Has your husband ever lied to you?
Did you forgive him? And then wonder why your heart still hurt? Why you still felt angry?
Forgiveness and trust are not the same.
Forgiveness is a gift you offer someone who has wronged you. But trust is not a gift that can be handed right back. Trust builds over time.
Do you ask yourself: “Will I ever be able to trust my husband again?”
That’s a great question and a heart-breaking one.
Trust is hard-earned and easily lost.
Picture trust like a bank account. Every day, you put a small deposit of pennies, nickels, or dimes into your bank account as you demonstrate trustworthiness. Slowly, the balance grows and even accrues a small amount of interest. But one day, he makes a major withdrawal: through a lie, looking at pornography, cheating on you, breaking a promise, or fill-in-the-blank. Though he apologizes for the breach of trust, asks for forgiveness, and changes his behavior, the bank account balance remains lower than it was. The withdrawal depletes the built-up balance.
What happens when the trust account is empty? Completely wiped out! Or even overdrawn?
Is it possible to rebuild?
It is possible, but it will take time. It takes changed behavior, concerted effort, and intentionality. Broken trust isn’t easily restored.
When my husband revealed his pornography addiction, he shattered my trust.
In my opinion, he took every cent in his account and flushed it down the toilet. From that moment on, everything he did or said became suspect in my mind.
“How can I know he’s telling me the truth?”
“Why should I believe a word he says?”
“What else has he lied about?”
“Has he ever told me the truth?”
I scrutinized every action, every word—not intentionally, but from a gut reaction to his betrayal.
I thought my entire married life was a lie!
Did I know this man I married? I thought I did, but the deep wound in my heart doubted everything. And, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be around him anymore.
As we sought help from others through accountability, coaching, and counseling, I made the choice to forgive him.
Then, we began the road of recovery. It wasn’t pretty, simple, or without stumbles. In some ways, it got worse before we saw signs of health. It felt like five pennies deposited with a dollar withdrawn. But then it got better. Little by little. What we learned about making healthy deposits we still practice today.
How are we still married more than ten years after I thought our marriage was over?
Can you learn to trust your husband after he betrayed you?
Choose to accept their words but seek proof through actions.
We all know words are cheap. You and I hear an average of 20,000 to 30,000 words per day and we speak at least 7,000 words. But of those words you speak, how many of them bring life, change a life, or have any lasting value?
When it comes to making trust account deposits, telling the truth in all cases is important, but those words must be backed up by actions. Imagine this. Your husband swears he’s not looking at porn anymore. But, while paying the bills online, you notice a weird website address in your browser history. It’s a porn site. A giant withdrawal from the trust account. Don’t look past this lie. Talk to your husband about what you found. Gauge his reaction, which reveals how sincere he is about recovery.
At our house after a long day of work, my husband likes to spend time playing video games on his laptop. However, as part of his recovery from his porn addiction, he doesn’t play video games unless I know what he’s doing. One evening, I noticed him sitting on the couch with his laptop open. An old, icky feeling rose up within me. I asked him what he’s doing (in a tone, less than lovely—that mommy tone—but not mean). And he showed me the email from a friend. And then, without my prompting, he opened his internet history to show me the last seven days of activity.
He made a deposit in the trust account. And I thanked him.
Install internet monitoring software on ALL internet-enabled devices.
Yours, his, and your children’ While this initially feels like an unnecessary burden, the resulting peace of mind you experience is worth it.
We use CovenantEyes.com. I recommend tracking software that sends a weekly report to you and your accountability partners. It builds trust because it reinforces with action his commitment to leave his addiction behind. When the weekly report comes in, review it together. Celebrate your victories. Address any stumbles without fail.
Why put this or something like it on your children’s devices? Most research says children are exposed to pornography before they start middle school. Explain to your children that a danger exists online that needs to be avoided and this helps them stay safe. If your child can access the internet, they can get into trouble just as easily as your addicted spouse. The porn industry would love nothing more than to have another addict and get them while they’re young. If your child knows others can see what they are looking at and searching that creates a layer of protection. It may also give them a desired “out” with their friends. “Nah, man, I don’t do that ‘cause I know I’ll get caught.” This transparency creates deposits in your trust account.
Grant access to all internet accounts.
Another commitment we made to build trust involved email account access. We install all email accounts for both of us on every internet-enabled device. Beyond that, we have the passwords to social network sites, online storage accounts, and any other area where secrets might be hidden. Removing the possibility of hiding something builds trust.
One day, while clearing out email, my husband called me over. He told me he wanted me to see something before he deleted it. A raunchy phishing email made it through our filtering software to his inbox. Though he only saw the preview of the email and didn’t open it, in full transparency, he wanted me to see it and watch his actions. By doing so, he made another deposit in his trust account.
Create an accountability group.
Would football players play the game without anyone on the sidelines or in the stands? Maybe, but it’s more fun when someone is rooting for you and seeing the success of your efforts. For that and other reasons, I love that my husband is in an accountability group—a few hand-picked men.
The key to a successful accountability group is men who care about your husband enough to speak the truth and hold him responsible for his actions. This group receives his weekly online software report. If they see anything questionable, they contact him to discuss and help him make corrections. My husband’s group also agrees to pray for him, meet regularly with him to encourage and exhort, and won’t ignore any struggles with porn addiction.
How does this create trust account deposits? He and I agreed to who is part of this group and I needed to trust them. Then I know I can ask any member of this group if my husband is complying with the agreed-upon habits and actions. I’d suggest you don’t demand details; simply accept their answers.
This group also gives the wounded wife an added layer of peace and protection. You know these men desire your husband’s full recovery from his addiction and holistic health.
You should not be your husband’s accountability partner. You need others to function in this role. He does too.
Start regular date nights.
I would guess you’ve heard this before, but a date night is valuable to your marriage. It has even more value for a marriage that is wounded or struggling. But that is when date nights usually evaporate.
It’s like after my ankle surgery, every nerve in my body screamed, “Don’t move your ankle!” But, to heal, I needed to work that part of my body so it didn’t atrophy and to make it stronger. I had to go to the source of pain and make a long-term choice for healing that didn’t always feel great. A year later, I’m thankful I made that difficult choice.
Date nights are your marriage-strengthening-exercises.
During these date nights, agree that certain subjects are off-limits: work, children, finances. Your goal is to rebuild your relationship, to learn to communicate in a new way, to smile, and to practice authenticity.
This is a good time to swap smartphones and allow each other to view all activity on your phones. Then, put the phones away. This establishes a healthy boundary for your relationship. Focus on each other not the phone.
Commit to open, honest, no-question-off-limits conversation. Choose places where you feel secluded enough to have this type of conversation. When we began this practice, we, gratefully, had kids in college so we could stay at home if we wanted. But, you can find other locations. Be creative. Explore new venues or activities you both enjoy as long as they allow for conversation. Use this time to make large deposits in your trust accounts.
Building trust takes time and intentional effort—one decision, word, action at a time. With each healthy deposit, decision, and action, you can learn to trust your husband again.
Maybe not immediately, but as you both commit to purity and authenticity in your marriage, you will replace that awful pain with trust.
We continue to work every day at building our trust accounts with each other. We’ve found new freedom and joy because we do this hard work. We also learned it’s healthy to disagree and even argue about something. Because that’s authenticity. There is no way that he and I are going to agree on everything or even interpret different situations the same.
Honest communication isn’t fake smiles and no disagreements. It’s real emotions and the safety to talk about what’s really going on. That’s what I desire for you.
For years I wondered why God allowed this horrible pain in my life. But I don’t wonder anymore. I believe God allowed this pain to draw me closer to him and to care for other women whose husbands are addicted to pornography.
Research shows that online porn viewing rates are just as high in men who attend church as those who don’t. And TechCrunch reports online porn viewing increases infidelity in marriages by 300%. I was shocked. But I’m not anymore. I know there’s a battle for our husbands’ hearts. And it is destroying marriages.
I help wounded women heal from this horrible pain. I offer free resources, a tender heart, and one-on-one help through my short-term After Shock Recovery coaching. You deserve to heal whether he decides to change or not. You don’t have to live with that pain. I can help.
To hear how Dave and I discuss this traumatic period in our life and how we came through it, watch this video.