Think about those relationships in your life both past and present that you have felt most secure in. I’d be willing to bet big money that trust was an important component to that relationship. There is not a single type of relationship that does not benefit and thrive off of trust: romantic, parenting, friendships, and work/employee relationships. And one relationship where trust is most essential is your marriage.
I have seen many couples or even just individuals come in struggling in their marriages because somewhere trust was broken- someone had an affair, or was thought to have had an affair, one partner had been repeatedly hurt by the other, maybe there are control tactics being employed, pornography, or addiction plaguing the relationship.
And all of them sought counseling with the main goal to rebuild trust in their marriages. Some were successful, some were not. More than half of all marriages are interrupted by an affair, but not all marriages are ended because of it. It is possible to rebuild trust, but it is difficult and requires determination and the constant decision to love your spouse throughout the process, for both members of the couple!
Trust is something that is hard to explain. And it is an absolute- you either trust someone or not, there is no degrees of trust. Without trust in our relationships we feel insecure and out of control. Especially if there was trust originally and it was blatantly broken by someone’s actions. Some people, like me, readily trust most people until given a reason to distrust them. This can be a double edged sword in that is has burned me a few times, but it works for me, where I am constantly meeting new people. Other people are slow to trust, letting it build as the person proves themselves to be trustworthy.
Actions that breed trust are ones full of honesty, transparency, and integrity obviously; but others include being thoughtful and caring, taking a genuine interest in someone else for no personal gain. Based on my experiences from working with couples, the three most asked questions when they come in looking for hope are:
- Can trust be restored?
- Whose responsibility is it to restore broken trust?
- And how can we rebuild trust in our relationship?
Trust Can Absolutely Be Rebuilt
Here are the answers I give my clients when they come in. Yes! Trust absolutely can be restored. It is hard work, and can often be discouraging because it takes a long time to rebuild, it may have grown quickly in the beginning, but it can take seconds to break and years to rebuild. So stay the path, even when it’s hard, and choose to love your spouse everyday despite not trusting them, and slowly but surely the trust will come back, but don’t rush it and stay positive when you can. The work might not always seem fair. While I can tell you that its possible if you work hard, only you in your relationship can decide if that hard work is worth it.
It Takes Two to Tango
Ok, so now we know it’s possible, but who is responsible? Some people might tell me I am wrong, but I believe it is necessary for both people to restore trust. Remember, it takes two people to tango in the good times and bad. So this is where it might see a little unfair to the “victim.” You are just as responsible for re-establishing trust as the “perpetrator” Both people have to be willing to set aside their price and dedicate themselves FULLY to making it work between them again.
It Takes Hard Work
And finally, the way to rebuild trust is simple, but time consuming. Both people have to be 100% committed to be 100% honest and transparent with each other. Sharing passwords to all accounts, possibly deleting social media accounts, share itineraries for each day, allow GPS tracking through cell phones so you can check each other’s location. Checking in regularly throughout the day and then being able to check their GPS and let the partners know that they are actually going where they are saying they are going. While this may seem invasive at first, if you have nothing to hide then there really shouldn’t be any reason to be put out by it. It may be drastic, but it can go a long way in restoring trust.
Dr. Willard Harley, a marriage counselor, wrote a book Surviving an Affair. He has three policies that he as all his clients subscribe to when they are seeking to rebuild their marriage. 1. Policy of Radical Honesty; 2. Policy of Joint Agreement; 3. Policy of undivided attention. He views these as all-encompassing and necessary for affair recovery. And while he is talking directly about affair recovery, the same principles are important for restoring trust – addictions, control, and hurt.
Teamwork is Crucial
Regardless of why you need to build trust in your relationships and marriage, these are some great places to start. I know it’s hard. I have been in broken relationships where trust is lost. And I’ve walked the painful road of affair recovery and addiction recovery with many couples. But be encouraged by the knowledge that it is possible and knowing you’re not alone.
I would say if you’re struggling with issues around trust I would recommend checking out the resources on my page; but also consider seeing a counselor. We aren’t here to judge you, but are here to help you explore and find answers. And if you do decide to seek out a counselor I would encourage you to lean into it all the way. Counseling is what you make it. It can be an awesome experience if you let it.
With that said I know many people won’t ever seek out help, which is one of the reasons I love this blog and many others that address relational wellness and mental health! So if you don’t want to seek counseling to help rebuild your relationship, here is an Honesty Contract that can be used as an agreement between you and your spouse to maintain radical honest and follow through on the policy of joint agreement. And as you find yourself being more and more honest with each other over time, trust will be rebuilt.
For those who have experienced a breach in trust in your relationship, what did you do?