“When I caught him viewing porn, that wasn’t the worst part. He lied to me! I just can’t trust him again. He’s not the man I thought I married.” We hear those words often as we counsel couples. Lying breaks the trust in a marriage and is actually a bigger violation of the relationship than viewing porn! If lying has occurred, how do you regain the trust of your spouse?
Trust is one of those qualities that, if lost, takes time and effort to regain. When a marriage begins, trust is readily given, but through sins against one another, trust can erode in a marriage to the point where one spouse no longer trusts the other. Without trust, true intimacy is impossible. We cannot be truly intimate with someone we do not trust. As an aside, apart from the grace of God, some people are never trustable. They are characterized by habitual lying and are incapable of telling the truth consistently. To trust them is to open oneself to repeated heartache.
Assuming your spouse is usually trustable, how do you rebuild trust if it’s been lost? Trust is earned not merely given. Earning trust will take time and effort. It will not happen overnight. It’s like building a house. Building a house takes many months and a lot of work and effort yet it can be destroyed in a moment of time by a fire. Sin cannot be denied or minimized and there are no quick fixes or short cuts to dealing with it. Trust takes a long time to rebuild—more than starting from scratch. The ashes of the old house have to be cleared before building the new house can begin. So, too, the ashes of sin must be cleared before trust can be rebuilt.
Here are 11 practical ways ("builds") to rebuild trust with your spouse:
- Repent. The single most important build your spouse wants to see is true repentance. What does that look like? True repentance is brokenness over sin and hatred for the sin committed. Hate your sin! Treat your sin like God treats sin: a) God hates sin, b) God does not allow sin in His presence, c) God judges sin. d) God condemns sin and pronounces the death sentence on it. Do you view your sin that way or do you excuse it, tolerate it, minimize it, or deny it? It's time to repent and turn from it. Your spouse needs to see that repentance in you.
- Tell the Truth. Telling the truth means stepping out in faith to speak the truth even if it results in a negative reaction from your spouse. It means choosing not to permit fear or intimidation to silence you or, worse, cause you to lie. If you do lie, immediately confess it to your spouse, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. Truth-telling, like lying, can become a habit and is the foundation for a healthy marriage. That builds trust.
- Keep your Promises. A corollary to truth-telling, promise-keeping means to do what you say you’ll do no matter what. Whether the promise is big or little, promise-keeping is critical to rebuilding trust in a relationship. Example: If you said you’d be home by 6:00 p.m. don’t come home at 6:05 or 6:15 p.m. If you must be late, call and notify your spouse in advance, then apologize for being late.
- No “Alternative Monitoring.” One of the quickest ways to undermine trust is to practice “alternative monitoring” or “roaming eyes.” Alternative monitoring means visually scanning the room for attractive members of the opposite sex so you can snack on their beauty. Alternative monitoring sends the message to your spouse that she is not enough and you are unconsciously looking for an alternative to her.
- Consistent Follow Through. Complete what you’ve begun. Do not start projects and leave a wake of half-finished projects behind you. Follow through and finish what you’ve begun. Consistently finishing projects inspires trust in your spouse and communicates that you understand how important the project is to her.
- Love Language. Whether it is gift-giving, encouraging words, deeds of service, quality time, or physical touch and closeness, your spouse has a primary love language. When you go out of your way to love her in her primary love language it shows that you care about her. You are making her a priority by loving her well. That builds trust.
- Tell your Spouse your Dreams and Thoughts of Him/Her. As the country/western song says, “You were always on my mind.” When your spouse hears that you were thinking about him/her or dreaming about him/her, that reinforces that they’re the most important human being on the planet. That builds trust.
- Prioritize your Spouse. Make your spouse your priority. How? By prioritizing her with your time, energy, skills, and desires. Choose your spouse over ANYONE else. That builds trust. Your spouse should never have to compete with anyone else for your love and attention.
- Speak Well of your Spouse to Others. Your spouse’s reputation needs to be safe with you. That builds trust. NEVER slander or speak ill of your spouse to ANYONE EVER! If necessary, take the issue up with your spouse in private but in public always speak well of him/her.
- Practice Zero Tolerance for Porn. Become a one-woman man with your eyes and thoughts. Stop viewing porn in all its forms. Refuse soft-core porn ads or scenes on television by immediately changing the channel. Install Covenant Eyes on your internet devices and make your spouse one of your accountability partners to receive your reports. That builds trust.
- Above and Beyond. Do more than you normally would do. What we mean is go beyond your basic, minimal effort on a task. For example, if you enjoy cooking, cook the meal, set the table, serve the meal, side the table, rinse the dirty dishes, load the dishwasher, run the dishwasher, unload the dishwasher, put the dishes away. Now that’s above and beyond. When you begin to think and act “above and beyond” it will build trust in you.
Trust is easily lost but can be recovered. It will take time and change. Remember the example of the house? It takes time, effort, and cost to build a beautiful home. It can be destroyed by fire in a matter of hours. It can be rebuilt but first the ashes and debris must be cleared away. It is more work than building the first time. The cost is tremendous. It requires sacrifice and is inconvenient. You will need to live somewhere else for a while.
Don’t burn down your marriage with the sin of lying and sexual sin. God can bring beauty out of ashes (Isaiah 61:3) but it takes time and effort and the cost is high! Commit to making the 11 "builds" listed in this article a new way of life for you. Become the trustworthy spouse you were meant to be.