Physical affection can demonstrate that trust is returning.

How to Apologize for Betraying Someone's Trust

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

If you live long enough, someone will betray your trust by lying, taking something that belongs to another, or perhaps even having your spouse or partner cheat. You may also betray someone else’s trust, even though it may have been inadvertent or a moment of poor judgment. For that person, it is not easy to him to learn that you betrayed him, but recovery is possible when the person you betrayed is willing to accept your apology if you deliver it sincerely, and when you are willing to do the work necessary to restore trust.

1. “Rs” and “Hs”

When you want to apologize for breaking someone’s trust, you must practice four “Rs” and four Hs." The four "Rs" are your responsibility, restitution, rehabilitation and request for forgiveness. The four “Hs” are the other person's hurt, hatred, hesitance to trust and holding a grudge or the betrayal in memory, according to psychiatrist, Dr. Mark Goulston in the “Psychology Today” article, “A Power Apology for Tiger - How to Rebuild Trust after Betrayal.” You must address the hurt by taking responsibility for your betrayal without laying blame or making excuses. You respond to hatred or intense feelings of betrayal by making restitution for what you did, such as opening your email and web crawler to your partner’s inspection if you strayed. Demonstrate your rehabilitation when that individual is hesitant to trust you by outlining how you will refrain from repeating the betrayal and living it out day-by-day. Continue to request forgiveness as long as your partner or friend holds the betrayal in memory.

2. Betrayal Super Glue

Three actions will help repair the cracks in your relationship created by betrayal, according to Bruce Muzik, relationship coach, in “How To Forgive: Why “I’m Sorry” Is Never Enough & What To Say Instead” on his website, Love at First Fight. Look into the betrayed person’s eyes when you express your remorse and let him see that you are truly sorry that you let him down, that you weren’t there for him and that you allowed his needs to become less important than your own needs. Let him see that you understand his hurt and that you empathize with his pain because you also suffer the pain now that you understand how deeply he is suffering. Ask what you must do to restore trust and then put it into action on a consistent basis. Each person can have a specific list of restoration activities to ensure that you understand what they need before you agree to it or you will again betray a trust.

3. Safety

When trust is betrayed, the person who was betrayed no longer feels safe in the relationship, according to Neil Rosenthal, a licensed marriage and family therapist on his website, Heart Relationships. To restore trust, it is necessary to let the betrayed person know you understand that and apologize for making them feel unsafe. Ask what you need to do to rebuild a feeling of safety and retain that into the future. If you convey to the other person that you understand how unsafe you made her feel and that she needs to believe that you are concerned about her safety, then the other person is more likely to accept your apology.

4. Trust Behaviors

Trust-building behaviors can accompany your verbal apology and convince the person you betrayed that you are sincere with your desire to rebuild trust, according to Janis A. Spring in her “Low-Cost and High-Cost Trust Building Behavior” from her book “After the Affair.” Spring breaks the behaviors up into low-cost and high-cost to designate that some betrayals are more traumatic than others. Examples of low-cost behaviors include sharing feelings, being honest about running into an old affair partner or addict contact, connecting with alone time and intimate activities. High-cost behaviors include opening your computer activities and password for inspection, financial restitution and moving your job or home to avoid contact with those who facilitated the betrayal.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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