How to Rebuild Trust in a Marriage After Lying (and Avoid Mistakes)

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Rebuilding trust in a marriage can be an incredibly daunting task, even for the strongest couples.

Thankfully, it’s possible to rebuild trust – and make your relationship better than before. 

In this article, we’ll explore how to do just that.

Here are the steps you’ll need to take:

  • Step 1: Acknowledge the lie
  • Step 2: Offer a mature apology
  • Step 3: Listen to your spouse and validate their emotions
  • Step 4: Ask what your partner needs from you to get their trust back
  • Step 5: Be honest with yourself
  • Step 6: Learn to communicate openly
  • Step 7: Make amends with your actions, not just words
  • Step 8: Ask for forgiveness
  • Step 9: Consider going the extra mile
  • Step 10: Recognize rebuilding trust is a long game

If you don’t want to lose your spouse after lies and foolish mistakes, your best chance is to turn this crisis into a do-over for your relationship by focusing on CONNECTION.

Fair warning – this takes tossing out some old-school ideas about marriage, but it’s much easier than you’d think.

If you want to learn the methods that work, marriage therapist and expert Dr. Lee Baucom teaches them in his 3-step Save The Marriage Program.

Click the link above now or read on to find out how to regain trust in a relationship.

Can a marriage be saved after lies?

close up of a couple holding hands with a quote about how to rebuild trust in your marriage with patience and commitment

It’s true that lies and betrayal, especially when repeated, can seriously hurt or permanently sink a marriage.

Even so, a marriage can be saved after lies, although it requires consistent effort and communication on the part of both parties.

Marriages that don’t survive lying are more likely to be those that don’t properly address the underlying issues and dedicate themselves to the healing process.

No doubt, it can be an incredibly difficult journey.

With patience and commitment, couples can work through their issues and come out stronger than before.

That being said, you’ll need to understand that while your partner may forgive lying, they’re not likely to forget.

Being aware of any increased sensitivity can help you be a more responsive partner and get to a good place in your relationship faster.

Read Next: How to Save Your Marriage

What does lying do to a marriage?

Lying in a marriage can have severe and far-reaching consequences.

Obviously, it damages trust.

But it goes beyond that – here are some of the consequences of lying in a marriage:

  • Your partner may not trust you in certain situations anymore, leading to increased tension and arguments.
  • Lying damages your partner’s faith in you and your ability to take responsibility for your actions.
  • Your partner may question the strength of your relationship.
  • Lying creates feelings of betrayal and anger and can make your partner less empathetic toward you as they wall off their emotions to protect themselves.
  • Because lying can also cause problems in communication between partners as they become more guarded and mistrustful of each other, it can be hard to come clean about the lies.

You need to know what steps to take to repair your marriage after the deception, pronto – which is what we’re explaining below.

How do you fix a broken trust in a marriage?

Step 1: Acknowledge the lie

couple having a serious talk with a quote about why you should take responsibility for lying in your marriage

If your partner is hurting, you’d probably do anything not to cause them more pain.

So it may be tempting not to bring up the lie and reopen that wound.

But the truth is, if your partner knows you lied, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

You need to start repairing the damage by acknowledging the lie to your spouse.

Admitting when you have lied allows both parties to start addressing the issue, instead of burying it deeper under a web of deceit. 

But you’ll need to go beyond simply admitting what you did.

You’ll also need to take ownership of your actions and accept responsibility.

Taking responsibility for lying shows maturity and a willingness to learn from your mistakes.

And most importantly, you’re showing your partner the respect they deserve.

Tell them everything that happened and give honest answers to your spouse’s questions, even if you think it’s painful for them to hear.

Being upfront will prevent further issues down the road as there is no need to try to hide or justify mistakes that were already made. 

Not to mention, that kind of vulnerability is essential to rebuild trust.

Step 2: Offer a grown-up apology

You know you’re going to need to apologize.

But how you apologize matters.

The elements of a sincere, grown-up apology are as follows:

Use “I” language

Keep the focus on yourself and use statements like “I’m deeply sorry that I lied and hurt you” rather than statements like: “I’m sorry I lied about it, but you’re really hard to talk to.”

Notice the difference in the messaging between these two statements. The former shows humility while the latter sounds a lot like blame and lack of remorse.

Be specific about why you’re apologizing

Don’t just say you’re sorry. Name the thing you’re sorry about and why.

For example: “I’m sorry I lied about texting my ex. It was foolish and thoughtless. I wasn’t thinking about how that would make you feel, and you should always come first.”

Being detailed like this shows you understand the gravity of the situation and that you’re willing to own your mistakes.

Make space for the other person’s emotions

wife apologizing to her husband with a quote about listening to your spouses feelings to regain trust

While showing your emotions is good because it demonstrates vulnerability, going overboard with a dramatic display can stifle your spouse’s ability to express their own feelings.

Likewise, trying to be too stoic and rational can make your apology seem disingenuous.

Try to find a middle ground.

Make sure your partner’s feelings take center stage so they feel heard and seen by you.

Show remorse

It’s not a bad thing to let your spouse know that you feel shame or embarrassment at your transgressions.

Show your humanity, and your partner can find some sympathy for that.

Just be sure not to make it about you, or like you’re just apologizing to relieve your guilty conscience.

Have a plan to do better

If you want your spouse to believe you’ve really thought things over, offer them your plan to do better in the future.

Your partner wants reassurance that they won’t be made a fool of.

So it comes across as respectful, thoughtful and responsible to recognize that concern and meet it with some sort of promise (and then be willing to follow through).

Step 3: Listen to your spouse and validate their emotions

When you open up the floodgates, your spouse is probably going to tell you some things that are difficult to hear.

But if you want them to trust and talk to you again, then listen.

Let them get things off their chest.

Listen without interjecting your point of view – you don’t want this to turn into a tit-for-tat argument. 

Repeat back what you hear them saying so they know you get it. 

Your partner will likely be extremely touchy and defensive after a betrayal of trust, so you need to disarm them by empathizing with them.

If they get angry, stay calm and let them know they’re completely justified in feeling angry.

By validating your partner’s feelings, you show that you can put yourself in their shoes and see exactly how much you hurt them.

It also shows them that you care about their feelings and experiences at a time when their faith in you has been damaged and they’re feeling insecure as a result.

Bottom line, empathizing with your partner helps bring back an atmosphere of safety and emotional connection in which you can rebuild trust.

Step 4: Ask what your partner needs from you to get their trust back

close up of man and woman holding hands with a quote about asking your partner for to tell you what they need to trust you again

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can’t ask your partner for help.

You can’t read their mind. So go ahead and ask what you need to do to be trustworthy in their eyes.

If you wait to have this conversation during a calm moment when your partner can think more clearly, you’ll get more constructive answers you can work with.

Maybe your partner needs more background information to understand the context of what you lied about.

Or for you to video call them when you go out with your friends to show that you’re where you said you were going to be.

They might ask if you’re willing to hand over your phone when they feel the need to check that nothing fishy is going on.

If you feel like they’re putting you on short leash, try to be compassionate.

The idea is that it should be temporary while you prove that you can be trusted again.

Step 5: Be honest with yourself

Being an honest person means being honest with yourself, too – so you’re also going to want to think about why you lied to your partner.

Sometimes our reasons for lying seem pretty simple:

I didn’t want to talk about my past.

It’s too hard to talk to her about certain things.

I didn’t want him to know I have feelings for another guy.

But if you dig deeper, you’ll find some bigger issues at play:

I’m afraid he won’t love the real me.

We have a communication issue.

I had an emotional affair because I have unmet needs in my relationship, and I’m going about getting them fulfilled the wrong way.

These are larger issues that are likely to rear their ugly heads again. Understanding why you lie can help you identify them so that you can work on them.

This can ultimately bring you and your spouse closer together as you lay bare your soul and work as a team to create a more honest and healthy relationship.

Read Also: How to Survive in an Unhappy Marriage

Step 6: Learn to communicate openly

If you have a hard time opening up to your spouse, now is the time to work on that.

Communication deficits are a major source of turmoil in a marriage and are sure to make trust issues worse.

Once you’ve talked about the lying and apologized, keep the communication channels open and talk often.

Consider setting aside a regular time to talk about how things are going. Let your spouse guide the conversation and express what they need going forward.

Make sure you’re practicing total transparency at all times.

That means zero white lies and no withholding information because you think your spouse is better off not knowing.

Getting caught lying again – and again – will do much worse damage than coming clean about a touchy subject.

If you slip up, recognize that while hearing the truth might be upsetting, they will appreciate your honesty and feel secure in the knowledge that you won’t hide things from them.

Step 7: Make amends with your actions, not just words

couple hugging with a quote about proving yourself to regain trust in a marriage

When it comes to rebuilding trust, talk is cheap.

Prove that your words and actions match up.

Be sure to clean up your behaviors so you don’t make the same mistake again.

Say you cheated and lied about it – now you will need to cut off contact with the person you cheated with and block them on your phone and social media.

If you lied about your spending habits, put yourself on a budget and when your paychecks come, keep track of your spending habits in a spreadsheet your spouse has access to.

Don’t assume that because your partner isn’t asking you to do these things, they don’t matter.

They’re likely watching you closely to see what you do.

So make sure you’re living an honest life that your partner can’t find fault with.

Step 8: Ask for forgiveness

Don’t forget to ask for your spouse’s forgiveness.

Asking for forgiveness is a humble act. 

But the thing is, you have to ask with no expectations of your spouse granting it.

Expecting forgiveness can make your spouse feel taken for granted, and they may not be ready to actually forgive you yet.

When you ask, keep the responsibility squarely on your shoulders.

For example: “I know I did wrong. And I know how much I hurt you. But I’m asking you to forgive me.”

Then leave the ball in their court to decide what to do.

If you do this with absolute sincerity and humility, your spouse will take your request to heart.

And while you can’t make your spouse forgive you because you can’t control their feelings, asking for forgiveness can help them take an active role in their healing process.

Forgiveness is a path to healing, and once your partner is healed, they may feel more comfortable trusting you again.

Read Also: How to Save Your Marriage When You Feel Hopeless

Step 9: Consider going the extra mile

Depending on the severity of the lie and its consequences, you may need to go the distance to earn your spouse’s trust back.

Be an open book.

You want to show that you have no secrets.

Ways of doing this include giving your spouse your phone’s pass code, access to credit card records, your phone’s location – anything that allows you to prove your innocence from here on out.

Is it intrusive? Yes.

You will have to consider how comfortable you are with allowing your spouse into your private life like this.

But, again, if you and your spouse are working together to rebuild trust, this sort of intrusion should be temporary.

And the rewards can be great.

It gives your partner peace of mind knowing that they can observe your behaviors behind closed doors, so to speak, and it can also help keep you accountable.

Step 10: Recognize rebuilding trust is a long game

couple making a smoothie together with a quote about rebuilding trust in a marriage taking time

One of the key aspects of recovering from lying in a marriage is to let your partner heal at their own pace.

Give your partner time. It’s a slow process to “get back to normal.”

In fact, you may need to have more patience than ever for the effects lying has on your relationship.

Your spouse may be more hesitant to share things with you or open up to you.

They may not feel as affectionate toward you for a while. And you may not get as much sympathy from them as you once did.

All of these are normal in the wake of a damaging lie, or multiple lies.

Here’s something else to keep in mind, too. Rebuilding trust may not follow a linear path.

Your partner may seem like they’re coming around again, only to fall into a spell of anxiety in which they’ll need extra reassurance from you.

It can be frustrating because it feels like taking a step back.

But this is why trust is built back over time, and by continuing to prove your trustworthiness and making sure your words and actions match up.

If you want to make the most of your efforts and rebuild your relationship faster, start practicing Dr. Lee Baucom’s radical techniques in Save The Marriage Program now.

What will not earn your partner’s trust back

Grand gestures

Some people falsely believe that what their spouses need are grand gestures of love and devotion in order to win their trust back.

But suggesting you move away together to start over again, get a new pet or do something huge like have a baby won’t necessarily bring you closer or even mean that you’ll be together forever.

Beyond these gestures, you are still the same person who lied until you focus on changing yourself.

Romantic gestures

Unfortunately, all the “I’m sorry” flowers, expensive gifts and plans for romantic getaways won’t make a dent if that’s how you’re attempting to fix things.

Healthy relationships don’t run on gifts and flattery.

Not figuring out what’s behind your lies

When your partner asks you why you lie to them, you can’t just shrug you shoulders.

The responsibility lies with you to examine your behaviors and motivations.

If your partner can understand what the underlying issues are, such as fear, anxiety or unmet needs, that’s something more tangible that they can work with.

But if you’re not helping them understand, your partner is liable to label you as just a liar, or at least unwilling to put effort into changing yourself.

Not sharing your inner thoughts and feelings

man smiling at woman with a quote about being vulnerable with your spouse to regain trust in a marriage

If you’re the type to hold everything in, you’ll need to be more communicative if you want trust to grow in your relationship.

Let your spouse in. Be vulnerable with them.

Don’t wait for them to pry things out of you or make them hunt for clues about how you feel about your relationship because that blocks the emotional intimacy you sorely need to repair trust.

Pressure

Don’t tell your partner that they need to move past all of this for the good of your relationship or your family.

Pressuring them is unhealthy, and often leads to long-term grudges and resentment.

Moping

Moping to try to make your spouse feel bad for you is emotional manipulation.

If anything, seeming like you’re doing better than ever and living a productive, virtuous lifestyle is far more likely to get your spouse to want to let you in again.

Admitting things only when you’re about to get caught

Being transparent with your spouse means coming forward with information before they find out, and not just because you’re pretty sure they’re going to find out anyway.

If you’re afraid of how they’re going to react, give them the benefit of the doubt that they:

a.) deserve to know and have feelings about it,

b.) will appreciate you being forthcoming, and

c.) can work together with you to find solutions to tricky situations like this.

Getting defensive when your partner asks for more information or to adjust your behavior

Getting defensive with your spouse creates walls, not trust.

Not to mention, it looks suspicious when they’re expecting a daily check-in from you and you say, “Haven’t I proven myself enough to you already?”

While yes, you are still entitled to your boundaries, you don’t really get to decide when and how your partner is going to trust you again.

Not following through

Next to behaving badly or lying again, the worst thing you can do is drop the ball and not follow through on your commitments.

If you said you would go to therapy, don’t just stop going until your partner finds out.

Your commitments mean everything and a lot more is riding on them now than ever.

Don’t work against yourself by letting things slip out of complacency.

Conclusion

Once trust has been broken, it’s hard to get back.

But not impossible.

Empathy, transparency, consistency and a solid commitment to do better will help get you back into your partner’s good graces and in a place where they feel they can believe you again.

Remember, the proof is in the pudding.

There are no shortcuts in becoming trustworthy again, but the long-term rewards of putting in the hard work are well worth it.

FAQ

How do you trust again after being lied to?

One of the major questions before you now is whether you’re willing to move forward and trust in a relationship again.

Deciding to trust again after you’ve been lied to is 100% a conscious decision.

If you’re trying to trust someone who’s lied to you, there’s no set amount of time or number of acts they have to perform to prove they’re trustworthy enough.

You have to decide what feels right in your gut.

Of course, it can be prudent to take some self-protective measures, like observing whether they stick to their word.

But at some point, if you want to trust again, you will have to let go of your fear of getting hurt again.

Trust is a vulnerable state to embrace, but the alternative – never being able to trust again – can make it difficult to form meaningful relationships and wear on your mental health.

Is lying a betrayal of trust?

Yes, lying is a betrayal of trust.

You may be wondering if small lies or white lies are betrayals of trust because they seem insignificant.

But the truth is, lies big and small chip away at someone’s trust because they’re all designed to do the same thing: withhold information and secretly manipulate someone’s perspective, usually for the lying party’s personal benefit.

How do you fix a relationship after lying and cheating?

To fix a relationship after cheating and lying, there are a number of steps you’ll need to take, including:

  • Admitting your guilt and telling your partner everything
  • Ending the affair and cutting all ties with the person you cheated with
  • Making it clear that you are remorseful for your past behavior
  • Committing to complete transparency from here on out
  • Defining the rules and boundaries of your relationship together with your partner to rebuild trust 
  • Keeping communication channels open and being honest about what you both want from your relationship

Questions to rebuild trust in a relationship

Asking key questions can help keep communication fluid and rebuild trust in a relationship, such as:

  • How are you feeling about our relationship right now?
  • What rules/boundaries would you like to see in our relationship that would make you feel more secure?
  • What do you trust me with (money, fidelity, etc.) and in which areas do you lack confidence in me?
  • What do you need to feel more fulfilled in our relationship?
  • What’s your idea of emotional intimacy, and how do we build more of it into our relationship?

How do you heal yourself after being lied to?

Allow yourself to take some space from the person who lied to you if you feel angered or emotionally overwhelmed around them.

Focus on your own needs and let your intuition guide your healing.

Your friends, family and even a professional counselor – if you feel you could benefit from professional help – can also give you much-needed support and help you rebuild your self-confidence.

Forgiveness can go a long way in healing as well – although you are under no obligation to forgive someone if you don’t feel ready or able.

Do forgive yourself if you feel foolish or like you shouldn’t have allowed yourself to be duped.

And try not to replay the scenario in your head over and over – that will only lead to an emotional rut of anger and betrayal.

How long does it take to repair trust?

Repairing trust in a relationship can take months to years.

If you’re looking to place a more specific time frame on it, consider working hard to regain trust for at least six months.

But depending on the severity of the betrayal, it can very likely take a year or more.

Use caution if you think everything is back to normal after a few months of working on your relationship as suspicion, anger or sadness about the betrayal can creep back in.

Don’t let this deter you, though.

It’s normal for emotions to go through cycles when fixing the damage.

If you keep with the steps of rebuilding trust and show patience, empathy and understanding, you can get through it together and even come out stronger than before.

Should lying be forgiven in a relationship?

The reality is, everyone has lied at some point.

And while the pervasiveness of lying should not be used as an excuse, not all lies are created equal.

Small white lies that are told strictly to avoid hurting your feelings, like telling you your new haircut looks great when the other person doesn’t really like it, are generally not considered deal breakers in a relationship.

Bigger lies might also be considered forgivable if they’re out of character for the person telling them and not repeated offenses.

But it really depends on your comfort level and how much you trust them not to do it again.

If lying is part of a pattern of deception, that’s a bigger problem than just considering whether to forgive a lie.

When should you walk away after infidelity?

You might find it’s time to walk away after infidelity if:

  • Your partner refuses to take responsibility or apologize
  • Your partner will not cut off contact with the person they cheated with
  • They aren’t willing to work within reasonable boundaries you request in order to reestablish trust
  • You feel you cannot and will not be able to be intimate emotionally or physically with your partner after the infidelity
  • Your spouse is not doing any self-work or introspection to figure out why they cheated and fix the problems that put them in temptation’s way

Don’t wait for your partner to decide it’s time to get a divorce.

You can start turning things around now with a tried-and-true marriage program like Dr. Lee Baucom’s best-selling Save The Marriage Program.

Marlene Davis is an experienced blogger with a focus on interpersonal relationships. Her dream is to help improve people's lives and relationships through sharing of practical knowledge and evidence-based practices.