can move on.[5]

    • When apologizing, avoid justifying your actions.[6] Don’t claim that the offended person misunderstood you (“you read that wrong”). Don’t deny their hurt (“you didn’t even get hurt”). Don’t tell a sad tale (“I had a troubled childhood”).
    • The best way to accept responsibility is by recognizing the other person’s hurt, saying what you should have done instead, and doing that behavior in the future.[7]
    • Let the person you betrayed know why you are apologizing. If they know that you are apologizing out of guilt and shame, they are more likely to forgive you. If they think that you are apologizing out of pity, they are less likely to forgive you. Pity, unlike guilt and shame, does not show an element of personal responsibility of the offender. Pity also implies that the offender is superior to the offended.[8]
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    Forgive yourself. When you violate someone’s trust, you may feel so regretful that you have a hard time forgiving yourself for the violation. While a repentant heart is an essential part of making up with the person you betrayed, you also need to accept and learn to forgive yourself after you put the effort into making amends.

    • Remember that no one is perfect. Whether your error in judgment was minor or major, it goes to show that you are only human. Accept your failure, and try to push forward into the future.
    • By clinging to thoughts of past failure, you risk devaluing yourself. Once you begin to have such thoughts, it could zap your motivation for self-improvement.


Moving Forward If You Betrayed Someone

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nd Woman On Phone.png
    Make your life transparent for the other person. Everybody wants to control personal information.[9] But, for a little while, you may need to forfeit a portion of your privacy for the sake of the person trying to trust you again. By making your life transparent, the other person will be able to confirm with their own eyes that you are not in the midst of another betrayal.

    • This is especially important in romantic relationships broken apart by infidelity. Give your significant other complete, uncensored access to your texts, phone logs, emails, and appointment book for a few weeks to months after your betrayal. Let him or her know where you are and who you are with whenever possible.
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    Let the other person vent.[10] Hard feelings are natural after any betrayal. The person who feels betrayed will need to vent their emotions and thoughts to heal. It might be unpleasant for you, but it is essential for the other person.

    • One of the worst things you can do is attempt to get them to “shut up” while expressing their anger. This action shows that you are not taking this person’s feelings seriously.
    • Let the other person vent at their own pace. Everyone goes about things in a different way and in a different time period. Rushing the other person shows a lack of consideration.
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    Keep your word going forward. Actions speak louder than words. Trust between two people means that you have to be dependable and consistent over a long period of time.[11] You should make a promise to do better, but a promise or apology alone with only restore trust short-term.[12] If you can’t be honest in the future, or cannot do all that you promise to do, the person you betrayed will be unable to accept that you have changed or that you are worthy of being trusted again.

    • You should avoid making the same mistake at all costs.
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    Stay patient. Understand that rebuilding trust takes time. Be patient with the other person, but be persistent in your own efforts.

    • Depending on the severity of your betrayal, building trust can take weeks, months, or years.
    • Never pressure the other person into showing you more trust.
    • Understand that things may never be quite the same after your betrayal, but if you show that you are a trustworthy person, some level of trust can usually be rev


Getting Ready to Trust Someone Again

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    Assess the situation. Before you can rebuild trust in someone after they betrayed you, you should first ask yourself if the relationship is one you want to salvage. Ask yourself:

    • Is this the first time this person betrayed me?
    • Will I really be able to trust this person again, even if they do everything perfectly from now on?
    • Am I able to forgive?
    • Is the relationship I have with this person important enough to fight for?
    • Is this a one-time mistake or a pattern of behavior?
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    Consider the person’s reacti
    on to the situation.
     Do they seem genuinely sorry for hurting you, or sorry that they got caught? Are they willing to listen to you and make an effort to do better next time? Are they willing to accept blame?

    • If they don’t seem to truly regret hurting you, or aren’t interested in making things better, then this relationship probably isn’t worth your time.
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    Keep an eye out for continued deception. Continue to assess the situation as you progress. After a few weeks to months, you should be able to notice signs of trustworthiness in the person who betrayed you. Trying to determine whether someone is lying is tricky business, but the following clues might signal deception:[13]

    • People who are lying take longer to respond, and say less when they do.
    • A liar tells more far-fetched stories and use fewer details. They are also less direct, have more pauses, and use fewer gestures.
    • Liars are less likely than those telling the truth to correct themselves.
    • People who lie are more tense. This make their voices sound higher, and they are more likely to fidget.
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    Express your feelings. Let the person who betrayed you know just how deeply you were hurt by their actions. Most importantly, tell your betrayer exactly what it was that hurt you. Tell them what you need so that you will start trusting that person again.


Moving Forward if Someone Betrayed You

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    Try to let go of your anger. Once you let out your anger, let it go. After you have discussed the betrayal, you need to let it stay in the past. Even if you feel sad or angry now, you won’t feel this way forever. Don’t bring it up in future arguments, especially if the other person has shown an effort to make amends for the action.

    • If you still notice that you are holding onto your negative feelings, think about why you are having trouble letting go. Is it because your partner is still behaving in a way that betrays your trust? Or is it because of your personal issues related to your own past history?
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    Adjust your expectations. Even if someone never wants to hurt you, no one will be able to give you exactly what you need, 100 percent of the time. Once you understand that you should not expect perfection, you can get a better idea of how much trust you actually can put in the other person. [14]

    • The goal is to be realistic, not to let yourself get walked all over. Accept that everyone can slip up here and there. However, don’t ever let anyone get away with hurting you intentionally or with intentional neglect.
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    Give and receive love. You need to be willing to accept and love the person who betrayed you, and you also need to accept the love that person gives you in return. When your betrayer tries to express affection, accept that the acts of affection are the real thing. Try to accept an action that seems honest.

Reader Questions and Answers

Answered Questions
  • What happens when you keep hurting the same person over and over without intending to do so?
    • If you continue to cause hurt and disappointment to someone you care about, then the cause lies within you. Only you can do something about whatever it is that continually lets down the other person and chips away at their trust for you. If you truly cannot figure out what you’re doing to destroy the trust, consider asking the person what it is that you are doing or saying that hurts them. You might also ask this person for suggestions that might help, then follow up on responding to this positively. For example, if you continue to turn up late after they’ve told you it lets them down every time, start working on improving your punctuality by setting alarms, using a planner and leaving your work earlier than normal, to ensure that you get there on time. Ultimately, you may not intend to hurt the other person but if your actions are consistently doing so, then they will see it as
      such. As such, the power lies with you to make the necessary changes.

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