The situation between Hannah and Ethan was more complicated. Hannah didn’t feel that Ethan had come clean about his sexting—he obviously exchanged provocative texts with Stephanie but denied that he had feelings for Stephanie. When Ethan said, “Trust me; it won’t happen again,” his words rang hollow. Somehow Hannah sensed that he wasn’t being honest, sincere, or cooperative in trying to resolve the issue.

Zachary and Jacob didn’t even get that far. The two of them are trapped in an endless cycle of accusations and defensiveness.

Repairing Betrayed Partner’s Trust

A simple apology is generally the most effective. “I’m sorry. I messed up. It’s my fault. I was wrong.” Less is more here. Admit that you’ve harmed your partner and you regret what happened. Research shows that offering straightforward apologies leads to more forgiveness and less punishment. Avoid making excuses or offering explanations while apologizing. “I’m sorry, but…” diminishes the apology’s effectiveness. Again, there is a time to offer an explanation or tell your side of the story, but it’s important to let an apology stand on its own. Apologies seem less sincere when they are immediately followed by attempts to tell your side of the story.

The same goes with promising never to let it happen again. Making such promises, while often done to reassure a partner, isn’t realistic. To begin with, if the betrayal happened once, it might happen again. Finding real solutions to problems requires a lot of work. Making promises never to do it again is too simplistic; it demonstrates a lack of seriousness about resolving the problem. Keeping your apology simple and to the point is the best way to go.