Have you ever had a conversation with your partner and felt as if you two weren’t alone? It was literally just the two of you sitting down together and talking…but mistakes, misspoken words and hurt feelings from the past were also there.
All of this past stuff forms a barrier between you and your love and makes it nearly impossible to really listen to one another with compassion and understanding.
You’re both unintentionally filtering everything you hear through layers and layers of what happened in the past.
And you wonder why communication is so difficult and trust continues to erode!
Over the course of a love relationship or marriage, harsh words get spoken, promises get broken and hurt feelings are a result. Mistrust is another result.You sense a distance that wasn’t there before even though you may have apologized and you both are trying to move forward.
It’s the uncertainty, mistrust, resentment, grudges and other residual feelings that can accumulate and that form that layer of stuff that separates you from each other when you’re trying to have a conversation or be intimate in another way.
To get rid of those barriers to connection, the key is to move past the past. This is a process and it requires patience, but it’s not going to happen automatically. You’ve got to take intentional steps and work with your partner to rebuild trust.
These 10 ways to rebuild trust may seem simple and maybe you think you’ve already done them, but there’s more involved than what you might think. Be willing to go deep because your relationship health depends on it!
1. Sincerely apologize.
If you haven’t already apologized for a slight or mistake that has damaged trust, now is the time. Don’t apologize because you know you “should;” do so after you’ve taken the time to face up to and feel about what happened. Express to your partner in clear and genuine words how sorry you feel for what you did that caused harm. If you already said “I’m sorry,” honestly assess whether or not it came through as heart-felt. It might be wise to try again.
2. Offer to make amends.
Find out what would help your partner move past the pain. You can’t erase the hurtful words or callous actions but you can ask your love a question like, “What can I do to make amends?” Really listen to him or her because what you think would be fair is probably different from what your partner wants.
3. Follow through.
If there’s one thing that’s crucial to trust rebuilding in your relationship, it’s follow through. Make sure that you are keeping promises and doing whatever you agreed to do to make amends. Your connection is probably fragile right now so do whatever you can to prove to your partner that you are making changes and that he or she can count on you to do what you say.
4. Forgive your partner.
Chances are, whatever happened to damage trust was complicated. Your partner probably played a role even if you are the one who lied, yelled or even cheated. If you blame your partner in some way, invite yourself to admit it and then take steps to forgive him or her.
5. Forgive yourself.
Before begging forgiveness of your partner, grant it to your own self. Your guilt and shame about what you chose to do in the past will only build in more layers to separate you two. Know that you can take ownership for and disagree with what you did AND forgive yourself.
6. Be open.
Transparency is essential when rebuilding trust. Live your life with your partner with as much openness as you can. In every moment, show him or her that you have nothing to hide.
7. Be honest.
If you think you have to tip toe around uncomfortable truths because you don’t want to upset the peace and good feelings that are just starting to return, stop! Dishonesty because you’re trying to protect your partner’s feelings or avoid conflict is still dishonesty and it will harm trust. Find ways to be honest and kind.
8. Make a completion.
It can be powerful to create a ritual or find a symbolic way to put the past in the past. This is called making a completion. Either by yourself or with your partner, come up with a physical representation of what happened or a past unhealthy lifestyle and then creatively let it go.
9. Look around you now.
Recognize it when you are mostly focused on the past and particularly on what happened to break trust. This may be a memory or thought that pops into your mind and won’t seem to pass through. Remind yourself that YOU get to choose your focus– always– and return to the here and now.
10. Find improvements to appreciate.
How has your relationship improved recently? Find concrete ways that you and your partner have been making changes and acknowledge and appreciate them. You can use even seemingly insignificant positive change as momentum to build upon.