I received this question from our Have A Question page this weekend:
My husband and I have been married almost a year. About 4 months ago he came home from work and started to look up a porn site. He hadn’t done this since we had been together (almost 2 years) I ended up finding the search history when he asked me to look something up on his phone about a month after it happened. I was crushed. We had just bought a house, were trying to get pregnant so we were having frequent sex, our wedding picture was his background photo on his phone when he searched it, and he had photos of me if he needed them. He told me he ended up stopping before watching anything but it still hurt, what hurt more was that he hid it from me instead of talking to me. How do I build trust in him again. He has taken many steps to protect himself but I still find myself not trusting when it comes to the Internet and all that is out there
How do you begin to trust again? Well, they say “trust is earned”, but before that, trust has to be given. That’s the hardest thing about true intimacy. It starts with being vulnerable. So, how do you start? Here’s what I think:
The first thing you need to do is to forgive him. You haven’t mentioned whether you have or not. Most spouses I talk to have a hard time accepting forgiveness. In fact, it happen so often, I wrote a devotional to help them in that process. But, they can’t even start to accept forgiveness unless it’s been extended. Now, ideally, they should also ask for forgiveness as part of their confession. We teach our kids this very simple formula from a young age:
I’m sorry for [blank]. Will you forgive me?
And they say it, whether they threw a punch, said a harsh word, or anything else. Apologizing is easy (I’m sorry). Apologizing about specifics is harder (I’m sorry for [blank]). Asking for forgiveness is the hardest. Because it requires humbling yourself.
But, you can’t force someone to ask for forgiveness. We don’t force our kids to do it either. We wait until they’re ready to apologize. You certainly can’t force your spouse to. But, they don’t need to ask for forgiveness in order for you to extend it. There’s no reason you can’t sit him down and say:
I was hurt by what you did 4 months ago, and I’m struggling to get past it. But, I want you to know that I forgive you, and I’m working towards trusting you again.
After that, you have to start trusting again
Choose to trust
Trust is going to begin with you I’m afraid. You were the one that was hurt, and that means you are the one with the walls up. And the only way to re-establish a relationship of trust is to punch a hole in that wall.
And the only way to do that is to extend trust. You have to give him a chance to be trustworthy, or else he’s never going to be able to earn your trust back.
Trust, but verify
Forgiving and trusting doesn’t mean you forget what’s happened. I’m not suggesting you bury your head in the sand. Instead, trust, but verify. Now you know he has a weakness for this, and it’s possible he’ll fail again. I think it’s fair to adopt a policy of being able to check his browser history at any time. Frankly, I think all spouses should have that policy. You may never exercise it, but if your spouse is hiding your phone from you…something is up.
Now, if you are constantly checking his phone, then he’s going to feel like you aren’t trusting him (and you won’t be). Instead, wait until you can’t take not knowing anymore, then if you need to, explain it to him.
Dear, I’m trying to trust you, but I’m admitted having trouble. I know it’s probably my issue, but would it be okay if I took a look at your browser history just so I can feel safe?
Now, any husband who says no to that is hiding something. To the spouse whose hiding an anniversary or birthday surprise: you’re better off having the surprise ruined than in ruining trust in the relationship. Don’t be stupid and refuse to hand over your phone because of a present you intend to give.
Hopefully, over time, you will learn to trust more and need to verify less.
Remember he’s human
Lastly, we all sin. We all fall short. We all fail. He will again. So will you. It may not be with this same thing, but it will be something. We will always be hurting our spouses, and ourselves. You need to be able to approach it with compassion, but also a firm stance against sin. Unfortunately, that’s what life is going to be like until Jesus comes again.
I hope that helps.