How To Fix A Relationship With Damaged Trust

A healthy relationship requires trust from both partners, according to Psychology Today. At the same time, humans are imperfect beings and there will inevitably come a time when your partner will either betray your trust or you will betray theirs. How you proceed depends on a lot of factors, including the context of the betrayal, your personal values, and the worth you assign to both yourself and the relationship.


When discussing trust within a romantic relationship, it's important to note that while many partners consider infidelity the ultimate breach of trust, it isn't the only way that trust can be lost. There are many seemingly smaller acts that, when repeated, can add up to major trust violations, as detailed by LifeHack. These include lying, hiding, sneaking, and other types of dishonest behavior or manipulation in any area of the relationship. If you feel like the trust within your relationship is in need of repair, here is how to get started. 

Define trust

Before you begin any work on repairing the trust issues you perceive inside your relationship, it's important that you and your partner both have a clear understanding of what trust does and doesn't mean within a healthy partnership. True trust does not involve invasive tactics like checking each other's phones, demanding passwords, or sharing social media accounts (via Psychology Corner). It does involve feeling safe and respected enough in your relationship to trust that your partner always has your best interest in mind.


If you feel like your relationship is lacking trust and you want to start working on the issue, it's time to have a serious discussion with your partner. Before you can set a goal for repairing the relationship, you need to agree on what a trusting partnership looks like to both of you. If you don't quite agree on the definition, compromises might need to be made (via The Source). 

Prioritize communication

In many cases, the types of behaviors that damage trust within a relationship arise due to unresolved issues within the partnership. This might look like one partner lying about their spending habits because they feel that the other partner is financially controlling. Or, one partner might hide and lie about a behavior that the other partner doesn't approve of, such as smoking or drinking (via Anchor Light Therapy Collective). In both cases, if the underlying issue had been resolved directly, the situation likely wouldn't have devolved into deceitful behavior.


It is paramount that both partners in a relationship know how to assertively communicate in order to ensure that their needs are being met. When one or both partners' needs are not being met, undesirable behavior will result. That undesirable behavior will often lead to violations of trust. Work on speaking openly to your partner about what you need and what bothers you without aggression, manipulation, or avoidance. Encourage them to do the same. When they do, listen compassionately to help them feel truly heard, per Psychology Today

Consider intentions

When one partner has violated the trust of another, it's important to explore why they made that choice. Having "good" intentions or lacking malicious ones does not excuse deceitful behavior, but it can help with understanding what led to it and how it should be dealt with within the relationship. For example, finding out that your partner has been lying about carrying on an affair for the past year should elicit a completely different response from finding out that they've been lying about working overtime so they can play video games. If you're prone to reacting impulsively or overreacting, wait to compose yourself to confront your partner to avoid further damaging the relationship.


If you are the one who violated your partner's trust, evaluate your own intentions. Did you deceive your partner because you were afraid of hurting them with the truth? To shield yourself from their reaction? To avoid the guilt of failing to meet their expectations? Be honest with your partner and yourself about why you engaged in behavior that damaged their ability to trust you so that the underlying issue can be resolved as you work on rebuilding that trust (via BetterHelp). 

Value yourself

Regardless of what side of the deceitful behavior in your relationship you're on, it is vital that you uphold your self-worth. If remaining in a relationship where your partner regularly violates your trust is taking a toll on your self-esteem, your mental health, or your ability to prioritize your own needs, it's time to assess whether the damage is worth the reward. The same is true if you are the person who made a mistake that damaged the relationship's trust dynamic. If you've spent months or years proving to your partner that you're sorry and trustworthy and you continue to be punished and suspected, move on. They might not owe you forgiveness but you also don't owe them the rest of your life (via Talkspace).


Not every relationship is worth saving and no relationship is worth sacrificing your worth as a person for, as detailed by The Upside. Don't be afraid to get real about whether or not the level of commitment to working out the issues is worth the partner and the relationship you'll get in return. 

Explore the option of professional help

Many unmarried couples assume that counseling is only an option for married partnerships, probably because of the prevalence of the term "marriage counseling." However, this is not the case at all. Couples' counseling is widely available and a game-changer for many couples struggling with rebuilding trust. If you and your partner are both on board with learning new tools for effectively communicating and embracing vulnerability, this may be the best path for your relationship.


If you and your partner are both willing to seek professional help but you're struggling to find local resources, consider turning to online counseling or therapy. Services like Talkspace and BetterHelp now offer fully virtual options that can connect you and your partner to relationship-saving help in the privacy of your own home, even without insurance.