Trust is like a mirror. Depending on how badly it’s broken, you can fix it to an extent, but you’re always going to at least see cracks in the reflection. Sure, I’m paraphrasing Beyoncé and Lady Gaga from the “Telephone” video here, but the sentiment rings still extremely true. When someone shatters your trust in a relationship that’s new or old, it can really smash your emotional looking glass and make seeing anything clearly a tough challenge to overcome, no matter how diligently you try. And if you notice your fixation on those cracks hurting your current relationship—even if your issues are deeply rooted and have nothing directly to do with your current relationship—you might be wondering how to get over trust issues.
But before diving into that huge emotional undertaking of mental and emotional strength, awareness, and work, know that building trust isn’t easy. It requires a lot of time, commitment, and, most importantly, vulnerability. You are holding your heart in your hands, offering it to someone else, and essentially saying, “Here is this gushy, sensitive organ of mine—please don’t mess with it.” So when someone cheats on you or breaks up with you or commits to any other action that leads you to feel like you made a grave mistake in opening up your heart and world, it’s as if the universe is gaslighting you. And that’s tough to get over.
“It can be a long road to rebuild that trust,” says marriage therapist Melissa Divaris Thompson. “When trust is broken, you ask yourself, ‘Am I being a fool for trusting again?’ ‘Will I be hurt again?’ People block themselves from trusting again because it feels so painful and so vulnerable to do so after it has been broken.”
And yet, since you likely do want to enjoy love in your life, knowing how to get over trust issues is key. Below, get actionable advice about how to actually accomplish this, whether you’re working to trust a new partner or rebuild your trust for a long-term one.
How to get over trust issues in a new relationship
1. Be open and honest about what you’ve been through
While you may not want to disclose all the details of how you’ve been hurt in past situations as a result of a breach of trust, communication is always key for setting up a healthy foundation in a new relationship. That’s especially true when it comes to handling trust issues because you want your new partner to be aware of what actions might be triggering for you in a relationship.
“If you’ve been badly burned, your impulse might be to keep it to yourself. However, talking about your experience is likely to make you feel a lot better.” —relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW
“If you’ve been badly burned, your impulse might be to keep it to yourself and to not discuss it with the next person,” says relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW. “However, opening up to them and talking about your experience and your hesitations is likely to make you feel a lot better.”
And that doesn’t need require every detail all at once, if it’s painful for you: “Use some discrimination. You don’t need to throw it all out there on the first date, but once things get going, let them know what you’ve been through and how you may be feeling challenged,” Hartstein adds.
2. Ask loved ones for a second opinion
If red flags pop up, ask those who want the best for you and will give honest answers whether you’re overreacting.
“If something comes up that’s making you feel uncomfortable, think about consulting friends,” says Hartstein. “You can also ask yourself, ‘Are there actually red flags, or are you overreacting from the old situation?'”
3. Seek closure from the past, if possible
This is something to consider if your trust was broken in a previously relationship and you haven’t systematically burned every picture of your awful ex. If the relationship is cordial enough to seek clarity about what happened, it could be worth meeting with your trust-breaking former beau to have a post-mortem. Just, you know, approach the situation with caution.
“If their behavior has been particularly abysmal, this might not be a good idea,” Hartstein says. “But sometimes a little time and perspective can help people to wrap things up and move on.”
4. Be aware that time really does help
Sometimes, it really is only a matter of time before your sense of trust feels restored. Usually, though, the time component is more so in regards to strengthening the relationship in front of you than moving past the one you left.
“The more time you spend with your new partner, and the more you build on the solid foundation that you are creating, the better you are likely to feel,” Hartstein says.
How to over trust issues in a long-term partnership
1. Voice your feelings, concerns, and questions
Let’s say your long-term partner broke your trust. Getting over it isn’t about punishing or playing the blame game. It is, however, about accurately conveying that you’ve been hurt, whether by them or anyone else, and providing context as to why that is. Being able to get over trust issues starts with a tough and ongoing dialogue—not by trying to move forward by burying your feelings.
“It is essential that you feel that your partner really understands the impact of their trust-breaking actions,” says Thompson. “Part of building trust back means being able to voice the feelings and thoughts that come up when you hear about broken trust. Whether it’s infidelity or otherwise, building trust requires that your partner hears where you’re coming from and the ways in which you have been hurt.”
2. Understand that there is no time limit on building trust back
There are many reasons that might explain why someone in a long-term relationship has developed trust issues. And one of those reasons is infidelity. When this happens, it’s key to know that the process of getting over the trust issues has no set time frame.
“Both partners need to understand that there is no time frame on it. It takes as long as it takes.” —marriage therapist Melissa Divaris Thompson
“Many couples who go through affairs ask how long it takes to move on and move through infidelity,” Thompson says. “Both partners need to understand that there is no time frame on it. It takes as long as it takes. Working to be honest with each other and open and perhaps getting help such as therapy can make it move faster.”
4. Work on your self-esteem
“Usually someone suffering from a betrayal feels badly about themselves and perhaps also not good enough,” Thompson says. “It’s paramount to deal with these feelings and build yourself back up.”
Rebuilding your confidence and self-worth goes hand-in-hand with rebuilding trust. So, make sure to surround yourself with activities and people who make you feel good about yourself.
5. Get support
If your trust is still shaky with your partner, make sure you have love and support from someone you do trust. This is a person who won’t judge you if you go back into that relationship—someone with whom you can openly share your feelings and concerns.
“A lot of times, people will reach out for a therapist at this point, and that can be very helpful,” says Thompson. “Healing from broken trust and infidelity can be extremely painful and bring up a lot of past and current challenges and issues. It is important you get support to help you navigate through them.
Now that you know how to get over trust issues, here are seven strategies for saving a struggling relationship. And if you’re wondering if a cheater can really change, it usually depends on one key factor.
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