Trust. Its the cornerstone of any relationship. It holds soldiers together in foxholes and knits hearts together in marriage. The bond of trust is sacred and precious – until it’s broken.
What do you do when you cross the line that you swore you would never cross? How do you continue in a relationship when your spouse breaks your heart, trampling on the vows he or she promised to keep? Whether the result of infidelity, abuse, addiction, or neglect, the loss of trust in a relationship is devastating. And while the prospect of a bright future together looks dim, there is hope.
Rebuilding trust in your marriage is hard, because wounds heal crooked. My wife and I are 18 months into our own journey of renewal. Along the way, we have been blessed to walk alongside other couples. Some are further down the road than we are and others have just recently begun their renewal process. Through our renewal process and that of others, we have gleaned eight rules for rebuilding trust in your marriage.
Eight Rules for Rebuilding Trust in Your Marriage
Many of these rules apply equally to both parties, while others are specific to the spouse that is working to rebuild the trust (the trust healer) or the spouse that is learning to trust again (the hurting spouse).
- Be patient (both of you) – There is no timetable for rebuilding trust. Forgiveness and trust are very personal matters and require a sufficient and unknown amount of time to accomplish. Don’t rush this process.
- Be open (both of you) – Communicate early (before a problem can escalate) and often (as frequently as an issue occurs). Share your hearts with one another and be vulnerable in expressing your doubts and fears.
- Be reliable (trust healer) – Under-promise and over-deliver. Don’t make hasty, unrealistic commitments. Instead, let your word be your bond and overwhelm your spouse with your consistency and predictability.
- Be humble (trust healer) – Pride is the enemy of trust. You must empty yourself of ego and be willing to take any measures necessary to heal the brokenness (formal apologies, schedule changes, job changes, routine changes, etc.).
- Be receptive (hurting spouse) – You must be receptive to the work that God wants to do in your heart. You also need to be open to receiving love from your spouse and accept his or her efforts to demonstrate trustworthiness.
- Be understanding (trust healer) – Recognize that your spouse is hurt and those wounds will take time to heal. Throughout the healing process, be prepared to provide constant reassurance. Furthermore, the healing process may go in cycles. There will be good days and bad days, but be compassionate and understanding throughout.
- Be courageous (both of you) – It is tempting to give into fear and doubt, to assume that one or both of your will break the trust again. It is tempting to believe that the outlook is hopeless. Resist all of this negativity. Be optimistic and courageous.
- Be expectant (both of you) – Expect God to reveal Himself powerfully. Put your faith in Him and expect that He will meet both of you more than half-way. You aren’t in this alone. The God of Heaven is in your corner and will bless your marriage with the peace and understanding you need to re-establish confidence.
Once trust has been broken, it is difficult – but not impossible – to restore. As Jesus said, “With God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26).
Rebuilding Trust in Your Marriage is Tricky
Once trust has been broken by one or both of you, you’ll find yourselves caught in a colossal “catch-22” scenario. On the one hand, trust has been broken and is in desperate need of restoration. On the other hand, the primary means of rebuilding trust is to use words. When your words no longer carry weight, how can you possibly use them to repair the damaged trust?
As I discussed in a previous post, when you realize that talk is cheap, you must resort to demonstrating your love and commitment through action.
Actions elegantly and clearly express your heart. By their very nature, they cannot lie. Sacrificial love can be demonstrated daily. Honor can be given through your actions. Day by day and week by week trust can be rebuild through acts of love, honor, and sacrifice. In time, words can once again regain power. But that must be earned.
Rebuilding Trust in Your Marriage is Worth It
It breaks my heart that you marriage is in need of renewal. Loss of trust is devastating and rebuilding that trust is a very hard road. But take heart, because it’s worth it. Your marriage can be made new again. Like scar tissue forming over a wound, the end result might be messy but it will be stronger than it was before. Marriage renewal isn’t just about surviving, but about thriving. Tammy and I have never been so close or felt so hopeful about the road ahead. The bond of trust can be rebuilt in your marriage, too. Your best days are together are yet to come.
The Phoenix Marriage– Your most important earthly relationship can be restored, renewed, and reborn.
God makes beauty out of ashes.
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