How to Rebuild Trust in Marriage After Lying
Is it possible to rebuild trust? You may be asking that question. You’re disheartened about the mistake of lying to your spouse, and you are not sure how to reverse it. You don’t want to hurt them anymore, but you feel stuck between defending your actions and protecting yourself from their reaction. Your not even sure what trust is. Healing takes time. Hopelessness builds in situations like these. Here is the question you are asking: “Is it possible to get back what was lost?” As a marriage and family therapist, my answer is, “Yes!”
How do I know? I have seen it! Couples have gone from broken to healed right in front of me. Yes, it takes time, but it’s entirely possible. Some have not reached that mark yet. Others have given up. Yet, the ones that rekindled their relationship all have similar things in common. They all did several things to rebuild trust.
To be more thorough in my response to how one rebuilds trust, I combined my experiences with the opinions and results that I gathered from others’ experiences. I scoured many resources. I organized all the information. The following are the most common and complete steps that couples can take to rebuild trust when deception and dishonesty caused turmoil and disconnection in their relationships.
Common Steps to Build Trust in Relationships
Steps for the partner who lied:
- Understand what trust is
- Learn what causes your dishonest behavior (awareness and openness)
- Stop all negative behavior (lying, defensiveness, avoidance)
- Be completely honest, open, and responsible for your behavior
- Apologize, sincerely
- Empathize, Validate, and Listen
- Give as much time as needed to heal and temper your expectations
- Understand your partner’s needs
- Be consistent and follow through
- Commit to doing what’s right and to loving your spouse
- Seek further help through counseling, if needed
Steps for the partner who was hurt:
- Understand your partner’s reasons for lying
- Empathize with partner’s fear and accept them, but not their behavior
- Set firm, but loving boundaries
- Take your time to heal
- Commit and choose to forgive
- Be open to your part and take responsibility for any part you have to play in hurting your spouse, but don’t blame yourself for your partner’s choice
- Accept attempts on your partner’s behalf to repair the hurt they created
- Avoid dwelling on what your partner did and focus on changes
Steps for both partners
Let’s take some time to go through each of these steps and what they mean. For you to get the most out of this information, I want to be as thorough as possible to help you take action. Remember, it is not about being perfect. It’s about working on your process to improve and grow. You didn’t get here for no reason at all. You are here because you truly care about your relationship and your spouse and you desire to rebuild in the right way. So, let’s get started.
Steps for the partner who lied
Each step is important. I encourage you to take time and only work on 1 or 2 at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you do too much, you will run the risk of only fixing the surface and not fixing the foundation. Let’s go deep on each step to improve the foundation and then work up from there.
Understanding What Trust Is
Know your definitions. What is trust and what does it look like? Let’s provide a picture of what you are trying to attain. Trust is important in all relationships. Lack of trust increases anxiety and fear, thus creating disconnection. Abundant trust decreases concerns and brings about stability, comfort, and calm in relationships. A married couple needs trust to communicate, work in unity, create solutions to problems, and connect at deeper levels that hold the relationship together.
Merriam-Webster.com says the definition of trust is:
- Assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
- Dependence on something future or contingent (hope)
- Care and custody
- To rely on the truthfulness or accuracy of
- To believe
- To place confidence in: rely on
- To hope or expect confidently
- To commit or place in one’s care or keeping: Entrust
- To permit to stay or go or to do something without fear or misgiving
- To extend credit to
A similar, but more simple way to state the definition of trust is: to believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of something or someone.
For our purposes, we will use this definition of trust:
the ability to rely on someone or something else with full assurance and faith in that person or thing.
When it comes to your marriage and dishonesty, trust is broken the moment that a partner tells a lie. At that moment, there is decreased assurance that your spouse is reliable and able to be counted on. This creates an awful feeling for both parties.
Understanding what happens when trust is broken helps us understand how each person in the relationship is affected. Committed relationships need assurance that each person can be relied upon. Have you ever felt you couldn’t rely on someone? When this happens, a spouse gets anxious, and fearful. They feel more pressure and stress. Can you imagine causing your spouse to feel stress, fear, and pressure?
The goal of building trust, based on the definitions above, is to build a relationship where both partners can assure reliability and develop safety in the relationship. Most people NEED to feel safe, especially in the most important relationships in life.
Learn What Causes Your Dishonest Behavior
Many spouses who come see me will ask, “Why does my spouse lie to me?” Other statements that come along with that question are: “If they loved me, they would not lie,” and “If they cared about me they would tell me the truth.” These statements are legitimate because they seem true to the person saying them. A spouse’s hurt and pain confirm that their partner’s dishonesty proves the lack of love or care their partner has for them. Unfortunately, this is not always accurate because dishonest behavior actually can have several causes or reasons that may encourage producing a lie.
Please don’t get me wrong. A lie is a choice. I am not excusing dishonesty. However, knowing the causes or reasons behind why someone chooses to lie can help dispel some of the inaccurate thoughts that keep a hurt spouse from healing. We can assume why someone lies, but we don’t always know the truth until we take the time to explore the reasons. The thoughts and feelings we have when we are hurt seem to prove our assumptions, but that is not usually the case.
I have seen many people who have told a lie to their spouses who truly love and care for their spouses. Unfortunately, they just have reasons why they believe their choice would give them a better outcome. It is important to explore the causes behind the choice of dishonesty so that you understand the behavior and dispel inaccurate assumptions that are delaying forgiveness and the rebuilding of trust. You can find out more about the reasons people lie by clicking here. You can also get my workbook WHY I LIE to help you find out more about your reason for the choices you made to lie.
Stop All Negative Behavior
Continuing to act out with negative behavior does not help. I know that seems obvious, but I tend to see dishonest spouses continue doing the same behavior, even after apologizing for the original lie. The reason behind continuing to lie is most likely to try to keep from making things worse or getting a negative reaction. HEAR ME PLEASE!! THAT NEVER WORKS!!
Especially when trying to rebuild trust.
You MUST stop all lying and negative, hurtful behavior. You are trying to build trust here. Any dishonest behavior will decrease trust. You might be thinking that delaying their pain will be better. But, you are not considering some information…
Your partner will most likely have an intuitive sense that you are not being honest, even if you are at times. Being dishonest at this stage is only a recipe for ending the relationship. It is important to be completely honest and open. Understand that your partner is wounded, and you caused it. You now need to stop wounding them so they can heal, especially if you love and care for them.
Continued negative behavior reopens wounds and does not allow them to heal. It decreases trust, connection, and intimacy. Your partner likely does not want to hug, kiss, or be too near you right now. So, let’s not make it worse. Beat down your pride and take responsibility for your actions! You are only delaying the inevitable. Face the truth and the truth will set you free.
Be Completely Honest, Open, and Take Responsibility for Your Behavior
This step follows the ceasing of all negative behavior, as I started to emphasize above. You can stop the negative behavior, but you need to fill the hole with positive behavior. Being completely honest, open, and taking responsibility for your behavior is all about building trust. It’s time to reconnect.
Let your partner know that you understand that what you did was wrong and you want to change. Let them know that you understand how they feel and how much pain you caused them. Show them you understand their pain and care about them by being completely open and honest, so they can know there is nothing else that you are hiding from them.
When we stay in a posture of openness, honesty, and taking responsibility for the pain we have caused, our partners will begin to feel heard, understood, and reconnected on a much more stable foundation. I have had many couples come into my office and express that their dishonest spouse just wants them to move on. Yet, they can’t move on because they fear there is more.
Guess what? They fear there is more because they know when you are not being honest, open, and taking responsibility for the pain you caused, you are not likely ready to change. They are scared and in protection mode because you aren’t giving up your position. It’s time to let go of your need to hide and protect yourself. Stop being selfish, and start caring for your partner. Don’t just take what I have said and go through the motions. You have to mean it! You have to live in the reality of the pain YOU caused. Make it right!
Sincere apologies are pivotal. Many of us just want to say, “I’m SORRY!” and then believe is over and we can move on from the nightmare we caused. Is this an apology? Most of us know this is not a real apology. I have tried to apologize so many times like this and still struggle with understanding that this is not a genuine apology. Knowing how to apologize correctly is so important!
So what is a genuine, sincere apology?
Here is a good example (if you sincerely mean it): “I know that I have hurt you in many ways, especially when I am dishonest. Lying to you was not and is not okay. I am sad that I treated you that way and never want to do that again. I apologize for my behavior and for hurting you deeply. I don’t want to lose your trust, but I know that at this time it will be hard for you to trust me. I ask for your forgiveness. Will you forgive me? And if you ever need to talk about it I will make sure I am available to listen. I need your forgiveness, even though I know it will take time to heal and rebuild trust.”
Wow! Writing that apology, I think I impressed even myself. I wish I could say an apology like that on the spot. It’s not easy, but maybe you can take this example and think about what your partner NEEDS to hear from you. A genuine apology is going to help your partner know you are serious about change and care about how you hurt them. They need to know that you care about them! That’s the key.
Empathize, Validate, and Listen
We are continuing to build on the last 2-3 steps when we work on empathizing, validating, and listening. This is individual work that should be expressed when the time is right. Expressing empathy and validation, and having a listening ear, will continue the trend of helping your partner feel cared about and understood. It decreases defensiveness. Defensiveness tends to dismiss our spouses’ feelings and makes the conversation more about your perspective and protection. Dismissing your partner only makes them feel uncared about and reinjures them. Thus, trust and connection are decreased.
What is Empathy?
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary says that empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another in either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experiences fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.
I like to think of empathy as connecting with what your spouse is going through and being sensitive to it. Some people say to “put yourself in your spouse’s shoes” without using your thoughts and perspective. Either way, you need to put your feelings aside for a minute and check in with your spouse that you care about and love.
What is Validation?
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary says that validation is the act of recognizing, establishing, or illustrating the worthiness or legitimacy of someone else perspective, thoughts, beliefs, or feelings.
Maybe this is better viewed as saying that someone else’s perspective or concerns “make sense” based on all the information they have at the time. It’s good to let your spouse know that you “can see how they see.” Their perspective makes sense in light of what they know.
I understand they may not have all the information, or you may not agree with their interpretation. But that is what they understand based on the information they have at the time. If you dismiss them at this moment, then you have now reinjured them and caused them to close off to you. They will feel unloved and uncared for.
Listening encompasses empathy and validation. If you don’t listen with these concepts in mind, you will, unfortunately, make your spouse feel dismissed, hurt, and not cared about. When you make someone feel this way it leads to them shutting down, not receiving your thoughts or perspectives, and disconnecting from you. In essence, if you want to help them see your perspective, you NEED to connect with them and not dismiss their perspective!
Communication and Listening are so important in relationships. You need to continue to work on this part regularly. Use my workbook on couples communication to have great success in your conversations together.
Give As Much Time As Needed
You’ve heard that “time heals.” Some of you have heard: “Time is of the essence.” Time is important in every aspect of life. When it comes to healing, a dishonest spouse usually wants time back and tries to rush the process. It may sound contradictory, but rushing the process delays healing. Pressure increases the amount of time it takes for relationships to heal.
I encourage giving as much time as needed to heal. This means giving as much time as needed to vent, to ask questions, to be sad or discouraged, to be apart, to talk through concerns, and/or be in counseling. You have lost the control that you want, and you need to stop trying to regain control. You will not regain control!
Whatever is needed!
A truly repentant, loving, and caring spouse will want to give anything to help rebuild trust and heal. It takes time to heal. This does not mean there is nothing you can do. The steps are important. It’s a process, not a race. If you want a healthy relationship in the future, then let’s take the time to get things right, now.
Understand Your Partner’s Needs
Using empathy, listening, and validation this step becomes possible. Take time to understand your partner’s needs. This step is important. You must listen well and record all the information you can so you can remember and integrate the important things your partner needs.
Their needs are important. If you dismiss them they will feel as if you don’t care for them or love them. It is more important now than ever to know your partner’s needs and fulfill them as best you can.
Perfection is not important. It’s the effort and concern that counts. I want wounded partners to know that they need to affirm the efforts they see (which will be talked about later). Yet, you as a spouse who wounded your partner need to take the time and the care to be concerned about your partner and what they need from you now and later. The more you understand their needs the better you perform as a loving partner and a caring spouse.
Be Consistent and Follow Through
Consistency and follow-through are critical. You know this from life in general. Your job, your friendships, your family, and others judge you every day by how consistent you are. Do you ever say one thing, but do another? Do you forget to follow through? Integrity is important. Integrity is the ability to do what you say you are going to do.
If you want your partner to heal and you want to earn their trust back, you need to be consistent with your words, behavior, and how you show love and care for your spouse. If you make a promise, keep it. If you say no, don’t change your mind just to appease people.
You have to be real and honest with yourself! Don’t be a reed swaying in the wind where ever it blows. Be firm on what you will do and won’t do. If you don’t know, it’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” Then give a time frame for when you will try to find out.
Trust is built on certainty. The more certain your spouse can be about your ability to follow through and do what you say you are going to do, the safer they feel. Relationships thrive on trust and safety.
Commit To Doing What’s Right
All of these steps are tied together by commitment. If you aren’t ready to commit, please be honest about that at least. When I say commit, I mean committing to loving and caring about your spouse and changing to be a great spouse. Commit to these steps. Commit to change.
What is right? What’s right is not hurting others, loving others completely, and not being selfish. Can you commit to that? If so, these steps will be easy. Commitment is a choice. When you finally choose to commit to something, you in some sense promise yourself you will do what you said you will do.
Commit to being the person you want to be, not the crappy person you see yourself as. You CAN be an amazing person. You just need to commit to turning your life around.
Spiritual help is important!
One way to start is to commit your life to Christ. Repent for what you have done. Repent means to stop doing the behavior and do the opposite and feel sorry for what you have done. Thus, changing your ways to follow a new path. Christ died for you to give you a free gift. That gift is the ability to not be trapped in sin and negative behavior. It’s a gift to be free from sin. It’s a gift to have him live in you and guide you.
He gives you freedom, new life, and eternity with him, all of this by just committing to Him. He doesn’t ask for perfection. Christ is not asking you to change. He is asking you to commit. The power to change comes afterward. Please consider this today so you can be the person you were created to be. If you want to find out more, just EMAIL ME.
Seek Further Help
Sometimes we struggle with change. That’s okay! That’s why there is more than just you. Community is important. We can help each other.
Call a counselor if you are stuck, struggling, or have more serious issues like cheating, looking at porn, or addictive behavior. You can change. Hope is here. Just reach out to someone.
You will become a better communicator, a more loving spouse, and will stop negative behavior by using my workbooks. Click Below!
Steps for the hurt partner
Your pain is not going to easily subside. I am sorry for that. I wish I had a magic wand that could take away all pain. It’s so sad and so scary. Your fear is normal. You probably feel like you don’t want to open back up or be vulnerable anymore. That’s understandable. It’s even normal to be questioning whether you should leave. However, if you come to a place of desiring to redeem the relationship, your commitment and effort are going to be important.
You may even feel like you shouldn’t have to do anything, but realistically you are part of the system and to heal a system, you will have to do your part. Take your time. Understand it is a process. If you want an amazing relationship, you will have to be vulnerable and risk being hurt for there to be any possible chance. Here are some things you can do.
Understand Your Partner’s Behavior
You are deeply hurt, fearful, and concerned. This is so normal when you have been lied to. You don’t know what to believe and your trust meter is empty. It makes sense that you don’t want to hear excuses from your partner. You just want the truth! I know this because I have sat with so many wounded spouses. But please let me help you.
It’s so important that you take the time to understand your spouse’s behavior. The thoughts and emotions you are having are so real to you, and they are! Yet, as I said to your partner earlier, your emotions may not be accurate. Not understanding your spouse’s behavior can lead to assumptions that just aren’t true, even when they feel true. Feelings are just reactions that tell you something is wrong, but they don’t dictate what’s true.
Take the time to listen to your spouse and hear the reasons behind his behavior. You may find there is more to his choices than you believed. I am not saying the choice was right, but I am saying some reasons could lead to understanding and ultimately to a pathway to change. If you aren’t willing to hear your spouse, it may be hard for them to open up, be honest, and take responsibility for their choices. They need to know you are willing to go on this journey with them.
Understanding their choices will also help you create the right narrative in your head so you can deal with trauma. You will also need to learn what trauma is. Healing from trauma is about putting the puzzle pieces together that help make sense of what happened. Most people when they experience trauma, keep going back to the same questions because they just don’t understand it. Building an understanding is important, but if you are unwilling to listen to the reasons your spouse has for the choices they made, no matter how much they hurt, you may not be able to heal from the trauma.
Empathize With Your Partner’s Fear and Accept Them, but Not Their Behavior
I talked about empathy above. If you need a definition, I gave one above. Empathy is essentially understanding and being sensitive to the emotions and perspectives of your spouse. This step helps with the first step. When you work to understand your spouse, you need to be able to empathize, so you don’t dismiss them. Dismissing them will only reaffirm why they made the choices they made in the first place.
Spouses who have lied do have fear. They sometimes fear the reaction to other behaviors they are lying about. They sometimes fear losing something they love. Understanding and empathy can help you accept them, but not necessarily accept their behavior. Now you together can start to change the behavior based on the desires and needs that are processed.
Set Firm, but Loving Boundaries
To go along with understanding and empathy, I want you to remember that the choice your partner made is not okay. To further establish this, set firm, but loving boundaries. Boundaries are just another name for the lines we draw to state the behaviors we will tolerate and which ones we won’t. Consequences will need to be outlined too.
I suggest having a conversation about these boundaries and what you will do if the boundaries are crossed. If your spouse lies again, what will you do? What is the plan? How will you deal with it? I stress the word REASONABLE. Boundaries need to be reasonable and consequences need to be reasonable. No one is perfect. Make sure you are setting reasonable standards for yourself and your spouse.
Boundaries help to protect from further injuries. They also can help create a path forward. Boundaries can be stated in this way – what you will do to improve and what you won’t do so that the injury is not continued.
Take Time To Heal
As said above, time is a healing agent when wounded. You need to take time to heal. Now that doesn’t always mean taking as much time as you want. It means more to take the time you NEED. People tend to delay and avoid, especially when things don’t feel good. We tend to avoid painful feelings. However, you do need time to grieve, build trust, understand your partner, empathize, and rebuild yourself.
My suggestion is to MAKE TIME. Make time to do these things, but don’t rush them. If you need time because the pain is too intense, then take it slow. There is no need to rush. As I said above, it is better to get things right. I would rather know that you are building the right foundation for trust, healing in the right way, and learning the right skills before getting it done fast. Timing is important, but don’t think you have to go slow either. Take your time, but don’t delay your growth and healing.
Taking time to heal means being diligent, focused, and intentional, but not hasty. Express your timing boundaries, because as we said previously, boundaries are a must. You deserve to heal. Healing must happen or the relationship will not be healthy. So, taking your time to do it right matters!
Commit and Choose to Forgive
Committing to healing and choosing to forgive is the next step to building trust. As you choose the path of healing and building trust, you are making it a point to work towards a goal. Many of my clients in the past don’t desire to work on anything. They just want to sit and not feel pain anymore. You could say they are rolling around in their misery, but not choosing to move forward.
Please don’t take this as me saying forgive and forget. I NEVER say that. It’s not possible to forget. However, I do believe in choosing to commit to grieving, healing, building trust, and moving forward toward a goal. There is a time for being sad or fearful, but at some point, there must be a choice to commit to change and growth.
As you commit to the steps I am showing you, you are choosing a path forward, although it hurts. As you continue to move towards the goals you have chosen to work towards, you will heal and come to a place that will open the door for forgiveness. You do not have to choose this yet, but forgiveness is always a choice. It doesn’t just happen. Yet, to completely heal, you MUST choose to forgive. It’s not an option. The timing is an option, but to forgive, if you want to heal, is not an option.
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is the ability to let go of the desire to have justice for the pain that someone or something else caused you to have. You essentially are allowing God to hold onto that for you so you can be free. By doing this, you release bitterness and find hope for freedom to live without holding onto the pain of the past. It goes a little like this: “I forgive _________ for ___________. I release them to you Jesus to judge and I choose to live free from the burden of bitterness.” See how easy that is? Now you may have to do it a few times, but the more you release someone from your need to see justice served, the freer you are to heal. I know it seems like they may be getting away with it. But if you remember the boundaries we set, now you are holding them accountable in several ways. To learn more about how to forgive, visit this piece I wrote about forgiveness.
Be Open to Your Part, Take Responsibility, but Don’t Blame Yourself
This step involves you seeing how you might play a part in the system or patterns that keep the relationship from healing or growing. All relationships have cycles and patterns. I am in no way saying you caused your spouse to lie or hurt you. Their choice alone solely rests on them. What I am referring to is more of the steps to healing and building trust. For you to heal and build trust, another step you need to take is to understand your contribution to the relational dynamic between you and your spouse.
You only control you
I teach many of my clients that you only control 3 things in life: your beliefs, your thoughts, and your actions. You do not control anything else. You may disagree with this, but maybe it makes it easier if I say you do have immense influence over everything else around you and in you. Unfortunately, you don’t control how that influence pans out.
Why is this important? It’s important because by only controlling those 3 things and having influence you don’t control other things, it helps us see how you need to understand the part you play in your relationship. You need to understand how those 3 things affect your spouse so that you don’t cause them to become defensive, triggered, or another behavior that bothers you. I hope this helps.
Please don’t blame yourself for your spouse’s choices. You are not to blame. A lot of your spouse’s choices have nothing to do with you. Really!! I mean that! They have more to do with your spouse’s pride, selfishness, and inability to manage themselves well. I don’t mean that to be mean, but it’s true. All of us struggle with pride, selfishness, and managing ourselves.
Accept Partner’s Attempts To Repair Hurt
After you open yourself up to focusing on how you can control what you can control, also choose to accept when your partner tries to repair the relationship and the hurt they have caused. I am not saying they will do this, but most will try. Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of spouses say, “They don’t mean that.” Or, “They don’t care or they wouldn’t have done what they did.” Try not to let yourself go there. You hopefully now understand their reasons and the situation better. So, choose to accept your partner’s efforts. They usually are well-meaning.
Even if they aren’t, how would you know? You don’t want to assume and be wrong. I understand there is fear of being hurt again. You very well might get hurt again. However, if you don’t want to be hurt again, you can choose to leave, but that will not heal or change you or your spouse. I am not recommending leaving! As a Christian, I don’t believe in divorce, except in specific situations. Even then, the Bible says that God hates divorce. He would rather see you work to heal and grow the relationship and yourself.
Avoid Dwelling on Your Partner’s Behavior and Focus on Positive Change
Finally, avoid dwelling on your partner’s behavior and focus on making positive changes. This step is all about not moving backward. There is a time and space for focusing on past behavior. That is usually before this step. If there is a need to understand or go back to processing a past problem, then I would encourage separating that and having a specific, detailed meeting about that one specific thing. Why? Because our focus now is on positive change.
What is positive change? Positive change is the action you take to meet specified goals and change the negative patterns and cycles of the past to positive patterns and cycles. You are looking to create a healthy, loving, and connected relationship. Let’s focus on that now and the action steps it takes to get there. It’s time to create a plan and foundation that we can build on. Steps to a solid and unbreakable bond. If you look backward and continue to let yourself dwell on the past, you will not be keeping your eyes on the goal and will continue to trip as you move forward.
The Bible talks about “taking every thought captive” and “thinking about such things” as truth and what is right. Why? Because you can get caught up in the weeds and briars of things that are not so important. That does not mean if another major behavior issue pops up that we should address it. But we would not want that to destroy the growth we have attained.
Steps for the couple
Once couples work on their steps to repair the wounds of the relationship, it would be helpful for them to work together on improving the quality of the connection, affection, and intimacy they have. This can be done through many different means, but here are a few steps that can summarize pathways to building healthy relationships that keep trust and connection strong. You want to do everything you can to strengthen your bond so that you will not want to hurt each other again and so that you will be more understanding of your partner’s needs.
Spend quality time together and create new meaning
If you have read the 5 Love Languages, quality time is important to some people and also spells love to them. However, I have found that most people need quality time to feel loved. Be intentional about creating time together that results in meaningful interaction and fun. Creating meaning in relationships can be done through many different avenues. Make a list of all the possible things you could spend time doing together, whether it seems enjoyable or not.
Activities that are new to both of you, where you both have to learn a new skill are always meaningful. They help you create a story to tell kids or grandkids, to talk about later, or to reminisce on. Being intentional will make sure that you follow through. You can say you care about someone else, but until you do something to show you care, like being very intentional about creating quality time together, it is sometimes hard for others to see your love and care for them.
Schedule time to communicate openly and honestly about feelings, expectations, and concerns
Making time, by scheduling it, to communicate openly and honestly about things you care about and feel is so important! You need to talk about things no matter how hard they can be. I just finished talking to a client about having “uncomfortable conversations.” I don’t like having them, but I find they are the most connecting type of conversations when done right. It is important to have your listening ears on and a good attitude. You need to be in a posture of desiring to understand and connect with your spouse.
Setting a time is important. How busy are you in a week? I know parents that “schedule” so much stuff for their kids that they “never have time.” How come they schedule all these activities for their kids, but never leave space for their spouse? If you can schedule everything else, you can schedule a time to talk. The reason people don’t is that they don’t see it as important. Or better yet, they don’t like “uncomfortable conversations” so they AVOID it. Don’t avoid each other. It’s called “kicking the can down the road.” Make a point to have conversations so you can make a change, heal, grow and build trust NOW. It isn’t going to get better and most likely will get worse if you don’t!
Increase physical touch and closeness that does not expect sex
Touch is so important. You may not like touch. It may not be your love language. But do you realize it is one of the ways that humans and animals bond? If you were not touched as a baby, you could enter into what they call “failure to thrive.” This is research ya’ll! You need touch. You may have been hurt in your life by others or rejected, so you avoid touch, or worse, have decided to believe you don’t need it. YOU NEED TOUCH.
Work on increasing non-sexual touch. Holding hands, hugging, kissing, sitting close, back rubs, finger grazes, snuggling, and other ways of touching can all be initiated in non-sexual ways. Sexual touch is meaningful and good for its time, but many people just want to know you want to be with them in a moment without sex. How many of you women have said to a female friend, “I just wish he would touch me for me, not sex.” I have heard something of that sort many times in my office. Men, stop groping your wives!! They need to be cherished and touched in loving ways without it leading to sex. Let them take charge for a while. If they want sex, let them initiate it or move your hand to the parts you usually grope. Be a gentleman! We have lost that ability these days.
Get close and stay close. Wherever you go, just be near each other. Enjoy each other’s presence, at home and out and about. When I go shopping with my wife, I talk to her and hold her hand. I put my hand on her waste some. I kiss her cheek. I am a touch person. I also stay engaged though. Balance it out if you are a touch person. I help her find things she might want to buy (Acts of Service). Be loving and cherish the time you spend with her.
Talk about and respect each other’s boundaries and expectations
Finally, talk about and respect each other’s boundaries and expectations. Remember those “uncomfortable conversations” I talked about? This would be an example of one. You need to know each other’s boundaries and expectations. You need to respect them and accept them. Maybe some compromise would be helpful. Talk about the reasons you need these boundaries and expectations. Talk about time frames that you might need them. Discuss ways to implement them. Be open, curious, and empathetic. Use all the steps you have been given. These will help sustain the walks of trust and security you are building.
Trust is built around the understanding that you are a safe person that will not violate my boundaries and will keep me from emotional, physical, and mental harm. Be a safe person. Desire safe communication. Create safety with each other. Because you love each other, build a relationship that is secure for both of you.
Trust is so important to relationships. When trust has been broken by dishonesty, it may seem impossible to regain trust. It does take work and compassion. These steps are more of a process than a linear one. You can try to work them one after the other, but I assume you will keep needing to go back to some. I suggest you work them intentionally, but as needed throughout your process. As the person who broke the trust, I believe more of the work and responsibility lies on you. You need to change. Don’t be the same old person who falls short. You can and will change if you work at it. Be the person God created you to be!
As the person who has been hurt, you are not the same person anymore. Things have changed, but you control how they change, for worse or better. Be intentional about your growth, but don’t shut down just because it hurts. Fight for love, connection, safety, and growth! If after trying as hard as you can, you can bare no more, then you can choose to move on. You don’t have to feel shame, but at least make sure you feel satisfied with your effort so you don’t regret your decisions in the future. I find many people don’t fight for the relationship long enough or hard enough and ultimately have regrets in the future. I believe in both of you! Do well, be intentional, and choose love.
I write these posts to be thought-provoking. Take this content and go explore, research, and learn for yourselves what God’s purposes and plans are. You alone can grow yourself and build the life you want!
Brandon Coussens, LMFTBrandon Coussens, LMFT | Couples Counseling and Sex Therapy
Brandon Coussens is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of Legacy Marriage Resources, LLC. To find out more about him you can go HERE.