How Can I Trust Again?

Early in my career as a minister I had a call from a member requesting a meeting.

I remember him sitting in the little office, moving his hat around in his hands. He was there to confess that he had been having an affair. He had been found out and one of the conditions imposed by his wife was that he go and tell the minister. Those were the days!

I hope I was smart enough to simply hear the confession but I suspect the pressure of wanting to say something helpful might have been too strong.

I went to see the wife. She had taken to walking, partly for the exercise but mostly to flare off the anger, like a flame beside an oil well. She railed and cried as we crossed gravel roads every quarter mile.

photo by Michael Hull
photo by Michael Hull

This thread ran like a litany through the conversation, “How can I ever trust him again? How can I ever trust him again?”

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche put it, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

Trust – fundamental and fragile.

This saying is no less true because it appears on posters. “Trust is like a paper once it’s crumpled it can’t be perfect again you can flatten the paper and try and make it as straight as you want but it will never be perfect again.”

Trust – It takes time to accumulate and an instant to lose. It is the first step to love, says Munshi Premchand; it is both the foundation and the lubricant of relationships.[Tweet “Trust is both the foundation and the lubricant of relationships”]

I often wonder if this relationship went the way of Humpty Dumpty or if, in time, they were able to fashion a new mosaic of their marriage.


  1. Trust is not a piece of pottery that can be broken. It’s a choice you make in a relationship. You may still be wary and suspicious after a big disappoiuntment, but trust is really an attitude you decide on adopting. There are often compelling reasons for taking responsibility for this choice: still caring for the other person, the need to preserve a relationship for the sake of children or to maintain a working relationship a working relationship. “I want to trust you but I can’t now that you have lied to me,” is a statement people need to decide to do if they want the relationship. This doesn’t mean being stupid about it. If you are in a relationship with someone who promises to maintain integrity and they don’t and you keep coming back for more, that’s your choice, too, just as if you were to declare that you “could not trust them again.”

    I disagree with the direction of Keith’s comments. People can and do recover from affairs. It takes time and patience and a lot of clarification of each partner’s feelings and needs. It takes a willingness to see it through. Nobody every forgets being wounded by another, but you can make the choice to forgive and go forward. It takes courage and a belief the relationship is worth maintaining. There are a lot of reasons for such betrayals, not all of them praiseworthy, but they are driven by all kinds of needs which require some in depth exploration on both sides to move beyond.

    1. I do agree with you Jim that people can rebuild relationships after affair. BUT it does take the rest of the paragraph you wrote – a great deal of work and a fundamental choice that the relationship is not only worth saving but making better.

      thanks for the reply Jim!

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