Your husband has treated you badly and you are hurting terribly. He has betrayed your trust. You want everything to go back to when you still trusted him and things seemed to be going well between you. You want to believe him when he says he’s changed and won’t do it again.
This thing that he has done could be any major breach of trust: cheating/adultery, gambling, racking up debt, keeping secrets that impact you, shady business dealings, making major purchases without your input, or anything else that involved lying or deceit.
How do you know if you can trust him?
Should you try to trust him after what he’s done?
Is he going to do it again?
Fortunately for you, there are ways you get a pretty good idea on whether or not you can know the answers to these questions.
#1 Are you on the same page in what you are trying to accomplish in dealing with the breach of trust?
When your husband has done something to seriously destroy your trust, it is not up to you to repair the damage. The only way you can trust your man is if you believe he is trustworthy. Trying to convince yourself that you are overreacting, not giving him enough time, being overly sensitive, etc. is not going to help your relationship.
It has to start with a conversation about boundaries and expectations. Is he willing to do what it takes to rebuild what he has broken and does he understand what that is going to take? Has he expressed what he is willing to do and is that what you need to feel safe and secure in the relationship? Or does his vision fall short of reality? These things need to be thoroughly discussed and worked through until you come to an agreement regarding what reconciliation looks like to both of you and if you are in agreement.
The burden belongs to him to show he is trustworthy, not on you to learn to trust him. In order for you to trust him, either he proves himself trustworthy or you are not going to realistically be able to trust him.
He has to be fully invested in repairing the damage his lies and deceit have caused. Trust is something that is built. It does not appear out of nowhere. It cannot be built if there is no builder.
In order to rebuild trust, your spouse must be willing to do what it takes to repair the damage he has caused. Yes it will take your participation to rebuild the marriage, but your part is more of a response to his sincere efforts than anything else.
You will know he is not sincere about coming clean and having an open, honest relationship with you if he does the following:
1. Continues to lie to you or deceive you.
2. When you ask questions to better understand what is going on and what happened, he gets angry and defensive.
3. He tries to shield himself from the truth.
4. He refuses to answer your questions saying he’s afraid of hurting you or some other excuse.
5. Anything that blocks you from knowing the truth or causes trust to further erode.
The above are not the actions of a repentant man who is fully invested in trying to restore trust. They are the actions of a man who is trying to cover his butt.
This is about getting to the bottom of things. If you have already gotten everything out of him and yet you continue to ask and dig, that is normal for a period of time. That time frame is not the same for everyone.
If many months have gone by and he has been actively doing everything he should to rebuild trust, but you are still overwhelmed by what happened, it could be that you are unable to let go and the relationship may be over.
If you are asking questions that he has not answered yet or if this is still new to you, he should be patient and sorry that he has hurt you and destroyed your trust in him. He should be fully invested in being the builder by showing that he is trustworthy. This will not happen overnight.
A person who is truly repentant will be willing to answer your questions, no matter how painful, shameful, or embarrassing. He knows that this is his issue to resolve and in order to rebuild trust he has to be transparent.
Which leads to the next point.
#2 Is he taking full responsibility for his breach of trust or is he upset with you for “making him feel terrible” or “constantly bringing it up?”
When your spouse lies to you, hides important matters from you, or when infidelity is involved, it is not your fault that you don’t trust him. That is a natural and proper response. Forgiving someone does not mean you trust him. Forgiveness and trust have nothing to do with each other.
If he is trying to make you feel guilty and turning the consequences of his lies or cheating back on you, he is not taking responsibility and is not trustworthy. Anything he does to stop you from healing shows that he is more interested in hiding and lying than he is in building trust and making it possible for you to trust him again.
You don’t trust him, because he has shown you that he is not trustworthy. As long as he cannot own that simple fact, he isn’t trustworthy.
If he is apologetic and takes full responsibility for the breach of trust, that is a step in the right direction. If he continues to comfort you and help you through your pain, even when he is embarrassed or uncomfortable, he is showing you that he truly cares.
If you are willing to work with him towards reconciliation, it will take time. You do not have to trust him right away. It is normal to take a long time before you trust him after he did something serious, especially if he cheated on you. It may be several years before you feel able to trust him again, even if he is doing everything he should to show his sincerity and make amends.
#3 Is he defensive or transparent?
He should actively show you everything you need to know to understand the situation. All texts, paperwork, photos, etc. Anything that pertains to the situation should be an open book.
If he’s not willing to show you these things or gives you a hard time for asking, he is still hiding something. There is no excuse. He may be afraid of hurting you further or making thigs worse, but that is your choice to make. When he lied to you, he took away your right to make informed decisions. He needs to own this truth and stop trying to control the situation. It is important that you have true facts in order to make reasonable decisions about your present and your future. If he is continuing to hide the details, he is hindering you from knowing and acting on truth.
No one can build trust or move forward unless the liar is willing to become a truth teller. If he remains a liar, he isn’t worthy of your trust. Since you cannot believe anything he says, he starts from a negative trust position. Only consistent actions showing repentance over time will prove that his heart has changed. If you do not see this, assume nothing has changed.
It is difficult to work through these issues on your own. Having a source of information to guide you through this difficult time can be a great help and comfort. Marriage Sherpa offers several excellent marriage rebuilding programs, including the following two by Dr. Frank Gunzburg.
First is the three part series: “How to Rebuild the Honesty,” “How to Replace the Lies with Truth,” and “Learning to Trust Him Again.” This covers repairing dishonesty in a marriage whether it be adultery or other types of betrayal of trust.
For those specifically struggling with infidelity, there is “How to Survive an Affair.” This specifically deals with the complicated issues surrounding an affair and how to deal with it for the one who needs to turn around and repair the damage he has caused along with a lot of helpful material for the one who was betrayed.
Before becoming an affiliate, I personally purchased and made a thorough review of both these programs. They are sound, reliable materials written by a professional marriage counselor with years of experience.
These are comprehensive, step by step, programs that are personalized to your situation through a workbook approach. Due to the ability to work through them at your own pace, it can offer the ability to work through and get to the root of issues more quickly than counseling alone.
Both offer paths to finding solutions to the specific issues in your marriage. They cover the issues of both the betrayer (wandering spouse) and the betrayed spouse.
If you have questions about this or other Marriage Sherpa materials, feel free to ask them below.
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