Healing From Betrayal: Couples Therapy Techniques For Building Trust

Updated August 23, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

The impact of betrayal, particularly infidelity, is deeply profound, with behavioral studies revealing that more than 20% of individuals in committed relationships have engaged in an affair. These events cast a long shadow, leaving a trail of hurt feelings, shattered trust, and lingering questions. With seemingly no way to bring back the trust that was broken, couples often struggle to find their way forward.

Navigating the aftermath of betrayal is undeniably difficult but not always impossible. With time, patience, and the right guidance, you may be able to mend the broken trust and heal the wounded hearts. This journey of reconciliation and healing often isn't straightforward or swift — it's a gradual process that requires significant effort from both partners. But by taking one small step at a time, couples can gradually emerge from the shadow of betrayal, stronger and more deeply connected than ever before.

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Has Betrayal Tarnished Your Relationship?

Couples therapy can help you and your partner navigate the difficult emotions of betrayal, rebuild trust, and move forward in a healthier partnership. However, as we explore the techniques for achieving this, it's important to remember that no two couples are alike — and as such, your therapist will tailor the approach to fit your unique needs and concerns. 

Understanding Betrayal And Its Consequences 

In order to heal, you must first understand the true scope of how betrayal can affect a relationship. Betrayal is when a person you trust intentionally harms you through actions or inactions. Betrayal can take many forms, from physical infidelity to emotional or financial indiscretions.

Examples of betrayal can include:

  • Engaging in an emotional or physical relationship with another person

  • Lying about a major event, such as spending money or taking a job

  • Breaking promises regularly

  • Sharing intimate details of your relationship with others outside the partnership.

  • Withholding important information from your partner that could affect their decisions or safety

No matter what form betrayal takes, the consequences can be devastating. The sense of being harmed by someone you trust makes it difficult to move forward in a healthy way. In addition, the psychological impact of betrayal can be particularly severe, often causing an intense range of emotions. Betrayed partners may experience sadness, anger, grief, shame, fear, and depression. A partner who has been betrayed by infidelity might even exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

For the betrayer, guilt and self-recrimination can take hold. Ironically enough, many cheating partners report feeling betrayed by their partners for not meeting their needs — further compounding the problem. Therefore, both partners must work to unlearn this way of thinking and gain perspective on why the relationship deteriorated in the first place.

Betrayal also affects relationship dynamics, as couples may struggle to regain a sense of safety and trust in their partnership. Even after an affair ends, moving past the pain and rebuilding trust can be difficult. When couples cannot work through the betrayal, it can lead to a breakdown in communication and connection.

Communication is often cited as the most important factor in determining the success of any relationship. In fact, approximately 70% of divorcees cite communication as a major factor in their split. Unfortunately, with betrayal, couples can find it difficult to communicate honestly and openly, often resulting in further resentment and distance.

Key Techniques In Couples Therapy To Build Trust

Couples therapy can provide a safe space for partners to express their feelings and learn how to repair the relationship. In a therapeutic setting, both partners have the opportunity to share their perspectives in an open and empathetic environment. A safe space is especially beneficial when couples struggle to communicate effectively, as they can receive constructive feedback from an impartial third person trained to help couples negotiate difficult conversations.

Your therapist will help each partner understand the underlying concerns that may have led to the betrayal and how it's affecting their current relationship dynamics. By exploring these topics, couples can better understand each other's needs, desires, and expectations for the future.

In addition to identifying problems, couples therapy can also help partners learn how to rebuild trust. A certified couples therapist will guide you through the process of rebuilding a secure emotional connection and restoring safety in your relationship. Your therapist can provide techniques and strategies for communicating openly, as well as tools for conflict resolution.

Couples therapy techniques vary depending on the goals and preferences of the couple. Many couples therapists utilize cognitive-behavioral, emotionally focused, psychodynamic, and Gottman method techniques to help restore trust.

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Cognitive-Behavioral Techniques

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that focuses on identifying and changing maladaptive thoughts and behaviors. CBT techniques can be used to help couples build trust by re-establishing healthy communication patterns and building an understanding of each other's needs.

CBT trust-building techniques include communication skills training, which involves active listening exercises and practice expressing thoughts without blame or defensiveness. Couples can also use behavioral contracting to set expectations and boundaries for the relationship, such as how they will communicate when disagreements arise.

Emotionally Focused Therapy Techniques

Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) is built upon building a secure emotional bond between partners and allowing each partner to express their emotions in a safe environment. EFT techniques for trust building include exploring emotional responses, which can help partners understand what triggers negative responses in one another.

Creating a secure bond is another important goal of EFT, as it involves acknowledging each partner's individual needs and creating an environment where those needs can be met. Systemic exercises can also be used to help partners gain a better understanding of how their actions affect one another.

The Gottman Method Techniques

The Gottman method is an evidence-based approach to couples therapy emphasizing open and honest communication as well as mutual respect and understanding. The Gottman method includes techniques for developing trust, such as "Love Maps," which involve exploring the partner's interests, concerns, and goals.

Building a culture of appreciation is another important component of the Gottman method, as it involves expressing gratitude for all the positive aspects of the relationship. Gratitude can help partners feel valued and secure in their relationship and create an environment that fosters trust.

Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques

Psychodynamic therapy is based on understanding unconscious patterns and trauma that may influence current relationships. Techniques for building trust in psychodynamic couples therapy include exploring past relationships to better understand patterns and behaviors affecting the current relationship.

In addition, partners can use this type of therapy to identify underlying needs and expectations that may have been unmet or unexpressed in the past. While psychodynamic therapy can help couples gain insight into their behavior, it is important to remember that the goal of therapy is not to blame or shame but rather to build understanding and repair any existing damage.

Some couples may benefit from individual therapy in conjunction with couples therapy, especially if one partner is living with unresolved trauma or mental health challenges. Individual therapy can provide support and guidance to an individual, while couples therapy focuses on the relationships between partners. Your own mental health is just as important to a healthy relationship as relationship health, and individual therapy can be a great way to ensure you are mentally well-equipped for relationship success.

Online therapy has also become an increasingly popular option for couples seeking to improve their relationships. Through online therapy sessions, partners can benefit from the same evidence-based techniques offered with in-person couples therapy and the convenience of meeting with a professional therapist virtually. An online therapist can provide tools and resources to help you navigate your relationship more effectively while prioritizing your mental health.

For more than two decades, the Interapy research group of the University of Amsterdam has studied the efficacy of online therapy compared to traditional in-person treatment. Numerous studies suggest that online therapy can be just as effective as its in-person counterpart and that there are many potential benefits to this type of treatment. Increased accessibility and convenience can make the therapeutic process more comfortable and successful for couples seeking to invest in their relationship.

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Has Betrayal Tarnished Your Relationship?

No matter what type of couples therapy you choose, the goal is to create a healthier and more fulfilling relationship. With the right communication tools, commitment to growth, and a supportive therapist, partners can learn to trust each other again and enjoy a healthier relationship.

Takeaway

The path of healing from betrayal is not only about moving past a painful event but also about growing and maturing as individuals and as a couple. It's a journey that often requires vulnerability, openness, and mutual respect. The goal is not to return to how things were before the betrayal but to use the event as a catalyst for a deeper and more satisfying relationship.

The process of healing from betrayal can also serve as an opportunity for personal growth. It's a time to reevaluate personal values, improve communication skills, and strengthen emotional intelligence. Online therapy can bolster your efforts by providing the tools and resources to process pain, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and improve resiliency.

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