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  • Writer's pictureChristina Neri, LCSW

Betrayals & Affairs: The Loss of Trust in a Relationship

Updated: Jan 17

Mike and Julie come in to session discussing deep feelings of insecurity, disappointment, & ultimately grief over the many requests, boundaries, & expectations that have not been followed through on, taken seriously, or really understood. They want to rebuild trust, but aren’t even sure how trust was lost to begin with.


Rich and Brenda reach out for help after the discovery of a sexual & emotional affair that has lasted for almost two years. Destroyed, yet communicating more than ever they are committed to work on trusting again, but can’t seem to shake the triggers and images of the affair.


Both of these relationships have a challenge of trust on their hands. We typically only apply trust to issues of affairs, infidelity, which are incredibly painful betrayals; However, loss of trust in relationship also happens when there is a betrayal of certain agreements, expectations, and boundaries. If we don’t follow through on promises, fail to meet healthy expectations, or ignore our partners’ needs over time this transforms the relationship to feel uncertain, unpredictable, & emotionally unsafe. Trust exists in a spectrum from mild disappointments to emotional abandonment and everywhere in between.


Couple holding hands firmly

John Gottman, relationship researcher, uses the analogy of a car in his book The Science of Trust: “Betrayal exists in every relationship. More often than not, the betrayals accumulate like small dents. Other times, they arrive like a sudden crash. In both cases, they present a unique opportunity for trust building.”


Whether you have a handful of nasty dents or your relationship is totaled it’s time to really take trust as a serious, necessary, & transformative element of a healthy and satisfying relationship. The actions toward building trust is really quite simple, but it requires a challenging psychological & emotional task: put your partner’s needs, feelings, & experience as a significant, if not the most significant, priority in your life. You must be willing to engage humility, empathy, vulnerability, & accountability to establish and/or rebuild trust with your partner. Without humility you cannot authentically accomplish the rest. In the Science of Trust John Gottman says it perfectly,


“Science now tells us that trust grows from how each of us treats our partners. In each situation when our needs compete with those of our partner’s, no matter how small or large, we each chose to act in our self-interest or in the interest of our partner. Trust springs from the choice to take care of our partner at our own expense.”


For more support on working through the trust building process after an Extra Marital Affair (EMA) click here.



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