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Atone, Attune, and Attach

Introduced by the Gottman Institute, this is a three phase process to help restore trust after an incident that has challenged trust.



The one who is attempting to restore trust or offer repair must atone for breaches of trust. One can write a letter independently or draw from the Four Parts of an Apology below, or use parts of the process of forgiveness. These four parts are a bare minimum.

  1. Acknowledgment of the damage done
  2. Accepting responsibility for their role in the damage done
  3. Discussion or statements of commitment to new, growth oriented actions
  4. Outlining examples which would indicate progress in the new actions.


The “betrayed” begins asking any questions they feel are pertinent to their feelings associated with feeling betrayed except questions about specific things which may increase trauma. As an example, if the betrayal incident is an affair in a monogamous relationship, the betrayed may have a form PTSD called Betrayed Partner Syndrome (BPS). PTSD is often fueled by images of a traumatic event, BPS takes what one imagines and uses those images. Questions about specifics of sexual acts can add to that imagery and should be avoided. The “betrayer” is to answer the questions with full disclosure and honesty.



After these questions, couples will begin rebuilding systems of fondness and admiration and exploring intimacy safely. This may begin with identifying characteristics or actions to appreciate in a partner or beginning forms of intimacy such as sharing space or meals.


Have any thoughts, questions, suggestions, or comments on this article? Wondering how to this can be applied, modified, or adapted to your polyamorous, swinging, kink/ BDSM, or otherwise interesting relationship? Feel free to reach out to us here.