Rebuilding Trust Tara Fields, Ph.D., LMFT Marin County, California

Affair of the Heart vs. Sexual Affair: Part 2 Rebuilding the Trust

No Trust – No Relationship.

Ripping down trust may take only a few minutes, but it takes a long time to rebuild it. We talked about transparency in Part 1 of this two part series, but let’s go a bit deeper into what it really means. Exhibiting total transparency in an effort to rebuild trust in a relationship means that if you say you’ll be home at 7:30 P.M., you’re home at 7:30 P.M. “What if there’s a traffic jam?” you ask? It used to be no big deal if you came home late because of traffic. Those days are over, my friend. If there’s a traffic jam, you call your partner and you stay on the phone as you drive home. If you don’t, you open a Pandora’s box of other possibilities. Are you lying? Are you not lying? Your partner can’t be sure.

But here’s the thing, even if you act in a trustworthy way, your partner is still going to have a hard time trusting you because of the time(s) you betrayed that trust. Which means now is the time for going overboard, for being 100 percent committed to trust building. Not one step out of line, for it could truly mean the end of the relationship this time.

You may even consider making little agreements with your partner just so that you can keep them and show that you’re trustworthy. For example, agree that you will be home by a set time (on the dot), and if something happens to hold you up, like a downed tree on the state highway, make a phone call and tell your partner to turn on the news to verify that a tree, indeed, is blocking traffic on the highway. Or if you’re going out to lunch or to a business dinner, you might agree to let your partner know in advance where you’re going and who you will be with. If you go to the corner store, tell your partner when you’ll be back, and then stick to the schedule. You’re past the point of being able to talk with your partner about your trustworthiness—it’s going to take total transparency and follow-through, honoring these agreements over and over and over again, in order to rebuild trust.

Be willing to forgive.

Whether trust was broken through an affair or through lying about gambling or alcohol addictions, the steps may be very similar for the couple in rebuilding trust. Once both partners have met the nonnegotiable conditions, the wayward partner has done the work, and enough time has passed to rebuild trust, the partner who was cheated on or lied to, has to take a leap of faith and offer forgiveness. Without it, the cheater may begin to feel there is no hope for rebuilding the relationship and may simply give up.

True, this step involves being vulnerable and being willing to take a risk. Be kind to yourself. Offering forgiveness is difficult. It may be one of the toughest things you ever do. It is a complex and challenging step, but it’s also necessary. Let go of the false assumption that by forgiving, you’re dismissing the pain you felt. Let go of the belief that if you forgive your partner, you’re condoning the behavior. I know it is tough, and it is very normal and human to feel that way. You may never forget. The memories may never fade entirely. But at some point the partner who was cheated on will have to say, “Enough,” and will have to return to the relationship with an open heart.

Honestly and truly, it is possible to survive the crushing heartache and the struggle, and make it to the other side of an affair with a strengthened bond and a newfound loving partnership. Both my own heart and my experience of working with many couples have shown me this, and working with a professional can help bridge the gaps between attempting to rebuild and truly seeing both sides of the coin in working together.

Helpful Links:
Part 1: Affair of the Heart vs. Sexual Affair: Which Is More Devastating?
On Infedility with video: How Can a Couple Cope with Infidelity? via Sharecare.com
Dr. Oz Show with guest Dr. Tara Fields – The Science of Infidelity 
Dr. Tara Fields – About Her Private Practice
Dr. Tara Fields – Media and Television/Radio Content & Appearances

4 replies
  1. Java Joe
    Java Joe says:

    I thought the blog was great as well but I would appreciate any additional tips you might have . I have never cheated on my wife but violated her trust in another big way according to her. I have tried my best to rebuild the trust, said I was sorry numerous times but forgiveness and lack of trust is still a thorn in the side of our marriage.
    We have been married for 12 years and this is the first time we cant seem to get back on track.
    Any and all feedback would be appreciated.
    Thanks in Advance
    —……

    Reply
    • Tara Fields Ph.D., M.F.T.
      Tara Fields Ph.D., M.F.T. says:

      Thank you for your comment. It sounds like you have a strong marriage an equally strong strong intention to repair the trust. Please be patient.Re-building trust is a process that takes time. If you stick with it You have a great opportunity to not only rebuild the trust but create a stronger bond then before. Work on trying to understand the pain and fears your wife may have if she allows herself to be vulnerable and trust again.There are specific Heart-Work and 3 Minute
      Fixes in my book that can help guide you in this process. In addition she might consider finding a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in your area to help the two of you.
      Best of Luck
      Tara

      Reply
  2. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for the much needed reality check. So sick of having my feelings negated by people who haven’t walked in my shoes but are full of opinions!

    Reply

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