A few weeks ago in re|engage, Watermark’s marital enrichment and crisis ministry, I facilitated a panel with three married couples who have infidelity as part of their story. We do this panel so that married couples can learn from the mistakes and sins of others and so that we can point married couples to the true source of hope and healing in their marriages.
Each of the three couples is still married years after the infidelity not because of helpful marriage tips and tricks but because they decided to pursue Jesus and seek recovery through God’s Word, Spirit, and people. They battled lies with the Truth of God’s Word, followed God’s Spirit in the decisions they made, and discovered the love of Christ through His people, especially through their spouse.
One of the first questions asked in the panel was:
How do you rebuild trust after an affair?
I love this question, and think the responses of the panelists are beneficial for those who have walked through infidelity and those who haven’t. We’ve all broken trust in marriage and relationships. Maybe you haven’t slept with someone who isn’t your spouse, but I’ll bet you’ve done a few of the following:
- Spent money and intentionally hid your purchase from your spouse.
- Looked at pornography.
- Told little white lies about where you were or how you spent your time.
- Broken promises. You said you were going to do something and you didn’t follow through. You didn’t let your “yes” be “yes” (MT 5:37).
- Made big decisions independently instead of functioning as a team.
Every husband and wife has broken trust. Sometimes it’s malicious, other times it’s just out of convenience. Regardless, we all need to rebuild trust from time to time.
Six Ways to Rebuild Trust in Your Marriage:
- Do trustworthy things.
Let me give you a few examples. When you say you’re leaving work at 5:00, leave work at 5:00. Do everything you can to be open about where you’ve been and where you’re going. Proactively communicate with your spouse. Don’t hide receipts or how you spent your money. Don’t be afraid of your spouse looking at your phone or search history.
You are, after all, one flesh with each other as husband and wife (See Genesis 2:24). When you’re one flesh you don’t live in fear of losing your marriage, but rather seek to grow your marriage by doing trustworthy things.
- Give your spouse full access to your phone and bank accounts.
Couples often want separate bank accounts. I’m not sure why they do this, as it seems to break, not build, oneness. I cover this question in more detail in my book, Ready or Knot?. Your spouse should know your passwords and have complete access to anything on your phone. There should be nothing hidden in marriage.
Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We are fully known by Christ and He still chose to die for our sins. In a similar way, while you don’t need to die for the sins of your spouse, you have the opportunity to be known by them and to know them, without fear of rejection. Give your spouse full access to the more personal parts of your life and do not hide from them.
- Allow your spouse to ask any and every question.
Once again, you are one flesh with each other as husband and wife. Therefore, what happens to one spouse affects the other and vice versa. When trust is broken, you should be even more willing for your spouse to ask hard questions. You don’t do this in a “gotcha” fashion, but rather as a way to demonstrate you’re making trustworthy decisions. When you break trust, let your spouse ask the hard questions so that you can seek to build trust.
- Engage with community.
When you invite wise people into your life, you allow them to ask you the tough questions. You have others who will lovingly wound you (PR 27:6), sharpen you (PR 27:17), and help you grow wise (PR 13:20). When I’ve broken Kristen’s trust in the past by looking at pornography, she takes great comfort in knowing that the other men in my wife have asked (and will ask) me hard questions and pray for me. Whether it’s through a small group of couples, accountability group, or something like a re|engage group, Christlike community can help you rebuild trust in your marriage.
- Choose forgiveness.
Easier said than done. When your spouse cheats on you, the last thing you want to do is to forgive them. We don’t have time to dive into all the aspects of forgiveness in this post (I will come back to this in the future). But in the meantime, as followers of Christ, we forgive because we’re forgiven in Christ Jesus. Look up Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13 and spend some time in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35. Trust me (pun intended).
- Last, but certainly not least, cast your eyes upon the Trustworthy One.
Jesus is who He says He is and does what He says He’ll do. If you want to grow your marriage and rebuild trust, become more like Jesus Christ. Read the Word and study the life of Christ. Ask the Father to help you become more like the Son.
I’m so grateful the three couples on our panel chose to stay married even after infidelity. The world tells us couples can’t heal from infidelity. The world is wrong. We all break trust at times, but trust can be rebuilt in marriage.
- Read this post from some friends who shared 4 Things Couples Who Have Had Affairs Want Others to Know.
- How have you broken trust in your marriage?
- What can you do to help rebuild trust? What’s something trustworthy you can do today?
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