Episode 16: Rebuilding Broken Trust

by | Last updated: Aug 28, 2023 | Podcast

Even in faithful relationships, we still betray each other day in and out, even if we don’t call it a betrayal. How is that so?

Well, betrayal can come in a variety of different forms, including any breach of trust. So how do you rebuild that trust?

In this episode, I will explain how we betray one another in our most intimate relationships and what contributes to continued breaches of trust.

We will talk about how forgiveness is not enough for healing betrayal and learn how to unwind that hurt into a safe, healthy relationship once again.

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

  • Kinds of betrayals
  • How hurt can layer
  • Forgiveness vs. healing
  • How to unwind pain
  • How to rebuild trust
  • The timeline for healing

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Book a Truth & Clarity Session with a member of my team. We’ll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there’s a fit for you and I to work together so you can make - and execute - the RIGHT decision for YOU and your marriage.

“Welcome to The Loving Truth podcast, where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now, your host, relationship expert and certified master life coach, Sharon Pope.

“Hello, loves. This is Sharon Pope, and this is The Loving Truth. Today we're talking about how to rebuild trust when it's been broken.

“Now, when I start talking about rebuilding trust, I think it makes perfect sense if there has been infidelity involved in your relationship. But I wanna back up from that and go a little bit more general in nature and just talk about the ways in which we betray each other inside of our most intimate relationship, because we betray each other sort of day in and day out, even if we don't call it a betrayal.

“So maybe we don't tell the full truth, or maybe we withhold information from our partners. That can be a betrayal. It can even be a betrayal when we share intimate, private details about our partner or about our relationship with our partner to someone outside of the relationship, a mother, a sister, a best friend. That in my mind is also a betrayal to the relationship.

“Maybe we make promises to our partner that we don't keep, or we send what might be construed as seemingly harmless but flirtatious texts, photos, messages back and forth. Going after our partner's triggers, knowing what buttons to press because we know where their wounds are. And so we go for the jugular. That can be a betrayal.

“And then of course, infidelity of any kind, whether it's an emotional affair, a physical affair, or whatever label you wanna put on it, any kind of emotional infidelity is also a betrayal to the relationship. Now, all betrayals erode trust. Obviously, some erode trust to a more significant degree than others, but they all erode trust in some way, shape, or form.

“And I think most people think that trust should just automatically be there. That trust should always be growing and be flourishing inside the relationship. And that even when it's been broken, as long as we don't continue the breaking, as long as we don't continue the affair, that trust will regrow again on its own. And I'm gonna challenge that today in this teaching.

“So let's put this into an example. So I don't often work with couples, but there was a few years ago when I was working with a couple; they had a young son and they had been married twelve years. And the woman had just recently found out that her husband had been having an affair with a woman from the gym for the last year.

“And as you can imagine, she was super emotional, and she was super distraught, and she did not feel secure inside the relationship. Now, he was saying and doing all the right things. They both wanted to make it work. He had cut off all communication with his affair partner, which means that when she was freaking out and monitoring everything that he was doing, she wasn't finding much.

“And if that's you, if you're in that zone right now where you're monitoring and tracking everything that your partner does, I definitely want you to go back and listen to the podcast that I did last week because it'll really help you.

“So, because he had stopped all communication, he wasn't layering on more issues for the couple to overcome. So that in and of itself is a good thing, right? When there are marital struggles that make a relationship vulnerable to infidelity, that's one layer of struggle in the relationship. The reason why affairs make everything so much more complicated is because not only do you have that layer of struggle, but now you have another layer of struggle to get through that. Now trust has to be rebuilt, and the hurt has to heal.

“And if you're gonna keep communicating with your affair partner, of course that's just gonna keep layering hurt on top of hurt on top of hurt. It's like, you know, if you have a gunshot wound in your chest, and you walk into the emergency room, they can't talk about stitching you up in rehabilitation. They've gotta stop the bleeding; they've gotta get the bullet out of your chest; they've gotta repair the tissue around where you were hit, then they can stitch you up, then they can talk about rehabilitation for you, right? So we've gotta stop the bleeding when something like this happens. But just stopping the bleeding doesn't heal it. There's still more work to do, right? There's still the, the stitches that have to be put in place.

“You don't walk around with a big gaping wound just cuz the bullet is out, right? So there's still some more work that has to be done. Now, I said that they both wanted to make it work. And so that in and of itself is a good thing because they're in agreement on that. Now, if you want to remain in your relationship, or you even think you might want to try to remain in your marriage after infidelity, then there's going to be some work that you're going to need to do in order to rebuild that trust.

“Now, when this client came to me, it was the woman who came to me, but her husband was absolutely willing to work with me as well. So when she came to me, I think she probably thought, ‘You know, Sharon will teach me how to forgive and forget and move on. Not exactly - first of all, it's way too soon to talk about forgiveness. Also, I am a fan of forgiveness because I think that a lack of forgiveness or caring resentment is a heavy heavyweight to carry. So ultimately, yes, I would want her to forgive that, but not today.

“And I'm a fan of forgiveness, but I am not necessarily a fan of forgetting. This idea of “forgive and forget,” to me, is kind of nonsense because when someone hurts you deeply, I don't think you should forget that. I actually don't think it's possible for you to forget it. Even if you say you did, I think you're just kind of BSing yourself.

“But I think that you now know something about that person in terms of what they're capable of that you didn't know before. And I think that's important information. And so forgive yes, but not necessarily forget because now you need different boundaries in that relationship, knowing that they're capable of hurting you in a very deep way.

“So to forgive and stay in the marriage, she needs to rebuild that trust, right? And it's not more monitoring and more control that she needs to put on him. She needs to feel more trust and more security inside the marriage. Now, contrary to popular opinion, trust doesn't just happen automatically. I have seen so many couples where infidelity has been present and the person that cheated stops cheating or says they stop cheating, which by the way, there's usually an unwinding of that. Lots of stories we tell ourselves like, ‘Well, I can't just not talk to them. Like, I wanna make sure that they're okay. I just wanted to check in. I just wanted to say…’ It’s very unusual that someone is in a relationship for, call it months or years, they're intimately involved, they may even see a future with this person, and then just because they get found out on that exact day, they never speak to that person again. Or that the affair partner doesn't try to come back into their life in some way, shape, or form.

“That's what I mean by that unwinding, right? So a lot of times there are elements of that happening, even if it's the affair partner trying to insert themselves again. So it doesn't just happen. So the person who cheated, they stopped the bleeding, they stopped cheating, and then they go on with their lives, and they're waiting for their partner to get over it. They're waiting for their partner to do whatever they have to do to heal so that they can come back together as a couple.

“And I'm gonna say something here that if you are the one that cheated, I promise you won't like it, but I promise you it's true. And that is, if you are the one that eroded the trust, if you're the one that betrayed the relationship, it is now your responsibility to rebuild that trust. Yes, your partner has a responsibility to do their work, to heal from this hurt that you inflicted. Yes, they do have work to do, but you have the work to do to rebuild the trust. I'm gonna say that again cuz it's not common knowledge, right?

“If you are the one that betrayed your partner, you're the one that eroded the trust, then it's on you to rebuild that trust. It's not enough to just stop the bleeding and say all the right things. There are some other things that you're gonna have to do in order to rebuild what was lost, okay? And if you are the one that has been cheated on, it's not all on you to do all the healing work and to rebuild the trust for yourself in the relationship.

“That's not your responsibility. That is your partner's responsibility. And if you keep picking it up, they won't pick it up. So I want you to leave that as their work to do inside the relationship. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, okay, that sounds reasonable, but what does that actually look like? So let's talk about it. Let's get really specific, right?

“If you are the one that betrayed, and you are the one that is trying to rebuild trust inside the relationship, that means that your partner has your passcode on your phone, or you don't have a passcode on your phone, whatever. But they have easy access to your phone, and you initiate giving your phone to them; there are not these secret apps that aren't on your phone, that you're not deleting different messages. You just walk through the door, and you hand over your phone or you lay it down, and it's face up, right?

“People who are keeping secrets watch 'em. They always turn their phone face down so that no one can see when a notification comes up and what it might say, right? So you just get really transparent with your partner, and you don't keep secrets in your phone.

“I've said this before, technology makes it pretty easy to have affairs. It also makes it pretty easy to find out about affairs because there is always some kind of betrayal. So that's the first piece you offer up - the phone. Don't wait for the person who was betrayed to ask you for your phone. Make it available to them whenever they're feeling the need, when they're feeling insecure, and they need that reassurance.

“The other thing that you've gotta be willing to do is you've gotta be willing to dive into, ‘How did we get here?’ Right? ‘What was going on within me or within the marriage that made our marriage vulnerable to an affair to begin with? And then what was going on within me that made me make the decision to get involved in a relationship with someone else?’

“Now, there might be circumstances; there might be a series of thoughts. Like, let's just take an example. If I have the belief that I'm not good enough or I'm not desirable, if I have that thought, that's gonna create insecurity within me. And if someone comes along and shows me that I am desirable and that I am worthy and that I can be loved, now I feel really seen and now I feel really connected. And that's why that emotion is what I make the decision to get involved with someone else based upon, right?

“So it's our thoughts that are leading to our emotions and our emotions drive our behaviors. You've gotta be able to dive into that. So many times I see people who have had like - let's say that the woman's been cheated on and the man had the affair. And she says to her husband, ‘Well, tell me about what about our marriage wasn't working for you that made you get involved in an affair?’ And he says, ‘Well, nothing. It was fine.’ She says, ‘Well, then why would you get involved in an affair? Why would you get involved with this woman?’ And he says, ‘I don't know.’

“No - no, that is a complete cop-out. Okay? The phrase ‘I don't know’ means ‘I don't wanna answer that question.’ ‘I don't know’ means ‘I don't want to go there. I don't wanna answer that question.’ It's like the easy button, like the pass button. ‘I just wanna pass. I don't wanna answer that.’ So in order to rebuild trust, you've gotta be willing to go there. You've gotta be willing to answer some questions for yourself and your partner about what created an environment that made you vulnerable to an affair and what was going on inside of you. What is it that you were seeking and or running from that led you into the arms of someone else, because you didn't just trip and fall into bed with someone else?

“Can we agree? Like that wasn't just like, ‘Oh, it was just a big accident. I just tripped and fell and here I was’ - like, there was a series of things, even if you weren't out looking for it; there was a series of things that transpired that caused that. And you've gotta be willing to go there.
Now, I'm not suggesting you should share every intimate detail about your affair with your partner. I had a client one time who kept asking all sorts of questions; be careful, my friends. Do not ask questions that you actually don't want the answers to, because when you get those answers, it's really hard to un unhear them or to unsee them in your mind.

“So I'm not suggesting that you should share every single intimate detail about that relationship, but I am suggesting that you gotta understand your own motivations and behaviors. Otherwise, why would your partner, or why would you for that matter, ever think that the next time you feel insecure, or the next time you get stressed, or the next time you feel lost and confused, whatever it was that caused you to be vulnerable, the next time you go there that you're not going to react and respond with a similar response?

“It could be an affair with the same person; it can be an affair with a different person. By the way, multiple affairs are actually very common when we don't understand our own motivations or heal those wounds. But also, there are plenty of ways that we can run from the struggles in our lives, that we can avoid the difficulties in our marriages, right? You can use alcohol, you can use food, you can use affairs, you can overwork, you can throw yourself into the kids. Like there are a ton of ways that we can distract and avoid life's difficulties, okay?

“But you have to know yourself, and you have to be able to communicate that with your partner to give both of you some comfort so that when life throws something at you again, you're going to be able to react and respond differently, and you won't just find another way to distract and numb. Now, your partner feels that they're not chosen, right? Let's say if you were having an affair and you eroded the trust, and then you come back to the relationship, and you're some degree of all in, and you're like, ‘I'm so sorry. I wanna make this work. I'll do anything.’ Okay, that's lovely. Or ‘I think I wanna make this work.’

“Regardless, your partner does not feel chosen by you, right? When you betray this relationship to be with someone else, of course they don't feel chosen. Of course they don't feel secure in this relationship, and so don't assume that they're going to automatically feel chosen. Go out of your way to make sure they know that you are there because you're choosing to be there, that there's nowhere else you'd rather be, right? Help them to feel chosen in the relationship.

“Another thing I will tell you is there is no specific time limit or timeframe on which someone will just get over an affair, right? Oh my goodness. So many times I have seen where there's been infidelity, the person who cheated has stopped cheating, and the person who was cheated on still has some insecurity, still has some anxiety months later. And whether we say it out loud or we just think it, that person who cheated has an idea of like, ‘When are you just gonna get over this? Like, how long am I gonna have to pay for this? Can't you just focus on the future? Why do you have to keep going back to the past?’

“Look, there is no specific timeline that every single person on the planet should follow to heal from a betrayal. It's probably not three months, and it's probably not three years, right? If we're hanging onto this, and we're still feeling that same level of anxiety and insecurity three, four, or five years later, okay, there's a choice that we are choosing to hang onto this hurt because we're getting something from hanging onto it, but it's also not three months. Okay? It's going to take some time to rebuild that trust, and that timeframe is only going to elongate the more that we don't answer the questions, the more that we avoid being able to dive in, the more that we avoid being open and transparent with our partners.

“And then the last thing that I would say in terms of ‘What does this look like to rebuild trust?’ is related to when there is something to share, that you share it. Here's what I mean. Let's say you go out for drinks with some folks after work, and you run into the person who was your affair partner at that restaurant or bar. That is a moment of opportunity for you. What will most people do? They might say hello. They might do some very polite greeting, but they wouldn't go home and tell their partner about it because they would assume there was nothing to tell. It wasn't like we went to the bathroom and started making out or something. We just had some polite conversation and left it at that.

“But this is a moment of opportunity to rebuild that trust. Let's say instead of ignoring it, instead of keeping another secret, you went home and you said, ‘Babe, I've got something to tell you. I ran into (whoever the affair partner's name is). I ran into them at the restaurant. I said, hello? I said, how are you? She said, fine. I'm doing well. How are you? I said, I'm doing really great. I hope you have a good week. And then I turned, I walked over to my group and I said, you know what guys? I gotta go. It's getting late. I'm gonna get home. And I left, and I came home, and I told you.’ That, my friends, is how you rebuild trust instead of keeping it a secret.

“And then, God forbid your partner find out about that. You kept a secret. Now we've got another wound on top of the old wound that just reinforces this idea that ‘I can't trust you or you be completely transparent.’ It wasn't that you set it up, it wasn't that you did anything wrong. You happen to be in the same place at the same time. But going home and being really honest with your partner about that is an opportunity to really rebuild that trust.

“I hope that this conversation has really given you something to think about, because the way that I see couples trying to heal from infidelity, it's not working very well. It almost requires the person who has been cheated on to abandon and betray themselves in order to just get over it so that they can keep the relationship. And what I wanna do is flip that on its head and go, you know what? If you were the one that was cheated on and you were hurt, of course you've got some healing work to do as it relates to that hurt that frankly was inflicted upon you.

“You two also as a couple have some work to do because affairs don't happen in loving, connected, committed, happy relationships. So there was something going on in the relationship that made it vulnerable to an affair. And the person who had the affair, who eroded the trust, it's now your responsibility to build that trust back up. And it looks like those tools that I gave you;

it's not rocket science, but we cannot just presume that trust should automatically be granted, especially when it has been eroded repeatedly.

“All right? Until next week, take really good care. If you're listening to this podcast because you're struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage and you're serious about finding that answer, it's time to book a Truth and Clarity session with a member of my team.

“On the call, we'll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there's a fit for you and me to work together so you can make and execute the right decision for you and your marriage.

“Go to clarityformymarriage.com to fill out an application now. That's clarityformymarriage.com.”


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