But happens when the tables turn and you're the one who's been untrustworthy? Toronto-based psychotherapist, Tracy B. Richards, frequently counsels couples through the unthinkable. While a breakdown of trust can happen over very small things, infidelity seems to be the most potent of betrayals. Here, Richards shares seven things you can do when you've broken your partner's trust.
Become self-aware and don't pass the blame
It's not unusual to pass blame onto your partner without even realizing it. "It may not be overt, but [passing blame] is something that will come up sooner or later," Richards assures. In reality, the offending partner isn't being understanding of what really motivated their actions and led them down the path of betrayal.
Before true reconciliation can begin with your loved one you should be honest with yourself. Pinpoint what stimulated you to go outside of your relationship. "Looking deep within yourself and understanding what precipitated the separation will allow you to more effectively [pacify] the situation and restore trust in the relationship," says Richards.
Acknowledge your mistake
"One of the biggest and most common mistakes people make is trying to justify their behaviour with the injured spouse's actions," says Richards. Common defense tactics include: 'You drove me to it', 'You weren't giving me enough attention' and ‘You always accuse me of being a flirt, so it was bound to happen.' While on some level this reasoning may be true, not accepting responsibility for breaking your spouse's trust will make them feel threatened, unloved and can prompt a defensive reaction.
Page 1 of 3 – Find out how being consistent can help save your relationship on page 2.
"The more defensive the injured partner gets, the thicker the walls they'll build to protect themselves and the thinner the lines of communication will get," explains Richards. Acknowledge how you've betrayed your significant other before you can hope to rebuild the trust you've lost.
Avoid putting yourself in suspicious situations
If you've cheated on your partner you have to tow the line until the trust has been regained. Part of this means you have to stay out of tricky situations. "Communicate as a couple to identify what makes your partner uneasy," suggests Richards. Make a list of behaviours that worry your partner and then stay away, she says. This will alleviate your partner's anxiety.
Moreover, "don't judge what upsets your spouse… You're not the one who's been injured and you can't decide what is going to be hurtful, suspicious behaviour and what isn't," advises Richards.
Create an action plan and be consistent
Consistency in promises and follow-through actions are crucial to set the tone for what your partner can expect from you on a short and long-term basis. It's no different from raising kids, says Richards. "Just like you have to be consistent by setting rules, boundaries and structure for children, rebuilding a marriage or relationship requires the same kind of commitment," she says.
Sit down together and set boundaries within a solid action plan that focuses on rebuilding your partner's trust. It's then important to stay within that structure so everyone knows what the rules are and what happens when boundaries are crossed. Taking the time to design a plan together will show your partner that you're sensitive to their anxieties and consistent in your efforts.
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Be compassionate towards your partner
"Exercising compassion to the other person's needs is a huge factor in rebuilding broken trust in a relationship," emphasizes Richards. This is one of the biggest hurdles for couples going through infidelity. "It can be really difficult to see the situation from the hurt spouses's perspective and understand why they're reacting in a certain way," says Richards.
In other words, something you think is minuscule in the grand scheme of things, may be a source of great anxiety or worry for your significant other. To get your partner's trust back, try to put yourself in their shoes and find a way to empathize with them.
Don't force forgiveness and be patient
Initiating deadlines and demanding forgiveness will get you nowhere. Patience, on the other hand, can go a long way. "Emotions go all over the map and once you've broken your partner's trust – no matter what the situation is – you don't know what you're getting yourself into," says Richards. You could be facing weeks before your partner is able to move on, or, depending on the gravity of the situation, even years.
"The true test of the relationship comes once the trust has been broken and you've decided as a couple to pick up the pieces and move forward. That's when the real work starts," explains Richards.
If you're invested in making the relationship work and understand the pain you've caused your spouse, the payoff for your patience will be well worth it.
If you've been struggling to regain your partner's trust but have hit a plateau, it could be time to turn to a professional. Traumatic experiences, such as being the victim of infidelity, can stir up a lot of emotions. Set up an appointment with a counsellor to help both of you communicate certain emotions and begin repairing your relationship.
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