Can you really love someone you don’t trust?
I used to think it was impossible to love someone when you don’t trust them. I thought the hurt of betrayal would eliminate all desire to love, making it impossible to love (in the real sense) someone you don’t trust.
I’ve since come to see my thought as coming from a place of ignorance. And pride. I was mostly thinking about self-protection measures for the betrayed spouse and how to “move on” with pride and dignity “intact.”
You see, I got married and discovered what it means to love someone and why couples fight to heal heartbreaks. I found that sometimes when a newlywed wife asks, “can I love my husband when I don’t trust him?” she’s looking for validation. She wants to know she’s not crazy for loving someone and struggling to trust them at the same time.
I am trying to get back to creating videos (someone just asked me about it!), and I’ve just uploaded a new video on YouTube.
In it, I share four quick but essential things to consider when trust is (or appears to be) broken in marriage and you want to navigate the season with better-functioning compass.
Please note, I am not a therapist or trauma specialist. I do however spend my days writing, researching and helping spouses get clarity on problems. Couples experiencing broken trust need therapy. Consider my thoughts as jump-off points for a deeper work and process. For those in healthy marriages, you can use these tips to encourage a friend whose marriage is struggling.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH: When You Don’t Trust Your Husband: 4 Things To Do. Or click the YouTube cover to watch.
If you are not a video person, below are summary thoughts plus some bonus thoughts we didn’t cover in the video.
What happens when you don’t trust your partner?
Trust is an essential building block for any relationship, marriage included. Without trust, a marriage cannot thrive. So how do we lose trust in marriage?
Trust is lost when a spouse betrays commonly-shared values and expectations. Examples:
- When a spouse seeks sexual or emotional connection outside the marriage relationship.
- When a spouse lies.
In an article explaining the physiological response to sexual betrayal in marriage, Bonny Burns of Strong Wives writes,
“At the moment of discovery, your inner world and your outer world explode like a die pack in a bank robber’s duffel bag. Or, as many wives I’ve known describe it, you feel .. shell shocked, or gut punched. Everything you thought true about your husband, that he had your back and shared the same values, is now in question. Who is this man? In that moment, your husband murdered the trust you had in him. Your brain, neurologically, does not know the difference between this death of trust and witnessing a true death. It just knows your husband is now dangerous. He is responsible for the death..”
So it is possible to recover from such a breach of trust? How do you heal individually first, then as a couple? How do you move forward?
Rebuilding trust and making a marriage safe again takes a lot of hard work. In the video, we cover four big-picture ideas.
The cliff notes:
What do you do when you don’t trust your husband?
1. Remember your love for your spouse cannot make up for their lack of trustworthiness.
Right out of the gate, it’s important to remember that you cannot love your spouse enough to change them. I am not talking about suspending general respect or honor in the marriage, but rather the awareness that repentance and transformation are personal decisions your spouse has to make.
In that situation, you are owed something, and your love will not cancel that debt. Earning your trust is something your spouse will need to do. All your love (and actions arising out of that love) cannot cover that gap.
2. Understand what love is. And what love is not.
Love is not a stream of “yes.” Love also says “no.” It is a choice.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-14
3. The process will be hard for you too
Discovering (or having suspicion) your spouse has been untrustworthy is already hard, but there are more challenges ahead. Embracing the changed landscape of your dreams will be hard. And when those days come, you’ll need to remember that holding up the standard is hard too.
4. Yes you can love your spouse even when you don’t trust him, but it will look different than you thought
It’s possible to love someone you don’t trust when you understand that love is a choice and includes doing hard things.
Bonus Thoughts: I Don’t Trust My Husband, How Do I Love Him?
Here are a few more thoughts we didn’t cover in the video;
1. Don’t ignore niggling doubt.
If you are a well-adjusted individual and you start feeling like something is not right, don’t ignore that feeling. It’s never too early to investigate, speak up or begin to address concerns in your marriage. There’s nothing like “we are too young in marriage to experience problems“.
Obviously, I am not suggesting all newlyweds experience significant issues or that most spouses cheat. Not at all. But some of my most popular articles (which I’ll link below) are about navigating broken trust in marriage. So yes, even newlyweds experience problems.
So if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck….do something. If you aren’t sure, bounce your feeling off a trusted friend. (You can “ask for a friend” to protect your privacy.)
2. Don’t be pressured into friendship with “the other woman.”
Inappropriate spouses and their enablers might pressure you to ignore (Spirit-led) intuition and accuse you of blowing things out of proportion.
But listen. If you are uncomfortable with how a friend or neighbor or colleague relates to your spouse, you are not obligated to maintain that friendship. There’s a whole lot more to address with your spouse, but as you do, don’t feed the craziness by staying in a relationship with people (or circumstances) who disrespect you.
3. Don’t allow fear to paralyze you.
After releasing my communication course, How To Navigate Conflict in Marriage, I heard from wives who were taking action to address long-simmering conflict. One of the things they had to overcome was fear.
Confronting any type of dysfunction or suspicion in a relationship can feel terrifying. (If you are afraid of your husband’s reactions, only bring up difficult/triggering issues in the presence of another safe person.)
Generally, fear breeds paralysis. But it’s possible to take action, even in the presence of fear. Very often, those godly positive steps begin to loosen fear’s hold on us.
4. Don’t put your relationship above your well being
Years ago when I was losing hope for my marriage due to our frequent communication breakdowns, I regularly thought about my mother’s couch. Except for each time I did, I snapped back to reality through reminding myself of my vows.
My (and my husband’s) gritty determination worked. Turns out because what we were experiencing was “regular growth pains.” We had hurtful behavior and words that drove a wedge between us. We stonewalled and lashed out. But deep down, we still cared. We kept praying and kept putting in the work. And it showed in our overall relationship dynamics.
Not all couples have what we had.
Some spouses are hard-core manipulators. They are neither interested in real change nor genuinely concerned with their mate’s welfare. They might go along for the ride, even make promises but they never intend to keep them. They shift blame and refuse to take responsibility.
Betrayed spouses need to be discerning not to sacrifice their souls to preserve a toxic relationship/mate. You are loved and cherished. You are more important than a relationship.
It might look like we are straining a gnat here but it’s essential to know the difference if you’re going to navigate broken trust in marriage in a healthy way. When we understand that the people in the relationship matter more than anything else, then we approach our issues in a healthier Christ-centered way.
5.Expect to be challenged.
I’ve had wives write heartbreaking emails to me, detailing all the ways a husband is wounding them and breaking their vow. Typically, the email ends with “What should I do?” So I write back and give some ideas.
Then I hear back about the one thing I said they didn’t like. I often explain myself, but I’ve come to accept that we all dislike push-back. Especially when we already know what to do.
If you talk to someone about your suspicion or concern, they might very well repeat a truth you already know. They might also offer new information too and it might challenge your choices or thoughts. Accepting or rejecting advice is within your right, of course. But overall, when we seek help from others, we need to be aware that the step is the beginning of hard work, both internally and relationally.
There’s a lot more we can say on confronting, healing and rebuilding broken trust.
Check out these other posts.
When You Don’t Trust Your Husband: Can You Love Him? (Today’s video)
Is your marriage a safe place?
Can you bring up hard conversations without walking on eggshells? Are problems being addressed, or do you feel like everything is swept under the rug? Your marriage can change! Sign up for my FREE course: Authentic Connection: How To Address Problems and discover how to inspire authentic connection, especially when your spouse doesn’t like to talk. CLICK HERE