Is it Possible to Rebuild Trust after Unfaithfulness?
- Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The most essential piece in this rebuilding is transparent honesty. We've said it before and we'll keep on saying it. Honesty enables each of you to see the other's heart and paves the way when you hit bumps in the road. Honesty will keep you on the path.
The onus falls on the infidel here. This person sets the stage and the atmosphere. If he or she is willing to share openly about activities, phone calls, travel plans, anything where the spouse is not a participant, he or she has created an opportunity to begin rebuilding trust.
The question that usually comes here is "I'm to be treated like a two-year-old for the rest of my life?" The answer is no—that is what you're trying to prevent. But trust must be rebuilt first.
Trust is earned. Honesty plays a big role in obtaining it.
It's been said that part of a second chance is taking responsibility for the mess you made in the first place. Honestly taking ownership for what you've done to break that trust and what you'll do to rebuild it can encourage a spouse to stay on the path of rebuilding trust with you.
Dr. Doug Rosenau says the "ultimate cause of infidelity is a series of poor choices."1 If your spouse can be witness to the exploration of those poor choices, what Gary calls the transparent soul-searching of how and why the infidelity happened, it offers both of you an understanding of some reasons you are here. It also helps the spouse begin to see that you really want to change and brings hope you'll never go there again.
We must repeat that there is no reason good enough for the choice of adultery. But figuring out some of those baby steps that led to the affair and why you chose to take them helps you choose a different path the next time similar choices are in front of you. If your spouse has been a part of your thinking this through, they are better able to trust your choices next time.
When Gary realized, in retrospect, how vulnerable he was at the time his affair started, the foolishness of the choices he made before anything romantic happened became clear. As he was able to share those insights with Mona, she was able to begin to relax when wondering if it would happen again. As we talked about what choices could have been made instead and what choices he planned to make in the future, the way out of temptation that God had promised became visible to us both.
That same transparent honesty needs to be a part of the spouse's contribution to rebuilding trust. Mona needed to convey to Gary what this betrayal felt like to her so he could comprehend the consequences of his choices and could understand with empathy the pain his betrayal had caused.
Gary didn't want to focus on what had happened, and he hated to see Mona in pain. This is very common for the infidel, but we encourage you to think of it this way. If every time your spouse wants to talk about it, you shut them down by changing the subject, avoiding the questions, or tap-dancing around the issues, your spouse will hear that you don't care and don't want to change. You just want to move on. And if you're not willing to change, how will they ever trust you again? That is why it is so important to process through this together as a couple.
The other aspect of transparent honesty Mona had to accept was the fact that in the end, she would have to entrust Gary to God and place herself in a position of vulnerability. That was part of what happened the night Gary came home late. Just as much as Gary needed to be accountable to rebuild the trust, she needed to be willing to accept the efforts he was making. Rebuilding trust was a process for her, too. As Gary made deposits in trustworthiness, she would have to credit them to his account.
The final piece we'll suggest is almost too simple. Adopt an attitude that every little thing counts. It all adds up to rebuilding trust.
Gary talks a lot to infidels about getting behind the eyes of their spouse, seeking to understand the things that make a person feel safe and comprehending that some things, even things that are unintentional, can feel like a threat. Like Gary coming home late.
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