Everybody makes mistakes, but some of those mistakes have huge consequences. Maybe you cheated, maybe you lied, maybe your partner found out something you tried to keep quiet, but when you hurt your partner and damage the trust between you, you likely have some major work to do to heal the relationship. Your partner doesn't just have to deal with the issue that broke their trust, they also have believe that you're still the person they thought you were.
"Once trust is lost within a relationship it is incredibly difficult to rebuild," relationship coach at Maze of Love, Lauren Irish, tells Bustle. "Your partner not only has to work through distrust caused by the tangible action but now also has to address all the 'what-ifs' in [their] mind."
Your partner is probably going to feel lost at sea after trust is broken, so when it's time to rebuild it, it may be important to give them a lot of breathing room. Depending on how big your mistake was and how damaged the relationship is, it might take a long time for things to return to normal. If you're having trouble piecing the relationship back together, here's where experts say you can start.
1. Own Up To All Of It
It's important to lay it all out there. "The best way to gain your partner’s trust after you’ve hurt them is to be straightforward, open, and honest with them," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle.
If there's anything else you haven't told them, anything that might upset them, it should come out now — if they find out about more betrayals later, it might be impossible to come back from.
2. Give Them As Much Time As They Need
You may have to have the same conversations over and over — if that's what they need. "It can really help for you to keep acknowledging that you hurt or betrayed them and that you aren’t expecting it to go away overnight," Hartstein says. "Remedy whatever you did wrong and continue to have an open forum with them for as long as they need it." It may feel frustrating for you, but remember that they're still processing something huge.
3. Take Things Slowly
It's important not to act like everything's back to normal right away. "Be patient," Irish says. "... It's natural after you've hurt someone to want to move forward in the relationship and leave the past in the past but you have to meet your partner where [they are]. It's going to take time and not giving the time needed can cause problems later if the other person hasn't fully regained trust. The issue can pop up in arguments long after you thought trust was restored if you don't take it slow and keep the lines of communication wide open."
You may think that you can have some difficult conversations and can still have date nights and hang out with friends, but your partner might not be ready to pretend everything is fine.
4. Be More Gentle With Your Partner
Being critical will make them feel like you're not on their side so it's important to be gentle, even when you're not talking about how you've hurt them. "Criticism is a surefire way to erode connection in relationships," couples therapist Theresa Herring, LMFT tells Bustle. "For one thing, it makes both of you feel less loving towards one another. And, secondly, it almost always ends in your partner becoming defensive or shutting down."
5. Accept That Your Relationship May Have Changed
You may have to accept the fact that your relationship is never going to look like it once did. "I often tell my clients that our work is not going to be about getting them back to how their relationship was but rather creating a new relationship for them," clinical psychologist Dr. Piper S. Grant, PsyD, MPH tells Bustle. "This takes time, communication, openness within themselves and each other, and the ability to tolerate one's own feelings while hearing the other's feelings." But even if that relationship is gone, you can still work toward a happy, healthy one.
6. Be Fully Present
Whether you're working through issues or just spending time together, your partner needs to feel like they can rely on you — and that means being fully present. "Not making eye contact with someone and giving them your full attention when they are trying to communicate with you creates an emotional gap in a relationship," counselor Monte Drenner tells Bustle. "This practice makes others feel they are unimportant and they will pull away emotionally over time." They need to feel like they're a priority right now.
7. Try To Work Out *Why* You Hurt Them
Showing your partner that you're working on the issue can make a huge difference. "Figure out why you did what you did and get some help ASAP so your partner doesn't feel you will continue with this bad behavior," Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and the owner of Exclusive Matchmaking tells Bustle. "If [they] feel you won't likely re-offend, it's easier to trust... You need to figure out why you feel compelled to sabotage yourself by ruining your relationships in order to fix it."
8. Make Time For Each Other
Show your partner you're trying to fix it by putting in the time. "Spend quality time together doing something you both love and find soothing," Trombetti says. "Perhaps that's going to a concert, planting flowers in your garden, or taking a hike. Whatever you enjoy as a couple, do more of it. It's the good times that help bond us and get you both past your difficulties. Nothing says 'I love you' more than the commitment of spending your time with someone. It shows you care." And quality time is the best way to build new memories together, so they can start to move past the feelings of hurt and betrayal.
9. Listen To Your Partner
Above all, just remember to follow your partner's lead. "Listen to your significant other. That's the most important thing here," Trombetti says. "Listening validates their feelings, makes them more invested in you because [they] feel heard, and reestablishes your severed trust thus repairing the broken bond." Ask what you can do, listen to what they say, and do your damn best to make it happen.
You can come back from a breach of trust in a relationship, but you have to be willing to put in the work.