Rebuilding Trust in a Relationship

I’ve addressed forgiveness in a previous blog post, but today I want to talk to you about trust. While I’ll specifically be addressing this issue in the context of marriage, the principles apply to all relationships.

Do you need to rebuild trust in your relationship?  If so, there are a few things you need to know.

First, notice that the word “rebuild” implies that a relationship has been torn down and needs to be established once again. Something you said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do, to your spouse, child, relative, or friend, has adversely impacted your relationship with them.

Second, trust is not something that anyone owes you.  Trust must be earned. That means that you need to provide something to the other person in order for them to trust you once again. It is not something you just do one time, but rather need to display them consistently, day in and day out, over a period of time.

Third, to trust you, the other person must have complete confidence, from this day forward, that:

1. You are who you say you are. In a marriage relationship, for example, you are either a husband or a wife.  And when you got married, you probably promised to be there for each other “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…till death us do part.” You also committed to become “one flesh.” That means the other person should be able to rely upon those promises—that you will not tear the marriage apart and that you will be there, as their husband or wife, no matter what happens.

2. You will always speak the truth. There are no such things as “little white lies” or “half truths.”  What you say is either true or it is not. Let me illustrate.  If your wife asks you something simple like, “What have you been doing?” Don’t just answer, mowing the lawn if you have also been watching television and posting on Facebook. Remember, truth is the whole truth.  To rebuild trust, speak truth in everything, big and small. Doing so will help build the other person’s confidence in your trustworthiness.

Speaking truth also means not keeping secrets from your spouse. Whether it’s a purchase you made, an addiction you have, an illness you’re experiencing, or where you’ve been, nothing should be kept from your spouse.  A surprise party may be an exception! Sharing challenges, problems and your emotions with your spouse may be difficult initially, but will help rebuild trust and ultimately intimacy in your relationship.

3. You will always do what you say you’ll do.  In simple terms, when you say you’ll do something, the other person can “check it off the list” or “take it to the bank.” It’s a “done deal.” If for some reason, you are unable to do it, let the other person know immediately. Also, the seeds of suspicion and distrust seem to germinate when the person working to rebuild the trust does unpredictable things.  So, for example, if you are going to be unusually late coming home from work, tell your spouse and let him or her know why.

As you rebuild trust in your relationship, remember that one of the best things you can do is to ask the other person, “What can I do to earn your trust once again?” Then, be sure to listen carefully and take action.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Millesmark

    this page is important to me because i really want to trust my husband, hes broken trust with lies about addiction but it has affected all areas of our relationship so if you have anything more on trust-bring it!

  • Millesmark, I’m pleased that it is helpful. I hope there is a way that it can be shared with your husband.

  • Gillespie

    That is powerful stuff Mark. You are right on target! I’m passing this on to my children. In this age of social networking these young relationships need wisdom and understanding. I remember over a decade ago when we were building the First Family First website, we spoke of both the positives and negatives of social networking on the internet. I just wanted to stop by and say that you are a beacon of truth brother! Your choice of subject and the way you are using these new tools is amazing.

  • So good to hear from you, Don! Thanks for your encouragement.

  • Thanks Mark. Today, I was searching for a framework relating to forgiveness for a situation that I need to handle tomorrow. Your distinction, counsel and discernment between trust and forgiveness is perfect!

  • Wendella1

    We have a 15 year old daughter whom we are having a hard time trusting due to her being dishonest about what is going on in her life…lying to get away with things etc. She has asked us to trust her again and wants to know what she can do to regain our trust. Couls you offer some concrete ways to do that? thanks

  • Peggy_moralez

    Thanks so much for these words for they are music to my ears. It’s just unfortunate that some don’t understand these principles and live by them. So much for love if one is unsure about what they think their love stands for, only to take it away from the one they gave it too. Daniel you know who you are, so yours words don’t mean any thing any more because of your actions. This is where so many who call themselves Christians go wrong and lead people and their families astray because they don’t live by these laws, and then wonder why it is people don’t want to associate themselves with the people in the church because of their interpretations, and carry on as though you have a license to sin, and to be christian is just about just being forgiven. Thanks so much, spoken by a man who knows how to tell it like it is!

  • Rocket

    The relationship also needs to be 2-sided in pursuing this goal of trust. If one partner is willing to work at the relationship 100 percent and the other partner just feels that 60 percent is good enough then that will result in arguing or perhaps not even communicating and then the relationship is lost. You need to put the past in the vault and focus on the future.

  • You are so welcome, Rich!

  • sapl

    I completey agree with what Mark says about trust and it being something that is earned. I disagree with the definition that was given for forgiveness. It was said that forgiveness is unearned and I totally disagree with that. I think forgiveness and trust go hand in hand and must both be earned. I do think that something that can be given that is unearned is grace and acceptance. We can accept people and love them anyway when they make mistakes or hurt us, but I feel that it would be risky to trust them and sincerely forgive them when they have not taken actions to receive those two precious gifts.

  • AtlantaGirl

    Love is Unconditional
    Trust is Earned

  • Jackie Mclanahan22

    We also have a 15 year old that to our knowledge has lied to us just this once. He keeps saying that his punishment is unfair because he just lied ONE time. We are trying to get him to understand that lying just once is as big as lying continually. It causes the same damage to a relationship. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s comforting to know that we are not the only family experiencing this problem.

  • Shane

    I am in a new relationship after a divorce. My fiance is recently divorced as well. One of my BIGGEST problems is trust. It is hard for me to trust anyone. I have gone to counseling and basically know where it stems from.

    My fiance has done nothing to make me distrust her, and does everything to earn my trust. We have been completely honest with one another from our first date. So, why is it so hard for me to have complete trust? She trusts me 100%.

  • Wow!, This is kind of different Wonder what will be around the corner!

  • Seeking peace

    How do you bury past mistakes of others in a vault when their old behaviors start to resurface? I want to trust that my husband tells me the truth now, but when behaviors that occurred before start occurring again, how do I seperate the two? Should I?