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How to Help Your Partner Trust You Again, Part 4: Taking Care of Yourself While Owning Your Mistakes

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

To recap, if you want to help your partner trust you again, they’re going to need a lot of reassurance and patience from you. The reassurance they need requires you to provide frequent, repetitive verbal communication that tells them you understand how you hurt them (past), that you regret it (present), and that you’re not going to do it again (future). That’s how you’ll break the spell they’re under from the betrayal trauma they’re enduring.



Own it: Acknowledge specifically what you did that hurt them (past).


In this post I want to focus on effectively naming your mistakes to your partner. This first step of taking accountability can be particularly challenging because it’s difficult to own these parts of your story without getting overwhelmed with frustration or drowning in shame. Owning how we have messed up is an intensely vulnerable experience.


If you struggle with vulnerability, it’s likely this conversation will have you shame spiraling, shutting down, feeling resentful and defensive, or perhaps even blaming or insulting your partner. If this sounds familiar and you find that it’s too difficult or volatile to have this conversation on your own, you would probably benefit from working it out with your partner in therapy until you have the skills you need to manage these feelings more effectively.



Managing Your Resentment

"Remind yourself that you do deserve better, but that the way you went about trying to get that for yourself may not have been the healthiest approach."

It’s hard to be vulnerable with someone when you’re already feeling angry with them. After a betrayal, many couples find themselves caught in a quagmire of resentment: a continuing, vicious cycle of anger and wounding from both ends of the relationship.


After all, betrayal doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes two to tango, and there is a reason you were able to justify to yourself that violating the relationship contract was an acceptable choice. Maybe you felt neglected in some way, or you wanted to retaliate for something they did. The sentiment that emboldened your betrayal was one of entitlement: “I deserve better than this.”



If you feel resentful when naming how you’ve hurt your partner, you can try to notice what part of that comes from a place of unhealthy entitlement. Remind yourself that you do deserve better, but that the way you went about trying to get that for yourself may not have been the healthiest approach. If you want this relationship to work, you can tell yourself that you both deserve a better version of it, and that you personally have the power to improve it by taking accountability for your part in how things became untenable.






Managing Your Shame


I’ve found that for some clients, the shame of specifically naming how they have hurt their partners can be debilitating. Many find themselves frozen and unable even to form sentences when they attempt to perform this task.


While it can feel shameful to name how you’ve hurt the person you love the most, they already know that you’ve hurt them. As long as you avoid talking about it, they will carry their pain on their own. Naming the specific things you did (or didn’t do) is a way you can help them carry that pain as a team, and let them know that they’re not alone.


Many people report they had an affair because deep down, they didn’t feel like they deserved a long-lasting, committed relationship. Their betrayal was a form of self-sabotage that came from a place of feeling broken and undeserving – or in other words, it was born out of shame.


“Remember that nobody needs you to feel ashamed, and that you can use your guilt constructively to repair your relationship.”

Shame resilience is a common therapeutic goal for most people, even when it’s not named in that way up front. We know from Brené Brown’s research that the ability to distinguish the difference between “I did something bad” (guilt) as opposed to believing “I am bad” (shame) is essential to your mental well-being, and that we tend to struggle with this concept as a society. Remember that nobody needs you to feel ashamed (even if they think they do), and that you can use your guilt constructively to repair your relationship.


If you get brain fog when you feel ashamed and struggle to find your words, you might benefit from rehearsing the conversation ahead of time or building some other coping skills around shame with an individual therapist. At worst, you could consider writing them a letter – bonus points if you can sit with them while they read it, and extra credit if you can read it aloud to them. I’ve had many clients save their relationships by doing this. And if you want it to feel less formal than that, you could come to the conversation with some bullet points written out on your phone or a piece of paper for reference.




You Have Rights

"There is a difference between humbling and humiliating yourself."

Whether you are struggling with resentment, shame, or both, keep in mind that the actions you took that led to your partner feeling betrayed probably came from a place of pain and hurt that your partner either doesn’t want to or refuses to understand. You’ve both been too proud to take the first step. But right now they are blinded by grief, so it’s going to be up to you to humble yourself to them now and get the accountability you need from them later. But that doesn’t mean you don’t get to take care of yourself in the process.


There is a difference between humbling and humiliating yourself. If your partner’s responses ever become abusive, you are entitled (in a healthy way this time) to let them know that you won’t be talked to or treated that way. And if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by big feelings, you can take the time you need to ground yourself before continuing. Take it slow, and keep your eye on the prize: You’re on your way to building a new and better relationship that works for both of you.


If you found this information helpful and would like to learn more about rebuilding trust, check out my next post in the series, “Improving the Impact of Your Apologies.” And as always, feel free to reach out to me if you want to pursue therapy for any of these issues.

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