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Ask Dr. Zoe – How Can We Restore the Trust in Our Relationship?

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‘Troubled Wife’ Asked:

I continue to have heated exchanges with my spouse. I am finally realizing that it’s about a lack of trust. Dr. Zoe, when the trust is gone from a relationship, is it truly over or is there any way to salvage it?

Dr. Zoe Answered:

Not necessarily. Trust can be re-gained if both of you are determined and the foundation of the relationship is strong enough. Without trust, a relationship can hobble along, but it won’t be a healthy one. Only you two decide when it is truly over.

Rebuilding Trust Requires 3 Things

These 3 things must be present if trust has a chance to be restored:

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1. Remorse and an ability to convince you of it. If he’s saying sorry, but you don’t feel he’s sorry, then it’s going to be impossible for you to build trust because you don’t even trust his apology.

It could be that you don’t trust it because of your own issues or it could be that he isn’t truly sorry. Either way, this is step one.

Nothing can be built until you believe there is remorse. If you are struggling with this step, seek out couples therapy or counseling to help you improve communication, so that if he is sorry, you feel it.

2. A plan to change. Remorse is great and necessary, but it has to come with a plan to change. I have seen countless clients in my practice who are extremely remorseful…every single time they mess up.

Without a plan, we plan to fail. Ask him what his plan is. Knowing that he is actively working on change will increase your comfort level with your decision to try to trust again.

3. Time and consistency. Time alone doesn’t heal a thing! With time, wounds can fester and cause disease. But time, with healthy consistent patterns, heals all.

When he has been remorseful and expresses a desire to change and when you watch him consistently act out his spoken intentions over many months, you will begin to trust him again.

Someone who isn’t truly remorseful cannot keep it up for longer than a few months.

Trust can be re-gained if both of you are determined and the foundation of the relationship is strong enough.

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It Requires Hard Work

Lastly, it’s important to note that people show us who they are. If there has been a regular pattern of deceit in your relationship, it will likely continue and you will know this because step 2 and 3 won’t last—even if there is remorse.

It may feel like you will never trust again, but I have seen marriages with these qualities and hard work, come back stronger than they were before a betrayal.

You’ve got this. It just takes a little grit and grace!


For more relationship advice for women, start here:

Ask Dr. Zoe – Can You Get Past a Betrayal in Marriage?
To All of the Times We Almost Didn’t Make It
A Psychologist Explains How to Compromise and Why You Need to
6 Tips for Traveling With Your Spouse
Things to Consider When You Want to Divorce with Kids

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Dr. Zoe is a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert who recently jumped out of a perfectly good plane just for the experience.

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