Psych Corner: What Do You Do When Trust Is Broken?

I Believe In Love received an email from a reader, Ashley, looking for some relationship advice. She discovered her boyfriend of 2 years had been inappropriately texting with another woman. She says,

“He has now changed all his codes on his phone [and] iPad. He said I saw the worst of the messages, but he refused to show me any of them.  Of course, I do not trust him with his phone and he is so wired-in, we can never just talk. It has been putting me through hell this last week. 

Many of my friends keep saying give him time to think things through and clear his head, but I just don’t feel he is putting in the work for this. I know nobody is perfect; I know people make mistakes but why don’t I feel like he is sincerely sorry?”

Like Ashley, you might wonder, “Will I ever be able to trust someone again?” after your relationship has been damaged by mistrust. The good news is that, although it may take some time and work, learning to trust again is possible.

1. It Takes Time

While one moment of dishonesty can destroy years of trust, the opposite isn’t true: One grand gesture of honesty often isn’t enough to restore trust. Instead, it takes time to rebuild trust. I Believe in Love contributor, Carrie, says, “Trust can be earned back, but it takes patience and persistence.” Choosing to trust again requires courage, whether in showing your partner that you can be trustworthy or in trying to be open to trusting your partner again. Recognize that this will take time, but also know that it is worth it.

2. It Takes Dedication to the Little Things

There are big ways to break trust (like cheating, abuse, and abandonment) but there are also little things that chip away at trust (like telling little white lies or not being there for your partner when they really need you).

Rebuilding trust means watching out for the little ways to show you are trustworthy, whether that means being honest about your mistakes or being there for your partner when they really need you. If someone has broken your trust, look for signs that they are trying to take steps to rebuild your trust in them. Are they being open with you about what is going on in their life? Are they there for you when you need them? These might be signs that they are making changes for the sake of restoring trust.

3. It Takes Two

Trust shouldn’t be one sided. Instead, it is a two-way street. If one person in the relationship isn’t on board or further destroys what trust is left, it might be a sign that it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate why you are in that relationship. If the trust is damaged now and your partner isn’t willing to take steps to re-establish that trust, think about what your relationship might look like in the future. Carrie says, “It takes loving, intentional effort from the person who caused the damage, and a willing, loving, receptive heart from the person who has been hurt.” In other words, for the relationship to stay strong, both partners have to work on restoring trust.

4. Seek Outside Support

If you sense that you and your partner can’t work through some tough issues on your own, you might want to consider seeking outside help. Is there someone in your family or a friend who can mentor you as you work on re-building trust?

Another option is to seek the help of a counselor. They can help you and your partner work together on the issues that are keeping your relationship stuck and work towards lasting love. Remember that it is only after you go through the difficult and, at times, draining work of dealing with those tough issues, that you will be able to find the peace that trust brings to your relationship.


Remember that one unlucky experience in love doesn’t mean that you’ll never find lasting love with someone you can trust—and whom you can trust will make the effort.


This story is not intended to be a substitute for or serve as professional counseling or treatment. 


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