7 Steps to Rebuilding Trust in Your Relationship After Betrayal and Lies

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interlocked fingers - rebuilding trust in relationship
(Image/Life Supports Counselling)

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post written by my friend Jay Pyatt, who mentors men struggling with various addictions, including sexual ones which have resulted in relationship betrayal. Jay has a proven track record of helping men conquer inner demons, reconnect with their spouses, and restore broken trust at home. How does he know what to do? Because he’s been there. He fought back and won. And you can, too. Jay works side by side with his wife Lori to help couples battle and heal from these issues and more at The Couple Cure. Please check them out.

I’ll be honest with you: I lied to my wife almost every night for four straight years.

I did a quick estimate and figure I lied about a thousand times to her face in those four years.

I know how to destroy trust in a relationship. Thankfully, I learned how to rebuild trust, too.

It wasn’t easy.

It wasn’t even difficult.

It was the single hardest, awful-est, and most challenging thing I’ve ever done—and I have jumped out of airplanes.

But, I did it. And here is the really important thing: Rebuilding trust is worth it.

Here why:

  • You heal the person you betrayed.
  • You can look yourself in the mirror again, knowing you are an upstanding person.
  • Your relationship will be stronger and more satisfying to both of you.

What I lied about doesn’t matter—at least not as much as the impact of the lies and the other behavior around the lies. (If you are interested in the whole story, you can read it here.)

Relationships are built on a foundation of trust, and when I undermined the foundation a thousand times, I didn’t expect the relationship to survive.

Yet, my relationship survived.

My wife and I did all of the normal things couples do during times like this. We went to counseling, we read more books, and we talked about it. And got nowhere.

Not because those things aren’t helpful or important, but because of my attitude and my skill set. Specifically, my attitude hovered around the “is this really worth it?” idea, and I possessed no skill set for rebuilding trust.

Additionally, I thought just not lying would fix things.

My thinking was: If I quit lying, everything will be okay. I just have to be honest when she asks me questions. She should trust me again in two or three weeks.

This didn’t work.

Not lying is really hard to distinguish from lying when there isn’t a way to verify what the heck is going on. My wife still didn’t feel safe and certainly didn’t trust me. Simply not lying isn’t enough to get the relationship turned around.

I had to get radical in my honesty. I had to put more energy into the relationship than I had previously. I had to grow.

I had to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Again, rebuilding trust challenged me more than anything I have ever done.

Can You Rebuild Trust?

My very firm answer on this is: Maybe.

Not everyone chooses the relationship over their own comfort. Not everyone wants to humble themselves in front of the person they betrayed.

Sometimes the cost to the betrayed person exceeds the time needed to rebuild.

However, I rebuilt trust. So it can be done. And now, I actually help other guys fighting those same battles, and many have rebuilt trust in their marriages.

There is hope if you are willing to do the work.

Hard work.

Scary work.

Are you willing to do it? Because if you aren’t, tell the other person right now. Rip off the bandage and tell them you don’t want the relationship any longer. Walk out the front door.

Okay, if you are still with me, then there is a chance for you to rebuild trust in a relationship wrecked with lies, deception, or sneakiness.

7 Steps to Rebuilding Trust in Your Relationship

To rebuild trust, I needed to take a different approach than I had in the past. What got me where I was wouldn’t get me where I wanted to be.

I needed to “grow up.”

I lived from an immature place, or maybe an uneducated one.

Growth is painful—ask anyone trying to get into shape. Using new muscles and developing new habits takes effort and focus, and a degree of suffering.

But simply telling you to “grow up” isn’t terribly helpful and probably feels a little insulting. I’m okay with the insulting part. If you need to rebuild trust, then you didn’t get here through honorable behavior.

Anyway, I am about to break it down into six things you can do to begin rebuilding trust. Plus, a bonus option you need to consider seriously.

All of these steps are written with the assumption you betrayed your spouse or significant other. If it was someone else, you may be able to adapt the steps to fit your situation.

Step 1: Consistency

To rebuild trust, I had to be consistent.

Anything I committed to do, I had to see it through. My wife lived in fear of the uncertain ground I created by lying. When I would start something only to fall quickly back into past behavior, this just reminded her of how little she could count on me.

So, if you start something, stick to it. “Every Damn Day” as I read on a Nike shirt.

There are some pitfalls to consistency, but you must stay consistent or the person you betrayed will see this as playing with their trust (or heart).

Stay consistent, or you waste your efforts.

Step 2: Proactivity

I’ll be honest; this word pissed me off for a long time. Both my therapist and my wife kept telling me to “be proactive.”

I didn’t get it. I think I know what the word means, but not what it means, mechanically. What am I supposed to do proactively?

The answer is: Take action on your own initiative.

Step 3: Meeting Needs

The person you broke trust with has specific needs. Find out what they are.

Now, go back to step two, and start meeting these needs proactively.

Don’t wait for the person you betrayed to tell you what they need. Go ask them.

Once they tell you what they need, go do it.

This is the growth process I mentioned earlier. You will have to set aside your own needs to meet the needs of the other person. Considering some possible alternatives, this is a small price to pay.

Step 4: Openness

Openness and honesty are two sides of the same coin.

Honesty means if I ask you a question, you tell me the truth. Openness means you tell me the truth without me having to ask the ‘right’ question, especially in areas where trust has been broken.

Rebuilding trust requires a new level of communication with the person whom you betrayed.

You must talk to them about what you are doing, plain and simple. Open and direct.

I am not saying, “Hey, this is a good idea!”

I am telling you: Openness is a requirement.

If you aren’t willing to give the other person this much access to your life, you may never rebuild trust.

Giving full access to the person you betrayed will help them see your commitment to do whatever it takes to make things right.

So, if you betrayed them through money, give them access to the bank accounts. If you cheated in the relationship, give them the passwords to your phone, computer, social media, and anything else you can think of so they can determine and verify what you are up to.

Step 5: Vulnerability

When it comes to the scariest words in the English language, vulnerability is probably near the top—at least it was for me.

Vulnerability is the very reason I lied to my wife. The truth makes me vulnerable to her judgment, rejection, or anger; all of which were justified from my behavior.

I tell the guys I work with: “The relationship you want with your wife will be purchased through your vulnerability.”

I really think of vulnerability as taking off the armor that I used to protect myself.

For me, that was my anger when she would ask uncomfortable questions. When she did—Boom!—I got angry.

This is an effective way of telling another person to shut up. Effective, but not helpful or healthy. Anger is one way to stop the conversation. Or you might run away or shut down.

The other person really needs you to listen even though it feels awful to discuss the topic they brought up.

They also need you to connect with the emotions of what they’re going through. They need you to know how bad it feels for them. This is difficult because it requires us to double-down on how rotten it feels to hear how our unhealthy behavior impacts someone close to us.

Step 6: Ownership

Take responsibility for your actions and the impact those actions had on the other person.

Then keep taking responsibility for those actions, especially when it feels uncomfortable.

I say that because I am a minimizer. I nearly ended my marriage trying to salvage my image with the very person I lied to.

So when she would say, “Remember those times you lied about using porn at work?”, I would respond with something like, “I didn’t say that, I said I only looked at YouTube videos at work.” And then she would say, “That is not what you said…” and the breakdown would continue until I finally confessed or re-owned my actions.

This type of behavior makes people crazy. 

Bonus – Step 7: Blind Spots

Believe it or not, I am not clear on all of my behaviors and how they impact the person I betrayed.

This means I have blind spots—areas of my personality that I’m completely unaware of and need help to see.

Ask the person you betrayed for help with this. This requires humility (or acknowledging that I don’t know everything) and a willingness to learn.

Once you discover these blind spots, start working on them, or at the very least, own them. Because these could be the very things holding you back in the relationship.

Give Them Time

These are the basics, and they’ll require practice. While you are doing this, the other person will need time to heal and decide whether they believe it’s worth it to stay.

I lied for four years in the last go-round; so I shouldn’t be shocked it took almost four years to fix things. Although I drug my feet on these topics and made them much more difficult than they needed to be.

Get Help

My work with men trying to rebuild trust in their relationship shortened the recovery time to somewhere between four and 18 months, depending on the breakdown.

So, if you feel stuck and don’t know what to do next, you might want to contact me for assistance.

Also, if you sign up on my mailing list, I will let you know when our upcoming video series on this topic goes live.

From here, you may want to read about:


About the Author

Jay Pyatt is a certified BraveHearts Mentor and founder of Porn Is Killing Me where he mentors men through weekly video or phone meetings. The meetings help them to establish healthy disciplines and work through a proven curriculum guiding them to a path of long-term freedom.

39 thoughts on “7 Steps to Rebuilding Trust in Your Relationship After Betrayal and Lies”

  1. Great post.

    I think this is a key part: “They also need you to connect with the emotions of what they’re going through. They need you to know how bad it feels for them. This is difficult…”

    1. Thanks Mike. There are days I wish I didn’t know more on this topic. And there are days I realize I don’t know much at all.

      Anyway, hope it is helpful for you.

  2. Pingback: 7 Steps to Rebuilding Trust in Your Relationship After Betrayal and Lies — Must Be This Tall To Ride – Calidad en hortalizas y educacion ambiental

  3. I highly recommend the book Out of the Doghouse: A Step by Step Relationship Saving Guide for Men Caught Cheating by Robert Weiss for anyone dealing with infidelity in a relationship (on the man’s part). Honestly this book saved my relationship because my boyfriend and I had no idea where to start.

  4. I love that the worlds of Matthew Fray and Jay Pyatt have collided. I told my husband almost 1 year and a half ago to read Matthew Fray’s blog and my husband has been working with Jay Pyatt for almost a year now. Thanks to both of you great guys for learning from your mistakes and using them to help other men with their marriages.

    1. Whoa.

      You seeing this, Jay? Fate, sir. Like, magic space stuff. I love it.

      Kathleen. You just made my day with this story. Thank you very much for sharing.

  5. Profoundly simple and straightforward . This is the equivalent reading the assembly directions to any of the things Anne has brought home over the years.m sure in my youth I pridefully threw out the directions ( as many do) only to screw up royally thereby causing angst between us. With a good heart and great effort I figured the directions method was best for us both . So guys read the directions

      1. Jay..I got my kick in the ass 28 years ago…against all odds we were able to fix grow and move forward. We never forget the struggle drama hurt and yes joy of that time in our lives…35 years later still have each others back and walk hand in hand. Thanks for helping and caring…there’s too much unnecessary hurt going on out there

  6. I love this blog, but today I REALLY love this blog. Thank you both for the time that you take to share this information.

    Rebuilding trust is HARD HARD HARD work. And sadly most people, but especially men seem to be clueless on how to fix things when they have messed them up. Most of the men I have dealt with will “work” at the emotional stuff, but a little past the point of uncomfortable, once it gets to the seriously uncomfortable stuff they are out.

    Just wanted to say THANKS for the info.

  7. THIS is our biggest obstacle This is why nothing is changing and THIS is why my husband won’t fix his mistakes!

    ‘Not everyone chooses the relationship over their own comfort. Not everyone wants to humble themselves in front of the person they betrayed.”

      1. I doubt it. He says so but then he renigs. There is no follow through. There is a lot of blameshifting and gaslighting to avoid change.

        1. I waited almost 12 years for my husband to figure it out. Either of us wanted to abandon the marriage, it neither of us knew how to fix it either. You may have to draw your line in the sand. Give him some books or resources and tell him it’s “do the work or we are done time”. It sounds tough but I had a a boss once who said “what you allow you teach”. You have to be willing to walk away if he isn’t going to stop hurting you. He has to acknowledge that he married you for a reason, if he can’t or won’t remeber why and work on your marriage there isn’t a reason to have one anymore.

    1. Oh, I remember having that conversation with my husband! Actually, it was less of a conversation and more of a blubbering, angst-filled snotfest where I cried, “Why do you always choose to protect YOUR OWN feelings above mine? Why can’t you just for once choose ME?”

      For whatever reason, he took those words to heart. It didn’t happen all at once and there were missteps along the way, but when the day came that I told him he had done something that hurt me and he DIDNT defend himself and make excuses, but simply HEARD and ACCEPTED what I was telling him, I knew we had finally broken through that particular barrier.

      Take heart, your breakthrough may come yet.

      1. Ive been on this journey of asking, crying, begging, pleading, and now screaming for over 12 years. If he loved his kids and wife he would stop caring about himself more than them. His message is so clear that how he feels about himself is more importnt than how he treats us and how we feel about him. Our family is in crisis. I have no one to turn to. He has caused the loss of every friend and family we had. He CAN change for the better. But he wont. He wants s to forget the past. That is so convenient for him. I cant pretend the past (which is still the present!) didnt happen. The only proof is him being honest about his mistakes and making up for them thru ongoing proof. Anytime he is expected to show a different version he says whats the point and why bother and doesnt try.

        1. I’m very sorry to hear that. This is a tough place to be.

          I am very definitely a hang-on-at-all-costs kind of person when it comes to marriage. I know not everybody is built that way, and that though I find value in the “hanging-on” process, not everyone finds the same value and I’m not advocating it as a blanket solution in all situations.

          The only thing I can say is that for as long as you remain in the marriage, be sure to take good care of yourself. You already know that your husband can’t be trusted in this area, so you must.

          I’m very sorry you’re going through this. Wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

          1. Like, like, like.

            It’s so phenomenal that you two work together like this.

            (To anyone who values my opinion, Lori is ALSO awesome like Jay. It might be argued, probably by Jay himself, that she’s maybe a tiny bit more awesome. But you should decide for yourself.)

          2. Jay,
            I read the post about your story. I’m curious if your wife blogs,too?
            If not that’s ok. I’m just curious why she decided to stick it out while you were still deceiving her, and after you started to come clean (or at least when you were telling her about the lies)?
            She obviously had some sort of faith in you and the relationship, but I’m sure she must have needed to create some firm boundaries for herself.
            How did she survive it?
            Did she make any promises or vows to herself as to where the line was?
            I just think that most people would get fed up and believe the person won’t change and leave, or get fed up and believe the person won’t change and stay while accepting a shitty marriage.
            Your part was the changing, how did she make that possible for you?
            Thanks in advance for any response.
            I really enjoyed your post!

        2. This post is about rebuilding trust after sexual betrayal. But at some point, the weight of the thousand and one little betrayals can equal or exceed that, and rebuilding trust is (I think) even more difficult, because it wasn’t ONE category. The lies, cover-ups, broken promises, failures to show spouse/family they’re your priority describe every interaction of the day.

          I’m online and my husband is in his man cave watching reruns of Andy Griffith.
          I forced to him to reverse his diabetes and lose weight 5 years ago but the will to do whatever the f*ck he wants and eat whatever he want wants has landed him in a serious diabetic stupor. AGAIN. It’s not like I haven’t been telling him this was coming for over a year but what the hell, he wanted to eat 3 boxes of Townhouse crackers a week, and argued with me in the store when I didn’t want to put them in the cart!

          I’ve been begging him to learn to cook simple healthy meals for almost 2 decades (he’s been disabled/not working that long while I work full time) because I have a serious health issue that needs healthy non-processed food to improve. He always said “I will, but not today” and of course, it was never today. Now he’s in deep sh*t again and “WE” HAVE TO CHANGE OUR EATING HABITS RIGHT AWAY because of his diabetes. Huh. “We” never had to do a damn thing because of my health.

          So he’s sitting there upset that that I am super pissed, frustrated, very hurt and not at all sympathetic to his plight. Even after he asked to explain it AGAIN it was like Jay said – he’s “sorry,” he’ll change, just get him through this and now let’s be nice to each other and move on.

          It seems guys really don’t get it. This emotional injury is not a sprained ankle that your coach told you to “walk it off.” It’s a serious stab wound to your heart. You’ll need time to heal, and you won’t heal while he keeps sticking the knife in. The last thing a wife wants to hear after the insincere apology is another “I’d bet $1 million dollars he’ll break it” promise. If this is you, dude, shut your mouth, man up, be an adult and do the stuff Jay advises in this post. Action, accountability, attention.

          It really isn’t rocket science.

  8. This is a topic near and dear to me, having experienced infidelity from both sides.

    Recovering from profound betrayal means that your betrayer must become your healer. Not all betrayers are interested in healing the betrayal, and those who are genuinely willing to do so are unfortunately pretty clueless about how to go about it.

    You covered off the bases nicely, Jay. My only quibble (and it’s a small one) is characterizing these trust-building actions as “steps” – as in, first-you-do-this, check; then-you-do-this, check; and when you’ve gone through your checklist, voila! Relationship healed. In reality, the steps have to be “worked” every day for the rest of your life; they have to become integrated into who we are and how we operate. There is no going back, there will never come a time when you can, for example, stop being transparent and go back to hiding your secrets. Working the steps is not simply about dodging a bullet and getting back in the good graces of your partner, it’s about personal transformation and learning how to be trustworthy in all contexts of the relationship.

    My husband too, quietly helps other young men navigate this stuff, though generally from a proactive stance as opposed to an after-the-fact one. And I’ll be honest, it doesn’t really resonate with these guys, they all think he’s crazy…until a betrayal ruins their relationship and they are desperate to restore it. THEN they come running. Sadly, hardly anybody sees the importance of this stuff until they’re in a crisis situation.

    Anyhoo, good stuff. Not just for marriages troubled by betrayal. Any marriage can benefit from working the trust steps, if we would just listen.

    1. I have to agree with you that these are not steps, but the basics.

      There are things I learned along the way to add to each part of the process. It is not a few simple steps for sure.

      Like I said, very hard work. And it will have to be done consistently.

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  12. I need help with my relationship with my ex. I’ve lied to him several times and pray it’s not too late.

  13. This is a nice article…although I did follow the absurdly puritanical link to your back story. All that vapid guilt about porn? Porn isn’t immoral or evil. It’s not an addiction (I mean, I suppose if it’s inhibiting your day to day activities that would be odd). All that personal lying and angst because Jesus told you not to play with yourself and look at naked pictures? Quite depressing.

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Matt Fray

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