If you’ve broken your spouse’s trust, the situation is not hopeless.
Here’s what you need to do to restore trust when you’ve screwed up:
- Apologize and come clean about what happened
- Empathize and take responsibility
- Commit to changing—and makes sure to follow through
- Cut ties with bad influences
- Foster open communication and listen to your partner
- Let your spouse heal
- Renew your commitment to a healthy relationship
If your marriage is on the rocks, instead of forcing things, we recommend taking a “reset” with the psychological techniques in Dr. Lee Baucom’s guide Save The Marriage.
Click the link above to check it out, or learn the steps to regaining the trust in your marriage below.
Table of Contents
Can You Ever Rebuild Trust in a Marriage?
Yes, you can rebuild trust in a marriage.
It’s a long road that takes commitment, discipline and a willingness to change.
But you must be prepared for the emotional fallout of your actions.
On the upside, peer reviewed studies like this one show that the longer you’ve been together, the more likely you can come back from a breach of trust.
But that doesn’t mean you can take it for granted.
Trust is dynamic and ever-changing—in reality, it’s not something you can control. You can, however, influence it with right behaviors and actions.
Rebuilding trust requires continuous reassurance and security.
It’s difficult, slow and sometimes agonizing, but as they say, nothing worth having comes easy.
Read Next: How to Save Your Marriage
What Causes Lack of Trust in Marriage?
Before we talk about how to start the healing process and rebuild trust, it’s important to understand how we break trust in a relationship.
It may be something straightforward like cheating, but that’s just the beginning.
Here are some of the common reasons for broken trust in a relationship:
- Physical or emotional infidelity
- Consistently breaking your promises
- Severe lack of communication, causing distance between you and your spouse
- Abandoning or not being supportive of your partner
- Gaslighting your partner
- Being hot and cold without explanation
- Neglecting or ignoring your partner
- Addictions (e.g., to drugs, alcohol or pornography)
Rebuilding Trust in Your Marriage: A Step-by-Step Guide
The following is a list of steps to rebuilding trust and creating a new relationship based on honesty, mutual respect and trust.
Here’s what you need to do.
1. Apologize and address hurt feelings
The first thing that must be done is giving a sincere and complete apology.
Meaning that the apology must come from the heart and show empathy to your partner by acknowledging the way your actions have made them feel.
Your partner is deeply hurt and needs to hear that you understand.
A heartfelt and meaningful apology won’t fix things on its own, but it’s the critical first step to starting a conversation and opening up a path to rebuilding trust.
It’s about putting yourself in their shoes and showing remorse.
Basically, it says to your partner that you made a mistake, you regret what you did and you want to make amends.
2. Tell the whole truth
If you did something wrong, don’t hide any of the details.
Spill your guts and tell your other half what happened.
It will hurt you to hurt their feelings, but it’s necessary to show that you can be trusted again.
Tempting as it is to tell white lies to save face and spare your partner’s feelings, it will have the opposite effect when the truth comes to light.
And in any case, taking that hit and showing that you’re not hiding anything—without being pushed or asked to—demonstrates integrity.
This is an important move because it earns respect from your spouse—and if you lose that, the marriage is really in danger.
3. Take personal responsibility
Part of apologizing should be you owning what you did.
Don’t get defensive—take full responsibility for what happened and your own actions which led to breaking your spouse’s trust.
No matter what, you can’t let it turn into a blame game.
If you cheated because your partner stopped paying attention to you and your marriage became loveless and sexless, now is not the time to bring that up.
The point of this conversation is not to be “fair.”
As the offending partner, you have to show that you are accountable for your actions and you’re not excusing them, regardless of the circumstances.
4. Commit to changing
Make a vow to your spouse to change your behavior.
But it can’t be an empty promise to win back your spouse’s approval.
You have to fully commit, which usually means taking preliminary actions to show that you’re serious.
If you battle with an alcohol addiction that’s destroying trust in your marriage, commitment to change might involve looking up AA meetings near you—and then going.
If there was infidelity on your part, you need to take temptation out of the picture and make whatever changes are necessary to cut the affair partner out of your life.
Don’t drag your feet—the quicker you take action, the more responsible you are in your spouse’s eyes.
5. Follow through
Half-hearted attempts to keep your promises are almost more damaging than not making any commitments at all.
The truth is, when you break trust in a relationship, your words are hollow until your partner sees you doing something and sticking to it.
Actions speak louder than words.
So don’t stop going to AA meetings because you’ve decided it’s not for you.
Don’t slip up—stay the course and honor your better half with your dedication.
Your hard work and devotion will pay off as your spouse sees the change happening in you and doesn’t have to harp on it.
6. Don’t force it
You can never rebuild trust in a relationship by giving it a deadline.
The trust rebuilding process is long and painful.
But to give some perspective, your spouse is under no obligation to forgive you.
Not to mention, trying to hurry things along makes it seem like you’re just trying to skip to the end where you get forgiven and everything gets swept under the rug.
Instead of asking for forgiveness, try saying to your wife or husband that you don’t expect their forgiveness, but you’re going to do everything in your power to prove your trustworthiness.
That’s much more powerful and effective, and it reinforces your commitment and empathy toward your spouse.
7. End relationships that endanger your marriage
Is there someone who could be considered a “bad influence” on you?
If there’s an affair partner to deal with or anyone in your life who encourages you to make bad choices, it’s important to remove them from the equation.
An affair partner may be easy, but what about when it’s a friend?
Ultimately, you’ll have to make a decision.
Evaluate your relationships and prioritize your marriage, in addition to your own health and wellbeing.
If your friend constantly encourages you to get drunk and make bad decisions, that’s a problem.
Ultimately, you’ll have better success if you’re not battling outside threats to the peace and trust in your marriage.
8. Understand the triggers broken trust can create
With deep betrayal, sometimes a spouse may forgive—but not forget.
It creates a trigger that can be activated any time you do something that recalls the memory of the betrayal.
Like staying later than normal at work, getting random women commenting on your social media, or not telling your spouse the whole story.
Often times, these incidents are totally accidental and have nothing to do with the betrayal.
But the flashbacks for your spouse are real.
If you expect things to return to the way they were before without any casualties of the betrayal, you may have some unrealistic expectations.
It takes time for wounds to heal, so have patience. Empathize with your partner.
If you need help shifting the dynamics of your relationship, try Dr. Lee Baucom’s method in Save The Marriage.
9. Communicate constantly
Building trust in a relationship takes a lot of communication.
Keep the channel open, because talking is key to bringing wounds to the surface that would otherwise fester in silence.
Here are things you should be doing to keep the dialogue open:
- Ask your partner what they need. In the view of the injured person, what can you do to make things right?
- Check in with each other regularly. Make time to sit down, ask how your spouse is feeling and get some feedback. Don’t put this off!
- Talk about what’s required to keep the relationship balanced and committed. Set new terms for the marriage if necessary. What can both parties do to satisfy these requirements? Just be careful not to get into blame game territory here.
10. Actively listen to your spouse
Active listening is part of good communication, and it’s especially important if you have a history of miscommunicating or feeling blindsided by how your partner feels in your relationship.
Pay close attention to your partner’s verbal and non-verbal communication. This will help you get in tune with them and be a better judge of what they need from you in the moment.
Use your empathy to guide you.
When your spouse is talking, don’t jump to defend yourself or give counterarguments.
Clarify the messages your spouse gives you (“It sounds like you’re saying x,y, z…is that right?”) to make sure you’re on the same page.
And ask open-ended questions to foster better understanding, communication and emotional connection.
The more you give in a conversation, the more you will receive.
11. Put yourself on a short leash
One simple thing you can do to proactively rebuild trust?
Make your spouse feel safe by curbing your own behaviors.
First of all, it takes the burden off of them to ask you to comply with what may seem like strict new rules of conduct.
But most importantly, it shows that you’re serious about making the necessary changes.
For example, if you were unfaithful to your husband or wife, consider letting them see your phone when a text message pops up to reassure them.
Come directly home after work—try to stick to a “normal” schedule.
Even if it seems like your spouse isn’t moved by your efforts, they’re noticing these details and it will slowly create an image of you as trustworthy and dependable.
12. Be completely open and honest
The only way to rebuild trust is to be honest at all times.
In addition to communicating regularly, you should go above and beyond in attempting to be as transparent as possible.
Going forward, make sure not to omit any information, even if it seems irrelevant.
What if you’re battling an addiction to alcohol, and you slip up and have a drink?
Tell your significant other.
They will appreciate that you came clean, and if anything, it can point to other ways you can remove temptations.
But if you try to hide it, you will fall in their eyes when they find out and undo your hard work gaining their trust again.
13. Allow space for your spouse to work on their mental health
Your partner is going through major grief as a result of the betrayal.
So their mental health should take a front seat to other concerns.
It can be nerve-wracking, but it’s important to allow them the space and support they need for their healing process.
If they need to be with family, encourage them.
Their needs come first.
14. Make a renewed commitment to a healthy relationship
You can’t live under the same roof with a spouse who doesn’t want to be in a functioning relationship with you.
Moving forward, you need to focus on making the relationship work.
Which means not necessarily recreating the relationship you had, but a relationship that’s healthy and sustainable.
And of course, one that you both want.
Treat it as the natural evolution from the conversation that you’ve already had about what you both need to do to stay together.
Of course, you will both have to agree on what constitutes a good relationship.
If you’re having trouble communicating about this, it can be beneficial to seek out professional help.
Which brings us to our next point…
15. Go to couples counseling
When you’re rebuilding trust, couples therapy can be pivotal if you’re working with an experienced couples counselor.
Having a third party help to facilitate your goals and communication can make a huge difference in the outcomes.
And sometimes, going to couples counseling can give you perspective on issues you didn’t realize were damaging to the relationship.
For example, there’s a fine line between transparency and control—such as when your husband or wife refuses to let you go out with your friends and screens all your calls without gaining any faith in you over time.
A therapist can help you through trying times and recalibrate your relationship to a more positive and healthy orientation.
16. Go on date nights
At some point, you will want to re-establish the “we” in your marriage.
Part of working toward a better relationship is making the conscious decision to date each other again.
Having date nights is part of recreating emotional intimacy, and along with this comes trust.
Not to mention, it’s important that you’re both happy in your marriage if you want it to work in the long run.
Remember that you’re best friends as well as lovers, and allow yourselves to heal through finding your way back to enjoying each other’s company.
Establishing trust after it’s been broken is a process that takes time, commitment and vulnerability.
You will expend immense emotional energy along the way and at times maybe feel like you’re not getting anywhere.
But this is why patience is key—as is awareness of your partner’s needs.
Honesty, transparency and empathy will help you in turning the tide and rebuilding your relationship from the ground up with trust, love and understanding.
Can a marriage survive if there is no trust?
In short, no.
Not a healthy marriage, anyway.
Trust is one of the foundations of a relationship and a top concern for most couples.
So if the trust is gone, the marriage is likely to go with it.
Does space help a broken relationship?
Space can help a broken relationship if the ultimate goal is to gain new perspective and use it to repair the relationship.
However, it can’t be used as an “out” or to justify doing things you wouldn’t normally do inside of your relationship.
If taking space turns into a breakup trial, it will very likely lead there.
How do you know if your relationship is beyond repair?
- All attempts at rebuilding trust have failed and your partner is not interested in moving forward
- You or your partner refuses to “try” anymore
- You just don’t like each other or have anything in common anymore
- Your relationship has turned into an on-again, off-again thing
- Toxic patterns rule your relationship
- There’s a pattern of habitual lying, cheating and betrayal
- You and your partner have lost all respect for each other
If you’re afraid things have gotten to the point of no return, you may be a candidate for the Save The Marriage program.
It’s designed by therapist Dr. Lee Baucom to allow just one person in the relationship to make the changes needed to save it, even if the other person has given up.