If you think of a relationship as a house, then the foundation is the trust you share with your partner. Everything that you build on top of it (floors, walls, rooms, kitchen, bathrooms, furniture down to the last doorknob) can only exist once you lay a foundation. And when that foundation cracks, it threatens the stability of the entire structure.
However, cracks in the foundation are not irreparable. You can keep building your relationship… but you have to fix the foundation first. Relationship expert John Gottman has 7 tips for proactively building back trust after it has been compromised:
Tip #1. Practice Being Vulnerable In Small Steps.
You won’t go from fighting to 100% vulnerability in the blink of an eye, so don’t force this. Try being more open with each other about small things - like meal plans or running errands - and build confidence slowly. Then later, you can open up about bigger issues.
Tip #2. Be Honest (Obvs) & Communicate On Key Issues.
Whether or not you were the party who severed trust in your relationship, both of you should move forward with an Open Policy. No sweeping things under the rug - not to each other, your co-workers, your parents, or your friends.
Tip #3. Challenge Your Thoughts.
Ask yourself: “Is my lack of trust in our relationship due to them, my own insecurities, or both?” Understand that issues from your past may be haunting you in the present.
Tip #4. Trust Your Intuition & Instincts.
Make sure to keep an open, clear pathway between your “instinct” and your brain. Many times we cast aside gut intuitions as “funny feelings” but those could be red flags that we choose to ignore. Stay hyper-aware of how you’re feeling as you move through the trust-rebuilding process.
Tip #5. Assume Your Partner Has Good Intentions.
If you decide to move forward after trust has been broken but you continue to suspect the worst – there’s almost no reason to stay in the relationship. Trust includes forgiveness, and forgiveness means moving forward.
Tip #6. Listen To Their Side Of The Story.
Do not exclusively live in your own experience. If you severed trust, you will want them to hear your motivations and mistakes behind your decision. If your partner did, it’s important to listen in a non-judgemental way to their side.
Tip #7. Practice Conflict Resolution.
This might seem like the grown-up version of a fire drill - and maybe it is. But who says fire drills weren’t totally unhelpful? Practice taking breaks in conversation when you feel overwhelmed, upset, and giving yourself breaks so you don’t lose your temper. Practice makes perfect.
Broken trust can spin you into a downward cycle, but it’s important to remember that although this situation can make you both feel powerless, you can work to take back the power with small, mindful steps. After a couple weeks of implementing Gottman’s tips, you might notice a difference in your relationship. Don’t give up.