Trust Issues in Marriage: Advice for Couples

How to Rebuild Trust in Your Marriage After a Major Screw-Up

Trust Issues in Marriage: Advice for Couples

At some point or another, no matter how wonderful your marriage is or how many bluebirds chirp on your windowsill in the morning, someone will screw up and trust will be broken.

It could be something small (watching The Mandalorian without your partner or pretending to work late to get plans with those friends), or something big (lying about a secret credit card or, gulp, an affair). When something this happens, trust needs to be rebuilt. Trust in a relationship is tricky. Sure, groveling can help.

And yeah, flowers and a cute smile can work wonders. But the process of truly earning someone’s trust back is nuanced and requires thoughtful actions and quite a bit of patience. So how do you rebuild trust? Here are some steps to take.

Own Up to It

When you’ve broken the trust in your marriage, you have to accept responsibility, apologize, and own it. And, never, ever try to justify it or offer any kind of explanation or excuses.

“Although all choices are made in the context of what is happening for you, that won’t help you when you’re asking for forgiveness,” says Anna Osborn, a California-based licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in couples, relationships, and love.

“Offering any sort of justification for your actions or minimizing them (i.e. ‘At least I didn’t do X’) will only make your spouse shut down and feel doubly hurt.”

Keep Your Promises

If you say that you’re going to change your behavior, then you’d better make damn sure that you’re going to change.

Empty or unfulfilled promises will only exacerbate the situation and further convince your spouse that you can’t be trusted. “Follow through with the things you say you will do,” says clinical psychologist Dr.

Mindy Beth Lipson. “Otherwise, it is just words and means nothing and breaks more trust.”

Be Honest

When you’ve blown it in a relationship, it sometimes feels convenient to not tell the whole story. The thinking is that you’ll minimize the damage by omitting certain details or altering the truth just enough to spare yourself more fallout (i.e.

“It was only one time!”). “Don’t be tempted into this trap,” says Osborn. “Telling the whole story will serve you better in the long run and your marriage can actually begin to heal.

If you hold back certain details and they come out later, you’re risking more than you realize.”

Accept That Earning Back Trust Takes Time

It’s no fun having an angry spouse under the same roof. But there are times when an apology isn’t enough to turn things around right away.

When trust is broken, it can be a long and lengthy repair process and, if you’re committed to it, then you have to be in it for the long haul. “Realize that if you are wanting someone to forgive you on your timetable or on your terms you are being very selfish,” Lipson says.

“And you need to work on that fact as well as learn to sit with your own painful shame and not let it destroy yourself and those you love.”

Focus on Consistency

As you’re rebuilding trust, keep your words and actions consistent. Your spouse’s image of you has been shaken and they’re looking for stability wherever they can.

Doing what you say you’re going to do will go a long way to proving to your spouse that you’re serious about changing.

“Consistency demonstrates to your spouse that they have reasons to trust you again and also allows you to appear safe to them again,” says Osborn. “Don’t discount the power of consistency when it comes to rebuilding trust.”

Realize That Things Might Never Be the Same

Broken trust can be a difficult hurdle to overcome and, even if you both get back to a good place, it might not be perfect. Your partner might not forgive you entirely, or even if he or she forgives you, they might not forget.

If that’s the case, accept it, accept your role in it and try to find a way in this new normal that leads to you both being the best possible version of yourselves for each other. “Do your best, but don’t expect the outcome you want,” Lipson says.

“Be respectful and go into the process of repair with an open heart and mind, and an awareness of all outcomes being in the highest good for both parties.


Rebuilding Trust In a Marriage – Love and Trust

Trust Issues in Marriage: Advice for Couples

Nell WebbGetty Images

We may enter a relationship with high hopes and rose-colored glasses, but nobody's perfect. Most couples will run into a trust issue of some sort over the course of their relationship. The most common? “Cheating,” says M. Gary Neuman, LMHC, creator of the Neuman Method.

But that doesn't necessarily mean catching your husband in bed with another woman is the only thing that can cause a rift between you and your partner. “Trust is broken whenever there is lying that creates a shift in the couple's life,” says Neuman.

“Gambling, drug use, and even emotional and online infidelity often lead to severe trust issues.”

The fact is, all of the phones, laptops, and social networks we're glued to 24/7 provide ample opportunity for foul play.

“It's more common now for affairs to be emotional—on social media, reconnecting with a high school sweetheart—or using office chat apps or email accounts to carry on a flirtation,” says Dr.

Vagdevi Meunier, PsyD, a Gottman Institute master therapist. “As Shirley Glass, author of Not Just Friends, has said, affairs are about access and opportunity.”

If trust has been broken between you and your partner, whether it was a physical affair, an emotional affair, or a gambling or drug habit, we've asked relationship experts to outline the exact steps you need to take if you want to work on rebuilding your relationship.

Step One: Confrontation

First things first (and no, we're not talking about yelling and screaming): Have the confrontation in person. “Once you've discovered the infidelity, you need to evaluate your partner's response,” says Neuman.

“Is he apologetic and remorseful, or confused and 'in love' with this other person?” Don't assume anything, fight via text or email, or make decisions about your future before having a face-to-face conversation.

In addition to talking to your partner, “you'll feel a need to tell some people what happened because you'll need to vent,” says Neuman. “But try to limit this sharing to those who will really be there for you and give you a safe space to share—NOT a lot of advice.

” The idea is to get support without being swayed one way or another. You also don't want to be sitting around the Thanksgiving table a year from now knowing that everyone in your family knows your dirty laundry. So be careful about who you tell, and how much you tell them.

Finally, watch out for urges to “even the score” or make some questionable decisions of your own.

“Don't create a toxic relationship by taking revenge, being vindictive, or bringing other people in,” warns Meunier.

In other words, reconnecting with your own high school sweetheart for comfort is not the best idea, nor is recruiting your in-laws to chastise your partner about what he did.

Getty Images

Step Two: Atonement

This is a time for full transparency: “The person who made the choice to commit the act of betrayal should take time to understand the impact of his or her actions, tell the full story of the betrayal, and answer any questions their partner has,” says Meunier. “Your spouse has to want to make this relationship work, be apologetic and—in the case of an affair—be willing to completely end it with the other woman,” stresses Neuman.

It's also a time for emotional support.

It's not uncommon to lose sleep, stop eating, or even have trouble functioning after discovering an infidelity, so Meunier encourages the offending partner to “be available to support and comfort the hurt partner.” Translation: He needs to be patient and kind and cater to you for a bit, not pop off angrily every time you want to talk about the issue.

You also need to give yourself some extra love right now: “Practicing meditation, daily gratitude, reading books on affair recovery (the ones scientific research are best) yoga, and journaling are all good techniques,” says Meunier.

“I also encourage both partners to engage in light and easy activities that preserves a sense of continuity, fun, and a feeling of family. This can be as simple as having breakfast or dinner, watching a show on the couch together, or going grocery shopping.

If there are children present, this is even more important.”

Step Three: Reconnecting

Once you've talked through all the details of the betrayal and have decided to recommit to one another, it's time to start limiting how often you bring up the infidelity.

“I encourage couples to only talk about the betrayal in the counselor's office, or to set a scheduled meeting, lunch, to do this,” says Meunier. “Avoid talking about it in closed intense environments such as the car or in the bedroom.

Instead, go out on the porch—the fear of neighbors hearing will make both of you behave better.”

After you eliminate the constant “threat” environment that comes with discussing the issue, you can begin to learn how to be more connected and emotionally present with each other. How do you do that, exactly? “Once broken, trust has to be earned by small things each person does every day,” says Meunier.

It's about consistency and kindness: Be home when you say you will, avoid that work event where you know the affair partner might be, and give regular, sincere compliments to build back your partner's self-esteem.

It may take time, but if your partner is willing to show you he is committed and consistent in his actions, he'll slowly earn back your trust. This isn't always easy—the betraying partner has more of a burden during this time, explains Meunier—but if he sticks it out, you'll see results.

And remember, the effort shouldn't feel one-sided: “Eventually both people need to be making small gestures of kindness,” adds Meunier.

Step Four: Building a New Relationship

At this point, you're building a brand new emotional, physical, and social contract for the relationship. You're connecting in a more honest way, asking for what you really need, and, “Doing whatever is necessary to affair-proof your relationship going forward,” says Meunier.

The key here on out is positive responses: “We use a term developed by Dr. Gottman called turning towards,” says Meunier. “Intimacy is built by repeated experiences of one partner bidding for their partner's attention or affection and receiving a positive response,” says Meunier.

When you receive consistent, positive reactions from one another in everyday life, trust returns.

Here's an example: “If the betraying spouse says 'Will you watch Real Housewives with me?' I want the hurt partner to say 'yes' not because they suddenly forgive their partner or love the show, but because they recognize that it costs nothing to sit quietly next to someone and watch a television show, and that doing so gives them points in the emotional bank account. Similarly, if the hurt spouse calls while you're apart and says 'Can you turn on Facetime and show me who is in the room with you?' I encourage the betraying partner to do that whenever possible. Not ignoring your partner, not rejecting each other, and being kind are all ways we build a sense of normalcy and safety, which in turn builds trust.”

For further reading, check out:

The Gottman Institute

The Center for Relationships in Austin, Texas

The Neuman Method


Do You Trust Your Partner?

Trust Issues in Marriage: Advice for Couples

Trust is one of the cornerstones of any relationship—without it, two people cannot be comfortable with each other and the relationship will lack stability.

At its most basic, trust lets us feel secure because we believe our partner has our back and will be loyal through thick and thin.

It also allows us to display our thoughts and feelings openly and honestly, because we regard our partner as supportive and don’t worry that they will judge, ridicule, or reject us.

Trust goes hand in hand with commitment; it’s only after you feel that you can trust someone that you are able to truly commit to that person.

Trust builds slowly as we learn about our partner and they become predictable to us. Predictability is important because having an idea of what will happen makes us feel in control of our lives.

As we observe how our partner thinks and acts in a given situation, we develop a sense as to how they will most ly think and act in future situations.

If they appear to be consistent and to have our best interests at heart, we can believe they will continue to do so in the future; thus, we can trust them.

There is an element of faith operating with trust, because we can never truly know what our partner might do or say before the fact. Having faith in your partner—meaning you believe they will do right by you before they do it—is considered to be a strong indicator of a trusting relationship.

The sense of security and predictability that comes with trust makes us feel good about our partner and believe our relationship has long-term potential. These positive thoughts help to keep our emotions on an even keel. When emotions are under control, they don’t get the better of us.

Thus, we’re able to discuss problems openly and with little (or no) hostility, and have an easier time coming to solutions. We’re also able to keep conflicts in perspective and not use any single event to judge the overall quality of our relationship.

Additionally, it’s easier to forgive most indiscretions because we don’t believe our partner would intentionally hurt us.

As slow as trust is to build, it can dissolve just as quickly—sometimes, from a single indiscretion. If that event is extreme, such as infidelity, trust can be very difficult to re-establish; that will, in most cases, undermine other aspects of a marriage.

One of the main casualties is often communication. Because we can’t be sure of our partner's motives or have an idea of what they’re thinking, we can have trouble talking to them openly and honestly. It’s not possible to work through issues if you can’t believe what your partner is saying.

This often means we avoid discussing problems altogether, especially because they’ve often become so emotionally charged that we can only react with anger and hostility.

We might also feel we have to be very careful in choosing our words, because we can’t be sure how our partner might react to what we say.

Under such conditions, it’s not surprising that couples with trust issues argue much more frequently, that their disagreements have a more negative tone, and that they're rarely able to come to resolutions.

Partners who don’t trust can’t feel secure; thus, their relationship will cycle through frequent emotional highs and lows because a mistrusting partner spends much of their time scrutinizing their relationship and trying to understand their partner’s motives. When the other's words or actions seem trustworthy or positive, the questioning partner feels happy and has hope for the relationship. But when some untrustworthy or negative event happens, it serves as evidence that the relationship has problems.

Furthermore, when we don’t trust our partner, we’re prone to exaggerate their negative behavior and discount their positive behavior. Because the positives have much less weight than the negatives, we’re much more ly to constantly question the worth of the relationship.

While a breakdown in trust is sometimes a result of actual indiscretions by one or both spouses, that’s not always the case. Some people, for various reasons, have trouble trusting anyone; these individuals may not trust their partner regardless of whether or not that person is, in fact, trustworthy.

People with trust issues often employ certain patterns of thinking and acting that make all types of relationships difficult for them.

They tend to be critical of others, interpret situations in a cynical or negative light, and are less willing to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Interestingly, low-trust people are themselves more prone to lie and cheat than are trusting people. It’s possible they justify such behavior because they believe others are doing the same thing to them.

Low-trust people bring to their marriages the same problems that are found among couples in which one partner truly cannot be trusted. They have trouble communicating, constantly question their partner’s motives, and allow their feelings of mistrust to cloud their overall perceptions of their partner and their relationship.

Furthermore, because they tend to be highly critical, they will ly look upon what their partners say and do with much less tolerance than would a trusting person.

They might also regard their partner’s questionable words and deeds as personally threatening; this tendency can cause them to overreact to minor indiscretions.

As a consequence, small problems can have a bigger impact than they normally would (or should).

Someone who is married to a low-trust person will ly find their relationship to be exasperating. They might feel constant pressure to make sure they come across as honest and trustworthy.

Such scrutiny may mean they have to spend more effort than should be necessary justifying themselves.

They might also think there’s a “Kafkaesque” quality to their relationship: They feel punished or criticized for no reason, yet guilty and powerless to fix a problem that really doesn’t exist.

Along with feeling frustrated—and possibly resentful—they’re ly to feel insecure about themselves and their relationship. As a result, they’re ly to find it difficult to stay personally connected to their partner.

Unfortunately, there’s not much advice to be offered if your partner truly can’t be trusted. You can try to discuss the issue, but that’s not ly to lead to a meaningful solution. If they’re really untrustworthy, how can you believe their promise not to be?

The hard truth is that a relationship without trust cannot flourish over the long term. It’s extremely difficult to disregard or de-emphasize such a flaw in your partner; its very existence will leave you feeling insecure about your relationship. That, in turn, makes it hard to feel emotionally connected.

However, if your mistrust is more perceived than real, or is based upon very minor transgressions that should be overlooked, then the issue comes down to your perspective—and that’s something that can be fixed.

If you believe all or most people are untrustworthy or dishonest, or you often feel suspicious about other people’s motives, then you might want to consider that your inability to trust your partner stems from a broader personal problem. Individual therapy can be very effective in developing strategies that will help you cope with mistrust.

Keep in mind that learning to trust is certainly worth the effort. Not only will it improve a marriage, but it will help you in other relationships and can improve your overall psychological well-being.

Learn more in our book, Making Marriage Work.


Healing the Cycles that Tear Couples Apart

Trust Issues in Marriage: Advice for Couples

Respect and intimacy are the foundation on which loving relationships are built. Without such safety and connection, there can be no trust; without trust, we lose the ability to be playful, spontaneous, and joyful.

The following are common issues in relationships that, if unaddressed, can kill love and happiness.

 For each relationship-ruining issue below, I explain what it is, why it is a problem, why we do it, and what we can do instead to heal and repair this issue.

When people have the courage to look at these patterns, admit their own contribution, and are willing to change and put their relationships first, even the most difficult relationship problems can be healed.

Inability to trust our partners may take many forms, including feeling that they are being dishonest or hiding something from us; not trusting them to be reliable, consistent, and available when we need them; fearing they may take advantage of us; not trusting their values as human beings; or not feeling safe to express who we really are in our relationships.

People may get married because they see something desirable in their partner that they don’t have in themselves, rather than because of common values. Over time, one or both partners may grow in confidence, or their needs may change, making them less willing to put up with the difference in values. Charm wears thin when our partners never help with the dishes!

Jealousy has its basis in personal insecurity and fear of abandonment. We try to control our partners so they won’t find someone better and leave us. People who have been abused as children or hurt in previous relationships may find it particularly difficult to trust and let themselves be open to a partner’s love. Negative communication cycles can erode feelings of trust and safety.

According to marital intimacy researcher Arthur Aron, Ph.D., from Stony Brook University in New York, the most loving relationships help people to expand themselves. They do this by providing support for exploration, learning, and growth; bringing in passions and interests that broaden both partners' worlds; and encouraging spontaneity and reasonable risk-taking.

However, lack of trust does the opposite—it makes our worlds smaller as we try to control our partners or subjugate our needs to theirs. When people don’t share the same fundamental values, or when we can’t trust our partners to be stable sources of attachment, insecurity and fear begin to dominate the relationship.

Lack of trust becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading us behave in ways that alienate and anger others. When we inadvertently push away other people, we are not able to receive the genuine love they may have to give us.

What To Do Instead  

Determine if you think the lack of trust is due to the way your partner has acted in the past or your own issues, or both. How much are you able to trust yourself? If you can’t trust yourself, what gets in the way—insecurity, an unhealed wound, an addiction problem, depression, or something else? 

If there are specific things your partner has done to erode your trust, it is important to begin talking about these in a non-blaming way. If necessary, decide what behaviors are unacceptable to you and set reasonable limits with your partner.

If you are suppressing important parts of yourself to accommodate your partner, it is important to acknowledge your unmet needs and work with your partner to find a solution that allows them in.

 Therapy is often necessary to help repair injuries due to affairs, addictions, or other forms of unavailability, instability, and control.

When we blame, we're attributing responsibility for some bad outcome to our partners. This behavior pattern may also include thinking we have a better way of doing things or that we know how they need to change, and trying to “fix” them.

Why We Do It

When something goes wrong, our brains automatically look for the cause and try to correct it.

This probably gave us an evolutionary advantage in enhancing our ancestor’s chances of surviving with threats of hunger and predators. Lack of control also makes many people feel unsafe.

Blaming and trying to fix our partners are ways of trying to have more control over important outcomes in our lives.

Most problems are multifaceted, and don’t have one linear cause. For example, a person may not find a high-paying job, despite his/her best efforts, because of geographic location, age, or economic conditions. Our partners may not actually be doing anything wrong.

In addition, some characteristics of a person, such as introversion, intelligence, emotional sensitivity, or energy level are relatively stable, biologically built-in, and unchangeable.

We may be viewing the issue through the lens of our own distortions, and our partner may have a different perspective. Blaming people often leads them to respond by defending their actions, counterattacking, or withdrawing.

This creates a negative cycle of miscommunication, anger, and hurt.

Blaming interactions can lead to what couples researcher Sue Johnson calls “Demon Dialogues”: negative communication cycles in which people get stuck trying to be “right” and in which the real underlying needs for connection, safety, or influence don’t get addressed. For example, in “Find the Bad Guy,” the couple gets stuck trying to prove that the other partner acted badly.

Take a good hard look at your own actions and assumptions, and how they may have, intentionally or unwittingly, contributed to the problem. Take full responsibility for your own contributions—be they miscommunication, unrealistic expectations, letting anger leak out, or being unsupportive.

If you feel your partner’s actions hurt you in some way, communicate this gently, using “I” statements and speaking about your own feelings and needs that were not met, rather than what your partner “should” have done. Make requests, not demands.

3. Criticism and Putdowns

Sometimes, partners begin making negative comments about their partner’s looks, desirability, character, or competence, commence name-calling, or engage in other disrespectful ways of talking to their partner.

There are many potential reasons that people criticize their partners. They may have learned this way of relating to others from their families and simply not realize the effect they are having. 

At a deeper level, personality may be at play—people who are narcissistic, for instance, tend to fear intimacy and therefore are vigilant for faults in their partner that may reflect badly on them, or indicate they made the wrong choice.

 Other times, people may hold onto unspoken anger, which then leaks out in the form of barbed comments.

Those who are untrusting or who fear abandonment may use criticism and putdowns to control their partners, so they (the partners) are less ly to assert themselves or leave.

Putdowns and criticism erode self-esteem and trust. Everybody has weaknesses. Loving somebody means understanding why a person is the way they are, and supporting their self-esteem and personal growth. Love also means seeing and appreciating strengths, rather than a constant focus on faults.

Researcher John Gottman describes “criticism” and “character assassination' as two of the four “Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” that, if not healed, predict the doom of a relationship. In some of his research with early-married couples, the frequency of these types of interactions in a videotaped discussion predicted marital breakup 10 years later!

Practice compassion and tolerance. Learn mindfulness or seek psychotherapy to help you begin to let go of what you can’t control.

If there are things we don’t about our partners, we can think about what happened in the person’s life to make them act that way, and the hurt child that often lies underneath our partner's anger.

It helps to refocus on fixing ourselves and meeting our own needs, so we are less reactive to these aspects of our partner or can provide compassionate support for growth,

Couples don’t always communicate about the feelings and needs that are most important to them. Alternatively, they substitute “secondary” emotions, such as anger, for the real, vulnerable emotions underneath. They may also respond to the partner’s attempts to ask for change by shutting down, acting passive-aggressively, or side-tracking the conversation to get away from feelings.

Nobody s to be vulnerable, especially if we feel that our deepest feelings and needs won’t be heard and respected by our partners. Alternatively, one partner may not know how to respond when his/her partner communicates unhappiness.

We may respond by trying to “fix” the problem, rather than listening empathically.

People who experienced early loss, abuse, or parental unresponsiveness, may be uncomfortable with their own or other people’s emotions and fearful of intimacy.

Emotional distance can cause each partner to doubt his/her needs can ever be met. Couples begin to feel “ roommates” or start to lead separate lives, with communication focused only on errands and logistics.

Sexual intimacy can erode, and feelings of hurt and loneliness emerge.

 One or other of the couple may try to get their needs met in other ways—such as through over-focusing on parenting, social status, substance abuse, working all the time, or affairs. Eventually, the couple may separate.

Rebuilding emotional intimacy begins with a willingness to be authentic with oneself and one’s partner. It also involves a courageous readiness to change; to give up certain habitual patterns we may have relied on for most of our lives. Couples therapy can be especially helpful in diagnosing destructive patterns and teaching new ways of relating.

Sometimes, one or both partners need individual therapy to address issues of mistrust, early emotional deprivation, trauma, or feelings of defectiveness. Restoring sexual intimacy involves making it a priority and seeing it as a way of getting both people’s needs met, rather than satisfying one partner at the expense of the other.

This involves restoring trust and safe communication, and focusing on different ways of expressing intimacy.

These hurtful interactions—in which people tear each other down or shut each other out—build up a reservoir of anger and injury, which, if not healed, will eventually destroy relationships. In my therapy work with couples, one or more of these problems is almost universally present.

The good news, however, is that we now have effective techniques to diagnose and heal negative relationship cycles and the insecure styles of attachment, traumas, or negative patterns of viewing the world that contribute to them.


Tips for Rebuilding Trust in Your Marriage

Trust Issues in Marriage: Advice for Couples

Verywell / Cindy Chung

Trust in an intimate relationship is rooted in feeling safe with another person. Infidelity, lies, or broken promises can severely damage the trust between a husband and wife.

That, however, does not necessarily mean that a marriage can't be salvaged.

 Although rebuilding trust can be challenging when there is a significant breach, it is, in fact, possible if both partners are committed to the process.

It takes much time and effort to re-establish the sense of safety you need for a marriage to thrive and continue to grow. Recovery from the trauma caused by a break in the trust is where many couples who want to get back on track can get stuck.

Research has shown that couples must address the following five sticking points in order to effectively move past a breach of trust:

  • Knowing the details
  • Releasing the anger
  • Showing commitment
  • Rebuilding trust
  • Rebuilding the relationship

Whether you were the offending partner or the betrayed, to rebuild the trust in your marriage, both of you must renew your commitment to your marriage and to one another.

Even in seemingly clear-cut cases of betrayal, there are always two sides.

 The offending partner should be upfront and honest with information, in addition to giving clear answers to any and all questions from their partner.

This will give the betrayed party a broader understanding of the situation. What happened, when, and where? What feelings or problems may have contributed to this situation? What were the mitigating circumstances?

Even minor breaches of trust can lead to mental, emotional, and physical health problems. Partners may have trouble sleeping or diminished appetite. They may become irritable over small things or be quick to trigger.

While it may be tempting to stuff all of the anger and emotions down, it is imperative that betrayed partners tune in and reflect on all the feelings that they have. Consider the impact of your partner's betrayal on you and others. Reflect on how life has been disrupted and all the questions and doubts that are now emerging. Make your partner aware of all these feelings.

Even the offending partner is encouraged to express any feelings of resentment and anger they may have been harboring since before the incident.

Both parties, especially the betrayed, may be questioning their commitment to the relationship and wondering if the relationship is still right for them or even salvageable.

Acts of empathy—sharing pain, frustration, and anger; showing remorse and regret; and allowing space for the acknowledgment and validation of hurt feelings—can be healing to both parties.

Building off of this, defining what both sides require from the relationship can help give partners the understanding that proceeding the relationship comes with clear expectations that each person, in moving ahead, has agreed to fulfill.

Both parties must work to define what is required to stay committed to making the relationship work. In communicating this, avoid using words that can trigger conflict (e.g., always, must, never, should) in describing what you see, expect, or want from your spouse. Instead, choose words that facilitate open conversation and use non-blaming “I” statements.

For example, favor “I need to feel a priority in your life” over “You never put me first.”

Together, you must set specific goals and realistic timelines for getting your marriage back on track. Recognize that rebuilding trust takes time and requires the following:

  • Decide to forgive or to be forgiven. Make a conscious decision to love by trying to let go of the past. While achieving this goal fully may take some time, committing to it is what's key.
  • Be open to self-growth and improvement. You can't repair broken trust with just promises and statements of forgiveness. The underlying causes for the betrayal need to be identified, examined and worked on by both spouses for the issues to stay dormant.
  • Be aware of your innermost feelings and share your thoughts. Leaving one side to obsess about the situation or action that broke the trust is not going to solve anything. Instead, it is important to openly discuss the details and express all feelings of anger and hurt.
  • Want it to work. There is no place in the process for lip service or more lies. Be honest about and true to your wishes.

Once the above points have been taken to heart by both sides, talk openly about your goals and check in regularly to make sure you are on track.

As the person who compromised the relationship, it may be hard or even painful to be reminded of your wrongdoings. Remember, though, that the above steps are essential to the process of repair and recovery. As you work on them:

  • If you are the one in your marriage who lied, cheated, or broke the trust, your partner needs you to show that the errant behavior is gone by changing your behavior. That means no more secrets, lies, infidelity, or anything else of the sort. Be completely transparent, open, and forthcoming from now on.
  • Be honest. Work to understand and state why the bad behavior occurred. Statements such as “I don't know” don't instill confidence or help you get to the root of the issue.
  • Take responsibility for your own actions and decisions; defensiveness will only perpetuate the conflict or crisis. Justifying your behavior what your spouse is doing or has done in the past is also not productive.

While moving forward hinges a lot on what your partner is able to show you, remember that work that you do also have a lot to do with your potential success. As you proceed, day by day:

  • Actively work on understanding why and what went awry in the relationship before the betrayal actually took place. While this won't help you forget what happened, it may help you get some answers you need to move on.
  • As hard as it may be, once you have committed to forgiving your partner, work on providing positive responses and reinforcement to help give your partner consistent feedback to things that please you or make you happy.
  • Know that it's also OK if you do not want to continue the relationship after considering the above steps or beginning them. Just be honest with yourself, and your partner and don't go through the motions just because you feel that is what is expected of you as a devoted partner.

While there's independent work to do, remember to:

  • Listen completely to one another.
  • Remind one another that you each deserve open and honest answers to your questions about the betrayal.

Once couples have committed to rebuilding trust, they must work on treating the relationship it is a completely new one. Both sides must ask for what they really need and not expect their partner to simply know what it is they want.

Do not withhold trust in this new relationship, even though it is with the same person. Withholding trust fear or anger will prevent you from emotionally reconnecting with your partner. This keeps your relationship from moving forward in a healthy way.

Instead, work toward rebuilding the relationship by doing the work required in building trust and rebuilding a mutually supportive connection. Come to an agreement about what a healthy relationship looks to you both.

Some examples include establishing date nights, working on a five year, ten-year and even 20-year plan together, finding your love languages, and checking in with your partner about how you feel the relationship is doing or if it is living up to your expectations.

Remember that all relationships require work. Even the closest of couples have to work hard at renewing the spark while working to grow in the same direction together, year after year.

You can work on building a healthier, happier, and more honest relationship if you address the five issues listed above, and hold onto the bigger picture: that getting through this is only possible if you stay strong and commit to working on it together.

A ​therapist can help you process what, why, and how of what happened to help you both move forward. Both parties must be open to seeking counseling to have a better understanding of what caused the trust to be broken, but know that you may want or need to seek individual therapy in addition to couples' therapy.

There are several forms of treatment for couples that are designed to re-establish trust, communication, and connection that can be especially helpful. Through continued work and therapy, you may even end up with a more solid marriage after going through such a crisis.


Is a Lack of Trust a Reason for Divorce? – Divorce Magazine

Trust Issues in Marriage: Advice for Couples

When thinking of reasons for divorce, many of us often think of infidelity, growing apart, and arguments over money matters as the main culprit. But the truth is, trust plays a large part in how successful your marriage will be.

A marriage that lacks trust is surely headed down the road to divorce.

Without trust, spouses will never feel comfortable in the relationship. They may be constantly expecting the worst from their partner. Not only is this an unhappy way to live, but it is also stressful and exhausting.

Is a Lack of Trust a Reason for Divorce?

Here are the biggest relationship problems that cause trust to break down, and advice regarding the role trust plays in a couple’s decision to get divorced.

Common Relationship Practices that Break Trust

1. Emotional or Physical Infidelity

Physical affairs: As a married couple, you are sharing your bodies and your lives together. You have vowed to love each other only, which makes cheating one of the most hurtful betrayals a person can experience. Being physically cheated on can leave you feeling empty, unappreciated, boring, ugly, and overall not good enough.

Emotional affairs: For some couples, emotional affairs can be just as painful or worse than a physical affair. While a one-night-stand, while painful, can often be written off as a mere sexual attraction, an emotional affair

Whether your spouse cheated once or is carrying on a full-fledged relationship with someone outside of your marriage, this act of disloyalty can destroy every last ounce of trust you once had for your partner.

2. Consistent Disrespectful Behavior

In a loving relationship, partners should be able to trust their spouse with their deepest secrets and biggest dreams without fear of judgment. They do not need to wonder whether their secrets will be used as fodder for gossip. They feel loved, respected, and supported.

One important piece of divorce advice regarding trust is that it isn’t always broken by some grand betrayal, such as cheating, but by disrespect.

Negative and toxic untrusting behavior include –

  • Shares private/personal information about the relationship with other people
  • Making big decisions without consulting a spouse
  • Purposely sharing something their spouse would find embarrassing
  • Confiding in others about matters before confiding in marriage mate
  • Being verbally disrespectful and dismissive of a spouse

These are all characteristics and actions that can create a breakdown of trust in a marriage.

3. Lying

You have ly heard it said that the basis of a healthy relationship is honest communication between partners. Communication is how partners get to know each other on a deeper level, how they connect emotionally, and how they build trust.

Relationships cannot succeed when communication is lacking and lies are present.

Even small lies can block emotional intimacy between partners. Lying to a spouse about little things can pave the way for lying about more important things in the future, your finances, attractions to someone outside the marriage, whether or not you’re happy in the relationship.

Even catching your spouse in a small lie can cause you to question whether they are being honest with you in the future, which can put you on edge and make you feel uneasy in the marriage.

4. Shift in Priorities

Sometimes trust is broken, not by a clear act of betrayal, but slowly over time. The daily behavior of a spouse can have a great effect on how we feel in our marriage.

A shift in priorities is one of the most common reasons for a slow breakdown of trust. For example, a spouse who no longer shows an interest in physical intimacy with their spouse puts their marriage in danger.

Studies show that regular physical intimacy is proven to boost trust, deepen emotional intimacy, improve verbal displays of affection, and reduce stress. Going without these important elements of a healthy relationship can send your marriage snowballing into disaster.

Someone who does not make time for quality time, intimate or otherwise, with a spouse is showing that they no longer value their partner. This can destroy trust and ruin a marriage.

Divorce Advice: Why a Lack of Trust Ruins Marriage

Once trust has been broken, it can be nearly impossible to get it back. Even if a couple manages to forgive and move on from a betrayal of trust, it can still take years to get back that bond they once shared.

Here are just some of the reasons why a lack of trust will ruin your marriage.

  • Inability to be VulnerableYou are vulnerable when you are physically intimate when you share your emotions, and when you communicate and problem-solve with your partner.

These are all extremely important aspects of a healthy relationship. Trust ruins your ability to be vulnerable with your spouse because you fear letting them in and being hurt again.

  • Suspicion and DoubtWhen your spouse breaks your trust, you feel constantly on edge. You no longer have that important foundation of trust and begin to question every text message they get or why they were five minutes late getting home from work.

The distrust hurts your heart and makes it impossible to fully connect with your spouse.

Not only is this an uncomfortable way to behave in a marriage, but it is emotionally exhausting and incredibly stressful to deal with.

  • Communication SuffersA lack of trust occurs when lies are present. If your spouse has the habit of lying (about things both big and small) it blocks your ability to communicate openly and honestly with one another. Without this communication, you will not be able to grow as a couple.

Trust is an important aspect of any relationship and it is easy to see how a couple could end up divorcing over the lack of it. The best divorce advice for couples on the brink of separating is to work on building trust back up.

Seek couples’ therapy, work on spending regular quality time together each week, and discontinue any dishonest practices against your spouse.

Rachael Pace is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. She is a featured writer for, a reliable resource to support healthy happy marriages.


Trust Issues

Trust Issues in Marriage: Advice for Couples

Trust is the act of placing confidence in someone or something else. It is a fundamental human experience. Trust is necessary for society to function. It can play a large role in happiness. Without it, fear rules. Trust is not an either/or proposition, but a matter of degree. Some life experiences can impact a person's ability to trust others.

Do I Have Trust Issues? Common Signs

Everyone has uncertainty about whom to trust and how much. It is not always clear when trust is appropriate. People make choices about whom and how much to trust every day. We are more willing to trust at some times than others. That is a good thing. A total lack of mistrust would be a serious problem. But judgments about when and whom to trust help keep us safe and alive.

Signs a person may be excessively mistrustful include:

  • Lack of intimacy or friendships
  • Mistrust that interferes with a relationship
  • Dramatic and stormy relationships
  • Suspicion or anxiety about friends and family 
  • Terror during physical intimacy
  • Belief that others are deceptive or malevolent without evidence

Sometimes mistrust plays a dominant role in a person's life. Past disappointment or betrayal may be at the root of the issue. Mistrust is a valid response to feeling betrayed or abandoned.

But pervasive feelings of mistrust can negatively impact a person's life. This can result in anxiety, anger, or self-doubt. Fortunately, people can relearn trust.

Working with a therapist can aid this process.

Where Do Trust Issues Come From?

Trust issues often come from early life experiences and interactions. These experiences often take place in childhood. Some people do not get enough care and acceptance as children. Others are abused, violated, or mistreated. These things may lead to difficulty trusting as an adult.

Social rejection in one's teens may shape their ability to trust. Some teens are bullied or treated as outcasts by peers. This can influence later relationships.

Being betrayed or belittled by others impacts self-esteem. Self-esteem also plays a large role in a person’s capacity to trust. People with low self-esteem may be less ly to trust others.

Those with higher self-esteem may be more self-assured.

Trauma and Trust Issues

Traumatic life events may also cause issues with trust and safety for adults. These life events could include:

Being physically violated or attacked can also impact a person's trust in others. This happens in many cases of rape or assault. Veterans of military combat may also have difficulty with trust. This is often due to stresses of wartime violence.

Posttraumatic stress (PTSD) comes from exposure to severe or perceived danger. It can lead people to experience great difficulty with trust. People may experience and re-experience the trauma in their minds. Anxiety often accompanies this trauma. People with PTSD can go to great lengths to create a feeling of safety. They may isolate themselves from others or become overly dependent.

What Are Trust Issues Associated With?

Under the medical model, trust issues can be linked with:

People diagnosed with schizophrenia and related conditions may experience paranoia. This is the unfounded but rigid belief that others are trying to harm oneself. Schizophrenia may also cause delusions and hallucinations.

Delusions are false beliefs, often with themes of mistrust. Hallucinations are usually imagined voices that may be critical or malevolent.

This condition is today thought to be best treated with a combination of medications and intensive therapy.

If you experience trust issues, you are not alone. People who seek help for trust issues are often able to regain a sense of trust in others. This may improve their relationships and overall sense of well-being.


  1. Zak, A. M., Gold, J. A., Ryckman, R. M., & Lenney, E. (1998). Assessments of trust in intimate relationships and the self-perception process. The Journal of Social Psychology, 138(2), 217-228. Retrieved from

Last Update:11-27-2019


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