How to Build Trust in a Relationship (Even if it’s Broken)

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How important is trust in a relationship? VERY. Without trust, there is very little opportunity for true connection and intimacy, and there are not very many places a relationship can go without those things. 

If you’re in a relationship that feels like it is lacking in trust, there are ways to build trust in a relationship, just as there are ways to build connection and intimacy between two people.

If you’re wondering how to build trust in a relationship, we’ve outlined some of the top ways to increase trust in your partnership down below; with just a little concerted effort, you can have a more secure and trusting relationship.

How to Build Trust in a New Relationship

A couple sits across a table from each other, sharing a meal and smiling as sunlight streams through the window beside them
Building trust in a relationship takes time and effort.

Be Clear with your Intentions

An important factor in building trust in a new relationship is ensuring that everyone is clear on what the intentions are. What kind of relationship are you looking to build with this person? What kind of a relationship are they looking to build with you? If there’s a difference in how you two perceive a healthy, secure relationship to look like, then that’s got to be figured out for everyone to feel safe.

For example, if your partner doesn’t want an exclusive relationship but you do, then figuring out what your relationship will look like is going to be very important for how everyone feels. Are you going to feel safe if this relationship isn’t exclusive? It’s perfectly okay if you both want different things, but you’ve got to figure out how and if you can have a relationship that is healthy for everyone with these two differing goals. 

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Be Honest 

This ties in closely with the last tip for how to build trust in a relationship, because you’ve got to be honest about what you want out of the relationship and what you feel you are capable of in the relationship. If you are the kind of person who needs a lot of reassurance in a relationship, you need to tell your partner that because they cannot meet your needs if they don’t know them!

Of course, this doesn’t mean that just because you state a need in a relationship, your partner will automatically fulfill it. We cannot expect to be everything for each other, but we should expect to feel safe and secure in our relationships, so if you’ve been honest with your partner about what you need and they’ve been honest with you about their ability to meet that need, then you two will know what to expect from each other. Sometimes this might mean acknowledging that the relationship might not be going where you’d hoped it would.

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Set Boundaries

Boundaries are a beautiful thing! Having clear boundaries in a relationship is what makes relationships strong and sturdy because it provides a clear framework for both partners to know what is expected and accepted in the relationship. 

Sometimes it can be helpful to write your relationship boundaries out together. Turn it into a fun date night where you take turns stating your personal relationship boundaries and discussing them together, and you can put them in a shared space like a note on your phone that you can text to each other when you’re feeling like you both could use a refresh of what your agreed upon relationship boundaries are!

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Be Consistent

This one is is a pretty simple part of building trust in a relationship: show up and be who you say you are. If your partner can’t count on you being who you say you are, then there is very little chance that they will feel safe and secure in the relationship. Show up as you are, consistently. 

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How to Rebuild Trust in a Relationship

A couple sits across a table with coffee mugs in their hands, having a serious converation
To rebuild trust in a relationship after it’s broken, both partners have to be willing to work for it.

Listen and Learn 

If you are in a relationship with broken trust, then you will recognize how important this particular step in rebuilding trust is, because if you and your partner cannot listen to each other and learn what led up to trust being broken between you two,  then rebuilding this trust will be very difficult, indeed.

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Be Open and Honest  

The natural progression from listening and learning is being open and honest, and this can be really difficult in a relationship with fractured trust. It’s hard, but necessary because a healthy relationship requires the ability to feel safe enough to be vulnerable, and working to rebuild trust in a relationship is absolutely one of those vulnerable times.

It might be helpful to remember through this process that it’s not likely to get much worse. If you’re in a state of broken trust, then staying in that self-protective space of withholding and being fearful of your partner will only keep you there longer and likely lead to the end of the relationship. If you want to rebuild trust to move on, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, open, and honest is going to be key in this healing process.

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Work from Where You Are

All that being said, you still must work from where you are. You can’t speed through any recovery process, and this is certainly true of recovering from broken trust in a relationship. Don’t beat yourself (or your partner!) up over needing to take time to get to where you need to be to even consider rebuilding trust. 

If the relationship is worth it, then be generous and offer grace to your partner, even if they were the breaker of the trust. It’s going to take time, and that’s okay. You can’t rush healing.

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Work with a Professional

There is so much value in getting professional help! If your car is acting up and you have done all you can do to fix it yourself but are getting nowhere, you’re going to go to a professional, right? The same concept should apply to relationships. 

In fact, getting couples counseling to help build trust in a relationship is extremely helpful because it puts everyone on neutral ground. The couples counselor is there to offer guidance and support in working through whatever the couple is working through. You might be impressed at all the insight and tips on how to rebuild trust in a relationship that a couples counselor has picked up over the years doing therapy for couples in situations just like yours!

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Activities to Build Trust in a Relationship

A couple on bikes gives each other an intimate look at the end of a long bike trail together
Activities to build trust in a relationship are those that build connection and intimacy, too.

Do Something New Together

If you’re looking for activities to build trust in a relationship, get out of your usual routine and do something new to both of you! This could be as simple as taking a sushi-making class or hiking in a new area that neither of you has ever been before, or as exciting as signing up to go skydive together! 

The most important aspect of this trust-building exercise is that you two are experiencing something novel together, which strengthens your bond. Bonus points if the new activity is something that directly ties into trusting each other, like rock climbing. Have fun with this one!

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Share Something Private

Sharing pieces of yourself that you never have before is typically a very vulnerable experience, and this openness is a trust builder in relationships. Not only will the person sharing feel empowered by disclosing these parts of themself (side note: people should never share more than they’re comfortable sharing; you shouldn’t share things you’re not ready to share!) but the person hearing the new information will feel honored to be trusted.

Sharing something private helps to build connection and intimacy in a relationship, and if you’re working to bring a higher level of trust to your relationship, this is a great exercise to incorporate.

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Do Couples Sharing Exercises

There are so many great couples sharing exercises! You can play games like “Two Truths and a Lie” where one person reveals three things about themselves (but one is a lie) and the other person has to guess which is the lie, or a game like “Never have I ever” where one person says “Never have I ever done…” and if the other person *has* done that thing, then they lose a point, but if they haven’t, they gain a point, and first one to ten points wins. 

 There are also several cute quizzes and questionnaires and couples journals that you can use to share and build greater intimacy, connection, and trust. Maybe start with these “Would you Rather” questions for couples and see where that takes you!

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Ultimately, trust is built in relationships with time and shared history. You show your partner that they can trust you every time you come through for them and show up as you have told them you would. There aren’t any shortcuts, but there are things you can–and should–do to help build trust in your relationship, including working on yourself.

If you find that you are the one having a hard time trusting and feeling safe in the relationship, you might need to do some more self-reflection and inner work to determine what is making it hard for you to trust. If it is your partner that is having a hard time trusting, you might be able to provide some extra reassurance to them that you are a safe person for them to trust their heart with.

If you find yourself working to rebuild trust in a relationship where there has been a betrayal of sorts, that makes things a little more complicated, but ultimately it will be up to you and your partner to determine if the relationship is worth doing the necessary work to repair and rebuild that trust.

Quick Note about Safe vs Unsafe Relationships

It isn’t healthy to dismiss your own feelings for the benefit of another. If your inner voice is telling you that you can’t trust this person, then it might be time for a gut check in the relationship to determine if this is a healthy relationship or not. A healthy relationship is one in which both partners feel safe, secure, and valued. If you can’t see a future path to that (and be honest with yourself here!) then it could be time to consider letting it go. No amount of relationship trust-building exercises can transform someone from unsafe to safe.

It is possible to build greater trust in a relationship… with time, effort, and a whole lotta care and consideration for yourself and your partner.

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