Can A Marriage Survive Without Trust?

Tuning in can help you build trust.

When the trust was broken in my marriage, I wondered if we could survive without it.

Trust is a cornerstone of marriage. When we trust our partner, we feel emotionally safe with them. This safety allows for deeper connection and drives us to endure tough times when they arise. Trust is not only important for the health of our relationship but also for our physical health. 

For more than 40 years, Dr. John Gottman has been studying what makes a marriage work. He found that the number one issue for couples was trust and betrayal. During his study, social psychologists asked people in relationships, “What is the most desirable quality you’re looking for in a partner when you’re dating?” The number one response was trustworthiness.

Dr. Gottman found what many of us would agree with: Trust is essential to healthy relationships. 

So, how do we build trust? Trust is created in the small moments. Dr. Gottman calls these sliding door moments. “In any interaction, there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away from your partner.” One moment may not be that important when you think of it by itself, but if you continually turn toward your spouse in the small moments, you’re building trust. If you continually turn away from your spouse, you’re eroding trust.

But what happens when there’s betrayal?

Betrayal can come in many forms. It can be loud and big or subtle and discrete. You experience betrayal when you discover that your spouse is hiding information from you. Or when they withhold support when you need it. You feel betrayed when you cannot entirely rely on your partner. 

When we feel betrayed, it’s common to ask the question, “How can I ever trust them again?” But, here’s the good news: It is possible to rebuild trust. Remember those sliding door moments? Rebuilding trust takes lots of those. It requires choosing to move toward your spouse in the small moments. Trust is a two-way street, and to rebuild trust, you both have to move toward each other. In my marriage, we realized we could rebuild trust, but it would take time and intentionality. 

Dan Yoshimoto, a graduate student of Dr. Gottman, found in the study that the basis of building trust is attunement. He broke down the idea of attunement with an acronym:

Awareness of your partner’s emotion

Turning toward the emotion

Tolerance of two different viewpoints

Understanding your partner

Non-defensive responses to your partner

Responding with Empathy

When we are attuned to our spouse, we are better able to build trust.

In the book What Makes Love Last? Gottman and Silver lay out the following four methods for communicating with your partner that fosters trust through attunement.

1. Put your feelings into words.

It can be challenging to articulate what you feel. There’s no shame in that. Just communicate that to your partner. 

2. Ask open-ended questions.

Avoid close-ended questions that elicit one-word responses. Open-ended questions ask for a story and show genuine curiosity on your part. 

3. Follow up with statements that deepen the connection.

When your partner responds to one of your open-ended questions, reflect back on what you heard. In your own words, paraphrase what they said. Don’t make assumptions, defend yourself, or bring the focus to you. 

4. Express compassion and empathy.

Don’t tell your partner how they should be feeling. Don’t react defensively. Instead, hold space for their feelings, all of them, even if they feel uncomfortable to you. This creates a deeper connection and a sense of emotional safety. Your partner now knows they can talk to you about the hard stuff.

Trust is the bedrock of a healthy marriage. When it’s broken, it takes time to heal. Rebuilding trust between my wife and I wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Marriage can survive without trust, but it’s not as healthy. To have a healthy, life-giving marriage, choose to rebuild trust.

Related Blogs:

7 Ways to Increase Trust In Marriage

What Does Trust Look Like In A Healthy Marriage?

How To Rebuild Trust In Marriage


John Gottman on Trust and Betrayal

The Deeper Meaning of Trust

7 Ways to Increase Trust in Marriage

Strengthen the foundation of your relationship with these tips.

Trust is the foundation of a healthy marriage. It’s like oil in a car engine, heat in an oven, Beyoncé in Destiny’s Child. Without it, things just don’t work well. 

Ideally, marital trust should grow with time. It’s a glue in your relationship that ought to get stronger, even though it isn’t always the case. Trust can rust. 

The good news is you can strengthen that glue. 

We all have the power to value or devalue a marriage, to help or hurt our spouse’s well-being. Think about it: the next words I choose to say to my wife can either make her smile or cry or make her just plain mad. I’ve got that power. (So does she.) And my words will make me look more or less trustworthy in her eyes.

A big part of increasing trust in marriage is channeling that power to be beneficial and to do that often. 

Want to increase trust in your marriage? Here are 7 ways to amp it up!

1. Extend Forgiveness

Forgiveness goes a long way. It means you’ve decided to work through negative emotions, that you’ve let go of the need to “get even.” Forgiving your spouse shows you’re willing to recognize they are human. Which, in turn, takes the pressure off having to be perfect for you. And it shows you can be trusted to not keep score of wrongdoings and that you are committed to trust again after a fallout. 

2. Uphold Boundaries

Maybe the idea of boundaries seems limiting to you. But when it comes to building trust, it’s quite the opposite. Healthy boundaries can keep you both on the same page. How you decide to navigate social media. What you view online. Friendships (particularly with the opposite sex). Resolving conflict. Spending leisure time. Dividing up chores. Handling these and other issues well can increase trust.

3. Express Humility

Humility is simply an accurate view of the self, both the good and the bad. You express humility when you use your power to build your spouse up instead of yourself or ask for forgiveness. And research suggests that humility is associated with greater trust and marriage satisfaction. 

4. Exercise Vulnerability

Brené Brown says vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and exposure. It’s being fully seen, warts and all. Research says trust arises when risk is involved. In other words, you’ve got the power to either affirm or attack each other’s vulnerable spots. The more you show vulnerability in your marriage and affirm your spouse’s openness, the stronger the trust. 

5. Practice Reliability

Your trustworthiness is also affected by how well your spouse perceives your follow-through. Do you follow up with people, complete projects, see your goals to the end? Keep your commitments? Have you ever given your spouse cause to doubt your reliability? When your spouse sees you as reliable, it builds more trust. 

6. Show Self-Control

The same idea goes for your spouse’s perception of your self-control. Do you typically keep your cool? Choose your words calmly and carefully? Keep your moral integrity intact? Do you try to respond in helpful ways, even if it’s tough or costly? These are all signs of self-control that build trustworthiness between you two.

7. Develop Confidence in Your Spouse

Author and researcher Shaunti Feldhahn says that couples who believe the best about each other have high marital satisfaction. Even during conflict, both acknowledge they’re on the same team. And no matter what, their spouse has their back. This kind of confidence boosts the marital trust factor.

The bottom line is, powerful trust makes for a powerful marriage. Share your intentions with your spouse. Begin working on one or two of these tried-and-true trust practices this week. Trust is key. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

There are some people you should not trust: Those who don’t like pizza. People who don’t find puppies cute. Those who laugh way too loud or for no apparent reason. 

Your spouse shouldn’t be someone you can’t trust. Marriage is built (at least in part) on a foundation of trust. And trust is meant to grow over time. 

And yet, it’s not uncommon to find marriages with trouble in the trust department. Somewhere in the journey, one person lost the confidence to see the other as reliable. Trust issues hijack the process of growing together, causing discord and disunity rather than closeness and connection. Trust issues drive a wedge in the intimacy shared between two people. 

How do you know you have trust issues in your marriage? And if you do, what can you do about it? 

Here are seven signs you have trust issues in your marriage: 

  1. You assume your spouse is going to let you down. It’s just inevitable and a matter of time. They’re gonna disappoint you.
  2. You hold your spouse at arm’s length. You want them close, but not really and you find it difficult to be emotionally or physically vulnerable with your spouse.
  3. Maybe you feel the need to hold the remote control in the relationship. You need to know where your spouse is, what they are doing, who they’re with. Every. Single. Moment.
  4. You feel alone, even when you’re with your spouse. Your lack of trust keeps you from feeling connected. 
  5. You have a hard time forgiving genuine mistakes. Those little things we do because we’re human — you take them as a personal attack and surefire evidence of how unreliable they are.
  6. You had a really bad experience in a former relationship. After all, if it happened once, it’s bound to happen again, right? This experience has made you self-protective to a fault. 
  7. You see signs of trust issues in other current relationships. If you experience these trust issues with friends or other family members, you could very well have trust issues with your spouse.

Do any of these sound familiar? Is there a chance you are dealing with trust issues toward your spouse? You are not alone. And trust issues can certainly be overcome when you begin to consider why you struggle with trust in the first place. 

Three things could be happening if you have trust issues in your marriage. 

You have trust issues because of…

  • Something that happened between you and your spouse. 
  • Something that happened before you and your spouse were married. 
  • Both

None of these situations are hopeless. Each may require a slightly different approach to overcome trust issues. Regardless, working through the problems will most certainly require honest conversations with your spouse and will take time. 

I’ve seen couples become impatient with this process. They expected instant results. The healing or forgiveness offered was usually shallow at best (since forgiveness is itself a process). The marriage was in worse shape than before. 

But the couples I have seen who come out stronger on the other side of trust issues are the ones who kept putting one foot in front of the other. They recognized this kind of thing takes time. And they kept at it. I encourage you to do the same. 

  • Honest and respectful conversation is vital. Using “I” statements helps your partner be a much better listener and focuses on your own feelings and behavior: I am having a hard time with trust because… I have a hard time being vulnerable because… I think this part of my past has caused me to…
  • Working toward building trust may require moving toward healing and forgiveness rather than placing blame. You cannot reestablish trust if you continue to hold your spouse in contempt. 
  • Practicing vulnerability with your spouse helps locate the source of trust issues. What may have been the trigger that began your trust issues? Your family upbringing? A bad experience with a former romance? An experience with abuse? Opening up to your spouse about these issues can be difficult. But doing so can begin to reverse the lack of trust, which divides your relationship. 
  • Consider seeking the help of a trusted professional. Counselors can help resolve trust conflicts between you and your spouse or help you work through prior life events, which contributed to your trust issues. 

Building trust with your spouse is vital to your healthy marriage. The good news is there is hope in working through trust issues. Begin the conversation with your spouse. Put one foot in front of the other. Don’t get in a hurry, and seek help where needed. What lies on the other side is a stronger marriage and a deeper connection with your spouse.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Trust is tricky. No one likes to be betrayed or let down. Depending on how you were raised or your experiences with other people throughout your life, you may have some trust issues. Maybe you find it very difficult to trust others. It’s even possible you might be too trusting.

Think you might have trust issues? See if any of these signs below ring a bell: 

  1. You push people away from getting close to you.  So, your relationships are shallow (even though you aren’t.)
  2. You assume betrayal is going to happen. You expect others to let you down. So, you tend to avoid any kind of deeper commitment. 
  3. Your biggest concern in relationships is self-preservation. You want to feel protected. So, you feel like you have to have control of what’s going on in a relationship.  
  4. You find it hard to forgive genuine mistakes. They’re seen as evidence that you can’t rely on anyone. 
  5. You grew up in a home that was erratic or unpredictable. 
  6. You trust people too quickly. These are the ones most likely to take advantage of you. You don’t require others to earn your trust. 
  7. You feel lonely, isolated, and like people don’t “get you.” 

Do any of these sound familiar? Well, welcome to the club; you are not alone. 

You see, nobody trusts perfectly. Trust, by its very nature, is a risk. And risks are challenging in relationships. Especially if you’ve been hurt before. 

However, you can work on trust issues. You don’t have to go through life believing you can’t rely on anyone. As a matter of fact, trust is essential to any sincere relationship. When you don’t trust, you’re robbing yourself of human connection and authentic living.

Here are some ways to begin working toward overcoming trust issues in your relationships:

  • Understand all people have both good qualities and shortcomings. In other words, we’re all flawed humans. 
  • Spend some time considering why you trust the way you do. Does it have to do with your upbringing, childhood experiences, or past relationships? Consider visiting a professional counselor to help you wrestle with these questions. 
  • Remember, trust issues aren’t about not having enough trust. It’s about having an appropriate level of trust for a particular relationship. Healthy trust comes from being in a relationship over time and observing the other person. Trust should be based on what you know, not what you assume about a person. 
  • Know that trust isn’t something  you should give blindly. Trust has to be earned. Ask yourself, “What has this person done to show me their trustworthiness?” Look for ways they are trustworthy, and trust what you see. 
  • Do what you can to leave past betrayals behind you. Dwelling on those who wronged you in the past is a roadblock to building healthy trust with the people you know in the present. 

Let me share one more thing to consider. It’s possible that if you have trust issues, it could mean you don’t see yourself as trustworthy. You may project the negative feelings you have about yourself onto others. It’s easier to deal with the thought of everyone else’s trustworthiness than your own. 

Acknowledge whether this is something you might do. Give yourself a break for your shortcomings, and work on what you can to change to become a better version of yourself. 

Trust is a precious commodity in relationships. Maybe the most precious commodity. The internal gauge we use to determine an appropriate level of trust in a relationship can easily damage. But it can also repair. Start slowly on this journey and take it one step at a time. Your connections will become richer and deeper as you seek to build healthy trust. 

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How To Establish Trust In Marriage From The Start

These 7 things can help you build a strong relationship.

What’s the difference between a loving, warm marriage and one full of friction and conflict? Trust. There are probably many items on your checklist for having a strong marriage. If there’s one that ought to be at the top of the list, it’s trust. 

How do you establish trust in marriage from the start?

1. Trust is built over time.

Trust is built through moments that confirm for your spouse that you are who they think you are. How you respond when someone speaks negatively about your relationship or how you care for each other during a difficult time will either confirm or cause questions about who you are. Don’t be disappointed when you find areas where trust needs to grow, especially early in your marriage. Opportunities will come that will strengthen your trust or give the two of you something to work through.

2. History matters.

Do you trust in your marriage easily? Is it difficult for you to trust? Have things happened in your past that make trusting someone hard? How have your past experiences affected your ability to trust? You want your spouse to have a fair opportunity to be trusted and not be the victim of your past experiences with other people. However, it’s important to be aware that your past is not to be forgotten but to be used as a learning experience. Talking through your ability to trust helps you develop clear expectations. Your past shouldn’t control your ability to trust. Rather, it provides understanding to help build trust.

3. Believe your spouse’s actions.

There’s a saying, “When a person shows you who they are, believe them.” When dating, it’s easy to create a mental image of what you think your spouse will be like once you’re married. This can cause you to ignore the behaviors that give a more accurate picture of each other. Many people have trusted others in spite of all the evidence showing that they are not trustworthy. And other times, you may have withheld trust from people despite the person being extraordinarily trustworthy. 

4. Be open and honest about everything.

This includes the big stuff: family, money, in-laws, parenting, the future, and sex. Avoid the temptation to keep secrets and withhold information. Setting aside time to talk honestly about finances or your expectations of the in-laws, for example, is important. 

As quick as transparency can build trust in marriage, secrecy can betray it.

5. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Be willing to hold each other accountable for your words and actions. You can’t build trust by telling your partner what they want to hear. If you say you’ll be home from work at six, then follow through. Trust is built when your spouse has confidence that the words you say are true.

Related: How To Tell If Someone Is Trustworthy

6. Admit mistakes.

Don’t let pride get in the way. Trust will not stand if built on the premise of perfection. It’s built on the promise that the two of you have the relationship’s best interest at heart. Admitting your mistakes sends the message that the relationship is more important than you being right

7. Consider the effects decisions will have on your marriage.

Nearly everything you do will affect both you and your spouse. (There is no I in Us.) Talking through decisions together helps you understand the potential effects. Before making personal commitments, get in the habit of talking to your spouse.

★ Ask the question, “How will this affect you and affect us?” 

Establishing a solid foundation of trust in marriage can provide the groundwork to building trust that’s as strong as a 100-year-old oak tree with deep roots. Some foundations aren’t solid. It’s good to know early that a person can’t be trusted. It’s not wise to trust someone to be honest if they continue to build a record of dishonesty. Trust will grow if you’re consistent in your words and actions.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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How to Rebuild Trust in Marriage

While there are no guarantees, there are things you can do to try.

When trust is broken within a marriage, rebuilding it cannot automatically be assumed. Many times you can rebuild trust if both parties are willing to do the work necessary to restore it, though. David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge says, “(trust) is a confident belief in someone or something. It’s the confident belief in an entity to do what’s right and to deliver on what is promised and to be the same every time, whatever the circumstances.” Whether it’s due to infidelity, lies, withholding information, or betrayal, the ability to believe the offender will genuinely act in the best interest of the marriage is severely compromised.

🔎 While there are no guarantees the trust may be rebuilt, there are some things you can do to rebuild it. 

For The Person Who Has Broken The Trust:

Here are some principles which may help to restore your partner’s trust.

1. Listen without being defensive.

Broken trust is more than just the act that was committed. Your spouse has invested time, emotion, and their own vulnerability into believing something about you, but now they’re not sure who you are. Their image of you has been tarnished. There is uncertainty and even a fear that you will emotionally hurt or betray them if it means getting what you want. It’s not simply that you hid money, lied, or had an affair. It causes one to question their own choice to emotionally invest in the relationship. Don’t minimize or oversimplify the act. Lean in to listen. Ask questions to understand the pain as fully as possible. It may hurt to hear. You will probably want to defend yourself—don’t. 

Avoid statements like, “That wasn’t my intention.” or “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” 

2. Own your actions.

Don’t attempt to justify your actions. Be honest about what you said or did. Answer your spouse’s questions honestly. You can’t worry about trying to make it not look as bad as it may seem

Avoid statements like, “All I did was…” or “It wasn’t a big deal.” 

3. Accept the emotional impact on your spouse.

You cannot control how the betrayal impacts your spouse. You also cannot foresee the gravity of its impact. Betrayal affects people in different ways due to personality, experiences, relationship history, length of relationship, etc. It is painful to know that you have caused your spouse such anger, hurt, or sadness. Trying to lessen or minimize the pain caused is more about you not wanting the guilt and less about understanding the impact of rebuilding the trust

The emotional impact is there. Respect it. Learn from it. 

Avoid statements like, “You’re taking this too seriously,” or “I didn’t think it would affect you this much.”

4. Give space for expressions of grief.

Being a safe space for your spouse to share their emotions is crucial if you want to rebuild trust. Your spouse needs the opportunity to find the words to communicate what they are thinking and feeling. (You may need to seek a qualified marriage counselor.) She may need to talk to friends. He may need to share his pain with you as he gains more and more understanding. This should never include abusive expressions

5. Apologize.

You may need to apologize more than once. You may apologize for the act itself because that’s all you understand initially. Some time later you may apologize for the real hurt it caused as you understand it or see it more.You may apologize for the way it has changed the relationship when you recognize the tension and difficulty your spouse has functioning within the marriage. Instead, be specific about what you are apologizing for. As much as you desire to be forgiven by your spouse, direct your energy toward expressing your remorse for what you’ve done. 🔎 There must be genuine remorse for the action and its effects. 

Avoid statements like, “I’ve already apologized. Isn’t that good enough?” or “I’m sorry you feel that way.” 

6. Make necessary changes.

This may mean sharing passwords for social media, phones, or bank accounts. It may mean more communication about what’s happening at work. It may mean changing who you interact with and how (friends or co-workers). Being stubborn about making changes to decrease the likelihood of a repeat situation sends the message that you don’t understand the betrayal and insecurity that you’ve caused. Often, these changes can be talked through so that they are realistic changes. 

Avoid statements like, “I’ll just make sure I don’t do it again.” or “I just messed up this time. I’ve got it under control now.” 

7. Patience.

You can’t rush the process of rebuilding trust. You must respect the process. Understand that different people respond differently to betrayal. At times it may appear the relationship isn’t making any progress. Other times, it may seem as though the relationship is back to normal even though it really isn’t. Your spouse needs time to build an image of you that they can believe will genuinely try to act in the best interest of the relationship even when it’s difficult. You’re not entitled to being trusted again. Your spouse does not owe you their trust once it’s broken. With humility and compassion, take the time to earn it, and more importantly, to simply be trustworthy.

Avoid statements like, “Don’t you think it’s been long enough?” or “Are you going to hold this against me forever?


And no, that’s not just a fairytale. Sometimes we settle, we coexist, we go along to get along, or we just try to keep the damage to a minimum. There are no perfect marriages. There are also no unicorns. So what? You can always Maximize Your Marriage. You know what’s NOT a mythical creature? Your marriage being BETTER than you could ever imagine.

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You’ll have access to two marriage experts every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement. (THIS is what makes Maximize Your Marriage customized & personalized!)

For The Person Whose Trust Was Betrayed:

What can you do to trust again?

1. Understand the difference between forgiving versus forgetting.

Forgiveness does not mean to forget or to act like it never happened. You may never forget what was done, how it made you feel, and how it affected you or your relationship. Forgiveness focuses on letting go of your feelings so that they don’t control your future actions. It’s a process. You can be fully aware and not ever have forgotten the betrayal while at the same time you may have forgiven the offender by not treating them based on the emotions the act itself caused.

Just because you forgive does not mean that you have to trust your spouse again. Kristina Coop Gordon, co-author of Getting Past the Affair says, “Forgiveness is very freeing. Just because you forgive, it doesn’t necessarily mean immediate reconciliation.” Your spouse may prove to not be trustworthy. To trust them again, you will need to forgive them, but don’t think that just because you forgive them means you have to trust them just yet. (Check out this blog about the process of forgiving your spouse.)

2. Don’t withhold your feelings.

Hiding or suppressing your feelings can lead to a host of unhealthy and negative emotions. Taking time to identify and understand the myriad of emotions you’re experiencing is good for your mental health. Don’t underestimate the value of positive friends in giving you the space to express yourself emotionally. You may need a good cry, a good scream, a good journal entry, a good venting session, etc. (A professional counselor can help you recognize and deal with your emotions in a healthy way.)

3. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed.

When trust is broken, your image of the offender is completely changed. The process of rebuilding that image and believing that the offender will genuinely attempt to always act in the best interest of the relationship is different for everyone. Rushing the process can lead to resentment or feeling manipulated. And while it’s not helpful to drag a person along just because you have leverage or power, it’s also not helpful to be told by others that you should just let it go and go back to the way it was. 

4. Communicate.

I’d love to give you a fancy term here, but sometimes simple is best. Give your spouse feedback regarding what is helpful and what is not. As you’re understanding yourself better, share this with your spouse. Talk to one another about trust, commitment, and what you believe a healthy relationship looks like. 

5. Explore.

Do not take responsibility for someone’s else’s actions. At the same time, explore what (if anything) in the relationship may have led to the betrayal. There may be changes or improvements within the marriage that can improve relationship quality

Rebuilding trust takes a commitment from both people in the relationship. Betrayal does not have to end the relationship, but the relationship may be able to improve through time, communication and understanding. There are many relationships where betrayal proved to be a catalyst for the couple to address issues in their relationship, ultimately making them stronger.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Oddly enough, you are going to have to trust me on this. You don’t know me. At the end of this, you are going to have to decide if this is trustworthy advice from a trustworthy source.

This is probably a good place for a disclaimer or three: 

  • Trust is a two-way street. Sometimes we withhold trust from people that are trustworthy. We may have gotten burned by someone close to us. We may be having trust issues because the world has gotten crazy and we are anxious and stressed out and feel overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of opinions and information. Or, we may have trust issues to work through on our end for a variety of totally legitimate reasons. Make sure you are doing the work on your end.
  • Trust exists on a sliding scale. Trust is less like a light switch and more like a thermostat—we can turn it up as we develop trust with someone or turn it down if we see someone showing signs of not being trustworthy. Sometimes we don’t have enough history with someone to really decide if they are trustworthy and we have to go with a gut feeling about them. Only you know the track record of your “gut feelings.”
  • Trust can be regained. We have all violated someone’s trust at some point. I know I have. I’ve been grateful that they didn’t write me off as “untrustworthy” forever and ever but gave me opportunities to regain their trust. Sometimes it has taken a period of time and understandably so. Leave others the room you want to be human and make mistakes. That said, there are pathologically untrustworthy people. Note it and act accordingly.

There are things you can be on the lookout for when it comes to trustworthiness. And you should be on the lookout. Trust is the bedrock of our relationships, but trust is also a fragile thing. Whether it is a spouse, our child, a member of our extended family, a neighbor, a co-worker, a friend posting on social media, or even the news—we need to know how much of our trust to invest and we want to be confident that our investment is safe.

Trust Lesson #1. Trustworthy People Tell Themselves The Truth.

We all have blind spots and we don’t always see the person in the mirror with 100% accuracy, but untrustworthy people cannot tell themselves the truth—especially when it comes to hard truths. Their view of themselves seems to be disconnected from realities that the people around them can plainly see. They work hard to create a perception of themselves that the people who know them can see right through. They are out of touch with the consequences of their choices or actions. If someone can’t tell themself the truth, that is a bright red flag concerning their trustworthiness.

Trust Lesson #2. Trustworthy People Don’t Project Negative Motives Onto Others.

Trustworthy people tend to be trusting. Thieves are super paranoid about their stuff being taken. Liars don’t believe anyone else. Cheaters commonly accuse their partners of cheating. When someone thinks everyone else is untrustworthy, that’s usually a sign that THEY aren’t trustworthy. (Interestingly, research on video game players seems to confirm this. The study found that players who were trusting and happy to cooperate and rely on other players were less likely to double-cross their partners in a game.)

Trust Lesson #3. Trustworthy People Don’t Share Too Much Too Soon.

Have you ever known someone for all of five minutes and they started to divulge their deepest darkest secrets to you—from their marriage to their childhood? Or it’s your first day on the job and they are telling you what’s wrong with the company and all your new co-workers? That’s nice of you to listen politely or even sympathetically, but BEWARE. This person is demonstrating that they don’t understand boundaries or the dynamics of trust. (And rest assured that they will be sharing whatever you tell them to the next person they chat with.)

Trust Lesson #4. Trustworthy People Display Self-Control.

We’ve all struggled with that last Oreo cookie or one handful of chips too many, but untrustworthy people are characterized by a lack of self-control. When someone continually displays a lack of self-control or self-discipline, there is no reason to think that they can keep something you said in confidence or keep a boundary that you have asked them to respect. 

Trust Lesson #5. Trustworthy People Are Right—About A Lot.

We aren’t talking about Jeopardy! questions here. Untrustworthy people tell you things about your co-workers, friends, other family members, or current events that you find out later are totally off the mark. Untrustworthy people are wrong—about a lot. This is often because they have an agenda of some kind and honesty isn’t part of it. RED FLAG! Trustworthy people look for and care about the truth! 

★ Look at your trust as a precious commodity. Not everyone is capable of taking care of it and respecting how valuable it is. Invest your trust wisely. To trust is to believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of another person. Trust can make or break a relationship. Make sure you are a trustworthy person. The more you do, the easier it will be to spot untrustworthy people.

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Cheating is the ultimate violation of marital trust. It can destroy families and ruin lives. The bottom line is that if you are even wondering about your spouse’s faithfulness, at minimum, there is some important relationship work to be done!

In general, is there a lot of cheating going on? Is there a “cheating type?” Despite numerous studies, there isn’t a dependable predictor of infidelity. It is also very difficult to find reliable statistics related to just how much cheating is going on for two main reasons: (1.) Cheating is by definition very secretive and most surveys rely on self-reporting; and more importantly, (2.) People define “cheating” in a variety of ways. So, let’s begin by asking what you mean by “cheating?” 

  • You are uncomfortable with how close your spouse is with a friend or co-worker.
  • You believe your spouse is involved in an “emotional affair.” They are getting their emotional needs met by someone other than you.
  • Cyber Cheating – Inappropriate, often sexual, texts, pictures, and videos being exchanged electronically with someone.
  • Social Media Cheating – They are connecting with exes and others on social media and sharing things that should only be shared with you.
  • Full-blown secretive sexual relationships.

If you suspect your spouse is cheating on you, here are a few things to think through:

  • Sometimes a spouse IS NOT cheating and the issue is our own insecurities. This requires some introspection and a healthy conversation, not a bold accusation. (Be careful with click-bait nonsense on the internet. “Is he hitting the gym and dressing nicer? THEN HE MUST BE CHEATING!” Um, not necessarily.)
  • Is it possible that you have never discussed healthy boundaries in your marriage? (For example, have you and your spouse talked about being friends with exes on social media and what is appropriate to share? They may have no clue that you consider that cheating.)
  • There is so much misinformation out there about infidelity. Be careful. Having said that, and this might seem contradictory, sometimes, you just know.
  • If you are convinced you are with a cheater, DO NOT confront them immediately and DO NOT confront them without rock-solid evidence. (At best, accusations will just be met with denial and arguing. At worst, you will have just taught them to cover their tracks better.)
  • If at all possible, and I can’t stress this enough, KNOW the correct answers to questions BEFORE you ask them. This is not a “trick” or a “trap.” This is gauging their level of honesty. You might find out that they are willing to be completely honest with you. That’s a good sign! Along those same lines, your spouse DOES NOT need to know everything that you know at this point.

Here Are Some Practical Tips On How To Deal

Keep track of everything and begin gathering information immediately.

  • Phones, laptops, iPads. (There almost always is an electronic trail left by an affair. Smartphones are the best way for cheaters to cheat but also the best way for cheaters to be caught. Cheaters are often very possessive of their phones, but you can begin looking closely at your phone records (Use your phone carrier app.) which are often very detailed. Is there a number that you don’t recognize that appears a lot or at strange times? Note that. Do you see data [photos/videos/social media] exchanged frequently and at odd times? Note that. Did they text/call to change plans with you or tell you they had to work late? Note time and date. What is the next number that they text/call?
  • Begin being very aware of time and money. Affairs have to take place somewhere, sometime and they have to be paid for. Has there been a change in how s/he spends their time? Their money? Your bank records are your best friend here. Compare them with where s/he says they are and what they say they are doing. Have there suddenly been a lot of late meetings at work? Does your spouse suddenly have to travel a lot more? Check the bank records! Have they suddenly taken up a new hobby that keeps them out for hours? (REMEMBER: This could be the truth and it could confirm that there isn’t anything going on!)
  • Sometimes you need to bring in the Big Guns. Cheating is a big problem, but catching cheaters is a big business. Just Google it. You have tons of resources at your disposal! Options range from reverse phone number lookups to programs and apps that monitor and report a variety of digital activities. Some of these options obviously raise privacy issues and you need to check the laws in your state. But, yeah, you have options and you don’t have to be super tech-savvy to use them.

Again, be careful with drawing conclusions based on the internet articles you find!

I recently saw a “Top 10 Signs Your Spouse Is Cheating!” list online that contained this gem: “Significantly less, or more, or different sex in your relationship.” Less, more or different? Um, okay. Well, that can mean a lot of things!

Let’s say that you’ve absolutely confirmed the affair. I am truly sorry. Please take care of yourself. Look up Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder. It’s real.

So, what does this mean for your marriage?

  • Is the cheating spouse willing to apologize, seek forgiveness, and completely break off the relationship? (I have heard of cheating spouses that quit jobs to distance themselves from a co-worker they were involved with. What a bold gesture to rebuild trust!)
  • What was the nature of the infidelity? (Strictly emotional, a “one-night stand,” or a two-year illicit relationship? Each can present very different challenges, BUT marriages can and do survive ALL types of infidelity.)
  • What is the general health of the marriage? How long have you been married? Do you have children?
  • How do each of you individually and both of you as a couple choose to deal with and heal from this? That’s right, choose. Are you BOTH* willing to be honest about your marital relationship? BOTH willing to make changes and set healthy boundaries? Are BOTH willing to get professional help? BOTH willing to be patient and allow the time and do the work for healing to take place? Do you BOTH have accountability partners and a support system? All of this is critical.

*Maybe you don’t like my use of the word “both” here, after all, it is your spouse having the affair, not you. I understand, but please don’t play the Insurance Adjuster Blame Game. It isn’t about finding whether the marital fault is 60/40, 80/20, 90/10 or whatever. (And it rarely, if ever, is 100/0.) If you want your marriage to grow through this unbelievably tough time, BOTH of you have changes to make and work to do! But you can do it!

There is hope! Check this out, there is a large body of research that indicates that it is usually NOT the actual infidelity that destroys the marriage; it is how each spouse responds to the infidelity that determines if the marriage will survive and even thrive! 

If you don’t want to hear this now, I get it, but I have heard so many couples report that infidelity actually saved their marriage, yes saved it by forcing them to realize that they had to make significant personal changes and relate to each other in healthier ways. You absolutely deserve honesty and faithfulness! Do not settle for less. But please realize that broken bones, when healed, are twice as strong.

For more resources, see our Married Couples page here.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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