Question

My husband has betrayed me in countless ways over the years and we’re trying to work things out. However, he’s trying to force me to trust him sooner than I’m ready. I don’t know how to explain to him that when someone lies and lies, the other person can’t just trust. Or am I wrong? And, if so, then explain it to me.

Answer

When there have been betrayals, rebuilding broken trust isn’t easy for either party. It’s hard to not be trusted and it’s equally difficult to not be able to trust. I totally understand why both you and your husband would be tempted to push for restoring trust as soon as possible. When trust isn’t present, everything is more complicated. Decisions take longer, efficiency goes down, and energy is drained. I’ll share some thoughts on how to rebuild trust so you can decide how you want to proceed.

First, it’s important to honor the size and depth of the wounds you’ve experienced. We can draw helpful parallels between physical healing and emotional and spiritual healing. Elder David A. Bednar reminded us of this reality:

“Please remember…that the extent and intensity of your repentance must match the nature and severity of your sins—especially for Latter-day Saints who are under sacred covenant. Serious spiritual wounds require sustained treatment and time to heal completely and fully.”[i]

Recognize that even though the wounds can heal, we’re reminded that they will require “sustained treatment and time” to fully mend. I’ve observed that most of us try and bypass this process and either pretend we’re fully healed or expect others to be fully healed. This is always due to our inability to tolerate discomfort. As humans, we reflexively find countless ways to minimize our pain even if it might make things worse for us in the long run. However, healing and discomfort are impossible to separate. Dr. Jonathan Sandberg shared, “I have come to realize that my Savior cares more about my growth than He does about my comfort.”[ii]

Your husband is understandably uncomfortable with how long the trust building process is going to take. If he can see you responding to him from a place of relaxation, comfort, and safety, then he doesn’t have to manage the terribly uncomfortable reality of him violating his own values. If he’s going to rebuild trust with you, he must learn how to tolerate not only your pain, but also his own internal pain. This is one of the toughest tasks that often gets ignored as people race head seeking resolution.

We worship and revere the Savior because his suffering for our sins went the full distance. It was complete and met all the requirements of the law. Likewise, the people we hurt will feel much safer with us when they see us go the distance by feeling the full measure of what we’ve done without taking shortcuts. This isn’t about punishing someone for personal satisfaction, but rather seeing someone deepen their understanding and compassion for the hurt they’ve caused. This provides reassurance for the betrayed by signaling that the betraying partner now has a deeper experiential understanding that makes it less likely they’ll reoffend.

No one can force you to trust them. While we are commanded to forgive others, I can’t think of any place in ancient or modern scripture where we’re commanded by God to trust other humans.[iii] Trust is earned through consistent and humble effort.

You can let your husband know that his willingness to understand the impact he’s had on you will help you feel more trusting. However, if he continues to demand you trust him without this, you’ll both be attempting to thwart the natural healing process that you both deserve. He may not realize it, but this is an opportunity for him to develop into a more caring and loving husband. While it’s not your job to oversee his growth, it can be helpful to remember that the inevitable pain he’s experiencing because of his actions can help him.

Let him know you’d love to move past this as well, but you can’t risk giving it shallow treatment. If he’s unsure what he can do, start with inviting him to listen to your story and impact his behaviors have had on you. If he’s still impatient and pushy, it’s likely he doesn’t fully understand what you’ve experienced. A skilled couple’s therapist who understands relationship repair can help facilitate this sharing so it can promote growth and healing.

Not only are both of you hurting individually, but the relationship is also hurting. If you both want the relationship to advance forward, restoring trust is his responsibility and opening yourself to trust is your responsibility. You can seek spiritual and emotional healing on your own while encouraging and inviting trustworthy behavior from him to help heal the relationship. He can learn how to live in a more trustworthy way while managing the emotional pain that comes from this type of growth.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]  

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, host of the podcast, “From Crisis to Connection”, and creates online relationship courses. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

Download Geoff’s FREE guide to help you quickly end arguments with your spouse: https://www.geoffsteurer.com/3-steps-to-end-your-marriage-argument

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[i] https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2013/04/we-believe-in-being-chaste?lang=eng

[ii] https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/jonathan-g-sandberg/healing-courage-action-grace/

[iii] See D&C 64:8–11