The most common question I hear when supporting women whose spouse has sexually betrayed them is, how will I ever trust my spouse again? Usually, this question comes as a result of repeated betrayal from their mate. As a result, the marriage finds itself completely broken down, with no safe borders of trust found.
As I began to think about how to answer this appropriately, I realized that trust is bigger than I first realized. Trust has many components and when we take the time to break it all down, I believe we can all find the answers on how to trust again.
First of all, trust is built in small increments, in the very smallest of moments. When you have a moment to build trust with someone and you choose not to, that moment can become an act of betrayal to them. For example: if I see my spouse visibly struggling with something and choose not to take the time to go and sit with them and invite them to share with me their heart, then I send the message, “you are not that important to me.” That may not be your intent, but it is the subtle idea that is given. In that moment, I have said volumes. And I can promise you, that your spouse is picking it up. The exact opposite of that situation would be if I stopped what I was doing, went over to my spouse and with love and genuineness let them know that I see their frustration or pain and would like to listen if they are ready to talk. In that moment I have sent a powerful message. One that speaks, I am aware of you and I want to help in any way I can. I have now shown myself as trustworthy. When we prefer others over ourselves, in essence, demonstrate unselfish behavior, we have allowed ourselves to become trustworthy to others.
One of the definitions I like on trust is: Trust is choosing to make something important to me, vulnerable to the actions of someone else. When I open myself up to you as a friend or spouse, and allow you to see inside of me, I am giving you permission to show yourself trustworthy. Distrust is when I have shared with you what is important to me, and I realize it is not safe with you. Have you ever had a friend who repeatedly told you “the scoop” on someone else and it left you wondering…..if this person can’t keep the confidentiality of that friend, then how will she keep what is safe to me private. That person is letting you know they are not trustworthy.
Since it is very difficult to have connection with someone if we can’t trust them, how do we begin to trust? The first thing to understand is boundaries. There is NO trust without boundaries. This was a lesson I learned early on in my own healing journey. I can trust you when you are clear about your own boundaries and you hold them. AND when you understand and know my boundaries and keep them. When we practice sharing what our boundaries are with those we are in relationship with, we give them a clear picture of who we really are and what is important to us. We empower ourselves and this builds confidence and strength –something I believe that is vital in building trust. It is difficult for anyone to trust someone who is “wishy washy” and that comes across as wimpy!
The next important piece in building trust is personal responsibility. It becomes easy for me to trust you when you make a mistake, you own it for what it is, apologize, and make amends. This requires a great dose of humility, but I have seen this principle work powerfully in my own marriage and family. When we are accountable for our actions, we are telling others, I am a safe and mature adult. I see these two pieces going hand in hand – coupled together they paint a portrait of health and vitality. I can certainly respect and trust someone that is growing and demonstrating these qualities.
What about reliability? How is that related to trustworthiness? Trust happens between two people when you do what you say you are going to do. Not just once, but repeatedly. I prove myself to be a trustworthy person when I show consistency with my words and actions toward you. Hopefully, each of us has at least one friend whom we can call on in times of trouble or crisis. The friend we know will be there, no matter what time it is. When a spouse demonstrates to their mate that they have the ability to be present in whatever situation and offer a hand of support, then that spouse has just built an entire layer of trust in their relationship. Marriages with this level of commitment and trust will grow and flourish.
I see trust as a wall or border around individuals in relationships that keep both parties safe and whole. It is not an impenetrable wall, but something that is flexible and pliable. Picture a structure that can grow and be built upon repeatedly. Building trust takes time and lots and lots of patience. I like to use the word long-suffering to describe the process needed. As we determine and choose to work trust into our relationships, we WILL be challenged. However, when we are intentional every day, it will help us get further along the road to trust faster.
Lastly, self-trust is of utmost importance in creating trust between you and another person. If you can’t trust and love yourself, then it is going to be very challenging for others to trust you. If you make a mistake or fail miserably, forgive yourself and reevaluate your own boundaries. Explore within yourself what steps led up to the mistake and learn from them. Much growth will come to you as a result. None of us are perfect and we will have days when we stumble and fall. However, it is how you get up that makes the difference.
Every person has a deep desire to connect with others. I believe we are actually hardwired for this. First and foremost, is the connection needed between ourselves and our Creator. As we learn to trust Him, it becomes easier to trust others. As we build our relationship with God and connect with Him first, we are then able to walk in the power that He has given us to love, cherish and protect others. When we choose courage over comfort and choose to do what is right, instead of what is easy or fun, integrity is built inside of us. With this trait possessing us, we become a trustworthy person towards others. Perhaps you may not be aware of this, but you are always communicating to others the type of person you truly are.
Do not grow weary my friend, becoming a trustworthy individual is a process. But I can guarantee you that it will pay huge dividends in possessing strong, healthy relationships that will last a lifetime. One day you will look around and recognize that many valuable people surround you and enhance your life. These relationships will be the greatest riches you possess. Remember, it is in the smallest of moments when trust is built. Challenge yourself to slow down and open your eyes to new and powerful ways to create trust between you and those whom you love. I promise you will not be disappointed.
Lisa and her husband, Bill, have been married for over 27 years and raised 3 daughters. They live in the greater Houston area. Their passion is to mentor and disciple marriages so that couples can experience true intimacy, wholeness and healing. Visit their website at powerofhislove.com