“Ultimately, the worst kind of pain does not come from your enemies, but from those you trust and love.”
What is necessary for trust to be rebuilt after you’ve discovered that your partner has betrayed you?
To be honest, you may never fully trust them again – and it won’t be the same kind of trust as before. However, there is still a place for hope. Often progress can be made. But the following are essential for rebuilding trust:
1. The betrayer must have made a total break with the affair partner, or be actively getting help for a sex addiction (if that is the cause of the betrayal). They should also have someone they’re accountable to, someone they check in regularly with. This must be someone you (the betrayed partner) trust as well.
2. The betrayed partner must believe in their heart that the offending partner is wholeheartedly and freely choosing them again. They have to really believe that the choice is genuine, and that their partner is unlikely to change their mind on this.
3. Related to this, the betrayed partner or spouse must really feel that ‘you love me’; ‘that you love me more than anyone, or anything, in the world’, and ‘you can’t bear the thought of life without me.’
That is, the decision to hold on to the relationship cannot be because the betrayer:
– doesn’t want to be exposed,
– or to lose their reputation,
– or to lose the respect of their family or kids,
– or to lose the family home, or a lifestyle they enjoy.
4. The betrayer must take full responsibility for what they did. They must convey a deep and genuine remorse for hurting you, and for totally wrecking your life. They can’t ‘half get it’, downplay it, or push some of the responsibility onto you, or anyone else.
5. They need to really get what this has done to you. This is quite different from being overcome by feelings of shame. Feelings of shame are often self-focused. They actually prevent us from getting inside our partner’s world, and from fully empathizing with their pain.
In fact, we can get so totally consumed by feelings of self-loathing and self-rejection, and shock at what we did and who we became that we can’t be there for anyone else.
However, the betraying partner has to ‘get’ what they have done, and broken, devastated and desolate you feel. This is absolutely crucial.
5. Part of processing and coming to terms with betrayal includes going over the same ground, and asking the same questions again and again.
For trust to be rebuilt, the perpetrator must remain patient and understanding, and be committed to not reacting to what is said (which could be hard at times!)
Also, they must honestly and fully answer any questions you have – and even encourage you to probe even deeper.
That is, they have to give you the time and space you need to process the betrayal – which could take some time! This is especially important in the initial months.