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3 Surefire Ways to Rebuild Your Wife’s Trust

Last Updated: February 14, 2018

Carl Stewart

Carl Stewart is the author of the Amazon Kindle bestseller, The Porn Antidote: God’s Secret Weapon for Crushing Porn’s Grip, and Creating the Life and Marriage You Dream Of. Carl is a counselor and coach in an overflowing private practice where he works with men and marriages devastated by pornography and sexual addiction. He has advanced training and supervision in Emotionally Focused Therapy–the most empirically validated marital therapy which is uniquely suited to restoring marriages affected by sexual betrayal. Carl is a speaker at men’s events, marriage retreats, and parenting seminars. Check out Carl Stewart’s website and blog at www.thepornantidote.com.

3 surefire ways to rebuild your wife's trust-2“She’ll never trust me again anyway!” Strike one.

“I’m tired of being checked-up on like a little kid. I’m a grown man with a security clearance for crying out loud!!” Strike two.

“She doesn’t believe me even though I’m finally telling the truth.” Strike three–you’re out.

I hear these excuses when guys balk at the steps it takes to rebuild trust with their wives after betraying them. It is humbling, even embarrassing, so we push back.

Let me be blunt and honest here: swallow your pride and do what you need to do in order to heal your marriage. It’s time to man-up in a whole different way.

See Your Situation From a Different Perspective

Before I give you the three surefire tactics to rebuild your wife’s trust–it may be helpful to look at your situation from a different vantage point. No, not your wife’s–that may be too far of a stretch.

Imagine that you own a multimillion dollar company that pays you and your family quite well. You built it from the ground up after borrowing every penny you could get your hands on. This company is your baby–your prized possession.

Your best friend from college is a C.P.A., and he has been with you from the beginning. After fighting so many battles to make the company great over the past 16 years, you guys are blood brothers.

Then comes the day one of your board members blows the whistle on your friend. He has been embezzling a lot of money over the past three years. Over a million dollars is gone, and you can’t get it back.

Imagine how you would feel. Betrayed. Rage. Crushed. Confused. Like throwing up.

Your friend throws himself on your mercy. Sobbing, he tells about the bad investments he made. How he wasn’t trying to hurt you. That is wasn’t personal. He begs you not to fire him. To let him keep his job. To trust him.

What would you do?

Let’s keep playing. Say you allow him to keep his job as the Chief Financial Officer. Do you simply trust that he will never steal from you again? Would you set up checks and balances to make sure he was doing the right thing?

How about after three weeks or three months? “Come on, I’m a C.P.A. and I know what I’m doing” won’t quite cut it. You would check and re-check, especially when he promises that nothing is happening.

If you have been caught looking at porn or acting out, you are the C.P.A. in this story. You don’t have to like it, but you need to own it. It is a horrible spot for everyone.

3 Surefire Ways to Rebuild Your Wife’s Trust

As we get into the three surefire steps to rebuilding your wife’s trust, you need to accept one critical fact: she doesn’t trust your words or character right now.

Accept this, and these steps will work swimmingly. Shame her for not trusting you, blame her for your behavior, or tell your wife that she is crazy, and you are in for a world of hurt. What is that saying about a woman scorned?

Put on your big boy pants, because here we go.

1. Ruthless Transparency

Your wife needs to have immediate and unrestricted access to all of your devices, accounts, and history. She can’t trust you yet, so give her hard cold data. Facts don’t lie. People do.

This stings. No privacy. She sees everything (even when she is angry or snotty while checking on you).

All access to all accounts and devices. This includes all passcodes to all accounts and devices. Email, cell phone, text history, apps on the phone, social media (not just the accounts she knew about), laptop, tablets, GPS, iPod, etc.

No deleting texts, emails, internet history, or social media posts. Let her see the good, the bad, and the ugly.

In some cases, you may need to go back to a flip phone.

Plug your nose and take a big bite of humble pie. You are doing yourself a favor.

Can I let you in on a secret? This one will save you hundreds of dollars in a marriage counselor’s office. Ready?

Your willingness to be open and transparent is more important than whatever she sees on your devices.

Read that statement two or three more times. It is your attitude of openness and willingness, with humility instead of anger, that rebuilds the trust. She will be hurt to see that you looked at something again, no question about that. Deception is worse than sexual betrayal. Transparency helps repair the foundation.

2.Tell Her Where You Are

Enable your GPS so that she can see where you are. Call your wife to tell her when you are leaving work. This may sound like overkill, but trust me it isn’t.

Once a basic level of trust has been broken (or shattered), your wife is prone to doubt everything. Since she was duped for a while before, your wife is hyper-vigilant that she can be duped again.

Wives tell me they worry that their husbands are staying late at work to look at porn on their work computer, or in the parking lot on an iPhone.

Whether or not it seems rational to you, she imagines that you are looking at porn more than you think. You know what they say about cockroaches–for every one you find there are ten more you can’t see. She is looking for the other ten.

Volunteer information. Tell her where you are and what you are doing. The fact that you are telling her and the way you tell her gives her mind something concrete to hang onto. It can literally help her brain calm down.

3. Compassion and Understanding

Be patient with your wife as she reacts to the pain, fear, and anger of finding out her husband has been lusting after other women. Remember, these aren’t just pictures to her. You chose these women over her body (which she probably felt insecure about anyway).

I am not saying that your wife gets a pass and can say or do whatever she wants. She is still responsible for her anger.

Her brain is going to obsess after an intimate betrayal of trust. Her pain is likely going to come out as anger and accusations.

Related: 5 Characteristics of Husbands Who Help Their Wives Heal from Betrayal

Just like someone who broke their pinky toe on an end table, give her some grace. This helps her see that you are still with her even when she is emotionally vomiting. That you aren’t really preferring those fantasy girls on the screen.

I didn’t say this was easy, but I am saying it will help. Ride the bronco for a while; things typically calm down unless there is another episode of acting out.

Try These Three Tactics for a Week

There you have it–3 Surefire Ways to Rebuild Your Wife’s Trust. This is what I teach the men and marriages in my office every day. Don’t take my word for it–they tell me it works. Try these three tactics for one week and see what happens. You literally have nothing to lose.

Now, if you will excuse me, I suddenly have a strange urge to call my accountant.

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  • Comments on: 3 Surefire Ways to Rebuild Your Wife’s Trust
    1. Daniel on

      Is it really true? Isn’t relationship a question of trust? It may have some good inputs; however is it the role of the woman the control the man?

      Reply
      • sunny-dee on

        Daniel, the whole point is that if a husband is looking at porn, he has violated his wife’s trust. He has betrayed it. These are the steps that a man would take to restore something that he broke; it’s not about the wife being in control, it is about transparency and honesty (and ultimately, control) by the husband himself.

      • Melanie Jean Mayfield on

        This is a well-written article and I agree with most of it, but I am struggling with your conflicting statements toward the end. On the one hand, you say: “…Remember, these aren’t just pictures to her. You chose these women over her body (which she probably felt insecure about anyway).”. TRUE. However, you soon say the opposite: “…That you aren’t really preferring those fantasy girls on the screen.” [FALSE, or he wouldn’t be looking at ’em.] But then you say: “I am not saying that your wife gets a pass…” [Although you mention “emotional vomiting”, as one would expect.] “She is still responsible for her anger.”. ExCUSE me?? That is every bit as cruel and heartless as stabbing her and saying that she is responsible for bleeding, and then getting mad at her and blaming her for bleeding on your precious rug! My husband has not only lusted after other women, he has had sex with them- for real, not just fantasy- and he claims to be a “christian”. BULL.

      • Jan on

        Melanie, I think you misunderstood what he meant about the wife being “responsible for her anger.” I don’t think he meant that she’s responsible for BEING angry. I believe he means that she’s responsible for how she expresses that anger. Just how I interpreted it anyway.

    2. Joanne on

      Oh Daniel, I really do not think that Carl is advocating controlling people. Indeed what I pick up from this article is the entire opposite of that!

      If I tried to control my husband, I would be appaulled at myself, and the same the other way around, if he tried to control me I would be mortified!!!!

      But pornography, it is everywhere, and it has a great subtle power to destroy sacred things, and for me, and my husband our marriage is the most sacred thing in the world

      We were both very naive, and believed this moster could not affect us! Well it did! Big style!!!! And now, even though it has gone, it is like an ugly ghost that can come haunting at any time!!!!

      And so, to remedy this, we both now completely and utterly share our lives. We are not going to allow any of all that again, not ever!!!

      There is no point in us saying, I just trust you! We do trust each other. But sadly that is not enough when it comes to this madness. We have to ruthlessly pull together against the adversary, which is the pornography, not each other!!!

      And, what is wrong with that? Put simply, nothing, nothing at all ! But more importantly, what is right with that!!! Everything!!! Everything, because now we are together on this, nothing can penetrate, and instead of fear and bewilderment, our marriage is filled with peace, joy and laughter, and trust, much joyful, inspiring, uplifting trust!

      Hope this makes some sense

      Joanne

      Reply
      • A Wife on

        You go, Joanne! It is always uplifting to see a like minded woman commenting on here! I don’t know you, but your attitude and obvious love for your husband makes me happy. Your husband is truly blessed to have you in his life.

        I truly believe that, next to God and Jesus, a wife is the most important partner a man can have in the war for sexual purity and integrity. We were created to be the helper of our husband. God knew what He was doing when He did this. It is hard work, but it can be such an incredible blessing too!

        “Love never fails. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:7

        God Bless and keep you both!

      • Michael on

        Hello everyone. I have lied to my wife many times even for small stuff. I tell myself I’m not gonna do it no more and I tell her that even more. I just need some help some advice from men and women. Counseling is not really helping me. I don’t want to lose my wife I love her and we have been through a lot together. Not to mention how this will affect my kids if she does leave me. Please feel free to tell me how it is I can take it. I need a wake up call

    3. Joanne on

      Hello A Wife

      I have only just seen your comment. Yes, indeed it is so very uplifting to find folk walking this walk and doing so in a Christ Centred way.

      I dont know if you have heard of Sheila Wray Gregoire but she is a Christian with many fantastic ideas that can help married couples bring things to a better place. Her site has been a great help for me and my hubby…………….

      http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/

      I am also, right now, studying Carls work at http://www.thepornantidote.com. His explaination of the three brains has been particularly helpful, and it is also a very good way to simplify things, especially when explaining to folk that are new to all this, and are trying to understand exactly what the true effect of porn on the mind, brain and body can be

      Hope you are all doing well. And thank you to everybody that posts here. I am certain that everything shared here helps far more people than any of us can really know

      Joanne

      Reply
    4. Mitch on

      Transparency by the husband is not control by the wife. Sexual refusal, on the other hand, is.

      Reply
      • Former pastors wife on

        Sexual refusal may be a form of control and it may not. Feelings of safety and trust have to be restored at a level that allows the injured spouse to safely participate. If they enter into sexual intimacy before they are ready healing and trust will take much longer. It can be mentally, and emotionally damaging. The challenges before the couple will be magnified. Every injured spouse is a unique individual and the time frame varies. What is certain is that great compassion and sacrificial love are overwhelmingly needed!!!

      • Kay Bruner on

        Consent is absolutely necessary to healthy sexuality. Every person has the right to their own body, and to say no to sex for any reason. No person “owes” sex to anyone else. This is basic to healthy boundaries, and must be respected if trust is going to be restored.

      • Lost hope on

        Not when covenant is broken, buddy.

    5. Dr. Harry W. Schaumburg on

      When trust is shattered, trying to put it back together again is next to an impossible task. When a man looks at porn, or acts out, his heart is saying, if not his mind, “I don’t care anymore!” His heart must change at a deep level. Managing the mistrust keeps a couple on the surface, hindering the possess of moving from false intimacy to real intimacy. The opposite of mistrust is not trust; the opposite of mistrust is caring. In other words, heart change! This concept has been applied to 1000s of couples in counseling. It works!

      Reply
      • EJN on

        What do you say about a man who cheated many times early I marriage still cheating after 40 years?

    6. Wife on

      What about a husband who cheats on you every time your pregnant with his child. What if he lives a double life and while your vomiting goes to the basement to take advantage of the situation. I don’t trust him anymore and don’t care to. I’m tired of being used. This sounds like a nice step by step way to get the wife to fall in love with her spouse so that he can cheat again.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Yes, when you’re in a situation like that, it’s definitely to re-examine your boundaries and see if you want to continue in a relationship with someone who is not sincerely working on his own issues. Here and here are some articles on boundaries. And here’s my personal favorite: A High View of Marriage Includes Divorce. An abuser/addict will definitely use manipulative tactics to keep his victim engaged in the relationship, and if that’s what’s happening, please know that nobody here at Covenant Eyes would ever support such a thing. We whole-heartedly affirm the healthy boundaries of women, including the right to divorce someone who will not do their own work. You’ll know when that’s happening. Trust yourself, set your boundaries, and be well. Peace to you, Kay

      • M. Collins on

        I did not read the article that way. I see it as a man lusting through porn of strange women. I don’t think this article is referring to physical adultery but to video/image adultery. It is adultery guys! Really, it is!

    7. former pastors wife on

      I agree with the article. My husband acted out (porn, prostitutes, and affairs) throughout our first marriage of 26 years as well as
      (porn, prostitutes and 1 affair that I know of) in the second marriage (to clarify, same man/husband in both marriages). When we had to start over 3 years into the second marriage it was clearly going to take a lot longer to gain trust. I had been duped too many times and I was diagnosed with complex PTSD. I desperately needed (you might consider thinking of this as a way to control the PTSD/anxiety symptoms vs controlling the victimizer.) all 3 of these tools for rebuilding trust. The defining component was the attitude of his heart. Sadly, from my viewpoint, he rejected ruthless transparency and eventually resented proving locations and honoring the boundaries I needed. There were moments when his attitude aligned with his actions yet after so many repeated cycles of suspicions/getting caught/partial confessions and starting over, it was going to take longer than 6-8 weeks of appearing to be humble for me to embrace that this might be genuine. He was great at “turning over a new leaf” and in my experience, eventually it would be turned back over. We both tried for an additional 3+years and I had to kindly confront him on taking cash from our bank account (multiple hundreds of dollars over multiple months) and that ended the marriage because “I’m tired of being checked up on” and “I’m not going to put up with that crap anymore “.
      Sadly, many SA leaders agree that this ( 3 ways of rebuilding trust – specifically proof of location) is a way of controlling the addict and/or a form of punishment, hence, they discourage addicts from accepting some of these practices. I believe this perspective was a negative, influencing factor in my husbands attitude. It may have also been the excuse he needed to leave the marriage. Certainly, the injured spouse could use these tools as punishment yet, my experience with myself and others is that most of it comes from trying to rebuild trust and or control the fear/pain.
      I would agree that I was still responsible for my reactions; rage along with emotional vomiting was among them. And it was understandable……. years of lies, manipulation, gaslighting etc. it’s the perfect set up for a myriad of explosive emotions and reactions. It is also damaging to whomever is around when it occurs, my kids were hurt and I have to own my part in that. My husband was also hurt and even though he created the situation I have come to a place where I can connect with the need to own aspects of that. I also totally get why that sounds crazy because as Melanie so accurately depicted in an earlier reply, it is like being stabbed and being held accountable for bleeding all over the carpet. Clearly, this specific context has multiple layers and yes their is ownership to be had in emotional vomiting and rage. It is also not that black and white. I will say, if the victimizer is telling their spouse how wrong the spouse’s reaction is…….that is beyond cruel!!! I equated it to being in court and the person on trial for murdering your child is on the stand wagging his finger in your face and verbalizing how hurt they were when you screamed at them to stop stabbing your child! That is beyond cruel!!!
      What IS appropriate is anger!!!! Not just appropriate, it is a healthy, God given way of responding!!!!! Anger is made up of passion and passion is expressed demonstratively! Jesus himself expressed his anger appropriately and demonstratively!!! He is the example of what passionate anger can look like.
      Grace to others (including the victimizer) and especially yourself is a necessity when dealing with betrayal. It doesn’t necessarily come quickly or easily and it isn’t linear yet, it can help lead to healing whether your marriage survives or not.
      After rebuilding trust at least 3 different times in the first marriage (using similar tools as referenced above, along with ministerial and professional help) and the need to start over in the second marriage, anything short of ruthless, humble, transparency would not have worked.
      I wonder what it would be like if those who injured their spouse offered, on their own accord, all 3 of the rebuilding trust tools as a gift, with a vulnerable, humble heart to the injured spouse, instead of the injured spouse having to ask for them? That would be a beautiful, big first step toward healing and trust!

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        I’m so sorry for the pain you’ve suffered, and so grateful for the wisdom you’ve shared here. I think one of the things that is so overlooked in recovery is the need for emotional trust to be restored. It’s not simply about behavior, although of course behavior matters. The deep healing is needed on the emotional-trust level, and many men never gain the capacity to turn toward their spouses. They might adhere to certain behaviors and expect to be rewarded for that–but this is not emotionally trustworthy! And the spouse knows this at a deep level…. At any rate, I’m glad you were able to see reality and take the steps you needed. Thank you for sharing your story of hope and healing. peace, Kay

    8. Josh on

      I broke my wife’s trust by exchanging explicit text messages with my female boss for purpose of a promotion. We were married a year and a half and the behavior lasted two months before she discovered it.

      I was full of remorse and humility. I was ashamed and embarrassed to have done that to my wife. I immediately did all of the things a man “should” do in a bout with infidelity. I immediately cut off all contact with the other party, even moved jobs within a week. I gave her full access to my phone, offered to switch to an iphone so she could see all that I did while not home (messaging, calls, location etc.) Every day that I left the house k sent her my drive on the Waze app which she could follow in real time. I would message her or be on the phone with her every time I left the house. We went to couples therapy weekly. I took the constant bludgeoning that was her anger and sadness. I was with her through the ups and the downs.

      We are at six months now since the discovery and she wants a divorce. Not only a divorce, but she says she cannot and will never trust me again and that she cannot keep telling herself that she’s happy. All of this is understandable after what I put her through.

      But for the guys out there, these methods do have reasoning behind them and for a while, they seemed to be exactly what she needed. However, not every infidelity can be repaired. I am living proof of that.

      We had a very strong marriage before this happened… I just had a horrible lapse in judgement for my own self greed. That’s all it takes.

      Reply

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