How to Risk Trusting Someone Again

Beyond BoundariesWhen you’ve been let down by someone who matters a great deal to you, moving beyond boundaries is not easy work — but it is important. One thing you can do in this regard is to figure out if the problem that was previously an obstacle is truly being transformed. In other words, is this person really changing? Is the big problem being solved the right way?

Here’s an example. I (Dr. Townsend) worked with a couple in which the husband, Bill, was a nice guy but irresponsible. He was one of those likeable people who loves to hang out with others and is a lot of fun. But Bill’s performance in life did not match up to his personality, especially in the area of finances and spending. He overspent on cars, gadgets, and entertainment. He also hid his spending habits, which meant his wife, Pam, was routinely surprised by huge credit card bills. These patterns took a major toll on the marriage. Pam was terrified of an uncertain financial future with him. She was not perfect and had her own issues as well, but his behavior came close to breaking up the marriage.

In our work together, Pam was clear that though she still loved Bill, she had lost all trust in him. She could not believe anything he said. “If he told me at noon that the sun was shining, I would go outside to check,” she said. As is common in these situations, Bill did not want to acknowledge the severity of the problem or make the necessary changes. He wanted Pam to change, to stop blaming him, and to learn to trust him. “If you would be nicer to me and trust me,” he said, “I would feel more supported, and I’d do better in my career.”

I had to step in there and say, “You are right; she shouldn’t be mean to you or attack you. But I don’t want her to trust you.”

Bill was bothered by that and said, “Don’t you want the marriage to work out?”

“Sure I do,” I said. “I want Pam to love you with no strings attached. But that is different from trust. While love is free, trust is earned. In the area of financial responsibility, I don’t want her to relax and trust you until we have evidence that you have changed.”

Again, Bill didn’t like that: “You’re both judging me,” he said.

“No,” I said, “neither of us is consigning you to hell. There is no judgment in this office. But you have not shown that you understand how deeply you have hurt her, nor have you made the necessary changes so that she can trust you again. If you and I were neighbors and I borrowed your screwdriver and didn’t return it, then borrowed your saw and didn’t return it, then your pliers and didn’t return them, what would you do if I asked to borrow your hammer?”

“Of course I wouldn’t lend it to you,” he said. “Okay, I see the point.”

Bill wasn’t as sorry as I wanted him to be at that point. He still didn’t seem to be able to acknowledge the impact he had on his wife, but it was progress.


Click to Tweet: Hurt and mistrust are nothing more than signals. They tell you that you either have some healing to do, or the other person has some changing to do—or both.


“Here’s the deal,” I said. “I want you to submit your finances to Pam on a monthly basis for a year. She is in charge. You both see a financial planner together. And we’ll see, month by month, if you are really changing for her sake and the relationship’s sake.”

I turned to Pam: “If he does what I am asking, would you be open to trusting him again?”

“I would,” she replied. “I want to get all this behind us. But it has to be real.”

They agreed to the plan. Bill did some blaming at first, which happens frequently. But he humbled himself and allowed her to be in charge of the money. As it turned out, Bill did fine. And Pam was able to get past her hurt and mistrust, because he had truly changed.

Hurt and mistrust are nothing more than signals. They tell you that you either have some healing to do, or the other person has some changing to do—or both. So, while monitoring if you are learning to trust again, also monitor how the other person is doing in the arena that caused a break in trust in the first place.


Beyond Boundaries shows you how to move past relational pain to experience the freedom and love God designed for your most important relationships. Click here to learn more.


  1. Katherine says

    I’m Bill. I’ve given up my credit cards voluntarily, but still struggle with keeping my checking acct above water. I love my husband very much but he has a control issue over money. He doesn’t want to spend but save everything for the future. We have fought over money for the last 30+ years.
    I don’t know why I spend too much all the time. I know I have a big problem but if I let him take complete control of our finances, I might as well put prison bars on my house because I’ll have to fight just for essentials like gas for my car and lunch money. So I hide how bad things are because I will be judged by him.

    • D says

      My pastor likes to talk about how a person’s outside circumstances will not outpace their inner reality. i.e. if you want to change your life, you have to start on the inside (how you think, what you say, your habits)… else you wont change what you do & will keep repeating your mistakes. He’s taught me that reading/listening every day on what the Bible says about a particular area I struggle really does help. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing (its ongoing) the Word of God.” And counseling helps too because sometimes it takes an outside perspective before you realize what you think/etc. is not healthy. Maybe that will help u too ; )

  2. says

    I enjoyed the insight on trust. For me it is a timely message in this season of my life. One Thing I know and thank God my heavenly Father for is this: I can always trust and depend on God. In order to trust others we need the help of God through Christ Jesus to teach us how to first, trust Him. then trust myself to trust Him in making the right choices; then Trust others as I want them to trust me. thanks for the Word. Looking forward to the next insight. By the way check out my webpage also. I welcome your comment also. We are many members but Just one Body!.. Jesus is the answer for the world today. God Bless You!

  3. Lovely1 says

    I would like to trust my husband but he’s made it nearly impossible for these reasons: he’s taken expensive items like, perfumes, perfume gift sets, designer purses, and tech gadgets; changed my devices so he can look at everything I do online. As a result of his need to modify my personal computers and cellular device…I just CANNOT TRUST HiM plus, he had an affair. What bothers me is the fact that I cannot put something down or away and expect that it will be where I’ve put it. He likes playing mind games and he not showing me any privacy is a BIG PROBLEM. No matter how much I ask him to not go through my belongings or leave my things alone well…he ignore my request, lie and deny, blame it make excuses for this behavior which, has left our marriage Rocky to put mildly. I may pretend all is well but it is not. I wish he would stop messing with personal computers, tablets, and put my stuff back because my thoughts are that has given and giving my belongings to another female which doesn’t make me feel good and leads me to feel his cheating have not stopped. In any case, I love God and my husband therefore I stay with him. I haven’t cheated, taken from me nor, have I taken his tech gadgets and modified them in order to spy track, or anything like it.
    Hope ha understands that boundaries are a must and he need to respect that.

  4. Lovely1 says

    Hope my husband begin to respect my privacy as a person and as, I’ve shown him throughout our years of marriage.

  5. RedRobin says

    How does one trust again after repeated lies and infidelity .. and no real show of remorse or taking ownership of the things that have created the rift?

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