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couple in distress

I wrote a blog post on winning back the heart of a wife several years ago. (Read it HERE.) The post was written in reponse to the dozens of times I had given the same advice to men who had hurt their wives in some severe way…mostly affair type situations…where it seems the wives heart has left the relationship.

When men find themselves in this type situation they feel hopeless. When the marriage begins to unravel around them…when the wife is ready to quit…even when it was the man’s fault…he often is finally broken and willing to do whatever it takes, but doesn’t know what to do.

That post has been Googled thousands of times. It is obviously a needed subject. As a result of that post, I have heard from dozens of other men and women (mostly men) who have done something dumb and want to win back their spouse’s trust. (Some of them even still comment on the previous post.)

Building on that original post, I want to address how to regain trust in general. This is advice I would give to any relational setting. It could be a marriage, a family, friend or even a business relationship. Regaining trust is difficult…just being candid…but the process usually follows a similar path.

Here are 4 steps to rebuild trust in a relationship:

Ask forgiveness – If you did wrong…apologize. If your aren’t sure…apologize. Even if you don’t think you were completely in the wrong, the other person may…a sincere apology is a great place to start. Being humble enough to admit fault is a trust-building characteristic. (Some are experts at saying “I’m sorry”, but it stops at that. That’s not enough to rebuild trust…keep reading.)

Do the right things – Whatever you did to offend the relationship. Stop. Stop now. Quit. Never again. Get help if you need to, but you have to do the right thing to counteract the wrong things. You may need to learn how and don’t be afraid to ask the person you offended or get professional help. Relationships are too important not to take them this seriously. Do the right things.

Keep doing the right things – Over and over again. Trust builds over time and experience of doing things which are trustworthy. This will require discipline on your part, and may not even be received well at first, but doing the right things is still the right thing to do. A mature response to life is to do the right thing even when wrong is easier or even expected.

Be patient – Trust always takes longer than the one seeking to rebuild trust thinks it should. Always. Trust has to work through emotions that have been severely injured. That doesn’t happen in an instant unless God intervenes. Most of the time He seems to let them heal naturally. Be patient with that process. It’s worth it. (By the way, this appears to be the hardest step for people from whom I hear.)

Now I realize the obvious next question. What happens if the offended party doesn’t reciprocate? That’s probably the subject of another post, such as 7 Things Forgiveness is Not, but know this: You are not responsible for the actions of another. You are responsible for your actions. And, attempting to rebuild trust is the right thing to do.

Any testimonies of how long it took someone to rebuild trust? Share and help others.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • It could be a marriage, a family, friend or even a business relationship. Regaining trust is difficult…just being candid…but the process usually follows a similar path.

  • Jon says:

    Ron, it's been a while since I've posted on this and I don't want to bring other people down, but your last two points are so right.

    To give the "high points". I treated my wife terribly and she eventually got to a point where she was fed up and wanted to separate. That was almost 5 years ago. Thankfully the separation never happened, but I'd not say it's completely absent from her mind. And in case people are wondering, there was no affair or drug use or beatings, it was mostly me being selfish and self-centered and verbally mean.

    About 4 and a half years ago, He worked in my heart and spirit to completely, and I mean completely, turn me around. And still after all this time trust and love still has not returned from her heart to mine. It's mostly like we're roommates or friends. And it's hard. And there are times when I tell myself that it's really not worth it and I know that there are other women out there looking for and longing for a guy just like me and we could make each other so happy and fulfilled. But, she's the only one I want; that I have eyes for. She's the one He gave me to care for and I just need to tough it out and remain faithful to Him and her and the marriage…but it IS hard and disappointing and lonely and defeating when she seems to not really care. But I just keep praying that I'm following His will (Eph 5) and that I should trust in Him and have faith.

  • Bill Reed says:

    Ron – Thanks for this reminder. As a leader of an organization that hopefully reflects Jesus’ heart of sacrifical service. I’ve blown it. I blurred some work and personal issues to the perception of one of my leaders. I am still in the middle of it and the drama flares up frequently. My only real comment is that step 4 – Being Patient applies at all times during the rebuilding process. Another verse that I’ve been claiming as a leader to not get prideful and defensive is Romans 12:19 “Do not take revenge my friend but leave room for God’s wrath for it is written it is mine to avenge I will repay says the Lord.”

    • ronedmondson says:

      What a gracious comment. With your approach and humility, I think you'll be fine. Thank you.

  • Great advice Ron. Trust is a hard thing to earn back once it's been broken