“I can’t trust my spouse at all any more. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to trust him again.”
Does this reflect a feeling you live with day in and day out right now? Has your spouse betrayed your trust on such a deep level that you question whether or not you will ever be able to trust him or her again?
If you have suffered through an affair, I would be surprised if you don’t experience this at least some of the time.
When you find out that your spouse broke your marital vows and went outside your marriage, the betrayal you experience runs so deep that it shakes the very foundations of your relationship.
How can you trust someone who has systematically lied to you? How do you know your spouse won’t cheat on you again? Wouldn’t it be safer if you never trusted your spouse after being so utterly deceived?
Of course, affairs aren’t the only way trust can be shattered. It is, perhaps the most personally egregious example of betrayal, but it isn’t the only one.
Perhaps your spouse gambled away your life savings, or maybe you found out he is involved in a totally unscrupulous business deal. There are, unfortunately, plenty of ways for one spouse to deceive another.
Questioning trust this way is actually healthy. It would be unwise not to. When someone is dishonest with you, you should ask yourself how much you can trust this person.
Perhaps it would be safer if you never trusted your spouse again. There are situations where that is likely the best choice.
If your spouse has lied to you repeatedly, cheated multiple times, or continues to try to betray and manipulate you, it may be time to ask yourself some hard questions about whether or not your marriage is really working for you or not.
However, this is not the case for the majority of people who go for counseling. Most of them want to learn a method for rebuilding trust and honesty. They want to learn to trust their spouses again and eventually create marriages that are better than ever.
Let me tell you, this can be done but it takes a set of skills to do it.
In the next three articles I am going to give you three different tools that will help you rebuild honesty in your marriage. These tools come out of a larger 3-step program for rebuilding honesty based on:
1. Exploring 7 Forms of Trust and Their Impact on Your Marriage
2. Becoming Transparent
3. Building a Fence around Your Marriage
The first step is based on an irony that you will find hard to believe at first. It is this:
You trust your spouse more than you think, even now in this moment of darkness. And that trust can be a guiding light for rebuilding your marriage if you know how to use it.
Exploring the 7 Forms of Trust and Their Impact on Your Marriage
“I can’t trust my spouse at all any more.” That is the sentence I started this article with. That’s because it’s a sentence I hear frequently.
After investigation, however, the statement generally turns out not to be true.
I don’t mean to demean your feelings by saying that. I know your hurt and suffering are real, and I know the trust in your marriage has been shaken.
I also know that most of you will look at trust as a black and white issue. You think either you trust someone or you don’t.
Trust, it turns out, doesn’t work that way.
Trust is not a black and white issue. It’s not an all or nothing event. Trust isn’t something you turn on and turn off. It’s built over time, step-by-step, and there are many different types of trust you experience in any relationship.
Most of us don’t think about trust like this on a day to day basis. It wouldn’t be useful to. When you walk into a grocery store and ask a clerk for a pack of chewing gum you “trust” that he will give you chewing gum that has not been tampered with and you “trust” that he will charge you correctly and give you the right change. You also “trust” that he will not attack you verbally or physically. Identifying how you trust this person would be a waste of time.
Your marriage is significantly more complex and much more important to you. But even in a normally functioning marriage separating out different types of trust isn’t usually useful.
However, you aren’t in a normally functioning marriage right now.
And I have found that it can be incredibly useful for people who have suffered from an affair or another breach of trust in marriage to look closely at the different forms of trust in the relationship.
Of the many forms of trust, there are 7 that cover most circumstances in marriage. Looking closely at these 7 forms of trust and determining how much you trust your spouse in each one can be very valuable when it comes to rebuilding honesty in your marriage.
Almost all of you (even those of you who have been through an affair) are going to find that you still trust your spouse in some ways. Not all ways-but some ways. This is an important discovery for at least two reasons.
First of all, it shows you that you don’t have to throw your whole partner away. Your spouse did something horrible. He or she has a “leaky” character, and he or she will have to square with that if your marriage is going to heal.
But your spouse is probably not a wholly evil person you would need to thrust aside completely. There are good things about your spouse, otherwise you would have never fallen in love and married.
You may be angry at your spouse and don’t want to hear things like this. However, I am trying to help you see things from a different perspective. If you allow me to help you do this, you may be one of the few who actually overcomes and restores their marriage. (Never give up.)
There are domains in which you still trust your spouse. And, as much as you might be reluctant to admit it, your spouse is still trustworthy in these domains.
This leads to the second point. Realizing that your spouse is still trustworthy in some ways gives you a clue as to how to rebuild the honesty in places where the trust has come into question. It helps you zero in on the real problem areas in your marriage.
Taking a closer look, I will briefly explain 7 forms of trust I explore with clients in my practice. As I delineate these, think about how much you trust your spouse in each one. You can rate your level of trust on a 1-10 scale where 1 equals no trust at all and 10 equals complete trust.
Be honest with yourself as you rate each one. Don’t condemn every aspect of your partner inside your mind just to prove a point. This is a thinking exercise, not a feeling one. You will likely trust your spouse a great deal in some of these areas. I hope you do. That’s healthy and normal, and it means you have a path forward from here.
Examining trust this way will give you a more dynamic picture of how trust is functioning in your marriage, and it will give you a clue as to how you can move toward rebuilding honesty.
The 7 Forms of Trust
1. Fidelity. The first form of trust is fidelity. This is the vow you take in any long-term relationship (whether it is spoken or not) that you will remain faithful to your partner.
If your partner had an affair, he or she has broken this vow, and in doing so has dealt one of the most devastating blows a marriage can suffer. Infidelity destroys trust; there can be no doubt about that.
2. Physical safety. Another important area of trust in your relationship is trusting your partner with your physical safety. This is an area many of you never consciously consider unless you are put in a situation where your physical safety is jeopardized. But in reality, it is a form of trust you engage in on a very regular basis.
3. Parenting. Trusting your partner with your children is another incredibly powerful and important form of trust. If you and your spouse have children, this is an area that might help you realize that there are places in your relationship where trust actually exists.
4. Financial Security. Financial security can be a trust issue even in a good marriage. For others of you, you might never even consider this an issue unless and until you are faced with the disturbing possibility that you cannot trust your partner financially.
5. Emotional Predictability. Most of you have some sense about how your partner will react in most circumstances. In fact, you expect him or her to react within a range of reasonable emotional responses to most issues that come up. You may not like your spouse’s response, but if you have trust in this domain, you know the response won’t be outrageous.
6. Truthfulness. This is one of the most basic forms of trust, and it is probably one that you have a deficit in right now if you are reading this article. Truthfulness is basic honesty-the act of sharing information in an open and candid way with your partner.
This is a fundamental form of trust and damaging when it is broken. My guess is that you are experiencing this pain now. For most of you, this is a type of trust that you never could have imagined would be a problem in your relationship.
7. Discretion. This domain has a number of aspects. Two of these are particularly relevant:
i. Trust that your partner will keep private information private
ii. Trust that your partner will not make fun of you in a hurtful way-not privately and not publicly
It is likely that you are experiencing a lack of trust in one or more of these domains. However, it’s unlikely that you can’t trust your spouse “at all” in ANY of these areas. If that were the case, it’s unlikely you would be together in the first place.
This realization alone can be healing to a marriage. It helps you recognize that your spouse isn’t ALL bad, and it gives you some hope that there may actually be a way forward for you. This is an important step on your journey to rebuilding honesty.
But it’s only one step. There are others to take.
In the next article I will teach you another step you can take to rebuild honesty, restore trust, and move closer to a marriage that is better than ever.
Perhaps you are already starting to be transparent in your marriage. This upcoming topic is one of my favorites and one of the most important not only to rebuilding honesty, but to creating and maintaining a wonderful marriage for many years to come.
In the meantime, let me know how it goes with you. I’d love to hear about your marriage. Post a comment to this using the comment link below.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,