“We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone – but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.”
– Walter Anderson

Trust — the most fragile aspect of a relationship. The framework upon which enduring love, intimacy and deep connection are built. It takes a long time to build, and a moment to destroy.

When a couple seeks therapy as a result of an affair, this is what we commonly hear:

Jason: Never in a million years did I ever think you would cheat on me! I trusted you.

Taylor: I’m sorry. It just happened. I didn’t mean to hurt you.

Jason: You didn’t mean to hurt me? Well you have a funny way of showing it. I don’t even know who you are. You are a complete stranger.

Taylor: I’m still me. I know I lied, but I’m still the same person.

Jason: The Taylor I knew wouldn’t have done this.

Taylor: But you didn’t know me. I tried so many times to tell you that I didn’t feel connected. You were always at the golf course. We didn’t spend time together. You went on golf trips with your buddies, but when was the last time you and I went away? You weren’t interested in spending time with me. We haven’t had sex in 8 months. I tried to get your attention. I felt like I didn’t exist.

Jason: I see that now. But did you have to do this?! How will I ever be able to trust you again?

After an affair, the first question couples have when they come to counseling is:

“Is it possible to rebuild shattered trust?”

The answer is YES, it is possible — with time, patience and emotional work. Couples who bravely engage in and devote themselves to this work can rebuild trust and create an even deeper connection than they had before.

There are 6 essential ingredients to rebuild shattered trust after an affair.

1) Honesty – Be open, honest and forthcoming.

Speaking openly and honestly builds trust, as does answering the difficult questions truthfully. When a partner who has been betrayed asks questions and the affair partner answers genuinely, it hurts, and at the same time builds trust. Why? Because your partner knows you are telling the truth.

Honesty means answering the questions that are uncomfortable.

2) Listening

Listening to a partner’s pain is vital to recovering from an infidelity. It’s difficult to hear the agony the betrayed partner feels, especially knowing your actions created it.

The person who had the affair needs to see and feel their partner’s pain, so they understand the depth of feeling it has created. When couples go deep into the pain they come back out of it more connected.

Listening means showing deep and sincere interest in your partner’s thoughts and feelings because you care.

3) Empathy

Along with listening comes empathy; i.e., putting yourself in the other’s shoes. You don’t feel something “about” them. You feel something “with” them. If you can’t relate to what they’ve gone through, try to imagine how they feel by relating it to something that caused similar feelings in your life.

Empathy means sensing your partner’s emotions on a visceral level, so you experience the feelings “with” them.

4) Validation

Validation let’s your partner know they were heard. You listen, express empathy, and then validate they have been heard. When you paraphrase your partner’s thoughts and feelings, you let them know you understand their feelings and point of view, whether or not you agree.

Validation means respecting the other’s thoughts and feelings, that they are reasonable and understandable.

5) Transparency

Transparency is a huge issue in this day and age of electronics. Each couple creates a balance of privacy and transparency. There is no need for hiding passwords, or blocking your partner from seeing texts, Facebook messages, or emails. Paradoxically, when there is transparency, it is much rarer for a partner to “check” up on the other.

Transparency means “I’m an open book.” There’s nothing to hide.

6) Consistency

Building or rebuilding trust is a process that requires time. Consistency over time builds trust. When couples are open; hear, understand and validate each other’s thoughts and feelings; and are transparent time and time again, they build love, connection and trust.

After a major breach in trust, like an affair, it’s difficult to do the work yourselves. We are here to assist. Call or email us for a consultation.

Your relationship deserves the highest level of support. Relationship Experts, Bob and Lori Hollander are committed to helping individuals and couples build connection and deepen bonds in a world that often makes it difficult.

Call them at 410-363-2825 or email them today, info@relationshipswork.com.

Photo credit Sjale on Canva