Many a spouse has felt betrayed, even in the absence of something potentially marriage-ending, such as infidelity. When your spouse is routinely late, hides small purchases in the closet, or forgets a big occasion, it can begin to chip away at the foundation of trust in your relationship. What is more important than the incident itself is the depth and seriousness of the perceived betrayal by the other party.
Wondering how to recover and rebuild the trust you once had? Keep reading.
Common Reactions to the Loss of Trust
Whatever the cause of your perceived betrayal, questioning your partner’s reliability, honesty, or integrity can have a damaging impact that ripples through the rest of your relationship. Any loss of trust can result in doubts that they will be there for you when you need them and strong feelings about your inability to lean on them.
These feelings can include:
If these feelings make you begin to secretly monitor your partner or question them in an accusatory way that doesn’t result in a quick resolution, it can lead to destruction. For that reason, it’s important to take quick steps to ascertain if your concerns are well-founded or if you are over-reacting and need to adjust your outlook.
5 Ways to Begin Rebuilding Trust in Your Marriage
Here are 5 places to start when attempting to rebuild trust with your partner:
ONE: Make sure all requests are reasonable.
Though trust can be lost in a moment, it takes time to develop. Even if it was once a major attribute of your marriage, it will take effort and intent to recover what’s been lost. Start with small, incremental steps to create the best potential for success.
For example, instead of demanding that your partner stop shopping completely or relinquish all their credit cards, agree to discuss expenditures or review the monthly statements together as a way of increasing accountability. That may be sufficient to snuff out a bad habit.
There may be other times when “going cold turkey” or taking a bold step is the most appropriate thing. For instance, you may decide—with your spouse—to cut up all the credit cards and go on a “spending vacation”, after which you take small steps in the opposite direction by allowing them more and more freedom. The most important thing is that you assess your unique situation, discuss what’s best, and agree on the best way forward.
THIS STEP WILL BE PARTICULARLY CHALLENGING IF YOU’RE DEALING WITH INFIDELITY, BUT STILL APPLIES. If your wife’s affair partner is someone she met at the local grocery store, it’s reasonable to think that she can start shopping in another part of town. However, if this person is a colleague at her place of work, it may be unreasonable—depending on the circumstances—to require her to quit her job immediately.
Do you suspect your spouse of cheating? You may wish to read this article on
9 Signs Your Spouse is Cheating.
TWO: Discuss your boundaries.
Couples often ask me where the boundaries should be but the truth is that boundaries are different for each individual and therefore, for every marriage. Some spouses agree not to spend alone time with a member of the opposite sex—even in a professional setting—while others just want to be able to reach their mate by phone or text at all times. Others simply expect their partner to be where they say they’re going to be.
The point is this: what makes you feel safe and secure will not be the same for another couple who doesn’t share your sensitivities, preferences, and past experiences. While speaking to friends and family may be helpful in some cases, it can also backfire and cause you to question what is right for you and your marriage. Be careful and use discretion here.
Whatever you decide, it’s crucial to have a clear, two-way conversation about what each of you desires and expects from the other. Communicate what you want and expect in a calm, honest, and respectful manner that allows you both to air concerns and hard feelings. If you don’t agree on where the boundary lines should be, you will need to adopt your partner’s view, keep negotiating, or reach a compromise.
If you need to learn to compromise in your marriage, check out our article on
Meet You in the Middle: 5 Ways to Compromise in Your Marriage.
THREE: Eliminate temptation.
Don’t complicate matters if you don’t have to. Depending on the circumstances, some situations can be eliminated simply by removing the opportunity. In the same way that removing potato chips and junk food from your pantry may prevent you from cheating on your diet, installing a simple firewall or family app on your home computer may completely solve a porn problem (at least when the urge is strongest or the time to wander most opportune).
In other cases, eliminating the temptation may require a significant step. If, as in the previous example, your wife’s lover is at work, making a job change or even a move can be necessary and allow you to get the fresh start you both need.
It can be helpful to first make a list of the people, places, and things that lead to the problematic behavior because most people haven’t thought this through and are surprised when they see that wrongdoing often follows a specific pattern of steps that can be altered with effort and intent. The important thing is to be on the same page so that you can support one another as you’re making these changes.
FOUR: Decide what to share and what not to share.
Some issues need to be dealt with privately between you. Some financial or minor morale missteps may fall into this category. However, as the impact or severity of the problem grows, it may be necessary to call in the cavalry.
Letting others into your private life can feel nerve-wracking, but confiding in friends, family or a pastor can be a huge relief. It helps to know that, though your marriage may seem vulnerable, you are not alone in this time of uncertainty. By choosing someone you admire or a couple who has gone through something similar, you can follow their example and get the suggestions and support you need to make it through.
FIVE: Seek outside (professional) help.
Some issues (like sexual or emotional infidelity) are often too big to handle alone behind closed doors. A skilled expert can calm the storm, answer questions you have about where to start the healing process, and provide a list of practical steps to get things back on track.
When Should I Be Concerned?
If you don’t fully trust your partner, it can feel like a nagging itch that can’t quite be scratched and you may begin to doubt yourself and your own sanity.
If you suspect there’s something wrong but can’t put your finger on it, ask yourself these questions to help get clarity:
>> Does your partner deny, negate, or try to talk you out of your feelings?
>> Does your spouse resist your suggestions to get help or seek outside counsel?
>> Does your mate omit information instead of telling the whole story (or admit the whole story but refuse to change)?
>> Does our partner insist that the behavior has stopped but demand that you “move on” or “get over it”?
>> Is your partner open and transparent about details like their whereabouts?
>> Have others ever given you reason to suspect there’s an issue (past or present)?
>> Is something else in your life (e.g., health, friends, schedule, other experiences) causing you to be more sensitive or fearful right now?
Of course, these questions alone are not enough to determine whether there’s something wrong (such as whether your partner is being unfaithful). They may, however, point to topics that need to be visited (or revisited) with your spouse.
Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Once it has been lost, it will take, time, patience, and intentional effort from both partners. Healing from something as destructive as infidelity may require professional support. If you need need help to recover after a major betrayal, just reach out. We’re standing by to help.