rebuild trust after betrayal

Is it possible to rebuild trust after betrayal?

The short answer is, yes. It is possible to rebuild trust after betrayal. If you’re able to move through the pain there is the possibility that your relationship can be even stronger than it was in the past.

It won’t be easy. It will take time, hard work and vulnerability, but there is hope.

What is a betrayal?

Simply put, betrayal is the breaking of trust. Trust can be broken sexually, financially, emotionally or otherwise.   Trust runs deep and is a large component of what makes relationships with our partners feel safe and secure.

Before we go further, let me talk more about the different types of betrayal.

Sexual betrayal

This is probably the most common form of relationship betrayal and it’s usually the type depicted in movies and novels. It can be called cheating or infidelity and it can look different depending on what your relationship is like. For example, having sex with someone else may not be a betrayal in a non-monogamous relationship if there hasn’t been a breach of trust.  The same action could be devastating for a monogamous couple.

Financial betrayal

Finances are often more difficult for couples to talk about than sex. A financial betrayal is a breach of trust around money. This could look like lending money to your family without talking about it with your partner or making a big purchase with joint funds without discussing it first.  If money is already a difficult topic, a breach in trust will make things even more challenging to discuss.

Emotional betrayal

Emotional betrayal can look like going on dates, texting or creating an emotionally intimate relationship with someone outside your primary relationship. This can happen with friends, co-workers or anyone else you connect with outside your relationship.  Again, this can feel very threatening and scary for your partner.

What to expect after a betrayal?

Healing a breach of trust in your relationship will not happen overnight. It takes time to rebuild safety and security. The first step is often having the courage to be fully honest about what has happened. It will take effort and time to repair. It is also important to understand the factors that led up to the betrayal in the first place. Has there been a breakdown in intimacy, communication or trust that led up to the problem.

How long will it take to rebuild trust after betrayal?

There is no set time limit on how long the process will take. For some couples, it will be easier to move through the hurt but for others it will take more time to reestablish trust and security. If you’re the partner that broke the trust, you have to make space for the hurt feelings and repair.

What led to the betrayal in the first place?

This is an important question.  There are likely many things that contributed to this breakdown in trust.  By slowing things down and removing the blame, you can begin to understand what happened.  It will be important to explore this in more detail to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Action steps

If you’re going to attempt to talk about the betrayal on your own, here are some action steps to keep in mind.

  • Keep calm. If you become activated or triggered, your frontal cortex goes offline and it will be next to impossible to stay emotionally engaged and make progress. If you notice that you’ve become activated, take a break. Go for a walk. Try some deep breathing. Calm yourself down and then reengage in the conversation.
  • Stop the blame. When you’ve been hurt, it can feel good for a moment to assign blame on someone else. I promise it will only feel good for a moment and then it will fuel the cycle of anger and rejection. This will be a difficult cycle to break but it’s crucial in order to make progress on forgiveness and healing.
  • Listen. We learn as kids to take turns and that is still a crucial skill to remember in relationship with others as adults. Listen to your partner. Let them speak without interrupting. This is very easy to say, but much harder in practice. However, it’s a crucial skill to enable more intimate and connected conversations.

Healing betrayal is a process and there is hope. It can be an incredible challenge and remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Seek out a couples counselor if you get stuck.

Tom Bruett

Tom Bruett

Tom Bruett, LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist with an office in San Francisco, CA. Tom feels passionately about helping people have better relationships. The purpose of this blog is not to provide advice or to take the place of working with a mental health professional. For more information please visit the homepage.