Trust in a marriage is wonderful when you have it—but without it the relationship can deteriorate quickly. Your spouse’s feelings of betrayal and pain compound the shame and guilt that you experience. What can you do to rebuild trust in your marriage?
What Is Trust and Why Is It Important?
In the context of marriage, trust is the tendency of your spouse to believe you and feel confident of your care for them based on certain qualities including your reputation, communication patterns, and your competence. Your choices and actions influence how your spouse decides to calculate your credibility.
Trust in Your Marriage
How reliable have you been? Does your spouse have a reasonable basis for giving you the benefit of the doubt? Does your spouse feel safe and secure knowing that you have been faithful to your wedding vows? Can you both quickly and fully handle any offenses that arise between you? Do you work well together and are you able to openly share concerns, thoughts, and dreams? How would you describe to a friend the level of peace and joy that exists in your marriage?
Trust is a big component of any relationship, especially in the covenant bond of husband and wife. If you or your spouse have any concerns about trust in your marriage, take the time now to resolve the issues and work toward rebuilding trust.
How to Rebuild Trust
Once you have lost the trust of your spouse and depending on the degree of damage you have caused, it can be difficult to earn it back. What are you willing to do to repair the relationship? What is your spouse willing to do? For best results, you both need to be committed to starting a process of reconciliation. Consider the following attitudes and actions to help salvage your marriage from a breach of trust.
Your overarching attitude should be one of humility. Selfish thoughts and behavior have likely contributed to your present predicament, so you must think of yourself less and of your spouse more. Look for ways that you can serve your spouse in expected and unexpected ways. Focus less on what you think you are owed and express gratitude for what you are given.
Confess Your Faults
What have you done to violate your spouse’s trust? Take this seriously. Confess your faults without justification, excuses, or exceptions. Avoid minimizing your guilt or dismissing how your spouse has been hurt by your choices and actions. Acknowledge the pain you have caused. Mourn and weep together. Seek to understand what your spouse is going through.
Do not demand forgiveness; leave room for them to work through their emotions.
This confession is about your conduct. Do not blame others or point out the faults of your spouse. Tell the truth about what you did that violated the trust between you. Allow your offended spouse to ask any questions and respond with appropriate disclosure. Help your spouse to feel secure that you are telling the whole truth.
Be specific about what you need forgiveness for, and ask your spouse to forgive you. Do not demand forgiveness; leave room for them to work through their emotions. You cannot change your spouse’s feelings directly, but you can influence them as you improve your choices and actions.
Work on Yourself First
You are responsible for you, not for your spouse. Regardless of how your spouse responds, you must stop your destructive behavior and commit to real change. You might feel sorrow over the situation, but you must evaluate whether you are sorry for your wrong conduct and its disastrous effect or if you are merely sorry that your spouse discovered the truth.
Likely you have more than one area of your life that needs serious attention. So, evaluate yourself from the perspective of your spouse. What would they say needs to change in your life? Start clearing out the rubbish and begin your path toward integrity.
You might need to change your schedule, your work, your friendships, and more to prove your devotion to change.
Agree on What Change Looks Like
To rebuild trust in marriage, something has to change. What is it going to take to influence your spouse to believe your words, motives, and actions? You must both work together to set the direction of your relationship and identify a reasonable action plan that carries you both forward and toward one another. Take care to write out your plan to clarify expectations and avoid future misunderstandings and arguments.
Identify and eliminate the things that might undermine your spouse’s trust.
Consider what consequences would be appropriate for your misbehavior. For example, you might agree on the removal or restriction of technology, spending money, or free time. While these things could partly be punishment for you, they should be more generally intended to establish accountability and restore trust in your marriage.
Identify and eliminate the things that might undermine your spouse’s trust. While you will want to focus on the big issues, don’t forget to look for the small ways that you continue to undermine your credibility. Evaluate your words, attitudes, choices, and actions to make sure you genuinely serve the best interests of your spouse.
Determine together on who is going to do what and when they will do it. Agree on how to measure success along the way and at the end of the process. Decide how often you will communicate about these things as well as the specific time, place, and means of talking together. Along the way, reevaluate each person’s expectations and renegotiate the terms of change as mutually desired.
Demonstrate Your Credibility
Allow no room for your spouse to be confused or suspicious of your conduct.
Do what you said you would do and prove your faithfulness in small and large ways. Expect ups and downs along the path both in your performance and in how your spouse regards you. Seek daily progress.
Be predictable, consistent, and dependable. Allow no room for your spouse to be confused or suspicious of your conduct. Let your spouse have access to your daily schedule, phone logs, messaging apps, location, and device usage. Seek constructive criticism and be willing to continue to change along the path.
Focus on One Another
Turn your attention to your spouse. Commit to spending more time as a couple. Do things you both enjoy as well as regular, less glamorous chores—together. Move toward one another emotionally and physically.
Recognize each other’s efforts to rebuild the marriage. Lower your expectations of one another and be thankful for genuine progress no matter how small. Comfort one another by reiterating your mutual commitment, love, affection, and resolve to change and grow.
Turn your attention to your spouse.
Communicate with one another to establish transparency and openness. Speak the truth without equivocation to remove doubt or hesitation to trust you. When your spouse calls you or sends you a message, respond as soon as you can. If your relationship is so tenuous that verbal conversations fail to move you forward, you might consider writing letters to each other to convey your thoughts. Reassure your spouse of your affection and your desire to repair this relationship.
Let your life be an open book to your spouse. Disclose more than you think your spouse wants or needs to know. Share your daily schedule and report any delays and changes. Invite open access to your phone and other electronic devices, your passwords, your car, your wallet—everything.
Listen to one another and seek to understand each other. Remove distractions like phones so you can give full attention to your conversation. Ask open-ended questions and take your spouse’s answers seriously. You may need to ask follow-up questions to clarify what was just said. Be kind and patient especially during the difficult conversations. Think before you respond and remember that you are both working to restore your marriage.
Your marriage is worth any effort to save it.
Take this process slowly. While it may have taken only a moment to violate your spouse’s trust, it will likely take a longer time to rebuild trust in your marriage. Give your spouse time to work through their own issues. Avoid seeking to control them or threaten them into action.
Healing does not happen on your timeline. Persevere through difficult times and give thanks for the good times. Hang in there—your marriage is worth any effort to save it.
Trust forms a bedrock of marriage. When your choices and actions have violated your spouse’s trust in you, it falls upon you to lead the way toward reconciliation. You will face difficulties along the way, but commit to changing yourself first and allowing your spouse to see the changes in you.
Recovering trust is a worthwhile endeavor for any relationship, especially for a marriage based on hope and love.