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Ask A Therapist: How Can Couples Rebuild Trust After Infidelity?

Relationships, Ask a Therapist
4 min read

Dear Therapist: I lied to a partner to cover up an infidelity committed before we had officially defined the relationship but while we were dating in a serious way. I lied multiple times to cover it up because I thought it would hurt him to find out and that it wouldn't be beneficial to tell him. This was gaslighting and wrong. How do we re-build trust in the relationship without sacrificing all privacy? He wants access to all text messages and photos of mine and I want to rebuild trust but in a healthy way. What are some ways to do this?

Frame therapist Caroline Lay weighs in...
The beginning stages of a relationship can be confusing and unclear regarding expectations and it’s totally normal to want to protect your partner, especially if the infidelity was a mistake and insignificant to you. What is important now is that you both are trying to rebuild the relationship. With the right approach, you both can definitely move forward and continue to build a strong and healthy relationship.

Apologizing and admitting your mistakes to your partner is the first step in the rebuilding process. Acknowledging the infidelity and having that difficult conversation with your partner is important to express all your feelings and to give him a safe space to process and ask any questions he might have. Having this conversation will not only help your partner begin the forgiving stage but it will also help you forgive yourself. 

Being honest is a key factor in starting a new strong foundation for your relationship. It might be easy to go the opposite direction and sacrifice your privacy to ensure your loyalty but that can be detrimental as well, as it does not allow you both to build trust with one another. Being honest with clear intentions with what you are sharing with your partner can be helpful in deciphering if you are sharing because you want to, or if you are sharing to overcompensate for your infidelity. 

Direct communication and consistency are two helpful habits that are essential in rebuilding trust and for building long lasting successful relationships. Direct communication can mean having difficult and uncomfortable conversations. Although it may be difficult at first, being able to be open and direct with your partner leaves less room for conflicts, miscommunications and resentment. Consistency will help your partner be able to depend on you and feel secure in the relationship which will overall help rebuild trust in a healthy manner.

Putting these habits in place within your relationship will help you both rebuild your trust and maintain a healthy and secure relationship. Doing this with love will help you both remember how important you are to one another and that everyone makes mistakes. Rebuilding trust takes time and patience but I am confident you both can succeed using these tips! 

About the author: Caroline Lay, AMT is an associate marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles, California. Caroline specializes in working with young adults dealing with anxiety, relationship issues, women issues, immigrant issues, childhood trauma, and the Asian American experience. To learn more about her approach, or to get in touch, explore her Frame profile here. 

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