Trust Building

Trust is destroyed at our wives’ expense, trust is rebuilt at our expense.

There is no other way. If you want to rebuild trust in your relationship you have to accept and adopt this simple truth. If you expect your spouse to work towards trusting you it will likely remain elusive. You won’t find what you’re looking for. We destroy trust by acting out sexually, responding in anger, entitlement and defensiveness, and failing to provide protection and security in our marriages. That all happens at the expense of our wives’ heart. It gets stomped on, shattered and broken into pieces. Their emotional accounts get overdrawn and carry negative balances.Their dreams get hijacked and happily-ever-after turns into sadly-painfully-what-has-been.

Too often I hear men demand that their wives trust them, or at least try to trust them, when the work of trust building has cost those men very little. If you are one of those men please understand it is not her responsibility and she is bankrupt; emotionally, mentally and possibly even spiritually.

It is going to cost you your privacy, your freedom, your entitlements, probably respect, perhaps your self-image, and definitely your right to be right. Trust building is expensive. It’s why so many guys bail on it. They don’t want to do the hard work of paying deposits into an overdrawn account when it is difficult to even get back to zero!

If you are in the process of rebuilding trust I urge you to figure out what expenses you’ll need to incur. Here are a few that I’ve seen in my office:

  • full access to your business financial dealings
  • full access to your Outlook Calendar
  • giving up watching sports
  • giving up fantasy football
  • cutting back on TV
  • letting your wife rummage through your wallet
  • giving your wife your cell phone records
  • surrendering and quitting your dream job
  • selling your dream car
  • cancelling your hunting trip

These are just a few examples. You’ll have to figure out which ones apply in your life. You may have to be creative here. Remember, if you want trust restored in your relationship, it is going to cost you. Trust is rebuilt at your expense, not hers.

20 thoughts on “Trust Building

  1. Your opening says it all: Trust is destroyed at our wives’ expense, trust is rebuilt at our expense. That is powerful.

    I agree with what you have said except I might add that God’s grace operating on a tender and receptive heart can overcome human limitations in trusting again. I would like to see you write sometime on the difference between forgiveness and trust. My heart has been stirring about forgiveness and what it looks like in a situation of broken trust and infidelity.

    The following quote from Lewis Smedes is a potent description of godly promising combined with forgiveness:
    “God offers two answers to our deepest anxieties. He is a forgiving God who recreates our pasts by forgiving them. He is a promising God who controls our future by making and keeping promises. By forgiving us, he changes our past. By promising, he secures our future. By his grace we participate in his power to change the past and control the future. We, too, can forgive, and must forgive. We, too, can make a promise and keep it. Indeed, by sharing these two divine powers, we become most powerfully human and most wonderfully free.”

    So it seems to me that I can ask my wife to forgive me but I can not demand it — it is hers to offer, or not; but without forgiveness there is no foundation for restoring trust. I don’t expect you to respond definitively because you don’t know my situation but I would like your thoughts on the power of forgiveness.

    • Hey John,
      Thanks for your feedback!
      You are definitely on the right track with the Forgiveness vs. Trust issue. They are related and connected, but not necessarily predicated upon each other. You nailed it when you said you can ask her to forgive but cannot demand it. Forgiveness is on her time, on her terms, on her relationship with God. Are our wives commanded to forgive, by God? Yes. Absolutely. But the how, when, why, and where are between them and God.
      Unfortunately, there are several misconceptions about forgiveness. A big one is that trust cannot be restored without forgiveness. In fact our efforts to rebuild trust can be a very powerful thing that propels a wife towards forgiveness. Working to rebuild trust helps us to be forgivable; and that’s what a lot of wives are looking for. The more forgivable we are, the easier it is for a wife to forgive.
      I’m glad you brought this up – I’ll try to post on it soon!

      • Jason, First of all thank you for being so candid about your addiction and desire to help men and women with sexual sins. I have been married for 37 years and about 18 years ago I found out my husband was addicted to porn. My life was shattered……My self esteem was destroyed, I cried for days on end even at work!! I felt so ugly in every way. This went on for a long time and I even thought about taking my own life……Now I realize that was stupid!! First of all women who are reading this please know it is not your fault, sexual sin is so demonic and can lead to some very horrific acts of debasement and defilement! When a Godly woman is betrayed in this way I believe heaven must weep because it destroys a part of them that will never be recovered.My question to you Jason is this, I believe my husband may be getting back into porn. A little info….He is a born again christian but lately the verbal abuse has started again, My opinion doesnt matter and he is in a withdrawn stay away from me mood.He has an anger problem and he has thrown things at me, nothing large but recently i asked for the debit card before going to a doctor appointment, he took the debit card and flung it like a frisbee at me, It came very close to my eye! He has recently been deleting his history on the computer and will spend 3-7 hours a day on the darn thing. Another thing that is bothering me is he sleeps right after work then he is up most of the night doing God knows what! I cannot go through this again, life is too short….Should i be concerned?

        • Hi Deborah,
          Yes you should be concerned. Whether he may be looking at pornography again, who knows. But the behavior and attitudes that you’ve observed clearly trigger the old feelings of fear, betrayal, insignificance and powerlessness. If nothing else, you’re sense of security is being rocked again, and that’s scary! I would encourage you to express all this to him if you haven’t already. His response will tell you all you need to know.
          If he is angry and defensive then he is probably slipping back into those old patterns and pornography use may very well be a part of it. At that point you will need to ask direct questions about his pornography use and for an account of how he uses his time. Your heart is not safe and you deserve an explanation. If you fear physical violence you may need to remove yourself and call the authorities. From there you can figure out next steps with the help of your support system.
          If his response is humble and gentle then he may simply be dealing with a season of extra stress, overwhelming feelings, shame or his own insignificance. Your prompting to get some outside help may be just thing he needs to pull out of it.
          Either way, ignoring it is not the answer. Lovingly bringing it up and expressing your concern for his well-being and your marital situation (especially in light of what happened 18 years ago) is the prudent thing to do.
          Hope that helps!

  2. It has been a month since my sinful life cam into the light. My wife refuses to go through any type of counseling with me and is moving forward with divorce and moving away with my kids. On most of these sites I see where the wife agrees to try to keep the relationship. How common is my situation? I am very humble and have truly repented and God is begining to change me from the inside. Is there any hope my marriage can be restored? I can’t get her to communicate with me at all and the divorce is begining to get ugly?

    • Hi Jarrod – I hope this is not a discouragement but I am in your same situation except it has been nine months. I also replied to the article but it is awaiting moderation. As I said in my comment, I can ask my wife to forgive me but I can not demand it — it is hers to offer, or not; but without forgiveness there is no foundation for restoring trust.

      Be patient.; let God do his work in your heart.

      My devotion this morning was titled: Discouraged by His Discipline.
      Hebrews 12:5 –
      And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
      “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. The writer quoted from the Puritan Samuel Bolton:
      “God has thoughts of love in all he does to his people. The ground of his dealings with us is love (though the occasion may be sin), the manner of his dealings is love, and the purpose of his dealings is love. He has regard, in all, to our good here, to make us partakers of his holiness, and to our glory hereafter, to make us partakers of his glory.”

      The writer closed by stating: “So in times of adversity, don’t lose heart under it by failing to see his love in it.”

    • Jarrod,

      God is doing a work in you. It is worth the pain to let him remove the ugliness from our lives. He is a God of healing and restoration. Don’t give up on your wife or on yourself. Keep praying for her. Show her love any way you can. There is always hope because of God.

    • Hi Jarrod,
      Much like the others have said, it is important for you to stay the course to become the man God is calling you to. You aren’t in control of the outcome (which is really difficult for us to get our minds around). When this life is done, whether or not your marriage was restored, you want to stand before God and hear “Well Done!”
      And….for what its worth…I’ve seen several marriages end, the husband change, the wife change and then they remarry. It’s possible. Hang in there.

  3. My husband betrayed me during many months of secrecy, deception, evil scheming, lies upon lies and adultery. After months of living his lies, he finally confessed some things, then he told me I should call one of the women he had sex with, and she would tell me how badly HE FELT. It was ALL about him. Yet, crazy as it sounds, I genuinely forgave him, as our God commands. I continued to ask God to work His will in our lives, helping us to be truthful first to ourselves, to God then to each other. I knew we had to begin to heal individually before our marriage could be re-built. We went to marriage counseling which was brutal. I poured out my heart and owned my issues. He dominated every session and said cruel, purposely hurtful things to and about me. It was like he emotionally vomited all over me, then he felt better, since he got it all out. So much for speaking the truth in love. After 6 sessions he was done. Too much work, too much responsibility. He wants to do whatever he wants, when and how and with whom he chooses. One week after he moved out he said he wanted a divorce. Divorce to me is giving up. The pain of profound rejection, utter disrespect and disdain is indescribable. He prefers to run away, live life for himself; not face and fight the battle within, for himself and certainly not for us. He’s chosen to walk away. He drove his sword deeper into my heart during our last counseling session, when he cried and said I was his “best friend”. All lies. I can’t wrap my mind or heart around who he is after 20 years together. He has mocks God and convinced himself that he’s not to blame, he just stopped being in love with me – 10 years ago. Really? Why the wait? This divorce is against everything I wanted, prayed for and value. I pray for God to continue to work in his life before it’s too late for him. He was served divorce papers last week. I wept for days. Now he is very angry because I didn’t agree to asset negotiations with him, hired a lawyer and filed. How can he not know that this is all a result of his absolutely selfish, destructive choices? His continued deceptions forced me to file first, to protect myself. I love him but hate what he’s done and who he has become. Evil is never satisfied, it confuses and always lusts for more. Trust is shattered. Lives are irrovocably broken. I truly hope and pray daily that someday he seeks God with his whole heart, confesses and repents of his grievous sins, accepts God’s gift of forgiveness, His grace, mercy and love and lives a life for God and not himself. Only God can meet our deepest needs, but we have to want it and accept His invitation. Walking in obedience and fellowship with God is not for sissies! It takes a daily decision, courage, commitment, work, trust, integrity, perseverence, humility, love and faith. Bless all you men who have accepted our Lord’s invitation to heal and guide you and ask Him to work His will in your life. He will never leave or forsake us! The Lord is faithful. He is trustworthy. He accepts us where we are. God IS love. Praise His Holy name! And cling to Proverbs 3:5-6.

    • Nancy, thanks for sharing your heart. It does me good to hear this passion coming from a woman. My wife has not been willing (or able) to discuss her feelings with me or through counseling – due I think to the immense hurt and betrayal she is feeling. We have not been able to re-establish trust. Or maybe we have begun but I cannot yet see the fruit.

      I am praying for you and your family this Christmas. I agree with you the HE is faithful and trustworthy.

  4. Jarrod-

    As a wife who has recently gone through this, I wanted to respond to you. My husband gave his disclosure to me about 3 months ago. I can tell you this, that first month was HARD for me; for him as well because of my emotional reaction. I didn’t want to be near him. Initially I told him to move out of the house. I then asked him to move into the guest room. My husband was into porn, as well as having an emotional affair with a co-worker for over a year. This affair began two months after we were married. During the affair, I was emotionally, mentally, and spiritually abused by his actions and his words. I mention this so you can understand what that does over a long period of time to a wife, a new wife at that. When something is going on that is inappropriate, what do we naturally do? Lies, deceit, betrayal and defensiveness are going on that whole time. It will break her trust, her belief, her spirit, her commitment to you, and mostly, her heart. We can only take so much of that before we start to react defensively. We become self-protective from you and resort to whatever we need to do to prevent a complete loss of our self-respect and our dignity.

    My husband and I have had many arguments since that time. I have wanted to divorce my husband, and told him so, at least three times since his disclosure to me, as recent as two weeks ago.

    The trust is gone for me. Trust is the foundation of a good marriage. When it’s shattered, you either decide to start rebuilding from scratch or ditch the marriage. My husband still works with that co-worker. Until recently, EVERY DAY for me was a battle-of-the-mind when he went to work. Thoughts still creep in from time to time, but because of his honesty with daily disclosure, it’s getting a little better. I want to trust him, but I’m not there yet. However, one inappropriate incident will send me back to day one, and it begins all over again. THAT is when the difficulty expands. TRUST! It’s the essential part of the marriage.

    I don’t know what your situation is. I can only say this to you…whatever it is, it broke your wife’s heart, shattered her trust in you and belief in your marriage. She’s a wife and a mother. You both have children to consider. She is desperately trying to keep herself together for them. That can be a battle in itself. Her emotional tank is drained. She is having to shift gears inside, all the time, to stand tall for those kids. She has her own battle going on.

    It’s still early for you both. It’s still early for my marriage. Give her what she needs from you, willingly. Your actions towards her can make it, or break it for her. She is angry, hurt, disappointed, and her dreams and her heart have been shattered. Give her some time, give her the space she needs right now. Give whatever you have to, to her. It means crawling on your hands and knees for awhile. You continually show her your remorse and repentance, with genuineness. If it’s not genuine or sincere, she will see right through you and your efforts will be for not. Don’t try to force her to feel something you think she should feel, or see something the way you think she should. It won’t happen. My husband does that occasionally and I back way off from him when he does. It’s a tough situation. Real tough!

    Most of all, keep God in your life. He will reveal much to you, about yourself and about her. He will guide you through this, all in His time, not ours. That’s tough too, but it’s the way it is. Pray for her daily. Pray together if she is willing. Pray together for your children. I will pray for you and your marriage. Keep the faith my friend!! Let God do His work in you.

    • Thank you so much for your reply as well as everyone else. I know it is hard for you to do this, but God is using your pain to help others. I am in awe of God’s love and grace and I hope my wife can also feel His love. Thank you for your prayers. I will pray for your marriage as well.

  5. Jarrod-

    Another suggestion…Jason’s blogs have been a tremendous help to me. Perhaps you could gather some of these blogs and share them with her. I always appreciate that he includes the wife’s thoughts and feelings through this battle. It’s been my only connection for this situation and he’s always right on target.

  6. My husband has gone to EMB 1 & 2. He has been “sober-sexually” for 2.5 years but he has been engaged in adulterous affairs for 40+ years prior to his turnaround. Is it going to take me 40 years to rebuild trust because I really don’t trust him. We are both retired and we do everything together now. I have been advised to go to a recovery weekend but really that seems impossible to give my husband that much free time. I try not to leave him alone over an hour. Is there a book on this?

    • Hi Val,
      Thank you for your question. First, let me say I am so, so sorry for the devastation you’ve experienced. It is completely understandable that you wouldn’t trust him beyond your line of sight. Decades of infidelity by a husband leaves a wife feeling insecure, unprotected and insignificant. Those feelings are valid.
      Next, I’d like to point out a couple things that are vitally important for your journey going forward. You asked: “Is it going to take me 40 years to rebuild trust”. The question indicates a misunderstanding about trust-building; it’s not YOUR job to rebuild trust. IT IS HIS. Someone has given you poor guidance if they put the responsibility on you. It is his responsibility to prove he is dedicated to providing safety, security and nurturing for your heart. Not acting out anymore is really good, but it’s not enough. There should be actionable things happening every week that you can point to and say are different, safe and which help you feel like you are the most important thing on the planet to him (second to his relationship with Jesus, of course).
      That leads to your bigger question: Will it take 40 years? It depends on your husband’s willingness to work at rebuilding trust. If the burden is on you, 40 years won’t be long enough. If he’s willing to shoulder it, then things can feel radically different even 2 years from now.
      Lastly, you should definitely attend a Women in The Battle weekend. You would benefit from the information as well as the process in the small groups. The reality, when you boil it down, is that you cannot control your husband. He acted out for 40 years whether you were looking or not. By not going to a weekend to get some healing for yourself you’re only delaying the healing of your own heart; you are NOT preventing him from acting out. That’s between him and God.
      I will follow back up with another reply regarding book suggestions.
      Hope this helps!

  7. Hello to all. I am currently in the 4th month of a full disclosure to my wife. The unfortunate thing is that the disclosure did not come from me. She had to find out through another source and I had to confirm it. She found out about 2 physical affairs that I had at the time she was about to deliver our 4th child. Thank God she did not go into labor due to the stress. The past few months have been horrible for her and I….all because of my sinful actions. She does not trust me and questions everything that I do. We have been married for 17yrs and now have 4 children. The youngest was born right in the midst of all this mess. Although she consistently says that she wants to separate and eventually divorce, we are still living in the same house. I am currently seeing a counselor to talk about my issues and go to a men’s group meeting that is centered around EMB (although I have not been as consistent with this meeting due to the many needs of my family). The other night I came home from my counseling session and my wife was feeling the pain of all that has gone on. She proceeded to tell me I am a “sorry” man and she needs to attach herself to someone who is truly following Christ and would not sin in that way against their wife. She kept talking about me and my “issues”. I did not react well as I proceeded to become defensive and asked her, “what are YOUR issues!” Needless to say, that did not go over well. She began to pack her things and left in the morning to stay with her mother in another state, leaving me at home with the children. I know it was a stupid thing to do, but I became frustrated and I know that I have no right to become frustrated and defensive. I have changed so much over the last few months. I have renewed my mind and am continuing to renew my mind (all on God’s word). I have truly repented from all of my lustful ways. I have received so much revelation from the Lord over the past couple of months and He is still revealing things to me about me. I have gotten to a place where I feel like I am a different person and the things that I did were the actions of someone else. Even though I am the one who did all of those things, I can no longer see myself acting out in those ways ever again. After the disclosure, it did not happen immediately, but I feel so much freedom from those things I want so bad for her to see what I am becoming. However, the only things she sees are the things that I did. Can anyone out there relate to any of this?

    • My husband is in our 4th month. Maybe you feel the way you do because you just lifted a load off your shoulders, and that is wonderful! However, you put it on your spouse, and she got no choice in the matter. You had plenty of cake, and ate it, too. Would you trust a 4 month old baby to ride a bike? Of course. You have been different for only a short period of time, but you were unfaithful way longer…do the math. Now, all you can do is work your program, and hope that she will be able to forgive. Answer questions without hesitation. There will be more questions than an FBI investigation. But, when you play; you pay. Why should you have all the fun and leave her with all the pain. Find out why you did it. Tell her everything she wants to know. Don’t be graphic, but be real. I pray it works out for your family.

    • Eric – check out Jason’s blog post entitled “are we there yet”.

      I think I understand what you are feeling. My disclosures occurred in February of this year and my wife and I have been separated since that time. We went to marriage counseling for a short time (2 meetings) and she broke it off… due I think to the intense feelings it produced and she is not ready, still feeling too much pain that she is keeping inside. I want nothing more on this earth than to reconcile to my wife and rebuild our marriage. But, God is doing a work in her heart as well as mine but His ways and timing sometimes seem mysterious. I can say this… it has taken ten months for God to reveal my heart to me and He is still working, still revealing, still purging… and I don’t just mean porn or acting out but who I am as a person and what kind of relationship God want to have at the deepest level of my soul. We were created for divine intimacy with the Father and ultimately that is the goal (I think) of this discipline we are experiencing… to be restored as sons. Praise God for He is a good Father!!

      Do your very best to stay humble, patient, and repentant. Surround yourself with Christian men who you can see regularly and walk this path with authentically. Be authentic and real about your problem. Mine did not go away overnight and our Enemy is real and wishes to strike a blow against our Savior by harming us. EMB has great resources. Samson Society (Nate Larkins) is wonderful and they have local chapters throughout the US.

      God Bless,

  8. This is a two way street. My wife left me, had an affair, divorced me. I was also in another relationship after the divorce. We are currently in the reconciliation stage after three years apart but it’s tough. I have issues with the affair/s, the children being split up, and separation and it’s difficult putting it all back together. She doesn’t want to get married right away and I do. It’s confusing. I picked a fight with her recently about something that happened 5 years ago which only complicated things more. I wish there was a handbook on what to do with all these emotions.

    • Hey Mark,
      Thanks for sharing here. You’re right, it is a 2-way-street. My only suggestions would be to make sure you have a counselor helping you who is experienced in this arena, and also consider the marriage weekend. The breakout groups there are built according to the issues presented, so you’re likely to be in a group with other couples who are going through something similar, and have leader experienced in marital reconciliation.
      Hang in there.

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