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Regaining Trust In A Friendship: Is It Possible?

Published: March 7, 2022 | Last Updated: February 2, 2024 By | Reply Continue Reading
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Regaining trust in a friendship is possible if the relationship has a strong foundation and people discuss the alleged breach.

QUESTION

Hi,

These past couple of weeks I’ve had a really rocky go with a friend of mine. He confided in me that he was pursuing a romantic relationship that was putting his education in jeopardy, and that was something that scared me. 

I began to make many assumptions in my head that he was dating faculty members, and I continued to talk to him about the fact that it was not a good idea, but he continued to assure me that everything was fine. I honestly didn’t believe him and was so concerned that I turned to a couple of trusted adults and told my concerns to them, one of them being a Title IX officer. 

In order to be transparent, I told my friend everything that I had said and whom I had spoken to (I had told another religious leader as well). After doing so, he responded that I had shot him in the back and could never gain his trust back. Ever.

He said that whatever I said or did now didn’t matter. I could never regain his trust. He said that he will always love me and wants to continue our friendship at the level that it has been, but he will just never trust me again. 

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I can be in a relationship where I’m not trusted. He told me that culturally, trust is something that is never given back to someone. It doesn’t matter what they do. 

That being said though, his information has been kept secret from anyone because of confidentiality laws. No one knows anything that could affect him.

Do you think that since this is all still fresh, he’s just angry and hurt? Or do you think he means what he says, that he’ll never trust me again? I’m having a hard time processing all of this because we have these big plans to go to my sister’s wedding together but I don’t know if I can take someone who won’t consider allowing me to be trustworthy in their life again.

Signed, Mark

ANSWER

Hi Mark,

It’s unfortunate that this misunderstanding has put such a crimp in your friendship.

It seems like you were operating out of concern and love for your friend, and were worried about his well-being. Regrettably, you didn’t have a clear picture of the situation that might be putting his education in jeopardy. 

Talking in private to a counselor or pastor was one way you chose to handle your own anxiety. Yet, even though this didn’t technically compromise your friend’s privacy, he saw it as a breach of trust. 

Yes, trust can be regained in a friendship under the right circumstances: That process generally starts with an apology. Implicit in your note is that you have already apologized and explained why you went out of your way to seek out information, in confidence, that might help him. If you haven’t told him you’re sorry, you need to do that directly, right away.

However, your note left me wondering why your friend decided to tell you about this dangerous liaison, and then to do so only in the vaguest of details—-if you are such good friends. Did he have questions about trusting you before this situation? Has he had trouble trusting other friends/associates in the past?

And did you have questions about your friend’s judgment that led to your concern and effort to find out more information?

Trust is fundamental to intimate relationships and there’s not much you can do if your friend says he no longer trusts you. Since he is willing to maintain the friendship, my guess is that you and he may be able to regain trust in each other over time, especially if your friendship has a strong foundation. 

Yes, it sounds like he is still angry.

  • I would let some time elapse after your apology to allow your friend to cool down and for you, to better understand your own motivations.
  • Then see if you’re able to have a heart-to-heart to get to the crux of what happened between you.

You were both hurt by this misunderstanding so I hope you can forgive one another. Hope this is helpful.

My best, Irene


Essentials Rules to Rebuild Trust in a Friendship

#1: Acknowledge Your Mistake Openly

  • Explain the importance of acknowledging the mistake to your friend, demonstrating that you understand the impact of your actions. This step is critical for showing sincerity and taking responsibility, which are foundational for rebuilding trust.

#2: Offer a Sincere Apology

  • Stress the need for an apology that reflects genuine remorse and understanding of the hurt caused. An effective apology is specific about what was wrong and expresses regret without making excuses.

#3: Give Them Space

  • Highlight the importance of respecting your friend’s need for space and time to process their feelings. Pushing for immediate forgiveness can backfire, so patience is key.

#4: Rebuild Trust Through Actions, Not Just Words

  • Emphasize that actions speak louder than words. Consistent, reliable behavior over time is the most convincing way to show you have changed and are committed to the friendship.

#5: Open Communication

  • Encourage open and honest communication about feelings and concerns moving forward. This includes actively listening to your friend’s perspective and showing empathy.

#6: Set Boundaries and Respect Them

  • Discuss the importance of establishing new boundaries that both friends agree on to avoid future misunderstandings and to reinforce respect in the relationship.

#7: Be Patient and Consistent

  • Rebuilding trust is a process that takes time. Encourage consistency in actions and patience, acknowledging that trust must be earned gradually.

Other posts about trust on The Friendship Blog:

Friendship: A Matter of Trust

In friends we trust—until they let us down

Text Message Violated Trust Between Friends

Can You Rebuild Trust After Shutting Someone Out?


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Can you regain trust in a friendship?

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