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How to Regain Trust and Respect When It's Undeserved

Updated: Jul 4

couple at table having coffee

It’s been said, ‘‘You cannot give what you do not have.”

Here’s an example. If someone asks me for ten thousand dollars, I could write that person a check for the ten thousand bucks, but in time (not long) they will find out that it was a promise unable to be kept. The check looked legit, it has my signature on it and is from my bank, a bank with real money in it. However, my account couldn’t back up the offering of the money as promised by my signature. The funds are not in my account to give.

I could not give what I did not have.

And for me to expect that same person to trust me enough to write them another check that day or anytime soon would be just foolish. I wouldn’t deserve that trust or respect. Yet, for many addicts they expect to be trusted within just a few weeks or even months as they begin recovery. That is not a realistic expectation to have.

Ask yourself this honest question: “How quickly would I trust & respect that person if the shoe was on the other foot?”


I’m going to speak to you today from two perspectives: the porn abuser and the wounded spouse. Notice I didn’t say husband and wounded wife. The reality of porn being primarily, or only, a ‘man’s’ problem is no longer true.

More women than ever are finding themselves caught up in the use of pornography. And, it’s just as painful and damaging to her, her relationships, and her marriage.

These women are our wives, daughters, sisters, friends, and church family members. Today, I pray you ladies find the courage to speak up. Ask for help and trust that others will walk alongside you, love you, and not shame you.

Trust and Respect

As pornography damages and destroys trust and respect, the task of rebuilding trust is a must for the marriage to survive. Respect grows in the light of trust. If there is no healthy, daily exchange of trust and respect in your marriage, it will suffocate. All of this has a foundation of honesty. Painfully honest truth.

The rebuilding process is much like a human being put on a respirator when incredibly ill until the person is strong enough to support himself or herself.

For the betrayed spouse of the porn user, it’s very common for he or she to feel as though they cannot trust themselves. These thoughts and beliefs develop over time as they extend trust and respect and then it’s broken (over & over in many cases). They begin to question whether they can even trust themselves and lose self-respect.

This was very true for my wife in our recovery. She couldn’t give me trust and respect until she once again had for herself. I see it often in the marriages I mentor and minister to.

One more time: You cannot give what you do not have.

Truths About Rebuilding Trust and Respect

Initiate confession

When you blow it, and we all do during recovery, tell your wife or husband. If lying, hiding and minimizing undermine trust and respect, honesty and truth-telling rebuild. Secrets are the fuse to the dynamite strapped to trust.

Don’t expect instant gratification or praise from doing what’s right.

Expecting instant praise for doing what should be expected in the first place is self-centered thinking. This thinking minimizes the fact that your spouse is grieving.

Be humble.

Defensiveness is a clear sign of expecting instant gratification, and it’s not helpful. When getting encouragement during recovery, receive it as the grace that it is. Be thankful. Thankfulness displaces the anger that is an underlying element of sexual strongholds.

Listen more–talk less

Men, listen to your wife. Listen for the meaning behind her words. If your wife is speaking to you, she is revealing something about herself to you. Read that last line again, because it’s profoundly true.

Men, hear me: BE HONEST. Secrets and dishonesty destroy trust.

Ladies, listen for sincerity, while watching for changes in the words being spoken and are actions supporting them. Have their words becoming less and less self-focused and are their actions demonstrating that?

Self-condemning thoughts are destructive.

The depth of the wounds we carry affect at what level this interferes with someone’s recovery. I’ve seen it manifest itself with the addict turning compliments and encouragement into criticism in their mind. Romans 12:2 instructs us how to battle this problem, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

It takes intentionality.

Restoring trust and respect doesn’t happen by osmosis or wishful thinking. Many enter recovery expecting it to be pain-free. The deepest wounds our bodies receive have pain as part of the healing process. Intentionally pushing through the pain, doing what must be done in order for long lasting healing to take root, is the prescription. Expect it.

It takes time.

You cannot microwave trust and respect back into your marriage. This is akin to instant gratification. How did you build that trust & respect in the beginning of your relationship? You earned it. Guess what, you have to earn it again. This time, however, you have jumping hurdles that weren’t there the first time–hurdles we placed on the path with our lies and deceptions in the midst of the porn addiction.

As the porn addict who destroyed sacred trusts, we gave up our privilege to be trusted and respected. Do we deserve to be trusted again? Honestly, no. Can we earn back the respect and trust of our spouse and others? Yes, but it’s hard work, takes time, and will be difficult.

Is it worth it? Absolutely! The growth and the closeness my wife and I now have are beyond what I could have imaged.

Will you stumble and fall along the way? Yes. Get back up, dust yourself off, and keep pressing on.

First 7 Days for Men

First 7 Days for Wives



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