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How to Help Your Partner Trust You Again, Part 8: Helping Them Dream About the Future Again

“Love is the easiest thing in the world when it happens by accident,

but it doesn’t get real until you do it on purpose.”


Commit to How You Want to Improve Moving Forward (future).

It’s funny – most clients I work with who are recovering from betrayal trauma want to skip right to the commitment stage of accountability, but I’ve somehow managed to spend parts 1-7 of this series building up to it! Let that serve as an example: When you’re working to rebuild the broken trust in your relationship, you’ve got to hold off on making promises until you’ve spent time with your partner’s pain and expressed your own regret. I’ve learned from working through this kind of pain with couples that there’s a lot of emotional labor that needs to happen before any kind of commitment you make will make sense to your partner.

Committing to how we’ve changed is the step that comes naturally to most people. But if you’re trying to do it without engaging with the previous two steps – 1) owning your betrayal and 2) expressing remorse – you’ll probably find that your partner will perceive your commitments as empty words. They’ll likely continue looping in their pain and grievances and resent you all the more for every piece of evidence that you provide to them that things are different now.

Examining the Evidence

Providing evidence to your partner that you’ve changed is an attempt to prove your commitment to them. Bringing up how much time has passed since you let them down, the therapy you’re doing, or how attentive you’ve been to their needs lately are all examples of communicating that a change has happened or is happening.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do this. These are good things that you are doing for yourself and for the relationship, and they deserve your partner’s attention. But I want to talk about the tactful way to do it.

When you bring up evidence of change, it will help to do it in the context of the points you acknowledged earlier. Tell them how you’re not doing the things that hurt them anymore, and what you will be doing, moving forward: e.g. “I am done lying to you and I’m going to be honest with you now, even when it’s hard or uncomfortable.”

This is the Trauma Buster at work: Use your evidence to attend to the past, present, and future. The past is where the hurt originated, the present is acknowledging the hurt, and the future inspires hope that you aren’t doing what you did anymore, nor will you be.

You’re probably not healed yet, but you’re working on it. And that’s okay! Your partner doesn’t need you to be perfect – if you were perfect you’d be boring. Usually all people really need to hear is that you’re working on yourself. When your partner knows you’re working to take care of yourself, they can give themselves permission to stop worrying as much and focus on their own recovery.

“I’m Here and I’m Not Going Anywhere.”

These words are your secret weapon. They can mean everything to your partner. This is the kind of commitment they need to hear from you. Providing the security that you don’t plan on leaving them can help you both reconnect over a unified sense of purpose toward healing and accountability.

Trust Fall…

I don’t know how the conversation will go after you follow this accountability model. Ideally it will take you somewhere healing. But if you find that it only becomes more difficult and you have been doing this on your own, it might be time to see a professional counselor to help you tackle any additional obstacles that might pop up. It also might just take more time, repetitions of your commitment, and evidence of change to help your relationship heal.

Understanding Secondary Gains

There is a concept in trauma recovery literature called “secondary gains” that describes how a person might remain stuck in a problem because they benefit in from it an unexpected way. A secondary gain can often be boiled down to an “if-then” statement based on a misunderstanding or misconception, also known as a cognitive distortion. For example, a grieving widower might believe deep down that if he stops feeling sad about his wife’s death, he would be dishonoring her memory.

In the case of betrayal trauma, your partner might be struggling with something like, “If I forgive you then you’ll hurt me again.” Another common experience is, “If I trust you again, I’ll be minimizing my pain and betraying myself.”

Usually these kinds of thoughts are not necessarily conscious. It might help to think of a secondary gain as just a part of a person – not representative of the whole person. After all, gestalt theory teaches us that the whole of a person is greater than the sum of their parts.

"The best way to challenge a cognitive distortion is to engage with the part that is afraid, remind that part who they’re dealing with now, and promise that you’re not going to hurt them anymore."

If someone were aware that they had such a thought, they would probably be the first to admit that it isn’t logical or reasonable. But that’s how trauma affects us! Negative thoughts about ourselves and the people around us will become the unconscious mantras in the traumatized brain. That’s pretty much what you’re up against a lot of the time in this kind of conciliatory work.

The best way to challenge a cognitive distortion is to engage with the part that is afraid (your past behavior), remind that part who they’re dealing with now (the present version of you), and promise that you’re not going to hurt them anymore (future). That’s why I centered this guide on helping your partner heal around how you can use your words to inspire hope and rebuilding trust: Your willingness to dig into the pain with your partner gives their wounded parts permission to heal, to trust you again, and even to dream about a brighter future with you.

I hope you have found this series helpful. Check out the last post, in which I’ll explore the secret, final step of every healthy conflict: "Expressing Gratitude." And if you want help practicing these steps with some professional guidance, you can reach out to me to schedule an appointment.




2007 N Collins Blvd #409

Richardson, TX 75080

(469) 759-0253

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