Ways to Rebuild Trust and Forgiveness After Infidelity


If my previous essay was written primarily to the betrayed partner, this one is addressed to the partner who did the betraying.  I again will use the STOP, DROP, and ROLL metaphor to offer principles for rebuilding trust and forgiveness after marital infidelity.


Immediately STOP all contact with the “other person.”  Your final contact with the other person is one that says “all contact stops now.”  This includes any and all manner of communication, social media, etc.  Block his/her phone calls, email.  Delete your Facebook account, Twitter account and such if these were primary ways of contacting one another.  If you want to rebuild your marriage this is mandatory.  With true and full repentance, you cannot have your cake and eat it too.  While you cannot control whether or not the other party initiates contact, you DO control whether or not you open the email, take the call, respond on Facebook, etc.  If the other person does try to contact you [say through email], do not hide from your spouse the other person’s attempt to contact you.  Instead show your spouse that you received the message, did not respond to it in any way, and have your mate watch you delete it permanently.

Stop offering explanations or reasons for your betrayal to your partner and expect them to be accepted at face value.  In other words, no “yeah, butting.” You will not be able to explain  away an affair, nor can you blame your partner for your choices even if your spouse’s actions or lack of action contributed to you choosing marital infidelity.  Your spouse will not be able to hear your side of the story until well after you have begun to establish a track record of trustworthiness.


Drop to your knees and pray regularly and often. Seek God’s forgiveness and the strength of the Spirit to persevere on the path of repentance that may lead to reconciliation. Repentance that leads to restoration is a marathon not a sprint.  Difficult days, weeks, months, and even years lay ahead of you.  It will take longer for you to rebuild truthfulness and trustworthiness than you think. In fact it may take as long to rebuild fidelity as it took to undo it.

Drop making excuses for yourself to yourself.  This is time for a fearless moral inventory so that you can understand why you did what you did instead of choosing a more productive way to manage or confront your marital dissatisfaction. Few of us can conduct this kind of moral inventory on our own.  Seek help from an accountability group, your pastor, or a professional counselor.  Drop your guard with the people/person from whom you seek help.  Becoming transparent like this takes courage.  But understanding why you did what you did may be necessary for you to take the steps that you need to take to ensure that you do not engage in this kind of betrayal again.

Drop your expectation that you can sweep this under the rug or even minimize its impact.  Marital infidelity is NOT a private affair.  Its ripples are felt in ever growing circles of contact.


“Rolling” is action.  The burden for restoring trustworthiness rests on your shoulders. Talk is cheap.  What your partner needs to see from you is consistent changed behavior over time [and time may be in terms of 2-3 years, not 2-3 days]. Ask your partner what actions he/she needs to see in order to begin to have faith in your faithfulness again.  Be ready to be under the marital microscope and roll with it. Repentance involves a 180-degree turn away from thoughts and actions of betrayal and an equal turn toward thoughts, words, and actions of repentance and restoration.  Commit to God to be faithful in complying with your partner’s stipulations. Commit to accountability and transparency in all things.  Stick with it especially when your mate does not seem to appreciate your efforts.

Full forgiveness that leads to reconciliation involves seeking forgiveness and extending forgiveness.   Being forgiven by your partner provides a clearing of the past, but it does not guarantee that your partner will easily trust you in the present.  That is a part of what the work of repentance is about.


Dr. Virginia Todd Holeman is Professor of Counseling at Asbury Theological Seminary.