Rebuilding Trust After Hurting Someone
What do you do when you’ve admittedly screwed up, but you’ve also learned from the errors of your ways; and you’re now a changed man, but the woman you love the most (your wife), either refuses to acknowledge it or doesn’t believe it?
Believe it or not, this is one of the most common scenarios and dilemmas that many Christian men encounter in marriage after they’ve blown it big time.
Numerous studies in human behavior have shown us that a women’s greatest need (especially wives) is the need to feel safe and secure; for men – to feel successful and significant (i.e., respected).
So, when that trust is broken (or even threatened) in a marriage, it can become very challenging to rebuild it.
In addition, the nature and gravity of the offense (i.e., the thing that was done to break the trust), will also determine how much time it will take to rebuild the trust and for the hurt to heal.
Steps To Rebuilding Trust In A Relationship
First of all, whether you’re a man or a woman, we often forget that in order to even begin to rebuild trust in a marriage, we have to overcome three (3) emotional and relational obstacles in the head/heart of the person who’s been hurt.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume it was the man (husband) who broke the trust in the marriage and is trying to rebuild it. The three (3) emotional and relational obstacles he has to overcome are:
Ways To Rebuild Trust In A Marriage -Step 1
Confess Your Wrong Doing of Infidelity
The first relational obstacle to overcome in the head and heart of a wife is, “Will my husband even confess his guilt and accept responsibility for what he’s done?”
Ironically and biblically, this is also what God requires of us when we commit a sin against Him and have broken trust. The Bible says in James 4:6, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” and in Psalm 51:17, the psalmist writes, “A broken spirit and a contrite heart, God will not despise.”
Considering that truth, it shouldn’t surprise us that a hurting or betrayed wife, in need of healing, would require a confession from us. Even God requires confession in order to forgive us (1 John 1:9).
So, if you’re trying to rebuild the trust in your marriage, don’t just be honest with your wife about what you’ve done, be honest with God about it. Admit what you’ve done and take full responsibility for it without blaming, explaining, complaining, or shaming her when you do it.
This is what God means by a broken spirit and contrite heart. To confess our sins means we are willing to accept responsibility for them along with the consequences – regardless of what those consequences are. Because it was our choice that brought the consequences, not our wife or God.
Special Note: After we confess our sin, God promises us He will forgive us, but our wives still may not. But your wife’s unforgiveness towards you is between her and God, not you and her. So, after God forgives you, make sure you accept His full forgiveness, then make sure you forgive yourself - even if your wife won’t.
Ways To Rebuild Trust In A Marriage - Step 2
If You've Broken Your Partners Trust Show Remorse
The next emotional and relational obstacle to overcome is the barrier of true remorse. After confessing and accepting responsibility for the offense, a wife wants to know, “Is he truly sorry for what he did or just feeling embarrassed for being discovered and exposed for what he did? Yes, he says he’s sorry, but does he truly mean it – is he really being sincere?”
When trust has been broken, saying “I’m sorry” may be a good starting point, but unfortunately for a lot of husbands, it also becomes the finish line.
If you want to rebuild trust with your wife, don’t just say you’re sorry, let her know what you’re sorry for. When possible, try to express the hurt and pain you caused her because of your offense.
To the best of your ability, tell her how you hurt her heart; how you hurt your marriage; how it’s broken the trust in your marriage; and acknowledge how tough it will be to rebuild the trust.
In other words, try to communicate the pain SHE feels that YOU caused her. No, you won’t be able to do it perfectly to your wife’s satisfaction, but humbly ask the Holy Spirit to help you do it faithfully to God’s satisfaction.
General confessions don’t show true remorse and empathy; they often come across as being dismissive. If you want to see an example of what genuine remorse looks like, read Psalm 51 as King David shares his offense and expresses his heart before God. You’ll also see why, in spite of David’s many faults and flaws, God still considered David a faithful man and even called him a man after His own heart (1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22).
Ways To Rebuild Trust In A Marriage - Step 3
Getting Over Betrayal Takes Time - Be Consistent
The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
Note the word, “godly grief.” Yes, you’ve confessed and admitted your guilt; yes, you’ve shown goldly remorse, empathy, and brokenness in the aftermath, but a hurting and healing wife is still struggling with an emotional and relational barrier called “consistency.”
She is constantly saying and asking herself, “Now that what he’s done is out in the open, and he’s apologized for it; I wonder if he’s really going to change, and even if he does, for how long? Will this just be a temporary change in his behavior, or will it be a true transformation in his character?”
This emotional and relational barrier can be one of the trickiest to overcome, because it requires time, patience, grace, and mercy from your wife.
The truth is, it’s not truly genuine to promise someone (even your wife) that you’re NEVER going to do something again; because as humans, we’re all capable of bad behavior and poor choices (think Peter denying Christ three times after being warned by Jesus that he would).
However, what’s more important, is what we continue to do AFTER we’ve “messed up” AGAIN. This is what your wife is afraid of and is threatening her need for safety and security. She doesn’t want to be hurt again if she trusts you again. But the only guarantee that comes with love is hurt; because we’re only human, not superhuman.
Your wife doesn’t want to be on a marriage merry-go-round, but she needs to understand that marriage is also a marathon, and the run will be grueling, exhausting, and sometimes even painful. But there’s a difference between failing along the way and quitting the race altogether.
If You've Broken Your Partners Trust, Restore It By Doing This
So, what can you do be honest and human with your wife while still helping her feel safe and secure in your marriage?
Simply do all the things you CAN DO to strengthen your marriage and rebuild the trust in your marriage:
Be honest and tell her the truth about the things that affect her well-being, your marriage, and your family (John 8:32).
Give her full access to any information she wants from you for her to feel more safe and secure in your marriage (Luke 16:10).
Be honest and transparent with the trusted men in your life who care about the success of your marriage (Gal 6:2). NOTE: If you don’t know or have any in your life, email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be vulnerable with her about your spiritual, emotional, and relational struggles and weaknesses (2Cor 12:9).
Get in God’s word and presence, daily, to seek His wisdom on how to love your wife better and how to help her heal (Matt 6:33, James 1:5).
Fast and pray for (always)/with her (if possible) for the healing of her heart and the restoration of your marriage (Rom 12:12).
Again, rebuilding trust in a marriage is a marathon, not a sprint; however, it can be done, and I’ve seen it done hundreds of times in the lives of the men we coach, mentor, and disciple.
And when it comes to rebuilding trust, I believe the key can be found in Galatians 6:7-10, when the Bible says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not quit. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”
So, when it comes to trying to rebuild the trust in your marriage, in the words of the great Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never give up.”