Is building trust a bit like sports or even Legos? Sports highlights are so fun. From the Olympics to college ball, we watch as someone does the seemingly impossible to win it all. He leaps to super-human heights to bring the football down in the end zone to win the game. Or she lands a gold-medal dismount on an injured ankle as the crowd goes wild. We cheer as they win against the odds.
Does your marriage feel like it’s up against slim odds of winning? His unfaithful actions have shattered your trust.
How can he start building trust after his betrayal?
That’s a great question without an easy answer. I wish there were a simple checklist for rebuilding trust, but there isn’t. But there is a roadmap—a bit-by-bit way to approach your relationship recovery.
Lasting trust is built through faithful, repetitive actions. It’s micro- and mini-steps day after day, week after week, month after month that prove his change of heart and mind. Steps that show you his desire to rid his life of pornography use.
For many men, that feels impossible and maybe not even necessary.
There’s a common lie that porn is a private matter and doesn’t hurt anyone. But your broken heart is evidence of that lie. His unfaithful behavior is a breach of trust. Big time!
So how do you rebuild that trust?
Because there’s no convenient checklist, the rebuilding journey looms like an insurmountable mountain for him. And, as a wife who’s been there, it often feels the same way for us. Is it possible to overcome this betrayal, the excruciating soul pain? Will you ever learn to trust your husband again? Can you rebuild?
Yes. You can.
Fourteen years after my husband’s confession of his porn addiction, I’ve learned to trust him.
No, it didn’t take fourteen years, but it did take a while. Trust isn’t something you can force.
“Trust building is an ongoing process that consists of multiple intentional factors divinely pieced together over the course of time with a heart attitude of humility and commitment. In reality, there is no formula for rebuilding trust . . . What is required of the trust builder is to continue to faithfully place pieces into the structure, not haphazardly but methodically. Not carelessly, but carefully.”
How did I know I could trust my heart to Dave again?
I saw his change of heart and intentional actions to leave the porn behind and knew he meant it. I also spent many hours talking with God about what Dave had done and if I should stay in the marriage. After discovering Dave’s addiction, I lost trust in God as well as in Dave. Therefore, I had to rebuild trust with God before I could hope to with Dave.
If you suspect your husband is addicted to porn:
- Please know how sorry I am.
- Don’t ignore it.
You might be tempted to forgive the offender (hoping it’s a one-time thing and not really digging any deeper) and go on as if nothing happened. Not only is that a false expectation, but it’s a dangerous one. If the offender doesn’t face any consequences for his choices and actions, if you go back to life as “normal,” you admit the porn doesn’t really cause harm. Nothing is further from the truth. You slapped him on the wrist, told him to straighten up, and then go back to living the way things were. How can you expect change when you don’t change?
While I saw my husband’s desire, I had to test the veracity of his words and desires by observing his actions.
Would his actions prove he was telling the truth? Words are cheap unless you see the changes in his daily actions.
God talks with us about our actions reflecting what we truly believe.
In the book of James, we’re challenged to consider how our actions reveal our true faith. Not our words (again, words are cheap) Review the following thunk-you-in-the-head, make-you-think passage with me from The Message translation (you haven’t heard it like this before):
Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.”
Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.
Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?
Actions prove our change of heart.
I couldn’t even hear “I love you” from Dave for several weeks after his revelation. But, time after time, Dave lived those words through small significant actions.
In Worthy of Her Trust, Jason Martinkus compares building trust to building a grand structure out of Legos. Great illustration. Get a picture of various Legos in your mind. Do you see them? How big are they?
Building trust AND building a structure out of Legos takes patience, imagination, and thoughtfulness.
When building trust with another person, the same techniques apply. Small, faithful, repetitive actions strung together prove the truth of the addict’s desire to change.
Frank A. Clark said, “Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things.” These little things prove trustworthiness. As the above Bible passage tells us, our actions reveal our true heart and belief system.
Where are you today on your healing journey?
Building trust in your husband again takes patience, faith, and thoughtfulness.
It may also take some creative opportunities for you to “win.” If your anger and hurt about his actions (which are justified FOR SURE!) make it impossible for him to do anything right, neither of you win. As you begin to establish a new “normal” in your relationship, look for ways he can rebuild that trust. Set each other up for some relationship “wins.”
You cannot continue as you always have.
Look where that led to.
Life must change after the discovery of his porn addiction.
Otherwise, you continue to repeat the destructive behavior and patterns that brought you to this point. Your marital design needs a reshaping. And your trust needs to be rebuilt.
Your road map to building trust and recovery starts by:
- Evaluating the Impact. Admit the truth about your crisis.
- Excavating the Rubble. Listen to each other. Ask questions to get the answers to the “crazy” thoughts racing through your mind. Seek repentance.
- Constructing the Shock Absorbers. Pray and study the Bible to gain God’s wisdom.
- Creating the Foundation. Intentionally create a “new normal.”
- Designing the Frame. Build your new marriage through creating opportunities for each other to “win,” practicing faithfulness in the small actions, and getting professional help when needed.
- Discovering the New Future. Practice gratefulness daily. Look for opportunities to honor and encourage each other. Learn to speak life to each other and together.
Build that Lego tower of love together.
One brick at a time, with extra, purposeful, engaged, authentic, honest, God-honoring, humble, covenant blocks for the foundation. Your marriage can be BETTER than it was before. Dave and I are living proof.
If you feel stuck or not sure what step to take, let’s talk. I work with women of all different ages whose husbands are addicted to pornography. We work one-on-one through the Aftershock Recovery Method’s six phases of recovery. Practical, powerful, life-giving lessons to provide a hand up and out of this pit of pain. A confidential first session is free. You can find hope and joy again. I’m here for you.