Both my wife and I have cheated. But we love each other, and we want our family to stay together. The thing crippling us is trust. We both are having a hard time trusting each other. Can trust be rebuilt in such an extreme case as ours?
Thank you for the opportunity to serve. Your question is a very common one for people — like you and your wife — who have experienced multiple occurrences of infidelity. When it comes to rebuilding trust, there are no shortcuts, and no easy answers. Here are a few pointers to get you headed in the right direction.
Rebuilding trust in a marriage after cheating is like rebuilding a home in the same spot after it was hit by a devastating tornado. It takes courage, faith and willingness to believe it won’t happen again. Here are some insights on trust to get the ball rolling:
Tips About Trust
Trust (like love) is a gift. You can’t buy it, borrow it, or bargain for it. It’s a gift given without strings or conditions.
Trust begins with you. The people who have the hardest time trusting others are the people who secretly don’t trust themselves. Why is this? Because you can’t “give” what you don’t have.
Learning to trust others begins with learning to trust yourself. This means being impeccable with your words — saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Being the same person in secret as in public. Trusting yourself means knowing in the midnight of your soul that you’re living with integrity.
Those you trust, you set free. Those you don’t, you imprison — and you watch, monitor, and try to control them. This makes “control” the opposite of trust (not suspicion/mistrust). Seeking to control your wife, and vice versa, either emotionally (through guilt, shame or blame), physically, or mentally are all trust-breakers.
If rebuilding trust is the goal, transparency is the way. Deception is about hiding. And so, the opposite of deception is transparency. This means the willingness to grant full unrestricted access to your partner. Why is transparency so important to trust? Because trust is built on actions, not words. And being transparent allows your partner to verify that your actions match your words, thereby restoring trust, confidence and peace of mind. (Read my article on becoming a transparent couple for more help on this.)
Rebuilding trust without forgiveness is impossible. A marriage without forgiveness is hell on earth because given enough time, we all make mistakes. And without forgiveness, each mistake is stored beneath the surface until eventually, they all bubble up like a cancer. This is why I believe that forgiveness is the most important relationship skill you can learn.
And when it comes to rebuilding a marriage after infidelity, forgiveness is the superglue that allows you to renew and rebuild mutual trust. (If you want more information on how to learn true forgiveness, download my coaching Mp3, Forgiving Infidelity and Releasing Pain.)
Do you know what going “all in” means? It’s a term taken from the world of poker, and it happens when a player pushes ALL his chips into play. He has no safety net, no contingency plan, no back up, no way out — it’s all or nothing for him. If he wins, he wins it all. If he loses, he loses it all. It seems to me, given all the extra marital affairs between both of you, that neither of you were “all in” in the marriage. You’ve been holding back.
Here’s the thing about love, though: it’s about letting go.
So in effect, you guys have been doing things backwards. The good news is, you’ve already learned what doesn’t work. So now, the only thing left to do is what does work.