Trust holds relationships together, but sometimes the bonds unravel. According to several major studies, about one in five married adults cheat on their spouse. Even if you avoid a major betrayal, you’re still likely to run into a coworker who talks behind your back or a friend who gives you the cold shoulder.
Trust can be restored, but it takes work. Consider these strategies for what to do when you let others down or feel like you’ve been deceived.
What to Do When You Damage the Trust
1. Apologize sincerely. Express your regret for what you did and acknowledge the impact that your actions had on others’ lives. Resist the urge to make excuses, and listen to what the other person has to say even if it’s uncomfortable to hear.
2. Skip the details. While you need to be candid with yourself, you may be able to spare the other person’s feelings if you leave out some of the fine points. Your girlfriend may want to know that you were flirting with a coworker, but she’d probably be happier without hearing the full transcript.
3. Make amends. Back up your words with concrete actions. That may include offering financial compensation or making a public statement about your part in the situation.
4. Change your behavior. Avoiding a repeat performance is usually the most effective way to demonstrate your remorse. You’ll need to understand what you did and create new habits that keep you from going down that path again.
5. Resolve underlying issues. While you’re examining yourself, you may notice disturbing patterns concerning yourself or your relationship. Reach out for additional resources that can help you make more constructive decisions. Talk with a therapist or a close friend.
6. Be patient. Healing takes time. Give others the opportunity to see that you’re determined to make real changes.
What to Do When Someone Damages Your Trust
1. Accept responsibility. Even when you’re the one who has been injured, you may have played some part in the situation. Knowing your contribution gives you the power to create different outcomes. Maybe you’ll want to work on your assertiveness or build up your self-esteem.
2. Suspend judgment. If you’re going to give someone a second chance, it’s important to play fair. Focus on the full picture instead of their one transgression. Keep an open mind and avoid dragging the past into current conflicts.
3. Make contingency plans. You’ll probably feel more confident if you decide what you want to do rather than letting your actions depend on someone who let you down. Make some new pals you can hang out with while you’re trying to patch up an existing friendship.
4. Honor your strengths. Think of the challenges you’ve already survived. While it’s uncomfortable to have your trust violated, you can still enjoy a happy and productive life.
5. Manage your expectations. It’s healthy to set reasonable boundaries in a relationship, but remember that humans are fallible. Distinguish between minor slights and serious patterns. Practicing forgiveness encourages your peace of mind and makes it more likely that others will extend compassion to you too.
6. Move on. Many relationships can be restored and emerge even stronger after trust has been tested. On the other hand, if your differences are irreconcilable, it’s time to wish the other person well and distance yourself.
When trust is violated, you may wonder if romance and friendship are worth the heartache. The answer is a resounding yes. With enough forgiveness and love you can heal the rift or search for a new relationship where you’ll receive the respect and consideration you deserve.