How To Build Back Trust And Respect In Your Relationship

Communication between you and your partner doesn’t come to a screeching halt after a breach of trust. (Well, polite and effective communication sometimes does.) But life goes on and you both have to navigate the daily grind… while simultaneously moving through healing, forgiveness, and restoring trust.

Sounds like a tall order, huh?

That’s why the interim is so important. If you can’t speak to each other with respect while you’re still figuring stuff out… you will hurt your chances of ever breaking through to the other side. So we’ll show you how NOT to communicate, what you can do, and how to move forward.

In the following example, trust has obviously been broken - but neither party is addressing the real issue: R found out they were in massive debt while trying to secure a loan for a car. P had charged the credit card with expenses for a new business (over $10,000 worth of expenses) but had kept most of the purchases a secret from R, thinking the business would soon cover the costs.

R = Relisher P = Partner

P: "I tried to use my credit card today and got denied at the gas station! It was so embarrassing, AND I had to walk to an ATM station to get cash. What is wrong with you?"
R: "Why would I let you have a credit card?? So you can go and put us in 10K of debt again?"
P: "Oh my god you always come back to that! That’s the cost of starting a new business!"
R: "How could you not tell me about it? You let me find out from the bank!!!"
P: "Oh geez, I can’t think of why I wouldn’t have told you… Wait, I remember! I guess that I just knew this is how you were going to react!"

Pause. Deep breath. This is obviously an example of how out of hand interactions can become when neither party is interested in restoring trust. They’re only interested in assigning blame. It goes without saying that this is not a productive dialogue. Here’s how to change that.

Step 1. Be Proactive, Not Reactive.


What do you want to say to your partner? No, like, what do you really want to say? Do you want them to know they hurt you? Made you doubt your relationship? Put your goals at jeopardy? Okay. Say that. Don’t shoot back a criticism that is reactive - meaning you’re only addressing their statement, not the bigger picture.

Step 2. Watch The Tone.


When you’re discussing something sensitive, any inflection or emphasis could carry (unintended) undertones. You want your partner to really hear and comprehend the words you’re saying, and the meaning will be immediately lost if they detect sarcasm, defensiveness, or anger. So keep your tone measured, calm, and even. If you can’t do it - push off the conversation until you can.

Step 3. Confirm Their Message Is Received.


We all know the frustration of sending an email and get zero response that it has been received. It’s a confusing sensation. So take away the ambiguity from your conversation by making sure you don’t just hear what your partner is saying, you verbalize that you hear it. (i.e. “I understand,” “I hear what you’re saying,” or “I get it.”)

P: "I tried to use my credit card today and got denied at the gas station! It was so embarrassing, AND I had to walk to an ATM station to get cash. What is wrong with you?"
R: (Instead of reacting to that anger, answer proactively) "I cut off your access to the credit card until we resolve our issue. I’m sorry, I should have given you a heads up. I didn’t mean for you to be embarrassed."
P: "Wait, so you just cancelled my credit card and didn’t even talk to me about it?"
R: (Watch the tone - keep it even, calm, and peaceful) "I know, it was wrong of me. I wanted to talk to you about it first but I got home after you were asleep. I think we need to work through our trust issues first before we talk about finances again."
P: "I understand. I’ve told you this before but I really want you to know I never thought it would get this out of hand. I truly believed I was making decisions that were best for us, but I really regret doing it behind your back."
R: (Confirm that you received this message) "I know you’re sorry, and I understand what you were trying to do. But we just need time to rebuild the trust between us."

WOWEEEEEEE. What a difference. Honestly, the first and the second conversations are like night and day, or flip sides of the same coin. With just a few tweaks to your tone, your language, and your dialogue, you can lead with respect… even through the tough times.

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