Betrayal is not just about infidelity. You can betray someone’s trust in you by becoming a drastically different person than the person they fell in love with.
It could be that you broke your word numerous times, or only lied once but it was a biggie. Maybe you did have an affair. Or perhaps you just weren’t there when they needed you most. Maybe you ran up huge debts from gambling or another addiction that they didn’t even know you had. There are innumerable ways one person can betray another.
At some point, you come to your senses and realize that you’ve made a huge mistake or series of mistakes and you desperately want to save your relationship. The first thing you need to understand and accept is that it won’t be easy. Once trust is broken, especially after a series of betrayals, it takes time and commitment to earn somebody’s trust back. Your loved one may never trust you completely.
Don’t make excuses for your behaviour
Take responsibility for your mistakes. If you imply the betrayal was due to forces beyond your control they won’t have a reason to trust you again. If there was an outside factor that impaired your judgment and/or subsequent behaviour you need to eliminate it from your life if you want to be trustworthy in your relationship.
Actions speak louder than words
Of course, you should apologise without trying to minimise the betrayal. However, words won’t go far towards helping someone to trust you again, especially if the betrayal involved lying. You need to prove that you are stable, reliable and trustworthy. This can take months or even years, depending on how shattered your relationship is and what you did to betray your loved one.
Show your loved one how much you love them
Again, telling somebody you love them won’t be very convincing once you’ve betrayed their trust. There are many ways to show another how much you value your relationship with him or her. You could start with a few simple actions, such as:
- Spending time together
- Listening to your loved one
- Thinking of his or her needs
- Taking genuine pleasure in his or her companionship
- Being patient while your loved one heals
Other actions which can convince your loved one you are trustworthy include
- Stability and reliability
- Keeping your word
- Being there
It takes time to earn back a broken trust
Depending on your situation, it could take years to convince your loved one that it’s safe to love you again. You must commit to taking the right actions on a daily basis for months, years, or however long it takes.
Don’t demand that your loved one trust you again. Give them time to heal. By showing your loved one that you’re committed to your relationship and are doing all you can to show that love and commitment, they will gradually begin to heal.
Your loved one’s healing journey will begin with hope as they experience your actions daily. Gradually whatever hope you give them will become faith in your commitment to your mutual love and to the relationship. At some point, they will be able to trust you again.
While your relationship will never be the same as it was prior to the betrayal, it can become better and stronger due to your mutual commitment and shared struggle to weather a major storm.
Relationship counselling can help you both to begin your healing journey
Honest communication in a safe environment is a very good way for both you and your loved one to begin to understand how the other feels. When you communicate with a licensed therapist present, you’ll have the security of knowing that there’s an experienced and impartial mediator involved who will help you both to work through underlying issues that may have contributed to your broken relationship.
It takes work to maintain a healthy relationship with another person
If you could talk honestly with someone who has been in a committed relationship for decades, they would invariably admit to having had had their share of trouble. People are not perfect and there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship. What you would likely read in their expression is an absence of anger or pain. Instead, you would see satisfaction and pride in having stayed with the relationship when it was hard to do so, and they’d likely tell you that the struggle was hard but worth the effort.
To learn more about healing relationships read this article.
Mike Williams is a California native who has worked in the recovery field for over 15 years. He is active in 12-Step programmes and is a frequent contributor to By The Sea Recovery.
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