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Trust Issues in Marriage: 9 Steps to Rebuild Your Relationship

Dr. Yvette Stupart is a clinical counselor and educator. She gives insights on how to experience emotional health and relational well-being.

Trust is vital for a strong marriage.

Trust is vital for a strong marriage.

What Are the Causes of Trust Issues?

Building a relationship that is honest and dependable is important to every successful marriage. Consistency is an important ingredient in building trust in a relationship. It is easy to trust your spouse if you know what to expect from him or her in certain situations, and if your spouse will do what he or she says.

Trust issues are likely to block intimacy and growth in marital relationships and could stem from various factors.

Causes of Trust Issues

  • Being secretive (e.g., locking their phones)
  • Hiding details
  • Lying
  • Breaking promises
  • Gambling
  • Infidelity (now or in the past)

If there are trust issues in your marriage you can take steps to rebuild trust and rekindle the romance in your marriage. However, this needs the commitment of both you and your spouse. In the video below, Dr John Gottman, relationship researcher, explains the importance of trust in relationships. You can start now on the path of a more trusting relationship by implementing the steps and strategies outlined in this article.

John Gottman: The Importance of Trust

1. Admit and Commit to Deal With Trust Issues

The first step to take is to admit that there are trust issues in your relationship. If the issues are not resolved this could lead to resentment and further loss of trust.

If you are the one at fault, instead of remaining in denial, you need to take responsibility for your behavior. This means that if you were unfaithful, for example, apologize sincerely to your spouse. Never try to minimize the issue or your spouse's feelings about the situation.

Both of you need take steps to deal with the issue, as you are in it together, no matter who is to blame. Take steps to strengthen your marriage, for example, in the case of infidelity, you might need to infuse greater appreciation for your spouse and increase the time you spend together.

Let your partner know that he or she is important to you; this could have been a missing link that contributed to the behavior. Start becoming more attuned to each other's needs.

2. Create a Safe Emotional Space

In her book, The Courage to Trust, Cynthia Lyn Wall explains that trust is the foundation of every significant relationship. Her book illustrates self-discovery exercises to help readers understand trust as a feeling, as a choice and as a skill that can be learned.

With this understanding, you can create a safe emotional space, and you are able to express your feelings without the fear of being ridiculed or rejected. Trust is able to grow and blossom in an atmosphere where there is affirmation and give and take for each other.

Start with demonstrating trust in your spouse, as you give trust to your spouse it is likely that you will receive it. In this type of atmosphere, you can overcome the barriers to trust and intimacy in your marriage.

Couples Coping With Trust and Fear Issues

3. Improve Communication Patterns

Better communication is likely to improve trust in your relationship. It is through effective communication that you and your spouse express your deepest thoughts and feelings.

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Listening is an important component of good communication, so you need to practice to listen to each other actively. Also, learn to express you needs and desires plainly, and be clear about what you need, as your spouse is not a mind reader

If you’re the one who is hurt by the trust issues, try to actively listen to your spouse. Let he or she know you want to hear what he or she has to say. But also share your thoughts and feelings honestly. If you caused the breach in trust, recognize that your partner may need to understand what happened.

This does not mean continuing to rehash of the details. But this could help your spouse to understand the situation better so that the healing process can start.

4. Solve Interpersonal Conflicts

Relationship researcher, John Gottman, describes four types of couples in relation to how they solve interpersonal conflicts, these are:

  • Volatile couples fight openly but are responsive to each other’s feelings.
  • Validating couples focus on communication, compromise, and understanding each other's point of view
  • Conflict-avoiding couples avoid confrontation and focus on their common attributes and values
  • Hostile couples argue with insults, put-downs, and sarcasm without listening to each other.

According to Dr Gottman, the first three types of couples have a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. However, the toxic interactions of hostile couples during conflicts seriously put their relationships at risk.

You need to consider where you fall on this continuum and ensure that your conflict resolution style facilitates building trust in your relationship. For example, try to focus on the issue, and don't bring up old ones. Use I-statements and try not to resort to name-calling.

5. Work Together to Solve Trust Issues

Working through trust issues in your marriage requires patience for it takes time to build back trust. Don't see yourselves as adversaries, but as partners with common needs and goals, and you are working to achieve them.

Don't get defensive and blame each other, this will never solve the problem. Instead, listen to each other and try to make things right. Create a practical plan on how you will deal with trust issues you face.

If, for example, infidelity led to the break in trust, as a couple you need to decide on specific steps of accountability. This could include providing access to cell phones and email accounts. What is important is that you both work together to build and improve your relationship.

Working through your trust issues could lead to a satisfying relationship.

Working through your trust issues could lead to a satisfying relationship.

6. Become More Consistently Trustworthy

When you or your spouse is inconsistent or constantly breaks promises, this opens the door to trust issues. Instead, you both need to commit yourselves to become consistently honest and reliable. This means that you do what you say, and you are where you are supposed to be when you say you will be there.

Make a commitment to stop keeping secrets and hiding things from your spouse, as keeping secrets is a form of dishonesty which breaks trust. It will take some time to build trust again, will need more openness with each other.

For the spouse who breached trust, commit yourself to become open to your partner. When he or she sees that you are consistently honest, it is easier to trust you again. To build the openness, honesty and trust will mean taking practical steps like sharing passwords on computer and phones and checking in at different times a day.

How to Rebuild Trust in Your Relationship

7. Build Self-Esteem

Your self-esteem is the picture you have of yourself and whether you like that picture or not. Feelings of insecurity stemming from low self-esteem could impact negatively on your relationship.

In contrast, if you are a person with high self-esteem you exude confidence and respect for self, and you are more likely to be trustworthy and trust your spouse.

Do things to strengthen your self-image, then you are more likely to be assertive and express your needs for a more satisfying relationship. This also means affirming, accepting and appreciating your spouse.

8. Let Go of Unforgiveness

Unforgiveness is like a deadly poison to your relationship, so let go of the bitterness and resentment. Yes, the pain of broken trust stemming from issues such as infidelity is deep, but if you decide to move on in your marriage relationship, you need to forgive.

On the other hand, although you might have been the one who was hurt, you could find that you need forgiveness for your critical and judgemental attitude. And this also means forgiving yourself, and then you are more open to extending compassion to your spouse, to forgive him or her.

As you change and grow as a couple, your marriage could rebound and the spark return to your relationship. You could get further help from Gary and Mona Shriver’s book, Unfaithful: Rebuilding Trust After Infidelity. The Shrivers share how couples can get through the struggles of infidelity, and rebuild trust in their marriages.

9. Seek Couple's Counseling

You might need to get professional help if you are finding it too difficult to work through the trust issues on your own. Both of you must be committed to the change process and not expect the therapist to "fix" the other person.

Therapy could help you to identify the sources of the trust issues and explore deep issues that are causing trust problems in relationship. This process could not only help you to learn to trust again, but also to separate past trust issues from your present relationships.

Summary of Steps to Build Trust in Marriage

StepsWhy this is ImportantExpected Results

1. Promote safe emotional space

Feel free to express you feelings and desires in an affirming environment

Greater knowledge of each other's needs, better able to meet them

2. Build healthy communication patterns

Actiive listening; greater understanding and compassion

Better understanding of each other's needs

3. Ensure fair fighting

Build positive interpersonal conflict style

Deal with the issues satifactorily

4. Strive to be trustworthy

Consistent honesty, openness and relabilty

Leads to increased levels of trust

5. Build healthy self-esteem

Promotes confident and secure self

Enhances trust and affirmation that strengthens relationship

6. Forgive and move on

Let go of bitterness that could harm your relationship

Enhances opporunities for both of you to change and grow together

7. Seek professional help

Deali with underlying trust issues

Break from past pains; prepares you for a deeper relationship

Final Thoughts: Moving to a Trusting Relationship

It will take the commitment of both spouses to put the relationship back on track, but the good news is that it possible for you to enjoy a strong and satisfying relationship again. Be patient with each other as it takes some time to build back trust.

Strive to remain consistent, reliable and open in your relationship. Focus on building the type of relationship you want, and guard against lapsing into undesirable behaviors.

To continue to build trust in your marriage relationship means making a conscious effort to be open and honest in your relationship. Each of you need to take responsibility for your behaviors and the decisions you take and let go of the "blame game."

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Yvette Stupart PhD

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