What To Do When Trust Is Broken

Happy marriages are built on many things, but one of the most important elements of any successful relationship is trust.

Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of ways trust can be betrayed. Whether it’s something as damaging as an affair, or the accidental missing of dates and appointments, or just plain dishonesty about any part of the relationship.

When trust falters, it throws the whole marriage into a tailspin – if you can’t trust your spouse with one thing, how can you trust them with anything else?

First, remember that trust can be repaired. It will take work and patience, but it is possible.

Regardless of how the trust was lost, there are a few important steps for the rebuilding process.

1. Admission and Acceptance

The first part of rebuilding trust is acknowledging the problem. If you have broken your spouse’s trust, but want to gain it back, you need to be willing to openly and honestly admit to yourself (and your spouse) that you made mistakes in the past, and have every intention of never making them again. It goes without saying that you must end the untrustworthy behavior before you can get to this point.

To gain your spouse’s trust back, you have to own what you did wrong, without excuses or backpedaling.

For the betrayed party, rebuilding trust is a leap of faith in many ways. To begin the process, you’ll have to accept your spouse’s apology, and give them the benefit of the doubt (at least tentatively) that they are making effort to change their ways and regain your trust. You have to accept that they made a mistake, and allow them to make it up to you without holding it over their head.

Trust is a key component of any marriage.
Trust is a key component of any marriage.

2. Communicate

Communication is important at every stage of a relationship, but when you’re working on rebuilding trust, it’s the most important thing there is!

Openly communicating your feelings and fears, without judgment or blame, will help you get to the root of the problem – and begin the process of solving it. It’s important to keep your temper in check, and to realize that rebuilding trust is something you have to work on together.

This part requires relinquishing some armor – you’ve got to let your guard down to be able to communicate from the heart. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, and let your spouse know that it’s ok for them to be vulnerable too. The loss of trust is likely painful for both of you, and you have to confront this pain to get past it.

3. Start Fresh

When you’ve confronted the issue, hashed out your fears, and made promises to end any dishonest behavior – it’s time to start anew!

From whatever moment you select, start living the new, trustworthy you (or, if you’re on the other side, the new, trusting you). This is simplifying to some degree, but it’s essential to move forward – and the best way to do this is with a totally fresh beginning.

To truly rebuild the trust though, you’ve got to stick to your guns – and that means total honesty, accountability, and openness from this point forward, and at every turn after.

4. Be Patient

On either side of the trust issue, the rebuilding process will take time – so be patient! If you are both making your best efforts to be open and trustworthy, spending time together and communicating effectively, the trust will start to rebuild itself naturally. You can’t force it.

As time passes without incident, as you begin to show each other how much you care, and as you’re reminded of your marriage before trust was an issue, things will get easier with time.

Instead of dwelling on the issues, work together to overcome them, to shutter them away in the past as old news, and to focus on building a future life together based on love, honesty, communication, and of course, trust.

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com

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9 comments

SW 9 years ago

This article on trust is right on in our marriage. Learning how to share what's on your heart is so difficult. I don't always know how to approach it, and often there is much discomfort with being vulnerable. There is defensiveness, criticizing and not enough positive direction to want to share. I try and keep my perspective on things too, and have tried to point out to my spouse that there isn't a lot of willingness to talk when I'm feeling he's thrashing me. I've gotten to the point where I can detach myself if this is the case, and can point it out to him. There are times when he responds positively, but it seems we've had so many years of the hurt we don't know where to start and how/when to finish without causing more hurt. It really does not work to continually bring the same things up and never get over it.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 9 years ago

Hi SW, Thanks for your comment! You are correct that bringing up the same issues and not trying to move forward can really strain a relationship. Please check out our video on "How to Get Over the Hurt" here: https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/marriage-counseling-hurt/. Thanks again!

mommy30 9 years ago

I belive this advice, but what if your spouse won't/can't do it? We have both broken trust, but he won't do this? What can I do?

Mike_Olsen_SMN 9 years ago

Hello! Thanks for your question. Please see our video "Can you save your marriage even if your partner doesn't want to work on it?" https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/can-you-save-your-marriage-even-if-your-partner-doesnt-want-to-work-on-it/. Best of luck!

SF 9 years ago

Mike, Thanks for your advice. Unfortunately, just few days after I posted my comment, he came to me and confessed that he'd been in an affair for 9 months up until this September, at which time she broke it off (they'd both "broken" it off several times.) He spent several weeks debating how to deal with it, saw a counselor and decided at that point that he needed to confess it to me. I was devastated as I'd been aware of their interest last year, but he'd lied about further contact with her. Now I've found out that they'd been physically involved and talked about divorcing their spouses and getting married. While he's expressed an interest on working something out between us, I am in shock. I asked him many things, one of which is that does he still have feelings for her, and how much of a chance does he think it could happen all over again? He hesitated and said that he still does have feelings for her, and later he said that he felt that she'd made him feel like she cared. She is four hours away and they'd driven to see each other (he'd incorporated into his work over there). He's doubting that we can work through things, just as I am. I did buy the set of your program last January and he wasn't interested in it then (now I know why). He is willing to take a look at it now, and we'll see how it goes from there I guess. I also am trying to see a counselor, depending on insurance. I'm hurting beyond belief and it feels like I'm walking around in a trance half of the time. Don't know how or if I'll be able to get with the program, at least it helps me see a few things, like he can't continue to focus on her in thought alone even so he really is there with me now . Neither I nor he can force that to go away. I don't want to have to be "bait" in order to get him to want to let go of her..... but then, do I even want to get back together with him? I guess one positive thing might be for our son, but we'd need to be feeling positive to keep it from just being a tense relationship that keeps our family from thriving. Anyway, here's hope for closure on what's happened, and hope that knowing the truth will help. p.s. I notified her church bishop as she works with kids and families in her church - and my husband encouraged me to do this. He is supposedly working on things with her - don't know much which is fine - I need to let it go.

SW 9 years ago

p.s. I typed SF, not SW - error! And also it is the church bishop that is working with the "other woman", not my husband. He has blocked her calls from his cell as she did try and connect with him right after he'd confessed this... I have to let go here - I can only do so much, right?

joe 9 years ago

How do you trust your wife after she had a 5yr affair and got caught, it might have gone on for 10 yrs, maybe longer. Answer, divorce, that's the "Trust" she'll understand.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 9 years ago

Joe, Trust is very difficult to earn back. Please take a look at this video: https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/save-marriage-regain-trust-its-destroyed/. Hopefully this video will answer some of the questions you are dealing with.

Steve Anni 9 years ago

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