How To Build Back Trust In A Relationship

May 08, 2024

In this episode of the Advanced Relationship Podcast, Bryce Bauer and Jenny Morrow talk about how to communicate your needs in a relationship and share the things that need to be shared. 

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If you prefer reading, you can read the transcript here: 

Welcome back to the Advanced Relationship Podcast with Bryce and Jenny. It's good to be here. It's a nice, bright, sunny, warm day, March day in St. George, Utah.

I know, spring is coming on, and where we are, it's just gorgeous right now. This is one of my favorite times of year here. Fall and spring are really nice.

A lot of 60s and 70s and sunny days. So yeah, if you ever wanna come down and visit, we offer retreats and couples intensives. It's a really fun place to come and visit.

Yeah, and we have some visitors coming this week, so we're excited about that, family and friends.


Okay, so the topic for today is building trust. A lot of people that come in to see us have this issue, and this is one of their biggest questions, is there's been some break in trust, or some slow erosion of trust in the relationship, and how do we build that back? Either me with them, or doing this with each other.

How exactly can we do that? What does that look like? How long does that take?

So I wanted to break this down a little bit for you today.

Yep. I really, I'm excited about this topic, and should we start with the big T, little t first, before we dive into the steps?

Yeah, that's where your head's at. Talk about that.

Okay. So there's this idea of trust as like a big trust, which could be like big betrayals, sort of acute, intense things, things like affairs, hiding money, hiding addictive behaviors, or any kind of hiding of anything that your partner's unaware of. There can be things like domestic violence, like maybe there's even just one episode, but it's a, you know, it breaks trust.

So there's big T's, and then there's also little T's, and even medium T's, right? There's a whole range of how we can experience trust being broken. Little T's could even include, like there's many ruptures in the connection, and you don't experience trust in being able to rebuild or repair.

So maybe you have ruptures, you don't know how to repair, so you just quote, give it time. It gets buried under the rug enough, enough distractions come in, and then you just kind of move on. But there's never a trust built that together you as a couple can actually come back and repair, even if it's a smaller thing.

So there's little T's, there's medium T's, there's bigger T's, there's a whole range. And ultimately, the steps are really similar for how to rebuild and repair trust. It's just that the scale is going to be different, and so it can look a little bit different in both situations.

Yeah, and the timeline might be different, right? Like if you're trying to talk about doing the dishes, someone could make a commitment to that, and you're like, okay, I trust you right then and there. We've done this before.

I know you can do it. But if it's something big, a big T, trust breaker, it could take years. And it might always be a thing in your relationship.

Like it might always be a pain point in your relationship that you have to learn how to hold that. The fact that there isn't full trust in a specific area, I think it's really possible that that can happen. And it doesn't mean that relationships can't work out and be beautiful, but it's just the reality that we are creatures that rely on our own trust-o-meter, our sense of safety, to be in relationship with each other.

And so this is something we have to pay attention to when we're in an intimate, long-term partnership. It's like, how do we balance out our needs so that we can trust each other enough to really be there for each other? Because it's a big commitment.

Like if you're married, I'm assuming that I'm gonna be with you or you're gonna be with me on our deathbed, and we're gonna see our entire lives through together. And it's a big deal. So we gotta trust each other.

Trust is such a big thing. And it also gets reflected in how much we trust ourselves. So sometimes clients will say to me, well, like, how do I know if I can trust someone?

And often say at the core, it's ultimately gonna be learning to believe you can trust yourself. Meaning if your partner does untrustworthy things and they're unable to repair or rebuild in a way that really works, that you will trust that you can do what you need to do, that you can set the boundaries you need to set, that you can part ways with relationships that really aren't able to support you in a safe, secure way. So at the core, it's also about rebuilding.

It's also about securing trust with yourself and knowing that you are capable of moving on from relationships if that's needed in certain situations. Or that you can hold the boundaries in the relationships that you're in. That's really important.

That's a good point. I like that you brought up trust with self because a lot of us were brought up... I mean, I assume everyone has had some breaches and trust in their life growing up as children, either with your primary caregivers or friends or boyfriends, girlfriends.

And some of that really can be dealt with internally. Like, you know, I'm thinking about working with people who had parents that weren't really there for them. So they're carrying their own trust issues into the relationship.

Even if they have a partner who's very trustworthy, there might be something that's needed there for you to be able to really trust. And it can be really vulnerable to lean into someone and depend on someone when you've had experiences in the past where people have left you or dropped you. So it's another really important piece, Jen, self-trust.

Okay. Does that feel complete there?

That feels like a good context.

Okay. I just threw this on Jenny, like it was my job to come up with a topic. So this is actually just brand new to her.

We're kind of making it up as we go, but I put a little bit more thought into this. So we might be bouncing around some, but this is good stuff.

Yeah, I'm real excited about this one.

So I was thinking about what is building back trust look like, and I was able to break it down into five distinct phases. And I think that you can be, you know, you can move up and down on this continuum and through these phases at different points and different situations. But I think there's five general things that need to really happen in order for trust to be built back.

So the first step, maybe I'll go through the steps first, and then we'll break them down.

Yeah, I like that idea.

Okay, so the first step is ownership. The person who is responsible for breaking the trust needs to say and be able to own, I did this thing. There needs to be a shared reality that this thing happened.

We're living in the same world with this, okay?

And actually, instead of reading them all, let's stay with that one. And then after we've done them all, then we'll just read them in order one more time.

Okay, that works.

Cool, that way we can leave a little bit of anticipation and...

You love anticipation.

I love anticipation. Okay, so yeah, ownership.


Okay, so stay with that one then.

Yeah, you have to have a shared reality around what happened. And sometimes even that takes some time because especially when you're triggered, you can have different memories of how things went, and that can be difficult to integrate those two. But you have to be able to...

The person that broke the trust has to be able to own that they did this thing. And you don't actually... I'm thinking about the smaller T trust issues.

Like I don't actually have to believe that what I did would be super difficult for me. I just have to believe and understand that it would be super difficult for my partner in this situation. I think we've had smaller conflicts like this come up before where it's like, oh, if you just would have went there and did that without me, I wouldn't have cared.

So what did I do? And Jenny's like, well, no, this is something that's really important to me. I like communication around this.

And so it had an impact on me. So if I had dismissed Jenn and say, well, it wouldn't have mattered to me, so I'm projecting my values and my experience on the Jenn, it's just not gonna work, right? She's gonna feel missed and unseen and unheard.

And so we have to get on the page of our partner with this one to see that, regardless of how we think it would have felt for us, how did it really feel for them? And that's a big part of the ownership.

I really like that. And I was thinking, as we're talking about this, it might be kind of interesting to even approach it, where you talk about what it looks like in relationship with someone else, and then I would even love to talk about what this looks like in relationship with yourself as you're building trust with yourself, in your ability to be in relationship with others, because I think this is really important. And I kind of see this, it can go both ways between men and women.

And sometimes it seems like it can be slightly, a little bit more likely that the men that we work with will take a little bit more of a one-up, and the women will take a little bit more of a one-down. And then it can switch, it can go back and forth. So it's not always one way.

And I can see where, if you've been in a more one-up position, the ownership to come down to equals really important. And for the one who's been in a more one-down, their part of the process and their part of the pattern interrupter is to come up and to stay with and own what their needs are, what their desires are, and to see themselves as valid. So I think this is really important.

What Bryce is saying is him or me, when I'm in the one-up, being able to own if we've hurt someone or being able to own if something we've done has had an impact. And then if we're coming from the one-down position, it's being able to own our needs and our desires and our experience and to own the impact that something had. And that's a part of the rebuilding trust process.

And I'm thinking about the differences in languaging here, and there's some nuance where it's like, I think as a man, I was conditioned to believe that you shouldn't be impacted by me. And as a woman, it can be, I shouldn't be impacted by you. Like, I should just be okay with whatever you're doing.

And then I'm colluding with that story by also saying like, yeah, you shouldn't be impacted. I just do what I want.

Exactly. So he's believing I shouldn't be impacted. I'm believing I shouldn't be impacted.

And that keeps us in an unhealthy dynamic.

Right. It's a good point, Jen.


Okay. Does that feel clear on the piece?


Okay. So then we already kind of moved into phase two, which is understanding. We have to understand what it was like for the other person.

This is why sorrys just don't usually work that well, right? I did something sorry, and now you should be better, right? I have to really understand the impact that it had on you.

And I'm also thinking about like the leverage, right? Like if I know that Jenny's gonna feel some pain about something, if I do something, and then I'm gonna feel some pain about that because I don't want to see my partner in pain, that's a really healthy motivator for me to change some of my behaviors, right? So I need to understand what this experience is like for Jenny.

And I think through that process too, we can also build connection. Like when people talk about wanting to feel more connected or close, it is this process of like, you know, like, there's so much to know about your partner that you don't already know, and they're constantly evolving. And this is part of the understanding is figuring out what are all the little things that make Jenny tick?

What are her beliefs? What is it like for her to have certain feelings? And this can be a really fun and exciting process.

I mean, granted, when you're working through maybe trust issues, it can feel painful. But I think coming out the other side with more understanding helps you as a couple feel more empowered that you can take things on. Like, I really do feel like through all the work that we've done, that when something happens, even if it doesn't involve me, like, I actually kind of get your world enough to know what you need and to be there for you.

And then that feels good for me as a husband. It feels good to know that I have moves that I can make that help Jenny relax and feel more safe, either with herself or with me or, you know, within the world.

Yeah, I really love that.


Yeah. Yeah. And I'm still seeing it from this.

I'm sort of having an epiphany as we're talking, and I'm thinking about ruptures and trust and how often that correlates to a split where there's been a one-up-one-down kind of shift. Maybe there was more of a centeredness together, a connection, and then something happens. And there's like a shift where one person's a bit more in the one-up, one's in the one-down.

One might be more lean forward, one might be more lean back. And you're figuring out how to come back into center or balance and create equilibrium again together that creates a sense of trust and safety. And how important that is to understand those different positionings.

And yeah, you're coming back to this point, which which I like that we're fleshing out because I'm thinking about I would imagine in most cases, if not all, if someone goes out of the relationship and let's say has an affair, I'm I think that's intrinsically kind of a one-up position like I think that I can get away with this.

I think that there's something about devaluing the other person that happens when when you yeah, because you're willing and like you're willing in those positions to hold information that your partner doesn't have right, which which creates like an inequality in like, I know something you don't have. So I get to make decisions based on the reality in a way you don't you don't know the reality, right?

Yeah, or it could even be with finances. Think about if someone's like siphoning money out of the accounts and their partner doesn't know. I think that's inherently a one up position because you have more control and more power in the relationship.

And that's what creates the breach of trust. Like you don't know what's going on.


Good point.

It's an epiphany for me to it's kind of interesting to see how that actually happens.

Okay. So we have ownership and understanding. The third phase is self-reflection.

And this is another really important part because it's one thing. It's one thing to be like, you know, I can kind of stay out of my own vulnerability if I'm just like, well, just tell me what it was like for you. Like, I'll own it and I'll figure out, you know, I'll kind of understand what it's like for you.

And then I think a lot of people have this fantasy that then can we be done? Like, I don't have to go into my own soul and psyche and really figure out, like, what is going on with me? What are the what's happening in my world to where, like, I feel like it was okay to do this, or I'm not paying attention to these things.

And I think it's, yeah, it's just really, really important to be able to do this self-reflective work. And that also will help your partner relax, because if they know that you can do this self-reflective work, I feel like I'm losing my voice a little bit.

You sound like you are a little bit. Do you want some water?

Yeah, I'll drink some water.

I drank some too.

Yeah, I don't normally talk for this long. But I think when Jenny knows that I can do the self-reflective work, it gives her some assurance that I'm not going to just keep doing these things in the background, because I can do some of this work myself and like make informed and educated decisions about what I'm doing in my own life. I'm not just beholding to like the impact that it has on Jenny.

That's a really good point. And I have noticed that make a big difference for us, because you'll sometimes take ownership, acknowledge or apologize. You'll take some time to understand me.

But yeah, sometimes it's not until I see more of the self-reflection that I will feel more and more relaxed. I'll just feel more and more relaxed as these different steps happen. And that self-reflection has been so important for me in some of our experiences together.

And I don't know when it's the other way around, because I'm thinking sometimes it is the other way around. What about for you? When I'm the one that's maybe done something that's felt painful or harmful or...

Yeah, well, I think we're kind of talking about two different things at the same time, like the big tea and the little tea, because I think most of what we've dealt with in our relationship has been little tea stuff that doesn't necessarily put the whole relationship in jeopardy. But yeah, I think if you do or say something that doesn't feel good for me, and you can say, you know, I think I'm feeling stressed about this, and I think what I was really trying to do was to make this happen, and here's what I'm really needing. I'm really needing some love and care and patience.

And I'm also, I haven't been doing that for myself very well. It takes a little bit of the weight off me. And yeah, that also feels really good when you can do that.

Yeah, I'm reflecting on one that happened this last week with the walking stuff, and I am thinking about how it seemed like it helped both of us. It helped me and you when I realized like what the pain point had been there for me. Does that feel true for you?

Yeah, totally. Yeah, like we were out for a walk and I wasn't really feeling well. I decided to turn back.

Jenny was feeling disappointed, and it was a very typical like you felt disappointed. Now I feel guilty. And then we weren't able to catch very quickly that like we were kind of pinging off each other there and unable to hold each other's emotional experiences in that moment as we walked back.

So, yeah, I think when you could see that, and maybe you can explain it better as to what was going on for you. But I know that that process did feel good for me. Yeah, able to do some self exploration in my presence.

And I was able to see like, okay, this wasn't all about me. No, because on some level, I was believing I did something wrong because I turned around and it took me a little while to see that. But once I was able to see that, no, it was okay that I turned around.

Jenny just had a need. She was feeling disappointed. It really cleared things up.

And when I was able to see that, because energetically, I think that was a spot where I took a bit of a one up. And I knew that I wanted Bryce to have permission at any time to turn back. So I didn't want him to feel like he couldn't.

And I knew there was like a sense of like, I have this need from you. And like, if you can't give it to me, then I have to go without. And therefore, there was just some kind of a projection of dependency, I think.

And when I was able to self-reflect and sit with it and realize that, I had just read a news article this last week about a woman who disappeared running, and maybe they found her body. I don't know. I don't remember.

And I've read a couple of those stories this year, and it just feels really sad for me. And sometimes I will feel nervous when I'm out walking by myself, even in our neighborhood, sometimes I just feel nervous and sometimes I don't, it can just depend. And I think coming off of having read that article and having Bryce do a lot of walking with me lately, I'll notice how much more safe I feel when he's with me.

And my body just is a little bit more relaxed than when I'm out by myself. So it was an interesting realization to realize like, oh, my disappointment and my bumness really isn't all about Bryce. A lot of it is just that like, it's really sad for me sometimes to live in a world where, for me, I don't always feel totally secure when I'm by myself out and about.

And there's like a sadness there, there is a disappointment there.

Yeah, and that's a good point because there is a difference. Like I do not feel nervous in the least bit to go out walking by myself in our neighborhood. It can be nighttime, it doesn't matter.

I'm just not worried about it. But Jen has good reason to feel concerned about being out by herself so she can feel sometimes more trapped in the house or more afraid to go out. So I didn't when I realized that there was a bit of a scarcity there for her to be able to go out walking because she feels a bit scared to go by herself and sometimes she does need me or somebody else.

Then it made a lot more sense why there was disappointment there. So I think that's a really good example, like a small example, but a really good one. Like, we're different there.

We have different experiences. And so once I understood hers more and really put myself in Jenny's shoes, then it made more sense and I relaxed.

Yeah, and it is interesting how when we're in a one-down kind of experience, like I'm the one that's kind of afraid of someone harming me, then I can become the one up to try to get my need met. And so that's where I have to like, that's where any of us have to just be aware. And it was helpful because what I wanted was to rebuild trust with Bryce so that he feels safe going out walking with me.

He knows that if he starts to not feel well, or for any reason, he decides to turn around, that our relationship is a safe space for him to make that choice. That's really important. So, yeah, rebuilding trust on that little thing.

I think that self-reflection piece was a really important part of that process.

Yeah. So we have ownership and then understanding and then self-reflection. And what's cool is, as we're talking about these, I realized that as you get better at this, sometimes just doing those first three will resolve the issue.

Like in this case, I think it really did. So I think not that the next two phases aren't really important for other things, but it's possible to get good enough at resolving little things to where you can do this in one short conversation and be like, okay, I think we got it, we're clear. And we do that quite a bit.

But if it's not, if there's still some like, yeah, but I want to see some changes here and I'm needing a little bit more, the fourth phase is commitment. You have to have a plan, a shared plan around what this is going to look like in the future. And I think it's important that, I mean, you can collaborate in this, but I think it's really important that the person that broke the trust takes at least 50% ownership in that planning, if not more, because they're the ones that broke the trust in the first place.

And I also think it is okay, depending on the situation, that they even be 100% responsible for that plan.

Yeah. And the other one can say, like, yes, that sounds helpful, or that sounds like a plan would work, or they might say, I don't know, but that sounds like the right track. Let's, you know, if you want to try that, and I'll reflect back if it feels like it's working.

I think you're right, though, in terms of, like, the initiation of the plan, the coming up with ideas. The one who's been hurt might have some ideas as well.

Yeah, yeah, it can be helpful to gather that info, but you need to take at least 50 percent ownership there and sometimes even more. Yeah, because you've been in the position of power, having more of the information. You're the one that that exhibited the behavior.

So, yeah, and I think this can can evolve to over time, depending on what it is. But having a clear plan and like, I'm going to do X, Y and Z to work on this. Like, I'm not going to do that thing again.

I'm going to get some individual counseling for this thing, so I can figure it out. Or I'm going to read a book on this or listen to a podcast. Those are all great examples of ways that you're going to show that you're willing to work on this.

I think that's really important.

Yeah, cool. And then the final phase, the fifth phase is, of course, follow through with honesty. And this is really important.

I added the with honesty here because I think it's one thing to just follow through, but you need to keep your partner in the loop with what's happening. You can't just be over here doing your own work. I'm thinking about, you need to let them into your world more to know how things are feeling for you, where you're at with things on a consistent basis because that also builds trust.

So it's not just the behavior, it's also the emotional aspect. Like, yeah, this is actually still really hard for me. Or I thought about doing this thing today, but I didn't.

And here's how I worked with that. These are ways that you're continuing to build trust.

Yeah. And I was just reflecting on when the trust is connected, which again, I think it often is to a one up, one down split. I like what you're saying, Bryce, the commitment and the here's my plan for how I'm going to like equalize myself and show up in our relationship in a healthier way.

And then the follow through with honesty. And then I was thinking about the person who's been, who maybe went into more of the one down. And this doesn't always happen, right?

It could be that a couple's at center and then one takes a one up and the other stays at center. Or it can be that it splits more into a one up, one down. It can go either way.

Well, I would say, I don't know if you agree with this, I think it's possible sometimes that couples can actually be equal, even in, like they can be equally breaking each other's trust. I'm thinking about like a couple that like fights all the time and are really mean and disrespectful to each other pretty equally.

Yeah, and maybe that I would think of that as like, you have center is more of the balance point, and then there's like two one ups. And so that, yeah, the trust is getting broken in that way, where both people are one up, or it could be that just one is going one up, it could be that one is going one down even. I'm thinking about the different ways it can look, it looks very different, those different combinations can look quite different.

Or even if both people go one down, there can be a breach of trust in the sense of like, I don't trust that you're going to share how you're really feeling with me. So when you get like a real passive, when we see like a real passive couple, who are both in a more one down, then part of the trust that needs to get rebuilt is like, how are we going to trust that we're both showing up and like sharing the truth of what's happening for us?

Right. Yeah, that's a good point. And I didn't mean equal, like we're either both couples are in a more one up position in being pretty mean to each other and exhibiting grandiose behaviors, or they could be both pretty passive and they need to practice being more honest and forthcoming with each other.

Yeah, where one can be one, one can be the other, and the other can be more centered. I was just thinking about how, in terms of rebuilding trust, it takes both people coming back to center. So if you're not, yeah, I'm just thinking about that reality that it takes both people coming back to center.

And so part of the commitment is, what's the plan? Whoever, if someone's done more of the grandiose behavior and broken trust that way, even if it's more in a small T way, then yeah, their work is to self-reflect, come down. But there could still be a need for self-reflection or coming up, depending again on what the situation is.

And I'm just noticing how, oh yeah, it can look a lot of different ways. But I still think those steps are what's important.

Yeah, and you were bringing in this concept of one up, one down. And what I would invite you to do right now, if you're listening or watching, is to just take stock of where you think you go in relationship. Like when there are intense feelings, do you tend to feel more small and scared?

And you're having the effort into feeling like an equal to get your voice heard and to bring yourself? Or do you feel like you are more dismissive of your partner and you're pointing the finger and blaming them? And yeah, just maybe not really bothered by the conflict that's happening.

And I think that people in the one up position often don't feel as much pain. That's another way to assess. If you're feeling a lot of pain about this, it's probably more likely you're in the one down.

If you're like, yeah, I think things are fine. I mean, my partner's in pain, but I think that's their problem. That would indicate to me that you're in a more one up position.

And it is interesting because someone in a one up position can be in a one down position in another relationship. So kind of like the example we used with the walk situation, where I might feel in a one down position related to just the world at large. Like I'm less safe.

I feel afraid that someone could take over, right? Like I even had that experience when I was younger, 12 years old, and some men jumped out of a truck at me, started, you know, I ran. So I'm like, I already had that smaller feeling, but then I can use that experience of feeling smaller in relationship to the world to then take a one up over Bryce.

Like, well, then I need you to do this thing for me so that I can get out and have walks, right? So a one down, someone who's in a more one up position in a certain relationship situation could be feeling small or insecure in another way, but then they're taking a one up with their partner to try to resolve that, which is not really the way to resolve it, obviously. And it can break trust in the safety of the relationship if it's not seen and repaired and resolved.

Yeah, good point. And I made a little note here as we're coming to the end that people are probably curious about time learning and like, what does it actually take? So here's my very vague but honest answer is some of these trust building, repairing, conversations, processes can last, can take one conversation.

And sometimes they take years, years, literally. And there's some what I'm remembering some statistic that I saw where they say that it takes on average two to three years to repair from an affair, like a physical affair with somebody. OK, so if you're in a place where there's been some big tea trust issues and trust broken, I would invite you to buckle up and just absorb the reality that this could take a really, really long time, take a lot of work and a lot of resources to get back to feeling good with each other.

Yeah, and sometimes people don't want to do that work and that's OK, but that's what it takes sometimes. And it doesn't mean that it won't, that it'll always feel bad and then in years it'll feel good. Hopefully it can continually feel better, and I think that's what helps people feel motivated to keep doing the work as they see some progress.

But if you've been at some pattern and there hasn't been trust for years, it will probably take years to repair that.

And like Bryce said, you might see some progress and feel the benefits pretty quickly when you start actually doing some effective work on it. But some of those more subtle layers and the memories of the past, they can kind of slowly make their way to the surface as you resolve them. And that can take a long time.

Yeah. And I think about this through the lens of addiction, my personal and professional experience, because I would have this conversation often with clients where they had been using drugs and alcohol for 10 years, let's say. And then they come in and they're in a 90-day program, and after like two weeks, they're like, well, I think I'm good.

And I'm like, do you really think that you've been doing this for 10 years and that this is going to be resolved in two weeks? Like, no, it's not even going to be resolved in 90 days, but you need to do at least 90 days here just to get the ball rolling. And then you can go out into the world and see what it really feels like to be in the world with this new way of being.

But the typical benchmark for sobriety is like a year, I think, at least to really integrate some of these new ways of thinking and behaving in the world. And I think it's the same way with relationship when there's been, you know, big, big trust issues broken. Yeah.

Yeah. Well, that feels pretty good for me there. And I didn't fully lose my voice, which is good.

Yeah, it seemed like it came back a lot.

Came back.

This was really good. It was good to be here. And thanks for coming up with that topic, Bryce.

I really enjoyed it.

You're welcome. We'll be back again next week. Goodbye.

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