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Published on October 25, 2019

12 Things You Can Do to Learn to Trust Again

12 Things You Can Do to Learn to Trust Again

T R U S T–a simple five-letter word. Yet one that carries so much weight. Trust is the soul of any relationship. It is the super glue that binds it together. If you have it, it is the reason you can go to sleep at night next to your partner and feel at peace; the reason that the ding of a text, or the ring of a phone doesn’t shoot off alarm bells; the reason that your partner working late doesn’t cause an anxiety attack.

Lack of trust, however, creates just the opposite effect. It causes untold psychological distress. It turns you into a spy as you search for clues that will validate your suspicions. It pits you against your worst insecurities. It makes you sick and hypervigilant; it keeps you up at nights wondering, Am I not good enough? Is it my fault? Is everything we have a sham? What will people think?

If your trust has been shredded, you might feel hopeless. But, there is good news. A relationship that has been tarnished by a betrayal can be saved. As Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D, writes in her article in Psychology Today:[1]

“Relationships are very complex and, depending on the circumstances, betrayal doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the relationship.”

Like a masterful tapestry, relationships are colossally multiplex. Understand that trust was broken because something in the relationship was broken. Are you willing to invest the time and effort it takes to salvage what took you years to build? Are you willing to find the missing pieces that made the relationship crumble? If so, then it’s possible to put the pieces back together.

Let’s learn some of the ways to do that…

1. Get Clarity

When a betrayal occurs, it feels cataclysmic. Emotions are fragile, fingers are pointed, and a war of sorts ensues. But no event that big is born in a vacuum. Things happen for a reason. To gain clarity, you must dig deep. Was there something that should have been addressed, but ignored instead?

Talk to your partner. Find out what happened and why. You are going to be angry, no doubt, but if you want to reconcile, you must listen. The answers will often reveal the corrosion poisoning the relationship prior to The Event. The betrayal was the symptom, not the actual problem.

In her article, How to Regain Broken Trust in a Relationship, Dr. Magdalena Battles talks about “Coming Forth.” She writes,

“Both sides must be willing to come to the table and be open, honest, and vulnerable. They must also care enough to want to put forth the effort that is required to make the relationship work again.”

If this doesn’t happen, then the relationship will surely die in a heap of pain, regret, and resentment.

2. Discover the Motivation

People do things for different reasons. Usually, those reasons are significant and rational to the person doing them. They might feel hurt, lonely, and/or unappreciated. Sometimes, an outsider does the job that the other partner is failing to do.

For instance, in the film Thief of Hearts, Mickey Davis, played by Barbara Williams, is constantly ignored by her husband, Ray Davis, played by John Getz, whose main focus is writing. He’s always working against a deadline. His wife is nothing short of an accessory in his life. It doesn’t take long for an encounter with a handsome stranger, played by Steven Bauer, to open up her lonely heart and have her fall, heart first, into an affair. He pays her all the attention she isn’t getting from her husband. Of course, it helps that he’s a thief, has stolen all her diaries, and now knows her deepest, darkest wants and desires.

Motivation plays an important role on whether or not your relationship can be saved. Neglect, an unsatisfactory sex life, anger, lack of commitment–they can all lead to infidelity. You might blame yourself for what happened, maybe even had a part in it. Then again, you may have had nothing to do with it. In an article by A. Pawlowski, she states:[2]

“You could be doing everything right and your partner could still be tempted to cheat for reasons that have nothing to do with you or the quality of feelings you share.”

3. Commit to Rebuilding the Relationship

How valuable is your relationship to you? Once the dust settles after the infidelity, ask yourself these questions:

Am I willing to commit to him/her despite what happened? Do I still love him/her? Will I be able to do what it takes to get through this crisis?

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW, in her article in The Gottman Institute writes:[3]

“Do you have enough admiration and respect left to salvage the relationship? Be honest and ask yourself: Do we still have fun together and enjoy each other’s company most of the time?”

If you answered yes to those questions, then despite the long road ahead, it will be a worthy endeavor. If you are committed to each other, willing to examine the situation, and work on rectifying it, it is possible to pull through and come out on the other side.

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Once you commit, forge ahead. Don’t half-heartedly work on it. It’s got to be all or nothing. If you’re halfway in, that means you’re halfway out.

4. Consider Couple’s Therapy

In some instances, regaining trust and working through an affair might be too difficult a challenge. In that case, perhaps couple’s therapy is in order.

With a trained professional, you can address issues you might not otherwise be able to do sitting at home, talking over a bottle of wine, and asking, “Was she better than me? Tell me everything! I want all the details.” You actually don’t, but I won’t get into that here.

Outside help is an invaluable tool. You’ll learn how to navigate the rockiest of roads. And this is exactly what you need at a fragile juncture such as the one with which you are dealing.

Find out more about this here: Is Relationship Counselling for You? Find Your Answer Here

5. Forgive

You’ve fought hard for your relationship; worked tirelessly to get beyond what happened. Your relationship is still tender, but at least you’re still together, and working to keep it that way. Sometimes, however, even though you’re still together and you think you made it through the crisis, anger and resentment linger. All is not forgiven.

The victim can start using that to their advantage. “You have nothing to say about (blah, blah, blah), especially after what you did!” The hurt party can hang the betrayal over their partner’s head, reminding them continuously that they better tow the line, or else. Because of what happened, the hurt party feels entitled, and maybe even becomes a little punishing.

In order to really get beyond The Event, there has to be forgiveness. On both sides. The betrayer may be feel so guilty that they can barely stand themselves. In fact, they may start acquiescing on things that they shouldn’t.

Forgiveness, while not easy, is key to the survival of the relationship.

6. Give it Time

My son required jaw surgery when he was 19 years old. It was quite a painful ordeal. After the surgeon broke his jaw and put it back together, my son’s jaw was wired shut for six weeks in order for the proper healing to take place. He could only eat soft foods through a little syringe in his mouth. It took a good month and a half before his jaw was healed.

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Unfortunately, betrayal is not like jaw surgery. It’s much worse. To mend a broken heart requires the skill of a surgeon and lots of time. You’re looking at about 18 months to three years, depending on how long you’ve been together.

If you’re committed to making your relationship work, patience is crucial. You’re going to be nursing anger, sadness, disbelief, insecurity, maybe some even shame. That’s a full plate.

Take it one loving step at a time. Talk things out when necessary. Eventually, if you keep taking those tiny steps, you’ll get to the Healing!

7. Be Transparent

…like a perfectly see-through glass window! In order to regain trust, the guilty party needs to be absolutely transparent. The betrayed cannot think for a minute that there are any secrets. Secrecy will create further distrust.

For instance, when the phone rings, don’t say, “I’ve got to take this,” and walk into another room. As a trust trasher, there is a lot of mending to do. Put aside the fact that you feel like your privacy is being invaded. You haven’t earned it at this point. You will need to re-earn their trust, so be open.

8. Cut Ties Completely

If you are the person who has betrayed your partner, you must cut all ties with the interloper. That means no phone calls, no texts, no emails, no coffee dates. No last meeting for “closure.”

No contact means no contact. If it’s over, then let it be over. Your partner deserves that. You may have had your reasons for doing what you did, but have a better reason for rebuilding your relationship. That can’t happen if you maintain contact with the “Other” person.

Your partner will not be able to rebuild trust if they know you’re still seeing and talking to the person that nearly destroyed your lives together.

9. Don’t Keep Bringing up the Event!

When you arrive at the point where you’ve picked up most of the debris, rebuilt your lives, and feel like you can move on, move on. That means, do not keep bringing up what happened. That will only serve to re-open the wound.

Imagine severely cutting yourself. You get multiple stitches, and get it bandaged up. Instead of letting it heal, you keep taking off the bandage, and ripping off the stitches, just to look at the damage. Ouch!

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If you truly want your relationship to become solid again, put the affair in the past, and leave it there. Learn from what happened, make the necessary adjustments, then proceed onward. Talking about it ad nauseam will only keep the pain alive.

10. Do What You Say You’re Going to Do!

If you’re the betrayer, then this one is very important: Don’t lie! Say what you mean and mean what you say. Even the smallest lie, a “white” lie, if you will, could cause doubt to sprout, and result in your relationship taking another hit. At this point, irreversible damage can be done. Be consistent, reliable, and honest.

11. Do Things That Brought You Comfort and Joy before “the Event”

After the Event, it is easy to get buried in the rubble; difficult to pull yourselves out. But here’s the encouraging news: your relationship is not defined by what happened. There were good years prior to the betrayal, right? Now, it is time to pull from that reserve.

Sit with your partner. Talk about all the things you used to do when you were both happy; about all the places you used to go to that made you feel warm and cozy. It’s time to revisit them again. Start dating. This will psychologically take you back to the good times. Build on those. Then create new moments.

Betrayal always creates a big mess, leaving in its wake incalculable emotional detritus. Betrayal has sharp claws. It takes a lot of work to heal the scars. But they can be healed. Sometimes things have to be torn down in order to rebuild them better and stronger.

12. Apologize

Express your remorse. Be genuine. This goes a long way to start repairing the damage. Do what it takes to let your partner know how truly sorry you are.

The suggestions listed above can work. But there has to be a willingness to try, a commitment to do what it takes, and a decision that the relationship is worth saving.

But that’s a decision only you can make. So what’s it going to be?

Featured photo credit: Svyatoslav Romanov via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Rossana Snee

Rossana is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She aspires to motivate, to inspire, and to awaken your best self!

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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