Mark: It’s bound to happen in just about every relationship. We keep something from our spouse and they find out. We repeatedly do something our spouse has asked us not to do. We minimize our spouse’s thoughts and feelings. We are addicted to something that affects our life and relationships. We’re unfaithful. In each of these circumstances, trust is broken.

Jill: Too often we think of broken trust for the big things like addiction or infidelity. However, trust can be broken in dozens of other less severe, but still very hurtful ways.

Mark: We recently interviewed Ron and Jody Zappia authors of The Marriage Knot for our No More Perfect Date Night members. The interview was so full of wisdom. One takeaway Jill and I have continued to talk about, however, was their “formula” for rebuilding trust.

Jill: We’ve found this 100% accurate and very easy to remember: Changed Behavior Over Time = TRUST. 

Mark: Let’s look at these words from both of our experiences.

Changed behavior:

When I was unfaithful, I broke Jill’s trust in a huge way. I had to break off the other relationship completely. I had to become an open book: no passwords on the phone or my computer–this was my choice and something I knew I had to do to rebuild Jill’s trust. I also had to put guardrails in place like getting off Facebook (because that’s where the affair started) and choosing not to make roadtrips alone.

Over time:

For the most part I am still doing almost all of those things seven years later. As far as Jill was concerned, I rebuilt her trust after the consistent changed behavior was in place for about two years. However, I feel those are still wise guardrails to keep in place to protect our marriage…so I am continuing with them.


Changed behavior:

What I brought to the relationship in an unhealthy way was misusing my strength. Too often I stepped into “parenting” Mark. Sometimes I minimized his thoughts and feelings (this is what we call the Slow Fade of Minimizing in our No More Perfect Marriages book.) I had to begin to listen well and engage in conversation when he shared his thoughts and feelings. I had to pay attention to my tone of voice and my tendency to think my way was the right way, recognizing that those things had hurt Mark in the past and caused him to mistrust me.

Over time:

I didn’t do these things once to earn back his trust. I did them over and over and over again until he knew that I had really changed and was committed to doing things differently moving forward. I had to blaze new trails and change the unhealthy dynamics I was responsible for in our marriage.

Mark: Most relationships deal with broken trust in some way or another. Sometimes it happens unintentionally. However, even if you unintentionally break your spouse’s trust, you have to recognize how that affected your partner and do what it takes to re-establish trust. When it comes to rebuilding trust, words mean very little. The only way to rebuild trust is to change your actions and be consistent in those changes over time.