Broken Trust? Here’s How to Rebuild.

By November 2, 2016February 22nd, 2018Communication, Conflict, In-laws & Family

When trust has been damaged or destroyed in a marriage, the rebuilding process takes a huge amount of patience, skill, and–above all–time. After your very foundation has been shaken, restoring trust in your marriage is literally a relationship makeover.

You and your spouse must work together over time to rebuild the trust you lost, and both of you have a lot of work to do to get there. But with determination and an absolute commitment to restoration, your marriage can be healthy again.

You might not realize it now, but if you’ve been betrayed by your spouse, you can begin to trust them again. And if you betrayed your spouse, it is possible to restore their faith in you.

In today’s post, we’ll discuss some of the steps both of you will need to take in order to rebuild the trust in your marriage. It won’t be easy, but it will definitely be worth it.

For the Betrayed

As the betrayed spouse, you must be willing to forgive your husband or wife. It’s a bitterly painful experience to be betrayed by the person you love most in the world, and the betrayal can wreak havoc on your life.

Taking on the hard task of forgiveness is, at best, a huge challenge. Forgiveness happens gradually, in stages. You can’t snap your fingers and suddenly erase what your spouse has done, just because you’ve decided to forgive. You must allow yourself the time to grieve, heal, and name the hurts in order to surrender your need to inflict hurt in retaliation.

In addition to maintaining a forgiving attitude toward your spouse, you must be open about the anxiety your spouse’s betrayal has caused. Be honest about the times that you are most likely not to trust your spouse, and tell them the things that trigger your sense of betrayal.

Although it’s important to name your spouse’s offenses and be open about your triggers, it’s also important to know when to start stepping away from the painful memories. As your spouse begins to prove his or her trustworthiness over again, you’ll have to discern when it’s time to start letting go of the offenses, a little at a time. This is part of your forgiveness process.

In order to truly forgive, heal, and avoid the seeds of bitterness and contempt taking root in your own soul, it’s critical for you to be able to know when to let go and allow your spirit to heal.

Take care of yourself and do whatever it takes in order to recover. As the betrayed spouse, it’s tempting to focus all your attention on what your spouse did and what they’re doing to set things right. A huge part of you is very invested in your spouse’s efforts to right the wrongs they inflicted. But if you don’t care for your own health and wellbeing in the process, your emotional and spiritual healing will be prolonged–or could even be prevented.

Above all else, stay in God’s word and keep your prayer life active. Surround yourself with support and love. And take comfort in the fact that your spouse is doing whatever it takes to make things right between you again.

For the Betrayer

No matter what you have done to hurt your spouse, you must make yourself open and willing to answer any questions they may have regarding your betrayal. The more serious your offense, the more likely it is that you’ll have to answer a lot of questions. And those questions may come up repeatedly over a period of time.

When you’ve betrayed the person who loves you most, assume that you have inflicted a great deal of anxiety, insecurity, and pain upon them. Since the two of you are working together to restore trust, you’ll need to be willing to provide reassurance and security any time your spouse expresses a need for it–and then some.

For a time, you’ll need to make yourself accountable for your time and actions, particularly surrounding your offense. This will feel invasive, but extra accountability is non-negotiable.

Accountability can hurt your pride, but leave your ego at the door. It’s hard to have to earn your spouse’s trust after you have injured them. You’d rather them just take you at your word and begin trusting you again since you’ve apologized for your actions, but you have to be willing to surrender that.

You and your spouse will have to agree on boundaries that surround the offending people, activities, or places. Keep temptations for repeat offenses completely off limits.

If you had an affair, have no further contact whatsoever with that person. Have no presence near the things or places that are tempting to you. You must be 100% determined to stay accountable. With effort and time, accountability will play a major part in the restoration of your marriage.

Reconnecting with God and healing yourself spiritually will also go a long way toward helping you and your spouse grow closer again. Spending time in prayer, reading the Bible, and seeking Christian counsel (either from others in your church or a trusted professional counselor) will help you to resist temptation and strengthen you for the days ahead.

In Conclusion

Don’t lose heart. The season of rebuilding trust and restoring your relationship is a very trying, painful time for both of you. But with grace, hope, kindness, and a lot of patience, the two of you will come out on the other side stronger than ever.

Have you faced seasons of trust-building in your marriage? How did you overcome hurts and betrayals, and come out stronger when it was all over? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.



  • Barbara Cowal says:

    What about where there is no apology or acknowledgement of any betrayal? How big of a boundary needs to be drawn? How much does one insist that reconciliation and trust can only happen once there has been acknowledgment and willingness to “leave ego at the door” and exercise some level of humility? Because without this, the enormous risk is that you lose your primary relationship with the one you love because you are unwilling to live with their denial of a problem and glossing it over without any acknowledgment of wrongdoing…..yet if you bend you lose your self….. this is not the obvious scenario of an affair, but the more insidious issue of hiding large financial transactions, refusing to meet expressed needs – yet still very much a fundamental betrayal of trust…..

    • Liz says:

      I think you are talking about two different things. Forgiveness is something that you do (as the betrayed) to start YOUR healing process. You forgive because we’ve been forgiven. We keep forgiving (how many times? 7 times 70…). I can forgive while setting boundaries. I can forgive you, but that doesn’t mean i’m letting you near my money again, near that person again, near whatever the offense was.

      The other person needs to acknowledge their sin, but that isn’t forgiveness. Forgiveness is for you. It sets YOU free. The betrayer needs to right their wrongs and admit they even did wrong, but none of that is contingent on forgiveness. I could hold onto that bitter pill of unforgiveness for eternity, even if my spouse does everything he can to make things right. And likewise, I can forgive, while my spouse does nothing to fix the situation.

      But you see, regardless of the betrayer’s behavior, forgiveness is what YOU are in control of. You can’t control what your spouse does or doesn’t do. You may set boundaries, but ultimately s/he has to stick to them, and you can’t control that. No amount of forgiveness (or lack there of) changes that.

    • Esther says:

      It is the issue of accountability, pride and a lack of empathy/care.
      Pride prevents him from acknowledging it as wrong and accountability is what you are seeking.
      The solution
      first pray about it as its virtually impossible to make any real impact with someone over whom you haven’t prayed for.

      Secondly , after praying you’ll need to confront him regarding the matter. And while doing it. It is important not to accuse(that’s Satans job).
      Most times at the root of accountability issue is fear of being judged.
      So it’s vital that your words are from a place of ‘this is how I feel regarding this’.
      Give the accountability a personality that way you wouldn’t be focusing on him as the problem.
      Which makes it non judgemental and should facilitate better resolution without him getting defensive.
      Lastly, Trust. Knowing he has your best interest at heart accept that he’s aware of the pain this issue is and has caused and wouldn’t want to inflict or cause a repetition.
      So trust. Believe that he is becoming accountable. Praise for every little step.
      Remember what we focus on and appreciate we see more of.

      Accept that there will be some errors be prepared for it by reminding yourself of the good points and keep living …
      Give plenty of allowance

      Regarding expressed needs.
      The bible says we don’t have because we don’t ask God.
      Take your needs to God. He will ensure they are fulfilled.
      Your husband is not your source.
      There’s only so much he can do. Don’t make him your God.
      Let me know if this helps

  • Jill Jones says:

    God forgives, so we also can forgive. Like everything else, it is a choice. There is nothing that cannot be forgiven, especially when you consider that forgiveness is not for the other person but for yourself. There is freedom for you in forgiveness but it is a process – for me, it can be a daily decision that I have to choose to make (to forgive that person & offense) & trust that God has a better plan, a plan B (or C, or D, etc) that He has a future & a hope in my path ahead. Drawing strong boundaries is essential and difficult. Do it. You cannot make people apologize or even admit the hurt that they have caused but you can draw new boundary lines. It’s maddening (admittedly). People know what they’ve done, even when they choose not to acknowledge it. Trust that God can protect you, can see you, knows your pain and will deal with the situation in His way and in His time. For me, that is the hardest part…I choose to trust that His word is true, that He is my best defense. you can too.

  • saved by grace says:

    My spouse is repentant and has asked for forgiveness multiple times. The two relationships were not sexual but they became good friends- friendships that lasted a long time. I feel betrayed because I was unaware of them and they make me question whether all the wonderful times we had as a family were tainted by these relationships. I don’t like that he was close in anyway with two women when I am the only woman (other than his family) he should be close to.

    He offers explanations about his whereabouts and what he is doing and is patient when I have to ask. Our only challenge is when I still bring up questions that he feels he has answered. Usually I am asking them in another way just for reassurance. He says he feels re-convicted all over again and that his responses only yield more and more questions. I feel that this should be a shared burden because I feel like I have been left bearing the load of pain that stemmed from his betrayal. I choose to forgive him daily and by faith. I love him dearly and I know he loves me too. He admits that this was a mid-life crisis and a case of a guy wanting to stoke his ego to see “if he still got it”

    Things are gentler and sweeter between us now but I sometimes wonder if it had to take the pain of betrayal to get here. I also struggle with the triggers that bring up the pain all over again when I think I am doing well. Then it feels like I am back to square one. I am reading the word and praying all the time and this has been helpful-including timely articles like this one. It is reassuring to hear that this process takes time even though I hate the overwhelming pain and want to get through this quickly.

  • Nancy Summerlin says:

    It seems that there is an “event” every other month. From porn to sexting, then online dating profiles to gift buying for a friend. Just when I recover from one, another happens. When asked why, the only answer given is, “I don’t know.”

    • V says:

      I can completely identify exactly. My husband does the same, however, he knows why and has admitted why; therefore, he knows better! My husband attends a sex addiction anonymous group. There is probably one near you. They follow a 12 step program. With continuing addictions such as this, such a group or accountability with other men is vital IMO. It helps them cope, resist, and learn to relate to their spouses better. Mine has still back-slid since he joined but he is much healthier and so is our relationship, and his sexual sin occurs much less often.

    • V says:

      Also it sounds like your husband may have had an affair? Personally that is where I would draw the line.

  • Teresa Moncrieff says:

    My husband and I have broken trust more than once in our marriage of 23 wonderful years. Often it was financial in origin, but sometimes it was sexual in orientation. Honestly, it could be anything from house cleaning to adultery to time management or children! Our Enemy is tireless!

    The betrayer better not check ego at the door permanently! Once you have broken trust. Understand fully what broke it, and you must seek forgiveness AND begin proving to yourself and your spouse that you will not cross that line again. It takes open communication from both parts about 1) the offense, 2) the near misses during the rebuilding phase, and 3) the growth gained in the long run. Your spouse needs your affirmation.
    The betrayed will struggle greatly with getting historical. This requires prayer, tight lips and forgiveness without any root of bitterness. Keep yourself in careful guard for this. Be willing to agree with little victories and big ones. Be willing to help with understanding offenses, and setting boundaries. And ABOVE ALL, realize that ANY time you are offended by another person you’ve just been given a tremendous opening into understand your own beliefs about yourself and the world. Understand what caused your response. Your spouse needs your affirmation.
    REMEMBER…You are on the each other’s team like no one else is.

  • Barbara Cowal says:

    This article is not on forgiveness. It is on rebuilding trust. My caution is regarding “rebuilding trust” when there’s been no acknowledgment of betrayal or wrongdoing. I can forgive, but I do not see that trust can be rebuilt in this scenario. That requires two. And it is oh so easy to judge one spouse for drawing a.boundary rather than the other for not acknowledging their betrayal……

  • Barbara Cowal says:

    BTW I love this line:”Your spouse needs your affirmation.
    REMEMBER…You are on the each other’s team like no one else is.”
    So true. But still it cannot be one sided.

  • S says:

    My spouse has never fully acknowledged what she did and the hurt and humiliation it caused – 12 years ago. With two very young children at the time, I have stayed in the marriage for their sake and the hope that it would get better. While the affair is over, we are not close as two married people should be. I randomly have bad dreams that go back to what happened and have shared with her that I still don’t know what all happened, why it happened, and why it won’t happen again. Those questions still are very real for me. I was told basically that I haven’t forgiven her because I keep bringing it up every once in awhile. That is because the questions were never answered and I am left to still wonder why. She doesn’t say anything nowadays about it. Just silence. Appears there is no remorse. Now the children will both be in college in a year and now I wonder what there is to look forward to. I pray for direction and for God to reveal it to me. She has resisted setting boundaries and makes accusations that I don’t trust her when boundaries were suggested in the past.

  • Tina Gibbs says:

    I was the offender in an emotional affair and my husband had absolutely no idea until he caught me on my computer. It was a very hard three years of building back trust, learning how to communicate and healing hurts. I am so thankful for the Parrot’s books, “The Time Starved Marriage” and “Love Talk”, we started reading these together and communicating more. I never dreamed our relationship would be this good. We have been married 35 years now and we both are amazed at how God has led us forward and together after a lot of hard work in learning how to openly communicate. I wonder sometimes what if we did not do this work, what if he did not forgive and I thank God daily and can honestly say that it has never been better now that we have the tools we need and the commitment and love for the long haul.

  • Fatima Mwonga says:

    As the betrayer, he is not willing to accept my boundaries (to be completely open with internet usage, where he is, doing what). He’s not willing to be open and accountable with me, or leave his ego at the door. He won’t accept responsibility, and he states that my boundaries are a way of punishing him for his wrongdoing/betrayal. To be frank, I feel hopeless as there’s no way convincing him. When I do tell him honestly of certain things that trigger the memories to come back and haunt me, he says, “I’ll pray for you.” He thinks I’m the only one with the trust problem. I realized I cannot control him or the decisions he makes. But I really do need help and encouragement regarding this.

  • Renee says:

    I’ve been searching and praying that God would bring something like this website, with its different Godly suggestions, support, prayer, and understanding. I have been with I hope to be one day my Husband for a year on December 2, 2017. We met the beginning of November, 2016, after loosing my husband to suicide in 2008 and him being the first man I know God brought to me after 15 years of a physical and verbal abuse relationship. He showed me how it was to be treated like a lady, loved and appreciated for who I was, my best friend, my lover, and more of a Father figure to my 3 kids then their biological Dad ever was. When I lost him in 2008 and I had lost my only other close friend 3 years before that, I dated and tried to be in relationships after but it didn’t work and was picking the wrong men. Anyways when I met the man Im with now it felt like love at 1st sight, and he treated me so well and we seem to get along great and both loved the Lord. Well about 6 months into the relationship I found out about something that was going on for about the 1st 2 months we were together. It crushed me and felt like my heart had been ripped out. Yes, he apologized and seemed genuine that he knew what happened was wrong. Loving him I forgave him but my insecurities are still there and being in bad relationships in the past of course made this harder. When it cones to trust, insecurities, and those areas were like night and day and I feel he doesn’t understand my feelings. To him when I said I forgave him it was never to be brought up again or compared in terms of me using it to my insecurity issue with him. He has always had a pass code on his phone and up until me finding out with what happened in the beginning of our relationship I never had any doubt or desire to look at his phone and I knew the code. Well since then I won’t lie I get that bad feeling and I would look at his phone. He started texting a female coworker and she is supposedly married but when I read the texts it was for the most part work related but to me a little flirting. I asked him and he was mad that I looked at his phone and said it was only for work. There was one other thing about that situation that made me Leary, so the next day I did look at his phone again and he had deleted all the messages. I asked he got mad, since then he’s had a pass code on his phone, he puts it upside down, and most of the time he keeps it on silent. He says I should trust him and after the 3rd time of asking for the pass code it ended up in a big fight. I just feel like when your in a relationship if there are pass codes it should be shared and not such a private thing. I think if he didn’t act suspicious with it having a pass code I wouldn’t be so unsure. This is just tearing me up. Sorry for writing so much
    God bless all of you

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