Cheating is probably the most obvious example of a devastating deception in romantic relationships, but even white lies can hurt and leave you wondering how to trust your partner. Maybe they said they loved your lasagna when in reality they dread pasta night. Or perhaps the breach of trust was something more serious, like a giant credit card purchase made behind your back. Regardless of what your partner was dishonest about, any lie from a loved one—big or small—can shake your sense of security and lead to trust issues.
“The basics of any healthy relationship is trust,” Angie Sadhu, MS, LMFT, a therapist at Manhattan Marriage and Family Therapy, tells SELF. “For any romance to thrive, trust and open communication are necessary, and without them, conflict is bound to arise.” For one, you tend to fight more when you’re doubting each other’s intentions, Sadhu says, and you run the risk of constantly monitoring and suffocating each other, too. This tension can also bring about feelings of anxiety or stress—which can further strain your relationship.
The good news is that a lie doesn’t always mark the kiss of death in relationships. But that isn’t to say trusting your partner again, after they’ve given you a reason not to, is an easy feat. Beyond the obvious “I’m sorry” or “I promise I won’t do it again” from the offending party, rebuilding that foundation requires effort and commitment from both sides—as well as time—Sadhu says. And if you’re not sure where to begin, consider these practical ways to rebuild trust in your relationship, one step at a time.
Let yourself be angry, disappointed, or upset.
Even a relatively minor lie can trigger a whirlwind of emotions like rage, confusion, insecurity, or sadness. But as tempting as it may be to push these painful feelings aside, the first step in moving forward is embracing them head-on, Ernesto Lira de la Rosa, PhD, a New York-based psychologist and advisor for the Hope for Depression Research Foundation, tells SELF. This can mean having a good cry if you need it, indulging in a vent session with a close friend, or just sitting with your uncomfortable feelings and observing them with curiosity and compassion. However you process your reaction to your partner’s actions, what’s important is acknowledging that there’s no “wrong” way to feel, Dr. Lira de la Rosa says, and that fighting your emotions will only prevent you from working through them.
Sit down with your partner and talk about what happened.
There might be dozens of questions swirling around in your head: Why did they lie to me? How could they do this? What else are they hiding? These doubts are completely normal, experts say, and it’s important that you get all the answers you need in order to move forward. (And if your partner isn’t open to addressing your concerns, gets overly defensive, or blames you for the deception, those are red flags worth paying attention to.)
“It’s not going to be an easy conversation, and the idea of confronting your partner can seem overwhelming,” Sadhu says. “Talking about the betrayal requires a lot of patience and vulnerability from both sides.” Maybe you don’t want to hear the nitty-gritty details of an emotional affair, say, or perhaps you’re not ready to acknowledge how much it hurt when your partner disclosed your private mental health struggles to their friends. But after the initial shock and pain subside, you should take some time to be honest with each other and discuss the elephant in the room, or else this issue will inevitably be the source of future, endless arguments, Dr. Lira de la Rosa says.
Hear them out—as calmly as you can.
No one wants to hear excuses from a liar. After all, what could possibly justify months of cheating or even lying by omission? But when your partner does eventually explain the reasons behind their dishonesty, Sadhu recommends trying your best to resist the urge to interrupt or argue with them. We know: This can be extremely difficult, but staying calm, cool, and collected can help a tough conversation go a little smoother, she says. Plus, it can prevent you from being overly accusatory, which will only deter them from telling you the truth in the future.