Q&A: Restoring trust in our broken marriage

Q: My wife and I have wronged each other in many ways over the years. Affairs, lies, you name it. We’ve forgiven each other and committed to rebuilding our marriage. But how can we restore trust?

A: First, congratulations on your determination to fight for your marriage. That’s an encouraging sign!

When it comes to rebuilding trust, be wary of clichés and pat answers that promise quick solutions. It’s taken many years to build the wall of suspicion that now stands at the heart of your relationship. You can’t expect to tear it down in a single day. Restoring trust takes time.

This is especially true where the offences in question were unusually hurtful or if they’ve been repeated numerous times. When a person has been wounded, it’s difficult to trust again unless they can see tangible evidence that things are going to be different in the future. Here are some things that you and your wife need to look for as you seek to rebuild trust:

  1. Take personal responsibility for the damage done without shifting blame or adopting evasive tactics.
  2. Focus on empathy. Trust is hard to rebuild until your spouse knows that you really “get it”–that you deeply understand the hurt and pain you’ve caused. Sympathy is when you feel bad “for” your spouse, but empathy is when you feel bad “with” your spouse. Invite your wife to share how your behaviour made her feel, and vice versa. Empathy says, “I accept responsibility for my actions, but more importantly, I care that I hurt you.”
  3. Come up with a precise and definitive plan designed to prevent further offences.
  4. Commit to seeking counselling. This would include an active resolve to sort through all problematic issues and to make all the necessary changes.
  5. Demonstrate patience and forbearance in allowing both of you the time necessary to heal from the hurts you’ve endured without undue pressure.

When it comes to point #4, we hope you’ll call our Family Support Services at 03-7954 7920 or write to support@family.org.my.

© 2018 Focus on the Family.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

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