Over the next several posts we'll be looking at what is required to rebuild trust. It's hard. Very hard and humbling for both involved. Still it is well worth it.
A primary requirement is accountability. Accountability and examining issues come first. Are you willing to be accountable for your time to restore trust? It can feel suffocating at times but is necessary to let the other person know you are serious about the pain caused to him or her. It also lets the other person know you really do value the relationship even though you've acted in a way that communicates the opposite of that. Staying consistent in taking time to talk about the issues is important here. Both spouses owning their contributions to the problems in the marriage as a whole will facilitate trust.
Apology and forgiveness is the final phase. If it is done too early, it is a hollow forgiveness. Some people are apologyaholics. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. After a while it feels meaningless. So save it. Learn to ask how the other person is feeling about things, listen and keep your apology to yourself. Often times an apology is a way for the person offering it to feel less guilty instead of being a real gift to the one betrayed.
If an apology does feel appropriate be sure and be specific with it. Don't just lob an I'm sorry over in his or her general direction. 'I'm sorry for lying to you about how I was spending money on the affair' is a more specific and helpful offering for example.
We'll talk more about forgiveness later but for now don't succumb to Christian pressure to forgive immediately. It's a process and it's ok to take time and allow yourself to understand more fully all of the pain you are experiencing. The final forgiveness can bring closure, but it does not necessarily mean all the pain will disappear. Grief generally continues after forgiveness and is often misunderstood as unforgiveness. Forgiveness means one doesn't want to get even with another or desire harm to come to him or her. Grief means I'm sad and/or angry about what happened. One can still be sad and angry after forgiveness has been granted.
If infidelity has occurred, the infidel (offending spouse) needs to account for 1440 minutes of the day, every day. Ann was great about this with me. She would let me know what her day looked like and let me know later if anything had changed.
At times she grew weary of keeping track of every minute, yet she also knew the great value it had in helping renew my belief in her ability to be honest. Even her being five minutes late was insanely painful for me. The devil can dance a mean jig through painful memories in five minutes. She helped me out by calling if she was able to let me know about the extra five minutes. We weren't texting back in those dark ages. :)
Along with accountability obedience to God aids the restoration process. You may come to a point when you are living by obedience, letting God work at His pace. Sometimes he seems painfully slow to us. Really the slowness is more about the deep, penetrating nature of the betrayal.
Life must be yielded to God in the midst of the pain. This doesn't mean there is no wrestling with God during this time. Often times our spirituality and relationship with God is clarified and deepened in dealing with betrayal. Is he really good? Is he really powerful? Sure doesn't feel like it at the moment. In my case as I wrestled with those questions I also held in tension that he was the best thing (person/relationship) that ever happened to me.
Obedience is not ‘I want to do this…’ rather it is ‘I will do this…’ Obedience is choosing to act in ways that will benefit your marriage even when you don't feel like it. I don't believe in fake it til you make it. I believe in facing the truth head on, pain and all, and choosing to respond out of something deep within that holds a high vision of what the marriage can become.
What we do out of obedience, God rewards in Love. This is such a powerful truth. Those rewards may not be felt instantly, but they will come. You'll just have to borrow my hope on that one.
At times, when the steps are backward stumbles, it's easy to feel like giving up. But remember, God doesn't write 'finished' on our foreheads when we screw up. It will require more of you and it is a lot of WORK. But he isn't done with you.
It also will require letting God work at His pace. We can experience him as total molasses sometimes. The reality is that we underestimate the depth of our souls and the time deep, inside out transformation takes.