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How to gain trust again

by Ines Wurbs

To be able to trust again, you must get into the phase in which trust is possible for you again first. At this point, you can begin to work through what happened together with your partner or friend and create a new relationship.

Below are some tips on how to do that.

Full trust is the foundation of a good relationship

A good and lasting relationship is built on mutual trust. If this trust is broken or destroyed, the relationship falters or can break up. 

A breach of trust is a significant relationship killer, according to Metastudy of 2013.

Trust is the foundation of a good relationship. This trust is built on a foundation of reason, routine, and experience. For more details and the role of trust in a relationship, read the study of Xianhai Meng from Belfast University.

Why it is so hard to trust again

When a breach of trust has happened, there is initially a feeling of shock. You are desperate and may not want to admit it at first. That’s a perfectly normal reaction. We and our bodies do not really know how to deal with it. It’s actually a crisis for us.

Anger and fury soon follow. Your feelings burst out. Feelings of guilt and the question “why is this happening to me” are also normal in this phase. Finally, the disappointment spreads and is dominant for a long time.

Only in this phase, a reappraisal can begin. After all, you can and should grow a “new” and fresh relationship and possibly also start your new future together strengthened.

How it is possible to trust again

First, this is not a process that can be completed in a week or two. That takes months, maybe even years. The first step after your anger subsides, and you feel empowered to make clear decisions again, is to ask yourself:

  • What do I actually want?
  • Is this relationship worth keeping?
  • What does my partner/friend want?

Neither of you should make this decision lightly and out of guilt (to whomever) or hurt pride. 

You can write pros and cons lists. Take time for yourself to have an “inner dialogue” with yourself. You can’t do that on the side. You have to take the time to do it. Also, think about what your goals are and whether you still are. Or are they perhaps adopted goals? For now, try to ignore fears, worries, pride, and idealizations.

Realize what it takes to be able to forgive. And first of all, think about how cooperation can or should look like.

The partner is part of building trust

Ask your partner/friend to do the same. He/she should ask himself/herself the same questions. This creates a basis for the relationship negotiation and defines the goals and desires of both parties. 

Now have a conversation with your partner/friend. Preferably in a neutral atmosphere, but also in a place where you are alone and undisturbed, maybe a place in nature or a walk for example.

In this conversation, you should both present your point of view. What both parties want and what the plans are. But it’s also essential, what you need and what your counterpart needs. 
Try to keep the conversation as factual as possible. Without accusations. Yes, it will be difficult, but try and ask your partner to do the same. If you get into an argument, take a short break from the conversation to organize your thoughts and calm down. After the situation has cooled down a bit, resume the conversation.

The goal of the relationship negotiation

The aim is to create a plan. The central questions must be addressed and answered. The following questions should be answered:

  • Is there a common future for both of you?
  • If yes, what kind of compensation is needed?
  • What framework should the new relationship have?
  • And what needs were neglected in the old relationships?

Only when these framework conditions have been defined in such a way that they suit both parties, the restart can begin. However, you should not make any compromises that do not feel good to you. Neither does your partner. That wouldn’t work in the long run.

However, if you cannot come to an agreement, you should also consider ending the relationship. In any case, ask yourself again why you want to stay in the relationship.

Reasons of divorce

In an elite partner study from 2017, 2,957 adult internet users were surveyed. According to this study, a prolonged affair is a reason for a breakup for 77%. In the case of infidelity, only 50% stated that they wanted to separate.

Reason for separationof womenof men
A long affair82%71%
Partner restricts me, gives me hardly any freedom68%64%
Partner neglects his appearance or personal hygiene61%58%
A fling56%45%
Partner is strongly jealous54%52%
Affections are lost50%44%
We only exchange information about what is absolutely necessary49%44%
Different ways of dealing with money23%22%
We don’t have enough time for each other21%19%
no sex15%28%
Partner is unsuccessful in the job for a long time, unemployed13%8th%
Partner changes a lot on the outside (e.g. gains significant weight)10%23%
Partner works too much, works too much overtime6%6%

Source: ElitePartner study “That’s how Germany loves” 2017

How to make it right after a breach of trust

It can be written in a letter or orally. But an apology must be specific and not circumvented in some way. The same goes for forgiveness. Say “I forgive you”. Just saying it brings changes in thoughts. Only if you are really ready, of course.

The important thing is to end the breach of trust situation. This can be immediate and abrupt or in defined steps. Yes, that may sound funny. But let’s assume it’s a lover. Your partner may need to say goodbye or have other formal matters to sort out. That sounds harsh, but it can be necessary. Of course, you should also discuss and arrange this.

The goal is to avoid getting into such situations again. It is necessary to get to the bottom of things. Why did it come to this? What were the triggering factors, and how can you change and avoid them together in the future?

It is also clear that words must be followed by deeds. Just discussing is not enough. Things have to be implemented. Not just one party, but both. But of course, many of the actions are also up to the person who broke the trust.

Honesty is the basis of a healthy relationship

Honesty is a requirement on both sides. Without this, it will not be possible to rebuild trust. Honesty about facts and honesty about thoughts and feelings. 

If doubts or jealousy arise, this should also be communicated in this way. Hold back nothing, keep quiet about nothing. No constructive change can result from this.

It is clear that a breach of trust has happened. And despite better knowledge, the partner was intentionally injured. This fact must also be considered. It should not be toned down or embellished. Rebuilding trust takes time, work, action, and a high level of willingness on both sides to build a new relationship. However, repeated abuse of trust must not be tolerated under any circumstances. It’s about you and your health.


The motives for breaches of trust are diverse, and there are people who want to use it to exercise power or who live out their selfishness. In this case, it is up to you to withdraw from this situation.

However, abuse of trust is often also because wishes, concerns, and needs are not communicated properly out of fear or shame. In this case, it is quite advisable to consider and discuss the steps mentioned above together. Professional advice can also be helpful in such a situation.

Please create a basis in advance and make sure to communicate your wishes and needs to each other.

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