Rebuilding Trust – Part II

Satisfying relationships are built on a foundation of safety and trust that you won’t be hurt physically or emotionally. Whether you trust too little or too much is influenced by your past, but once trust is broken, your sense of safety is in jeopardy. You feel insecure and may begin to question your partner’s honesty, motives, intentions, feelings, and actions. Walls start to grow when you try to protect yourself. Specific steps must be taken to repair the relationship.

The Influence of your Past

If you’ve been betrayed in a prior relationships or trust was a problem in your family growing up, then you’re apt to be on the lookout for signs of distrust. If you’re in denial or have unresolved anger or hurt from the past, you run the risk of either provoking problems in a new relationship where none exist; or on the other hand, unconsciously attracting untrustworthy partners. See my article See my article “To Trust or Mistrust–Part Iabout how to evaluate trustworthiness.

Codependents and Trust

Codependents have issues with trust. They’re prone to distrust people or the reverse. They trust too easily. Frequently, they do both. The reasons lie in growing up in a dysfunctional family.


If there was addiction or family secrets, the family’s denial about it is a lie, so children learn to distrust their parents and their own perceptions of reality. Usually, parents are well-intentioned and try to minimize or deny the truth about what’s going on to protect their children. It’s confusing to children, who see through their parents’ statements. Other times, parents make excuses and lie to look good or defend their position and hide their own guilt or shame. Parents also blame children to avoid their own responsibility and break or deny promises, further undermining trust. When parents don’t follow through with commitments, show-up where they’re supposed to on time, have inconsistent, arbitrary, or unfair punishments, they also break their children’s trust. The same goes for neglect, adultery, criminality, and physical or emotional abuse or abandonment.

Too Trusting

The following factors work together and can cause you to trust too easily:

  1. Wanting to trust
  2. Idealizing authority figures or partners in romantic relationships
  3. Dependency – needing the relationship
  4. Distrust or denial of your own reality

Although untrustworthy parents can cause you to be distrustful, the unfulfilled childhood desire to trust is still present. This unconscious longing to trust them leads you to project trustworthiness onto certain people, particularly in close relationships reminiscent of familial love. This wish coupled with dependency needs, including the need to be taken care of, cause you to deny, overlook, or rationalize data that would otherwise signal lace of trustworthiness. When parents deny or contradict your reality, you also learn to discount your perceptions, feelings, and intuition. The combination of these forces influence you to trust people, especially those you love, whom others don’t.

Rebuilding Trust

Once trust has been broken, an apology may not be sufficient to rectify damage to the relationship. Explanations and excuses can make matters worse. Six components are important to rebuild trust:

  1. Listen to the other person’s anger and hurt feelings.
  2. Empathize with them.
  3. Ask what is needed to prevent a reocurrence.
  4. Be conscientious to do all the things listed that show trustworthiness.
  5. Take full responsibility for your actions. Don’t sidestep the issue or try to shift blame to the other person.
  6. Make a heartfelt apology expressing your regret.
  7. Continue to have open and honest communication.

Open and honest communication about what happened is essential. Ask the hurt partner what he or she needs from you and any suggestions about what’s needed to avoid repetition of the behavior. These questions show respect for the person’s feelings and needs and will be appreciated. They go much further than a simple apology. If it’s a serious betrayal, you can expand the conversation to include the relationship as a whole and discuss how you both can help the relationship.

If you’re unable to rebuild trust by talking to each other, if the problem reoccurs, or if the violation of trust involves infidelity, you may need the assistance of a professional therapist to help you communicate as a couple and also to uncover the causes that led to the problem. Usually, infidelity can be a sign of a problem in the marriage as well as an individual issue. When addiction is involved, including sex addiction, the help of a Twelve Step program can be very beneficial. Seeking support outside the relationship isn’t a sign of weakness. It shows commitment to the relationship and reassures the injured person that his or her partner is taking the problem seriously and willing to make an effort to change.

The last step is very important, because once trust has been broken, although it may seem as if all is forgiven and back to normal, doubts and hurt often continue to linger in the aggrieved person’s mind and heart. It may take months or even years for a serious wound to heal.

©Darlene Lancer 2012

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3 thoughts on “Rebuilding Trust – Part II

  1. This is a fabulous article and is much needed for wounded people who find themselves unable to trust. I am experiencing this now in my current relationship where I am at a fork in the road. The man I have been dating for 10 mons now finds it hard to trust although I have given no reason for doubt. He lives in fear and anxiety and a huge degree of codependency due to a severe broken childhood where all.forms of abuse were endured (mental/physical / sexual ) which trickled into his adult relationships where infidelity from the women came to easy and he trusted too much. Now I need to set my boundaries and allow him to find ugh needed healing.

  2. I agree with your comment. Yet, when one person changes his or her responses, and says, for instance, “I realize you’re (hurt, angry), but I don’t take responsibility for . . . ,” it establishes a boundary. Over time, the other person may begin to look at him or herself and think about changing or getting help. Either way, you feel empowered and better.

  3. This is a great article. You hit on a lot of common characteristics that describe and define the disease of codependency. I am an Adult Child of an Alcoholic and I also suffer from codependency issues. I am a part of a 12 step program and I receive psychotherapy as I’m recovering from many childhood issues. The only feedback I will offer in response to this article is that, while it’s extremely important for those of us (and I definitely fall into this category) to own our feelings, behaviors and actions, it’s also important to note that the hurt partner has also chosen to participate in this scenario. She/he has also “danced this dance” and that it does take “two to tango” so to speak. For real healing to occur between two people, be it friends or lovers, I believe that both parties need to be self-aware and take responsibility for their own feelings and actions in a given situation.

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