Sex Addiction : a guide for couples : rebuilding trust

Week 5 : Rebuilding Trust

How can trust be rebuilt after the discovery of sex addiction in your relationship?  We will list a few techniques on where to start but it is a big topic so we recommend you read more in Paula Hall’s book “Sex Addiction : a guide for couples” which has an entire chapter dedicated to rebuilding trust.

If you have missed the other blogs in our series – here is a recap:

  • Week 1 focused on the couple obtaining individual help following the discovery of sex addiction.
  • Week 2 focused on understanding ‘therapeutic disclosure’ and how to conduct one. 
  • Week 3 focused on how to review the strength of the relationship
  • Week 4 focused on making the decision to stay together or is it time to end the relationship.

Trust is a vital ingredient in a couple relationship.  It is the foundation on which the couple can stand and move forward.  When trust is broken, the ground is very shaky and moving forward can feel uncertain.  Listed below are some areas where trust can start to be rebuilt:

Acknowledging the areas where you can trust your addicted partner

After the discovery of sex addiction in the relationship, partners can feel they no longer know their addicted partner and can’t trust a single thing that they say or do.  One effective way of beginning to rebuild trust is to look at the areas where the addicted partner is trustworthy e.g., they are always on time, they earn a living, they will help a friend in need.  This gives you some firm ground to stand on and evidence that your addicted partner can be trusted in these areas.  Now look at some areas where their level of trustworthiness can be improved, such as taking the rubbish out without being asked, taking the dog for a walk each evening or remembering to pay bills on time. This can help you to see that trust can be rebuilt in the smaller things before you move on to more crucial areas.

Tell me about your day

Being able to talk to your partner about a difficult day you have had or being able to express your thoughts and feelings without judgement or interruptions can help to rebuild trust.  Empathic listening helps your partner know you care and demonstrates you are taking the time to understand.  Empathy breaks through feelings of isolation and alienation and helps couples  experience both the highs and lows of emotion together.

Honesty is the best policy

For trust to be rebuilt, the sex addict needs to commit to being honest about everything.  This can be difficult for the sex addict as they have been used to covering up behaviours and lying often becomes  automatic.  There needs to be a conscious commitment to being honest about what happened in the past, what is happening in the present and plans for the future.  Partners also need to acknowledge their own thoughts and feelings as well as a willingness to hear what improvements need to be made in the relationship.


Accountability needs to become natural and routine, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate reliability and commitment and reduce anxiety and conflict between the couple.

How to be more accountable:

  • Being 100% transparent (including your finances)
  • Pro-active honesty
  • Be accurate and not vague on detail
  • Keep a time journal of your day
  • 10-minute rule – if your partner calls and you can’t answer the phone immediately, promise to ring back in 10 minutes
  • Don’t plan surprises
  • 24-hour disclosure rule – if you have a slip, or you’re not 100% honest about something, you have 24 hours to tell the truth.

In our Understanding Partner’s Needs and Rebuilding Trust workshops, we often hear the struggles and complaints of men who feel they have been ‘wrongly accused’ – in 90% of these situations, the ‘accusation’ could have been avoided completely if they had undertaken the advice above.  However, the above is not a guarantee there won’t be times when your partner is suspicious and questions you or accuses you unfairly, and when that happens, your response needs to be one of patience and empathy. Becoming trustworthy will initially take a lot of conscious effort and at first it may feel exhausting, but over time, it will become increasingly automatic and simply be the way you operate your lives together.

Last blog in our couples series will be looking at rebuilding intimacy

Healthy relationships experience intimacy on different levels, it is not just about sexual physical intimacy.  This blog will explore the different ways to express intimacy in the relationship to help strengthen your healing relationship.

The series runs alongside the launch of Paula Hall’s new book “Sex Addiction – a guide for couples” which was released on 28th February 2019.