Jill: A week ago Mark and I took a motorcycle ride with friends. As we rounded a corner I suddenly realized we were driving by a place where deception in our marriage took place five years ago. I immediately began to have a physical response. My heart rate increased and I felt stress ball up inside my body. Then a profound sadness came over me and I felt a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. All of that happened within a few seconds.
Mark: Jill and I have Bluetooth microphones in our helmets so we can talk when we ride. Just as we drove past this place Jill said, “I have to admit that caught me off guard and was hard for me to drive by.”
I hadn’t even given it a thought and immediately felt great remorse that there are still those reminders some five years later. “I didn’t even think about that. “I responded. “I’m so sorry, Jill. I really am. I can understand how you would feel that way.”
Jill: As soon as Mark validated my feelings and apologized, I relaxed and the physical response subsided. I once again chose forgiveness and then moved on in my head and my heart fully enjoying the remainder of our ride.
Mark: When trust has been broken in a marriage, it takes time and effort to rebuild that trust and move further away from the “going back there” emotions that accompany deception. Here are some important things we’ve learned:
- Be Safe—If you’re the one who broke the trust, be safe for your spouse to share their feelings with. Don’t explode or sigh heavily or declare that they should be over it by now. Validate their feelings and offer a sincere apology that it still brings pain to their heart.
- Speak Your Thoughts—Don’t hold your thoughts inside. Get them outside—in the moment if possible. The enemy does his best work in the darkness. Once something is brought into the light, it loses some of its hold over us.
- Apologize and Forgive….Again—Forgiveness isn’t a once and done action. When trust is broken there are layers of hurt to sort through. So apologizing and forgiving needs to happen each time another layer is discovered. It doesn’t have to be a big, drawn-out conflict, but rather honest communication about the point of pain.
- Be Compassionate with One Another—Compassion and kindness are two of the most underused tools in marriage. Yet, they can make such a big difference! Speak kindly and put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. Instead of reacting with frustration, respond with kindness and a gentle spirit.
- Be Compassionate with Yourself--Yesterday I (Jill) had to go to church alone because Mark was in Indianapolis helping his mom. Doing that is still hard for me because of the five months I went alone when he left. I have to be compassionate with myself and reassure myself that it might feel the same but it’s not the same.
- Keep Submitting to God—When our hearts are fully submitted to God, we can respond with humility. We can apologize. We can extend forgiveness. Becoming more like Jesus always improves a marriage.
- Get Help. If you can’t communicate in a healthy way, get help from a third party—a mentor or Christian counselor—who can help you both hear each other.
Jill: Can someone experience a form of PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—in marriage? Certainly in abusive situations, this is common. However, it’s also a common experience after infidelity or another deceptive event in a marriage. Fear raises up and pain is revisited.
Mark: We all can experience a kind of stress disorder anytime growth is happening in a marriage. As Jill has worked to increase her compassion and embrace her emotions, my tendency is expect her to respond in old ways. If we’re in conflict, my heart races and my palms sweat expecting her to state facts and ignore my feelings. The minute she responds differently, my physical symptoms subside. I realize that I was telling myself an old story and now I have to learn to trust the new Jill.
Jill: Need some more insight on rebuilding trust? I wrote Rebuilding Trust After An Affair for Today’s Christian Woman on the subject. And next Monday night I’ll be joining Dr. Juli Slattery of Authentic Intimacy for a webinar on the rebuilding trust after any kind of deception in a marriage.
Mark: Broken trust can be rebuilt. Broken hearts can be mended. Broken relationships can be rebuilt. And the PTSD that’s experienced after all that broken, can begin to dissipate as your marriage experiences the beauty of restored trust.
What about you? What do you need to do to keep trust or rebuild trust in your relationship? Is there some way you need to work to be a safe person for your spouse to be honest with?