I was talking with someone the other day and issue of dealing with broken trust came up. Now, they weren’t talking about marriage, but I think our conversation had some points that can definitely be applied to marriage. After all, marriages often have broken trust. Lies, pornography addiction, being caught masturbating, affairs, even missed anniversaries and special events, or even a laugh at the wrong time: they all come with broken trust.
So, how do you deal with broken trust in a marriage?
If you think trust can be reestablished there is really only one way to rebuild trust: by letting your spouse be trustworthy. This requires you being able to put them in a trustworthy position. In short, it means becoming vulnerable again to broken trust, in the hopes that they will be trustworthy, but knowing they may not. For spouses this often means becoming intimate again, either physically, emotionally or both.
That’s a very difficult thing to do: to open yourself up again. I’ve talked to so many spouses who are reeling from finding out about their spouse’s affair, porn addiction or masturbating habit wondering how they can ever have sex with them again, because sex is not just a physical act, it involves an emotional connection as well, and it’s hard to be vulnerable to someone in that way when they feel they can’t trust you.
In other cases, trust is broken less, but there are still consequences. If a spouse laughs at an attempt to share a fantasy, or recoils in disgust, trust is broken just the same, if not quite as deeply. Many spouses never share anything again, let alone any sexual fantasies. The memory of their spouse’s face, or voice, hurts too much to be put in that position again.
But, whatever the case, or circumstance, if you want to reestablish trust, at some point it will require extending trust and hoping it isn’t violated again.
When trust can’t be extended for a time
Sometimes trust can’t be given for a time. This can occur when the wounded spouse hasn’t extended forgiveness yet, or they have, but they haven’t quite recovered from the broken trust, or they’re still hurting. It can also occur when the one who broke trust hasn’t take any steps to change. For some issues this may just be asking for forgiveness, for others it may require counseling, or setting up accountability. If the betrayer (for lack of a better term) refuses to take the necessary steps, it becomes very hard for the betrayed spouse to extend trust again.
Sometimes this can take a while, and in those cases, life doesn’t need to end, nor the marriage. But, occasionally boundaries need to be set, or accountability put in place, to ensure there isn’t broken trust again while they are still healing.
Then, in time, trust can be extended again, so that they can begin rebuilding trust.
In marriage, there will always be little broken trusts. We are human and we make mistakes. We slip up, we react poorly, some may lie, or give in to worse temptations. Whatever the situation, trust can be reestablished. Don’t give up hope, but do take the time to trust again, to put boundaries and accountability in place so that you can learn to trust each other again. So long as both spouses are willing to rebuild, there’s no reason they can’t overcome any obstacle.