How do you regain someone’s trust in a realtionship?

I talked to some women online which my wife found out about, I didn’t meet or send pics just talked but we struggle now as she can’t trust me.
Asked by AB

Hi AB, 

Thank you for your question, I certainly hope that my answer can provide some clarity for you.

Trust is so important in a relationship, and when it is broken it can take such a toll on the dynamics and emotions within your relationship. It can also take a long time to re-build trust when it has been broken, and it takes a lot of communication and work between both partners to get back to a sense of safety in the relationship. It is important to recognize that the trust simply might not rebuild, and your wife may be in a place where she feels that she cannot accept what has happened or move on from it. It is also important to recognize that where the trust was broken on your part, much of the work (though not all) will have to come from you in order to provide your wife with the safety and reassurance that she needs in the relationship. 

For the trust to be rebuilt, there needs to be a sense of stability, and a foundation to build upon. It would be beneficial to have a conversation about what you are working to rebuild. What do you want your relationship to look like? What are the traits that you love in each other, and make the relationship worth fighting for?

It is also important for you and your wife to communicate openly and to listen to each other's needs, and take action to ensure that you are working to meet each other's needs. Is there anything that you feel like you need from the relationship but you are not receiving? Likewise with your wife - is there anything that she feels that she needs from the relationship that she feels is currently missing? 

The crucial part to this is then putting the work in; your wife will need to feel your commitment to her and to see that you are fully invested in the relationship before she can begin to feel confident in the relationship again. Checking in with your wife regularly and taking the time to listen to her and empathize with her will drive the connection between you both. It is often a good rule of thumb to consider the behaviors that were present at the beginning of the relationship but have dropped off as time has gone on - were there special date nights that you would have? Or certain traditions and rituals? What did you do to impress her and gain her trust at the start of the relationship? 

You can bring these elements back to the relationship, and it will serve as a reminder of what brought you and your wife together in the first place. It will demonstrate a sense of commitment that you are willing to 'go the extra mile' in the way that you may have done when first building the relationship.

Your wife will need to perceive from you that you have a genuine sense of remorse for what has happened; without this, she may be left wondering when the 'next time' will be, and may feel paranoid around your behaviors, even when they are innocent. A genuine apology can go a long way towards re-building the trust, and to do so requires empathy, where you can come to understand the situation from her perspective and the emotions that she has been going through. Again, this is where communication can be so vital, and taking the time to truly listen to her experience will be of vital importance. 

Going forward, there needs to be a good level of transparency in your relationships, where even the smallest of white lies are avoided so that you and your wife are on the same page always.

Relationship counseling can be so beneficial to overcome such an experience in a relationship. Much of the work that must be done requires effective communication and the kind of tools that relationship counseling would provide would support you in communicating in such a way. It would also give you the space to listen to each other in a safe space, where you can feel comfortable expressing yourself in a non-judgmental and non-combative environment. 

I wish you and your wife the best in your relationship, and sincerely hope that you can come to a place of mutual understanding where the trust can be re-built. I also hope that this answer provided some helpful guidance to you in overcoming this hurdle in the relationship.