How to Rebuild Trust in a Relationship, According to a Therapist

It's not just about trusting the process.
Couples holding hands on a table
Photo: Moyo Studios / Getty Images
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
The Knot Contributor
  • Hayley writes articles on a freelance basis for The Knot Worldwide, with a specialty in sex and relationships.
  • Her work has appeared in The Knot, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29 and more.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hayley was a full-time editor at a business publication.
Updated Feb 27, 2024

Few things hurt worse than losing trust in your partner, whether it be to a form of infidelity, or even a betrayal of some kind. Fortunately, though, amid the pain, all hope doesn't have to be lost, because learning how to rebuild trust in a relationship is a real possibility.

"Rebuilding trust in a relationship after it's been compromised is a delicate journey, full of nuances and deeply personal challenges," Ariel Landrum, a licensed marriage and family therapist with years of experience says, "It's heartening to see attention given to this important relational topic."

When you're in the throes of your confidence being broken, it can feel overwhelming to know where to begin. You might be thinking: How do you rebuild trust in a relationship? Can you fix trust issues in a relationship? Does it require marriage counseling? If this is you, Landrum is here to give us all the tea on rebuilding trust and romance, below.

In this article:

What Causes Trust to Break in a Relationship?

Like many things in life, relationships and trust are not black and white. In fact, when it comes to building and learning to rebuild trust in a relationship, there are a lot of gray areas to consider. Including the reason behind what causes trust to break in a relationship in the first place—which truly depends on the couple and their situation.

According to Landrum, trust can break for myriad reasons, and for some folks that can range from infidelity and dishonesty to neglect and inconsistency in one person's behavior. For others, it might be that one very specific thing was said or done by one partner that triggered the other.

Often, though, it's not just what was done but what it signifies about the respect and value in the relationship.

"Trust breaks when actions contradict the expectations and agreements [of both partners] spoken or unspoken, that underpin a relationship's foundation," she shares.

Can All Broken Trust be Restored?

If trust is broken, is it fair to say that all can be repaired over time? Sadly, not always.

"While many instances of broken trust can be repaired, it's essential to acknowledge that not all can—or should—be restored," Landrum says, "The possibility of restoration hinges on several factors, including the nature of the betrayal, the depth of the hurt and the capacity of the individuals involved to forgive and grow genuinely."

The truth of the matter is that not everyone is meant to stay together. Sometimes, the healthiest path forward for both people is to go their separate ways, especially if the broken trust reveals a huge crack in a relationship's foundation.

How to Rebuild Trust in a Relationship

Rebuilding trust is a process that demands patience, commitment, and a willingness to be vulnerable.

If you're in the camp of wanting to know how to rebuild lost trust in a relationship, how to rebuild trust in a relationship after cheating or how to rebuild trust in a relationship after lying, Landrum has ten must-follow tips for you, below.

1. Start With Acknowledgment

Healing begins with acknowledgment. According to Landrum, the person who broke the trust must fully acknowledge their actions and the pain caused, before rebuilding can begin.

2. Maintain an Open, Honest Dialogue

Sure, discussing feelings and fears can be uncomfortable but is a crucial part of understanding and healing.

3. See a Commitment to Change

How can you rebuild trust? For starters, no matter what the reason behind the loss was, the person who acted out the betrayal or pain has to demonstrate a genuine commitment to change. As they say, actions speak louder than words, so seeing or showing your partner that you're ready for some serious work is key.

4. Seek Therapy

Whether you've had years of therapy, or you've never been and don't know what to expect, seeking it out can be helpful.

"Sometimes, an impartial third party, like a therapist," Landrum says, "Can provide guidance to navigate the complexities of rebuilding trust."

5. Set Expectations

If you're looking into how to rebuild trust in a relationship after betrayal, it's a must that you and your partner agree on expectations moving forward. What needs to happen to prevent further breaches of trust? What work needs to be done together? Talk that out right away.

6. Know That It Won't Happen Overnight

"Trust isn't rebuilt overnight," Landrum explains, "Be prepared for setbacks and moments of doubt, and approach them patiently and understanding."

7. Start Small

Next, know that it's OK to start small. Use little acts of trust, like calling your partner when you say you will, and build from there. After all, reestablishing emotional intimacy is a step-by-step process, not a race.

8. You Can Forgive, but You Don't Have to Forget

"Forgiveness is key, but that doesn't mean forgetting the betrayal," Landrum suggests to The Knot readers, "Instead, use the experience as a learning opportunity to strengthen the relationship."

9. Invest in Yourself, Not Just Your Partner

Regardless of who hurt who, both of you should take the time to invest in yourself, and your own healing and self-care. Don't forget that while you're in a partnership, you need your own things to facilitate personal growth, too.

10. Celebrate

The journey of rebuilding trust is uniquely personal and can be incredibly challenging, Landrum adds, but it also offers an opportunity for profound personal and relational growth. It's a path not just back to each other but forward to a deeper, more resilient connection.

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