Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
A breach of trust can come in many forms. Whether it’s hiding certain financial decisions, emotional or physical affairs, a gambling habit, or other addiction — when you discover something negative about your partner it can be detrimental to trust. So how do you move past that and heal as a couple?
Usually, there’s someone who has broken the trust, and taking responsibility for that is essential. Don’t be defensive — that is often the single most important choice you can make. Don’t. Be. Defensive. Reveal as much as you can about the mistake that you made and own it. It’s hard. But it’s super important to be as transparent and vulnerable as possible. Vulnerability begets connection, and connection leads to hope in the relationship. Hiding information just leads to more mistrust. As difficult as it is, coming clean is incredibly important. Then, understand that even the wise choice of openness and vulnerability is going to lead to more hurt. Yes, it is — that information is painful. That doesn’t mean you hide it; it just means you have to be aware it will still cause pain.
As you do this, expect that it’s going to take time to rebuild trust. Trust can be broken in a matter of seconds, but it literally can take years to rebuild. Be ready to hold your partner’s anxiety for a good long time. Be patient with them; in many cases, they literally can feel like they have PTSD. This means they’re going to have many cycles of triggers, of hypervigilance about their partner as they worry that more things have happened or will happen. Give them space and support as they process this.
For major trust breaches, like an affair, we highly recommend getting professional support to help hold both of you through this very painful time. This could mean both of you getting individual therapy as well as couples therapy in order to rebuild the relationship, or just one or the other — but if you’re going through something cataclysmic, don’t try to face it alone.