7 Most Common Ways to Damage Trust in a Marriage

7 Most Common Ways to Damage Trust in a Marriage

God is for marriage. He set it up to be an example of how much Jesus loves His church. This makes it a prime target for the enemy to come in and attempt to sabotage God’s design. What better way to break down connection and love than to capitalize on untrustworthiness?

Trust is foundational to any healthy, loving relationship. Here are seven ways trust can be threatened in your marriage and what you can do to rebuild after it’s been broken:

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  • 1. Breaking commitments.

    1. Breaking commitments.

    When you say you will do something, it’s important to actually do it. Sometimes, we agree to do things and then we let them slip way down the priority list because we don’t want to or we don’t know how. But trust is built over time, and if your word means little, it will wear down the foundation of your marriage.

    Don’t forget that little things can be just as important as big things. Can you trust your most intimate thoughts and feelings to someone who can’t seem to handle taking care of the trash after they’ve committed to doing it? This may seem unrelated, but the whole point of following through on commitments is to create a sense of safety and dependability for your spouse.

    There’s a reason Jesus said, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities” (Luke 16:10).

    Take a step to rebuild trust: Think before you commit and give a time frame for completing the task. Write it down and share it with your spouse. Set a reminder to help you follow through.

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  • 2. Not seeking help when you need it.

    2. Not seeking help when you need it.

    There are some things in this life that we simply cannot handle on our own. We often need outside help from trained specialists to help us overcome things like addiction, childhood trauma, and mental illness.

    Your spouse most likely knows your heart, behaviors, and desires better than you do and if they have recommended further help and treatment, there is often wisdom in listening to their ideas.

    Humbling ourselves to ask for and receive help shows that we’re committed to becoming the very best version of ourselves and that we’re willing to do the hard work.

    Take a step to rebuild trust: Talk through your fears about seeking help with your spouse and work together to come up with some options that will help you take the next step in your healing.

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  • 3. Mismanaging finances.

    3. Mismanaging finances.

    There’s often a physiological response to buying things we want. There’s nothing wrong with using your purchasing power for your own enjoyment, but when it is a detriment to your financial and marital health, your habits can be trust-breaking.

    When you spend money outside the boundaries you and your spouse have set, you’re choosing yourself over your partner—your momentary happiness over the importance of your relationship. Building trust requires sacrifice and selflessness, so if you’re intent on using money in selfish ways, your marriage will suffer.

    Take a step to rebuild trust: Together, take an honest look at your finances.Can you set an amount that both of you can spend per month that’s available to use as you wish? Then, all the rest of the money is allocated to other purposes. Need a total financial makeover? Check out Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.

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  • 4. Not being where you say you’ll be.

    4. Not being where you say you’ll be.

    This is about letting your spouse know when you’re going to be late, if your plans change, and if the group of people changes. This is not about micro-management and it’s not about control (although, taking this to the extreme can get controlling and would be a red flag). It’s simply caring enough to let your partner know your schedule because you’re a team that works together in life.

    If you’re consistently not where you’ve said you’ll be or not with the people you said you’d be with, you’re sowing seeds of mistrust. Your spouse may wonder if there’s a reason you don’t want to share or keep them updated; maybe you’re trying to hide something you shouldn’t be doing.

    Take a step to rebuild trust: Create a family calendar so both of you can see the events that are important and know where the other is supposed to be. Make a point to notify each other if plans change.

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  • 5. Infidelity on any level.

    5. Infidelity on any level.

    Even looking at another person with lust can wound your partner’s heart and damage your marriage. Jesus calls it like it is when He says, “Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

    In a world that prizes perfection and photoshop, there’s often a fear of not being enough or not measuring up that lurks in our hearts.

    Looking outside our marriage for things only our spouse is designed to give and share with us completely derails trust. And yes, this includes pornography in any form (romance novels, we’re also looking at you.)

    Take a step to rebuild trust: If lust is an issue for you, involve Jesus, asking Him to show you what steps you need to take to focus on the root cause of this. It might be a hole you’re trying to fill in your own heart that has nothing to do with your spouse.

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  • 6. Gossiping.

    6. Gossiping.

    What your spouse shares with you in confidence must stay in confidence. Most of us get that. But gossiping also includes husband or wife-bashing to our friends. If we truly believe that marriage brings two together into one, when we speak badly about our partner, we’re also speaking badly about ourselves.

    There is a big difference between seeking wisdom that will help grow our marriage and complaining about what our spouse does and doesn’t do.

    Take a step to rebuild trust: Be mindful of your words. Take every thought captive. Tell the people you talk to the most that you are working on not speaking ill of your spouse and allow them to hold you accountable. Surround yourself with others who are also supportive of your marriage.

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  • 7. Expecting Perfection

    7. Expecting Perfection

    It’s the worst when you’re trying to be trustworthy and honoring, yet everything you do seems to not quite measure up. People will always fail us on some level because we are human. Setting up unrealistic expectations just leads to defeatist attitudes and squelches the will to be better people.

    Take a step to rebuild trust: Ask your spouse if they feel that you have grace for them when mistakes happen. If it seems you’re overly harsh, take a step back and sit in the grace that God gives to you when you’re less than perfect. The more we are able to receive God’s grace for us, the more we are able to give it to others.


    Jen Ferguson is a wife, author, and speaker who is passionate about helping couples thrive in their marriages. She and her husband, Craig, have shared their own hard story in their book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography and are also creators of the Marriage Matters Prayer Cards. They continue to help couples along in their journeys to freedom and intimacy at The {K}not Project. Jen is also a mama to two girls and two high-maintenance dogs, which is probably why she runs. A lot. Even in the Texas heat.

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