Once Shattered, How Is Trust Restored?
“Respect, like trust, must be earned.” Growing up, I heard this from my parents, teachers, and coaches. But as often as I heard this, no one explained how trust and respect are earned. What makes for a respectable and trustworthy person? And once shattered, how are trust and respect restored?
Today is Father’s Day, a holiday set aside to show respect and appreciation for fathers. But for spouses of pornography and sex addicts, Father’s Day can be an emotional time. When a father is an addict, there can be grief over the loss of the father the addict could have been, had his life not been impacted by addiction. Or if an addict has been sober only for a few months, there can be fear and uncertainty as to whether or not he will stay sober, continue with recovery, and eventually heal. But even if an addict has been sober and in recovery for years, concerns remain over how the addiction will continue to affect the family. Spouses of sex addicts also worry about what kind of role model and father their partner is, especially for the children in his life. Is he trustworthy? Is he worthy of respect? And once broken, can trust and respect truly be restored?
About a month ago one of our A Circle of Joy ladies shared that her husband, after a year of sobriety, announced since he had not acted out in a year, everything was fine now and she could trust him again.
If only it were that simple! Trust isn’t something magical that happens all at once and on a certain day or time. Earning someone’s trust and respect is a process: a set of actions and habits performed over time with intention, consistency, willingness, persistence, commitment, and by embracing responsibility. There are no certain number of days or months after which this process is completed and trust is restored.
The book Worthy of Her Trust, which is used by our men’s ministry, www.FreedomUnit.com, puts it this way, “Trust building is an ongoing process that consists of multiple intentional factors divinely pieced together over the course of time and with a heart attitude of humility and commitment.”
Even in the Bible, Jesus puts emphasis on the importance of having a heart attitude of humility and commitment. Trust building is a process that begins with humility and willingness on the addict’s part, and mercy and patience on the spouse's part. But humility and willingness are only the first steps in the process.
For some real world examples, entertainer Chris Rock recently spoke with Rolling Stone magazine about his wife's filing for divorce because of his multiple infidelities. Rock said, "I was a piece of s---. I wasn't a good husband a lot of the times." Rock mentions he thought he could get away with his bad behavior in his marriage because he was the famous breadwinner. Now he knows the opposite is true. "That actually goes the other way," he says. "My faults are magnified. Your significant other, if they really love you, has a high opinion of you. And you let them down."
Another celebrity who publicly admitted he is a sex addict is Ozzy Osbourne. Osbourne says, "I am mortified at what my behavior has done to my family. I have gone into intense therapy.” His wife Sharon confirmed on “The Talk” that Ozzy has been doing outpatient treatment for sex addiction for three months, and then he will be in an inpatient treatment center for three months.
For couples working to rebuild trust, Worthy of Her Trust, is a fantastic resource. Though the book was written for men who want to work to rebuild trust and save their marriages, women find this book helpful too. It helps women to better recognize the trust building process and determine if their husband is embracing it or not. Couples also find this book a valuable resource, especially those working together as a team to rebuild trust and repair and restore their broken relationship.
Another wonderful resource for anyone wanting to understand how to determine if a person is trustworthy or not, is Brene Brown’s video B.R.A.V.I.N.G.. It can be found on our Facebook page if you click here.
Unfortunately, none of us go through life without experiencing hardships, whether it be struggling with an addiction, betrayal, or some other different trial. But it is how people respond to hardship that determines who they become and whether or not they deserve trust and respect. In terms of addiction, the best role models for our children are the addicts who face their addiction by taking responsibility for it with humility and maturity, along with a willingness to grow and change, and an authentic desire to right the wrongs and repair the harm.
Trust and respect, once lost, can be restored, but it is a process much like learning to walk again after having broken both legs. It requires hard work and commitment, but it also takes grace, hope, and faith, and an enduring belief that change is possible.