If You Have Broken Trust in the Relationship
If you are the one who has broken trust in the relationship it is likely that you are feeling a great deal of regret and shame. You see the pain that your actions have caused your spouse and you wonder how in the world you got to this place. If you are serious about saving your marriage, it is important that you resolve yourself to wholeheartedly focus on being able to answer yes to the following four questions.
- Have I Ended It?
- Have I Disclosed It?
- Am I Owning It?
- Am I Willing to Do What It Takes?
Have I Ended It?
You cannot heal your marriage if you are still leaving the door open to whatever or whoever caused the broken trust in the first place. Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” This verse speaks to the dangers of a divided heart and it has applications for healing a broken marriage as well.
Think of it this way, if somebody broke into your house and physically harmed your family, you would go to great lengths to secure and protect your family so that it could not happen again. The same principle applies to your marriage. Emotionally, your spouse is feeling like somebody broke into their life and caused great harm to their sense of safety and well being. They feel exposed and violated.
Just like you would go to great lengths to secure and protect your house from a threat, you need to be willing to go to great lengths to secure and protect your relationship. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Do what you need to do to make it clear to everyone that you have eradicated the threat. Your marriage is not going to begin to heal if you have left the door open in any way.
Have I Disclosed It?
The old saying, “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” is a lie when it comes to healing a marriage. One of the cruelest things you can do to your spouse at this stage is to fail to make a full disclosure. A full disclosure is a process of writing down and sharing with your spouse all pertinent information from your past and present related to the betrayal. It is important to get this right and to be thorough. Working with a therapist to guide this process for both you and your spouse is recommended.
You might tell yourself it would be too painful for them to know everything. It is easy to use this reason as an excuse for withholding information. On the one hand, you are right in that the whole truth will be incredibly painful for them. However, the pain of knowing is not nearly as great as the pain of getting blind sided all over again when new information is revealed.
Perhaps you fear if they knew everything, there is no way that they would stay in the marriage. The reality is they may choose to leave. However, it is unfair for you to unilaterally make that decision for them through deception. Many marriages do survive and heal when all of the information is on the table. What many marriages cannot survive is starting to work on the marriage and beginning to rebuild trust only to learn that once again, it has been built on a lie.
Another benefit of full disclosure is it loosens the hold this sin has on you. There is an old saying, “We are as sick as our secrets.” Sin grows in secret, dark places just as mold grows in dark and damp places. It is much easier to return to dabbling in sin and continuing in the very things that caused so much destruction in your relationship when it remains undisclosed.
Am I Owning It?
You need to own what you have done without making excuses. Owning it means that you avoid making excuses for why you did what you did. It is not your spouse, your childhood, job, genetics, mental illness or any number of things that made you do what you did. Ultimately, you made a choice.
It is equally important to own the emotional impact your actions have had on your spouse. A betrayal in a relationship creates emotional trauma. It will take time for your partner to heal. Be willing to be a part of their healing to the degree they will let you. It typically takes 1-2 years to fully heal from betrayal when actively working on it with a therapist.
It is important to apologize and ask for forgiveness, but until you can connect and feel the pain you have caused your partner, your apology will seem hollow. Try to truly understand and connect with your partner’s many emotions.
One of the biggest mistakes the offending partner can make is to grow impatient with the healing process. Saying things like, “it has been two months, why aren’t you over this yet?” is incredibly destructive to your partner’s healing and the viability of your marriage. If they were in a horrific car wreck and had to learn to walk again, you wouldn’t walk into their hospital room and say, “Why are you still just lying there?” Realize that emotionally, it is like they will have to learn to walk again.
Healing from betrayal will often take the form of “three steps forward and two steps back”. At times, they will experience triggers which are seemingly random things that bring back intensely painful emotions. This is a normal part of the healing process. It is also common for your spouse to ask the same questions over and over. Learn to connect with the emotion without trying to fix it. There will be good days and bad. But, it is possible to come through this on the other side with a stronger marriage than you had before this happened.
Am I Willing to Do What It Takes?
Real change comes from the inside out. One of the best things you can do is to be willing to do what it takes to make the necessary changes in your life to live consistently with your values. It is not about changing long enough to win your spouse back. Rather, it is a deep resolve to work on yourself regardless of what your partner decides to do.
Be willing to get help for yourself and your marriage. Willingness is a big deal. It takes humility to ask for and receive help. If you had a life threatening illness, you would want a specialist to help you get healthy. The same principle holds true for your emotional health.
At the end of the day, you are more than the sum total of your worst decisions. God has a plan for your life. He is not done with you yet. Seek Him. He can do what is impossible in human effort alone.