How can we fix our trust after infidelity on his part multiple times?

husband and I have been married for 3 years but on and off for 6. Infidelity on his part. He was in the military shortly after we met that first year .
Asked by Janey

Hello Janey,

I am glad you reached out for support at this time.  I am sorry you are struggling in this moment.  I would encourage you to start to work with a therapist to help you learn skills to help you overcome your struggles.  If we were to meet I would first talk to you about the counseling process through our site and how together we could help you obtain your goals going forward, how I work as a counselor and how I would try to help you through the counseling process.  

I would also take the first session to get to know you by asking you a few questions to get a better understanding of your struggles so that I am able to focus on a plan and goals to work on going forward. I want you to know that you are not alone during this time even though you may feel like you are alone at this time.  During the therapy process, you can have support 100% of the time as you are able to reach out and talk to a therapist 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  

I am going to send you some skills and tools to help you start to build trust back with your husband and other struggle you are having.  If we were to work together we would be going over these and more tools to help you through your struggles and be able to ask for support from others.

After reading your question I wanted to send you skills to help you with building trust in all relationships you have in your life. 

If you want a healthy, happy, long-term relationship, you’ll need to prioritize building and maintaining trust, Why? You need trust in order to feel secure in what you have and to know that your person won't dip when things get stressed. You need trust in order to know that when you are having a moment, they'll be there to hold your hand. You need trust in a relationship in order to feel safe, embraced, and truly loved.

Trust is the feeling of emotional, physical, and psychological security generated when a person is consistent with their behavior. Trust is the foundation for so many aspects of a solid relationship, such as feeling understood, having confidence that your partner is being open and honest with you, and having the freedom to express your authentic self.

Relationships are hard work, trust is a tricky business, and building and maintaining trust is a long-term, never-ending job for both parties. Trust is built on regularly showing up in your relationship, Small, consistent efforts are worth more than grand gestures.

But where to start? Here are some suggestions on how to build trust in your relationship. And just a reminder: These tips are for you and your partner, so you might want to encourage them to read this, too!

Be there when they need you.

When life throws you punches, it helps to have someone to weather the blow with you. It’s about prioritizing your own thoughts, feelings, and your emotional needs and your partner doing the same for you, and it will show you’re always there to provide support in a vulnerable time.

Being open and honest and talking with your partner about your needs will allow for your partner to know that you will validate their feelings and avoid defensiveness, it makes it easy to trust you with their emotions.  We all want a partner who can be here for us when we’re having a hard time.

Be responsive and engaged.

You know those times when you finish expressing your feelings, only to realize that nobody has been listening to you? Yeahhh, that is pretty much the worst feeling in the world. Establishing trust with your partner takes thoughtful communication and active listening.

When you are communicating or spending time with your partner, be attentive and attuned to their feelings and experience.  Being attuned involves using your non-verbal and verbal communication to show that you are paying attention and that your partner and what they express are important to you.

If you are in a long-distance relationship, you can still validate your partner’s emotions and experiences over the phone, by text, or via video, as long as you are paying enough attention enough to recognize how your partner is feeling and taking time to ask clarifying questions when you’re unsure.

If, on the other hand, you are the one who feels like you want to share something important with your partner, tell them before you jump in. Try, Is this a good time to talk about this? to make sure they are emotionally available. Arranging a mutually agreed upon time to talk gives all parties the opportunity to be as present as possible.

Be consistent and committed.

Anything that you do to build a positive connection in the relationship has to be repetitive, Building something nice doesn’t just take one random act, it takes a lot of consistency and support, for example In order to build a strong house, you have to place brick after brick after brick for it to feel like a home. Relationships are the same way—they take committed and consistent actions. And it'll spare you tons of doubt and stress.

So, show up for your partner when you say you will—even when things get tough, and come through on your promises, so they know they can rely on you long-term. Consistency is for the long haul.

Get in touch with your vulnerable side.

Sharing things about yourself can be awkward, raw, and downright intimidating, but you to risk it to build trust within yourself and others. Start off by sharing that secret project you’ve considered starting, or why you’re nervous to meet their friends. While it might not come easy to you from the get-go, it’s a great way to feel more comfortable with the other person. That’s how you build intimacy and confidence in your bond—both of which create trust and try to make eye contact with your partner while you're opening up. Even that small gesture shows you’re open and willing to connect on a deeper level. Getting in touch with your vulnerable side means that you are allowing yourself to make the courageous decision to be fully expressed in your relationship.

Prioritize quality time.

Prioritizing quality time allows you more opportunities to practice being emotionally accessible, responsive, and engaged. Quality time also helps you and your partner to build awareness about your personal boundaries and relationship expectations.

Respond to their needs.

Building trust can actually be very simple. Listen to what is important to them, and do it.  Sometimes, this calls for a little sacrifice, like rescheduling happy hour plans when your partner tells you they had a bad day at work and could use a cuddle. Doing so says, ‘I hear you, I see you, and you’re important.’ And that is the foundation of trusting each other to be able to attend to their needs and yours.

Set boundaries.

Boundaries are important with building trust, setting boundaries will help your partner treat you how you want to be treated. Without knowing your boundaries, it is likely that your partner will do or say something that will cross one or many of them. Don’t wait until your partner has violated a boundary to bring it up. Take some time on your own to identify your boundaries, and then set aside some time to have a discussion with your partner about them. You could tell your partner, “my time is really important to me. If you are going to be late, I’d appreciate you communicating that so that I can adjust my schedule accordingly,” 

Respect each other.

This might sound like a no-brainer, but it makes the list for a reason. Sure, it’s like the first rule of being human, but it gets taken for granted all too often. “Belittling, criticizing, and yelling erode trust—fast. So, set up rules for your arguments, since that's when respect often becomes an issue. Agree to never resort to the things you won't tolerate. So, if that's name-calling, cursing at each other, or calling each other crazy in the heat of the moment, identify those actions you want to avoid—and stick to your rules.

Follow through on promises.

Say what you mean and do what you say.  If your partner can trust your word, that goes a long way.  It can be small things, too, like promising to call the plumber and actually doing it. Trust develops in situations when people have the opportunity to drop the ball but actually come through to show they’re reliable.

Take responsibility for your actions.

On that note, if you ever do drop the ball (you're only human), know that you can still nurture trust in your relationship by acknowledging your shortcomings. Accountability proves that you’re a team player and that you know your words and actions hold weight, so don't skimp on it.

For example, if you forgot to pick up the dry-cleaning, instead of blaming your partner for not reminding you, 'fess up and do it as soon as you can. Doing so encourages them to do the same, and it also says, "Hey, I'm not perfect, but I'm going to try my best for you." That's genuine trust at its finest.

Don't bail on commitments.

Of course, life happens, and sometimes you have to cancel your Zoom date because you're dealing with a sudden fire at work. But as often as you can, show up for the things you've agreed to, especially plans you make well in advance. Following through with plans communicates that you are consistent, which is necessary to create trust in any relationship.  Doing so shows your partner that by sticking to the commitments you make with them, you're sticking to your commitment to them—regardless of how you might be feeling when the time comes. You want the same from them, right? So be the example and you'll help form a level of mutual, deep trust.

Bring up issues as they happen.

When something in the relationship bothers you, don’t bite your tongue. That’s holding out on your partner. You might think you're doing them a favor, but you'll likely end up airing your grievances in other (worse) ways down the road. No one wants to be the one who stews on an off-handed comment from three months ago, then starts an unfair argument out of nowhere.

Instead, share concerns as they arise. By doing so, it shows you’re comfortable enough to be honest and straight with your significant other at the moment.

What if I have "trust issues"?

The only thing you can do is be completely honest with your partner and let them know what's going on in your noggin.

To keep anyone from getting defensive, clearly telling your partner how you feel (disconnected, for example) and what you need from them (like, reassurance about your future). If you make it about their actions, they’ll reinforce the insecurity you’re already feeling. Make it more about you, so your emotional needs are the ones in focus.

Trust got this!

I hope that these skills have been helpful for you in the struggles you have been facing at this time. I am going to give you my information if you are wanting to start to process through and work on your struggles going forward, please reach out to Betterhelp and ask to be matched with Crystal Westman. If we were to work together we would work on more skills and tools to help you when you are struggling and get back to a positive space.  I encourage you to reach out for support at this time to help you get to the best version of yourself.