Cheating is perhaps the most obvious example of destructive deception in romantic relationships, but even white lies can hurt and leave you questioning how you can trust your partner. They may have said they loved your lasagna when in reality they dreaded pasta night. Or maybe the dishonesty was something more serious, like a giant credit card purchase made behind your back. No matter what your partner has been 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 essential, and without it, conflict is bound to ensue.” For example, you tend to fight more when you question each other’s intentions, says Sadhu, and you risk constantly watching each other and choking her too. This stress can also lead to feelings of anxiety or stress – which can lead to more stress in your relationship.
The good news is that lying doesn’t always mean the kiss of death in relationships. But that doesn’t mean that trusting your partner again, after they’ve given you a reason not to, is an easy feat. In addition to an “I’m sorry” or “I promise I won’t do it again” from the offending party, rebuilding that foundation takes effort and commitment on both sides — as well as time — says Sadhu. And if you’re not sure where to start, consider these practical ways to rebuild trust in your relationship, step by step.
Allow yourself to be angry, frustrated, or upset.
Even a relatively minor lie can stir up a whirlwind of emotions such as anger, confusion, insecurity, or sadness. But as tempting as it may be to banish these painful feelings, the first step in moving on is embracing them face-to-face, Ernesto Lira de la Rosa, Ph. D., a New York-based psychologist and advisor to the Hope for Depress Research Foundation, tells SELF. This could mean a good cry if you need it, indulging in a venting session with a close friend, or just sitting with your uncomfortable feelings and observing them with curiosity and compassion. While you process your reaction to your partner’s actions, Dr. Lyra de la Rosa says, what’s important is to acknowledge that there is no “wrong” way to feel, and that fighting your feelings will only stop you from working through them.
Sit down with your partner and talk about what happened.
There may be dozens of questions running through your head: Why did they lie to me? How can they do this? What else are they hiding? Experts say these doubts are completely normal, and it’s important that you get all the answers you need to move forward. (And if your partner isn’t open to addressing your concerns, becomes overly defensive, or blames you for cheating, these are red flags worth paying attention to.)
“It won’t be an easy conversation, and the idea of confronting your partner can seem overwhelming,” says Sadhu. “Talking about infidelity requires a lot of patience and vulnerability on both sides.” Maybe you don’t want to hear the nitty-gritty of an emotional affair, for example, or maybe you’re not ready to acknowledge how much it hurt you when your partner revealed your mental health struggles to their friends. But after the initial shock and pain subsides, you should take some time to be honest with each other and discuss the elephant in the room, otherwise this issue will inevitably be a source of endless discussions in the future, says Dr. Lira de la Rosa.
Hear them – as quietly as possible.
Nobody wants to hear excuses from a liar. After all, what could justify months of cheating or even lying by negligence? But when your partner eventually explains the reasons behind their dishonesty, Sadhu recommends that you do your best to resist the urge to interrupt or argue with them. We know: This can be very difficult, but keeping calm, calm, and collected can help make a difficult conversation smoother, she says. Plus, it can prevent you from becoming overly accusatory, which will only deter him from telling you the truth in the future.