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Building & Repairing Trust: Establishing a Sustainable Relationship

Building trust can take place if it’s allowed.

How simple was that?

One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome when building and rebuilding trust is overcoming the challenge of “self”. As individuals, we can truly create an internal challenge that stands in front of us. We can become a wall, so vast that seeing past the issues that hurt trust becomes almost impossible.

My favorite question to ask couple’s seeking the challenge of overcoming trust is:

“Do you want to be together?”

Yes or No

If “Yes”, great!

If “I’m not sure” great!

“Yes” and “I’m not sure”, are positive responses that allow growth to take place. Below are two healthy ways couples can take on the relationship challenge of building or rebuilding trust.

Relationship Exercise 1: Building Trust with Appreciation

During this exercise, I ask that you and your partner agree to 3 things:

  1. Set up a time to meet face to face.
  2. Agree to show each other patience and respect during the activity.
  3. Agree to truly invest in the activity.


During the exercise, you and your partner are going to take turns sharing what you appreciate from each other. When disclosing what, you appreciate focus your response to the following:

  • Disclose what you appreciate about your partner.
  • Disclose how the act you appreciate impacts you.
  • Disclose how the act you appreciate impacts the relationship.

Below are two examples that focus on the appreciation exercise. Use it as guidance in the activity:


Example 1:

I appreciate that you always think about me and my needs. When you think about me, it makes me feel valued and important in your eyes. When I envision my ideal relationship, it must be with someone that is willing to consider my needs.


Example 2:

I really appreciate how willing you are to always give me a hug or a kiss for no reason. When you kiss, or hug me, I feel seen. I feel that, on a physical level, my needs are met. The person I want to be with must be willing to hug me, kiss me or touch me in some way.


This exercise should be continued at a pace of at least one time per week. I want to encourage you to continue to work on your relationship through appreciation.


Relationship Exercise 2: Building Trust with Forgiveness

Forgiveness is by far one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome. Imagine a balance beam. One side labeled “you” and the other “partner”.

When discussing forgiveness, more than half of the weight is on your side. On the internal side.

Years ago, I worked with a couple who from the outside seemed like the ideal candidate to separate. Multiple affairs, acts of dishonesty, and lack of communication. The couple had a habit of repeating harmful cycles.

This couple would go around the circle over and over. Literally going around the very obstacles and issues that hurt the relationship without solving them.

Forgiveness and understanding was what was missing in the relationship. The couple had not forgiven each other for their wrongful acts. In addition, each had not forgiven him/herself for personal actions that hurt the relationship.

As a counselor, I enjoy making complex subjects simple. Very much like the idea behind the book serious “… For Dummies”. I find that simplicity speaks louder to the audience and can often be more appreciated.


Part I:

Forgiveness is difficult to overcome because “I” Meaning, “I” am not ready to forgive. Or “I” don’t think I could ever forgive.

Statements such as these are simply, self-defeating.

How can someone overcome an obstacle when they are already fighting against themselves and the obstacle at hand.

Part II:

The second part of forgiveness is a mixture of not knowing if you are going to be able to love the person as you used to. Or if the relationship will be as it used to.

First, things first. The question you are asking is an unknown simply because before you landed on the answer it was an unknown.

Did I confuse you?

Reflect to when you first met your partner. Think about the first dates. The very beginning when you did not know what the future would be like. During the first dates, you had no idea that your love would grow. You also had no idea of what the love would be like.

Yet, after obstacles. We feel that we will not be able to go back to what we use to have.

What relationships used to have or will have in time is dependent on the course of the relationship. If you make the decision to actively work on your relationship, then growth will take place.

You can do this by shifting the “I” statements mentioned earlier to:

  • “I will commit to my relationship”.
  • “I will spend time with my partner”.
  • “I will go on dates and push myself to be transparent”.
  • “I will love as I want to be loved”.
  • “I will treat my partner as I want to be treated”.
  • “I will show my partner appreciation”.

When days are tough and nights are long, remember, relationships require work. Healthy supportive work that transitions tough days and long nights to peaceful days and restful nights.