Trust can be lost in an instant—not rebuilt that way. To consistently build trust, you need lots of opportunities to come through.

So create them for yourself. Do what you say you're going to do. If something changes, call and explain why. If you say you'll pick up milk on the way home, pick up milk on the way home. Coming home without the milk becomes something far more than forgetting to stop at the store. It easily becomes another example of why you can't be trusted.

Every lie, no matter how trivial, counts.

Every omission of fact counts.

The process is slow and requires both of you. The spouse needs to acknowledge and give credit for the things the infidel does to rebuild that trust. If we refuse to credit a kept promise because "that's what you should have done in the first place," the motivation to continue trying wanes. We all need to know that what we're doing counts.

One of the most common areas we see this is when there is an unplanned contact between the infidel and their partner. Maybe the partner contacted them or a work situation put them together. The one who has been unfaithful is trying to be honest and rebuild trust, so they come home and say the words they know will upset their spouse.

For those of us who have been in that spouse's position, we know there's a little voice in our heads that admonishes us for believing. That tells us we're fools. And we know that our spouse is capable of lying to us. But if it's the truth and we tear into the one trying to rebuild, then we are the ones destroying the trust. And the one who was unfaithful will begin to doubt the value of being honest in everything. If the infidel gets beat up every time they're honest, they will eventually quit being honest. Remember the importance of creating that environment for healing.

Mona prayed that truth would be revealed. And it was. As time went on, her anxiety decreased and she became capable once more of believing Gary.

Trust does not require blinders.  We trust someone because we now choose to believe they will make the right choice. And we believe that because there has been evidence of those right choices.

Rebuilding trust is a risk for both of you. Each will make small steps forward as you see progress being made. Each fears what the future will look like.

The one thing we are confident of is if either one of you is unwilling to do the work required to rebuild trust, then the hole vacated by the trust will only grow bigger.

But if you'll work together, take the risk, and create the environment for healing, then you, too, can rebuild the trust that was lost. And the wound of adultery, although huge, will not be fatal.

C. S. Lewis explains beautifully why we work to rebuild trust:

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.… The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers … of love is Hell."2

February 25, 2010


Copyright (c) 2009 by Gary and Mona Shriver. Unfaithful: Hope and Healing After Infidelity. Used with permission. Reproducible with permission of Cook Communications Ministries/David C. Cook. All rights reserved.

After going through the journey to save their marriage from a devastating infidelity, Gary and Mona Shriver cofounded Hope & Healing Ministries, Inc., an adultery recovery peer support ministry. They are members of the Association of Marriage and Family Ministries and the Stanislaus County Healthy Marriage Coalition and have shared their story on many television and radio programs such as Focus on the Family and The 700 Club. Gary and Mona have been married more than thirty years and have three grown sons. They reside in Turlock, California.