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How to Save a Relationship Without Trust

6 key steps to fixing your relationship when there’s no trust

The idea of relying unconditionally on another person is a tricky one to navigate. After all, trust requires vulnerability and opening yourself up to potential hurt or heartbreak. Ask anybody and they’ll tell you one of the most important components of a healthy relationship is trust. So what happens when you or your partner don’t trust each other? Keep reading to learn how to save a relationship without trust. 

What breaks the trust in a relationship?

Trust is a core component of a relationship, and whether you can’t trust your partner because of your own hang-ups, or you have to build trust back after breaking it, it can impact your relationship's well-being. Several things can cause mistrust in a relationship: 

  • Infidelity: whether it’s cheating, having an emotional affair, or financial infidelity.

  • Breaking promises: pledging to stop drinking or gambling and breaking this promise, for example. 

  • Lying: constantly lying or keeping secrets can foster dishonesty in a relationship. 

  • Leaking personal information: gossiping about a loved one or sharing secrets can overstep your partner’s boundaries and make them feel violated.

  • Past trauma: being cheated on in the past or coming from an unstable family environment can affect how much you trust your romantic partners.

  • Consistently not prioritizing the relationship's needs: This might seem small, but consistently prioritizing other people's needs over the relationship's overall needs plant deep seeds of insecurity. It leaves your partner wondering if they can trust you to be there if they need you. 

Rebuilding trust may require simply committing to change or seeking out professional help. “The person responsible for breaking the trust has to accept how much damage has been done, and therefore how long this process will be,” says Angela Caldwell, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

What is the difference between love and trust?

We might think that love is the most important part of a relationship, but trust is just as vital. Of course, the two can co-exist, and some studies show that the longer partners have been in a relationship, the easier it is to recover after a breach of trust.

Can you love someone and not trust them?

Yes, it’s entirely possible to love someone but not trust them. After all, feelings don’t just vanish because someone broke your trust. 

Letting go of love isn’t easy, and while it’s possible to love somebody you can’t trust, it doesn’t make for a successful relationship. 

Couples therapy may help to build up trust again — but ultimately, it comes down to whether you both want to make the relationship work.

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How do you fix a relationship with no trust?

Fixing a relationship without trust starts with looking at what caused the breakdown in the first place. If you have trust issues because of negative past experiences, such as being cheated on in the past, then it might be time to address some insecurities and take accountability for how it’s affecting your relationship.

Accept that your emotions are completely valid and consider going to therapy or talking to your partner about it. Your healing needs to come first, and this starts with confronting those feelings, one small step at a time.

If your partner has broken your trust, you will both need to take steps to make the relationship work. They’ll have to prove to you that they can earn your trust back, and you’ll have to forgive them and have faith that they can be trusted again. Listen to their side of the story, but don’t try to convince yourself that there isn’t a problem — this may reinforce bad behavior.

What are some ways to rebuild trust in a relationship?

  1. Accept that it takes time to heal. Don’t put pressure on one another to get back to normal. The breach of trust will have taken its toll on your mental health, and you may have distanced yourselves physically. Build it up slowly.

  2. Address the problems in your relationship. What caused the trust issue in the first place? Was your partner gambling because they were stressed with work, for example? This will help to stop the same trust issues from coming up again.

  3. Be remorseful or forgiving. Depending on whether you were the victim or the perpetrator, both partners need a compassionate approach. Engage in active listening and approach uncomfortable conversations calmly.

  4. Discuss your boundaries. There’s no point in issuing an ultimatum or expecting to keep tabs on one another all day. Come up with a problem-solving approach that lets you both feel acknowledged and valued while enjoying your independence.

  5. Take small steps, not big gestures. An expensive bouquet of flowers won’t cut it. If your partner feels betrayed, you’ll need to show them small examples of change every day, from a morning check-in to signing up for couples therapy.

  6. Focus on the positives. Think back to meeting each other and falling in love. What was it about that time that felt exciting? Can you do any of those activities again in this chapter of your relationship? Even if it feels sad at first to revisit some of those places it can help your mind and body remember the good parts of your relationship. Try revisiting other good things that made you happy. Do you make each other laugh, or do you appreciate your partner’s intelligence? Try journaling to let your feelings out.

Can you have a relationship without trust?

So, can a relationship last without trust? Not if you want a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. Honesty and openness are the only way forward, and it may take time to rebuild trust after an incident. If your love is worth it, the two of you will work hard to make it happen.

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