I hear this question from almost every betrayed partner.
The simple answer is “yes.”
You will trust again. However, you will likely never trust again the way you did pre-discovery, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.
The difference between pre-discovery and post-discovery trust is that the source of trust will be based more on your level of self-care, intuition, trust of yourself, and observing your spouse’s behaviors and actions rather than on his words or your assumptions about him.
I often tell partners that there is an intangible quality about an unfaithful spouse who is genuinely working a recovery program—a kind of “you’ll know it when you see it” experience. When betrayed partners are reeling from the trauma of discovery, these words may ring hollow and create a strong dose of suspicion and doubt. I fully appreciate and respect the sentiment.
Here are 8 signs that your spouse is either becoming or is, in fact, more trustworthy:
- He is fully engaged in recovery activities without expressing resentment or acting as though he’s a victim
- When you ask questions about the past or his recovery work, he’s open and rarely defensive
- When you’re together as a couple he feels present most of the time
- He is transparent and forthcoming about his whereabouts, use of money, and his online or electronic activities
- He demonstrates the ability to empathize with your feelings, especially about his past behaviors
- When you express discomfort about an event, activity, or even an article of his clothing that is a trigger for you, he is open to making changes in an effort to repair the past
- When you make reasonable requests, he either agrees or negotiates a mutually agreeable solution
- In general, he appears more engaged in life with less forgetfulness and distraction
Of course, if polygraph is part of the couples’ trust-building path, it can provide verification of your spouse’s honesty and trustworthiness.
During the first 1-3 years of recovery, there is a delicate and arduous journey of trust-building that requires your spouse’s efforts in recovery, along with activities that foster relational repair such as recovery check-ins, therapeutic disclosure, empathy building, couples therapy, formal amends, and polygraph.
Over time as betrayed partners heal, they regain trust in their intuition and their ability to take care of themselves whether or not their unfaithful spouse stays sober.
“It doesn’t matter if I trust him, I trust myself. If I have a feeling, an intuition, or something doesn’t feel right, today I make sure I say it. Before, It was about not trusting me, not just him.
(Deceived: Facing Sexual Betrayal, Lies and Secrets; Black, C. 2009)
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2014)
Dara L says
Thanks for the post !
Nancy K says
This article is frustrating for me.
My first husband was a sex addict. In fact, I think you were his CSAT very briefly before he decided that you were too far away, you were too hard on him, he didn’t really have a problem, I was making too much of it, blah, blah, blah….. You see why he’s my EX-husband 😄.
That situation was the kind that you and other CSATs describe. I was very much a coaddict, listening my ex’s words while ignoring my intuition and all of the red flags because I was terrified of abandonment. I spent years in therapy learning to break my core beliefs. I grew into someone who was no longer willing to tolerate his behavior, so I left him.
Last year, I found out that my current husband is also a sex addict. I kid you not, there were NO red flags. Multiple therapists of his, my therapist, our marriage counselor, and my psychiatrist were all just as blindsided as me. None of them believed me initially when I told them because my husband hid his actions so well. Seriously, ZERO red flags. My intuition was useless.
Hence the problem. My husband is dedicated to his recovery and our healing. He has been 100% sober since D-Day. There are tons of green flags everywhere. But now when I think I see red flags (or missing green flags), it’s my intuition seeing ghosts.
It’s all backwards this time around. I can’t trust my intuition anymore. I can only blindly take my husband at his word that he is staying sober and assume that he will tell me if he crosses a boundary.
Vicki Tidwell Palmer says
Nancy, this sounds so painful and I can completely understand why you feel that you can’t trust your intuition. Sadly, this is one of the reasons why polygraph has become common in restoring relationships shattered by chronic infidelity and/or addiction.
If you don’t already, I hope you will get some individual support for you so that you can take good care of yourself as you navigate this difficult time.
Nancy K says
Yes, I am seeing Jennifer Josey. She is awesome.
My husband agrees to take a polygraph whenever I ask. He has passed every one with flying colors.
I suppose the frustration is that I can’t look for red flags. There are no red flags. There are never red flags. So I have to pay attention to whether any green flags go missing.