Early in our marriage, I was hiding an ongoing porn habit from my wife Ashley. When she stumbled on my internet search history, I was busted (and so was her heart and her trust in me). In the years since that incident, we’ve learned a lot about rebuilding trust, the ugly truth about porn, the keys to true intimacy and what really makes a marriage work. We’ve also learned that our marriage will never be stronger than our trust in each other, so we must always fight to keep trust and fight to rebuild it when it has been damaged.
Almost every marriage has encountered difficulties over broken trust. I would even argue that most difficulties in marriage stem directly from a breach of trust. Strong marriages require strong trust, so here are nine key ways to rebuild it once it has been damaged. If your marriage is currently suffering from a lack of trust, please check out our brand new resource designed to help struggling couples at: FightingForMyMarriage.com.
The 9 keys to rebuilding trust in marriage are (in no particular order):
1. Take responsibility for your actions.
When you’re the one who has broken trust, OWN IT. Apologize. Take responsibility, seek forgiveness and pledge your commitment to do whatever is necessary to rebuild trust. When you’re the one who needs to offer forgiveness, do it quickly. Forgiveness paves the path towards healing.
Don’t make excuses for their behavior, but also be willing to take responsibility for anything you may have done to contribute to the breakdown in the relationship. “Forgiveness” doesn’t mean everything is instantly fixed, but it leads directly into the important (though difficult)
2. Recognize that FORGIVENESS might happen quickly, but TRUST happens slowly.
Forgiveness and trust are two different things. When you’ve been wronged, you should give forgiveness instantly (which is “Grace”), but you should give your trust slowly (which is “common sense”). Forgiveness by its very nature cannot be earned; it can only be given. Trust by its very nature cannot be given; it can only be earned.
Forgiveness has to come first and then grace can pave the way to restoration and renewed trust.
3. Don’t retaliate.
When we’ve been wronged, we usually have an urge to punish the person who wronged us. Fight the temptation to use this past offense as future ammunition in arguments.Don’t keep holding it over his/her head. We want them to feel the pain that they have caused us, but this kind of thinking hurts everyone involved and damages trust even more.
It’s been said, “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and then hoping the other person dies!” When you’ve been wronged in a relationship, give clear and specific guidelines for how trust can be restored, but don’t punish the other person.
When you are in a process of rebuilding trust, do your very best to be consistent in your words and your actions. Consistency brings security and security eventually brings trust.
There are NO shortcuts to rebuilding trust. It always requires time and consistency.
One of the most important (and most difficult) ways to establish healthy consistency is to do Step #5…
5. Be willing to temporarily give up some freedoms.
When an arm is broken, it has to be put in a cast to restrict its motion so it can have time to heal.
When you’ve broken trust, you must be willing to temporarily give up certain freedoms and accept certain restrictions to allow time for healing. This is usually the most uncomfortable part of the process, but it’s vital.
Be willing to swallow your pride and do anything necessary to rebuild trust whether it means putting an internet filter on your computer, a tracking app on your phone, giving yourself a curfew or whatever else might bring some reassurance to your spouse.
6. Don’t keep secrets.
In marriage, secrets are as dangerous as lies. Secrecy is the enemy of intimacy. Your spouse should have a “master key” to every part of your life.
Never have a conversation you wouldn’t want them to hear, view a website you wouldn’t want them to see or go someplace you wouldn’t want them to know about. Complete transparency is vital to building complete trust.
7. Surround yourself with positive influences and remove yourself from negative influences.
If you are hanging out with friends who aren’t trustworthy, it’s going to make it much more difficult for your spouse to have trust in your judgment. Be very intentional about the people you’re allowing into your life.
Choose a small group of trusted friend and mentors who will keep you accountable and encourage you on the right track through this journey. Distance yourself from any “friends” who would tempt you into attitudes or actions that could cause further damage to the trust in your marriage.
8. Refuse to fall back into the same trust-breaking behavior.
When trust has been damaged in a specific area (lying, porn, infidelity, finances, disrespect, etc.) it’s incredibly damaging to the trust in you marriage to be a “repeat offender.” We’re all works in progress and we all blow it sometimes, but you need to recognize that each time you fall back into this negative habit/behavior, you’re reopening an old wound and you’re making trust much more difficult to rebuild.
Don’t fall into a cycle of giving empty apologies and making empty promises. Take drastic action to change your behavior and improve your marriage.
9. Don’t give up!
The Bible says that, “Love covers over a multitude of sins.” I love that picture of love being strong enough to cover our imperfections and fill in the cracks of our broken hearts. Don’t quit when it gives hard! Keep loving each other and allow God to use the power of love and grace to bring wholeness and healing to your relationship.
If your marriage is struggling and you don’t know what to do next, DON’T LOSE HOPE. Please visit our new website designed specifically to help couples in crisis at: FightingForMyMarriage.com.
Don't give up on your marriage. It is worth the effort and investment. If you feel like your marriage is struggling, or even failing, there is hope. There is healing.