Here are some ways that the wayward spouse can incorporate the 8 Pillars of Trust in their daily lives while trying to rebuild trust after their affair

pillars of trust

I listen to a few podcasts on a weekly basis.  My listening interests range primarily from sports, to business to relationships.

The other day I listened to a business-related podcast on Donald Miller’s site where he interviewed David Horsager, leadership speaker and author of The Trust Edge. David believes practically every business problem is ultimately a trust problem.

I got to thinking that this line of thinking also holds true when it comes to relationships – and especially when trying to rebuild trust after an affair.

So, in this post, I want to set forth Mr. Horsager’s ‘8 Pillars of Trust,’ a brief explanation of how each works from a business perspective, and then throw out some ways that the wayward spouse can incorporate these pillars in their daily lives while trying to rebuild trust after their affair.

What are the 8 Pillars of Trust?

Mr. Horsager says that the 8 Pillars of Trust are:

  • Clarity
  • Compassion
  • Character
  • Competency
  • Commitment
  • Connection
  • Contribution
  • Consistency

Now I’ll address each one individually.

Pillar #1: Clarity

For Businesses:  Clarity builds trust. People trust companies who are clear and distrust those who aren’t.

A business should be clear about their mission, purpose, expectations, and daily activities and they’ll build trust, inspire their team, and serve their customers better.

For Wayward Spouses:  Be clear with yourself and your spouse about what you are doing – and who you are doing it with – each and every day.   To go a step further, it would be great to be proactive and try to determine why you are doing the things you are doing (purpose), and communicate that to your spouse (without him or her having to ask).  

Your spouse will be able to better trust you when you’re clear while distrusting you when you are ambiguous.


Pillar #2: Compassion

For Businesses: David’s simple definition of compassion: to have an intent beyond yourself.

This means you’re willing to step outside of your own needs and look to the needs of those around you. Genuine care turns team members and clients into friends and results in loyalty and satisfaction, both within and outside of a company.

For Wayward Spouses:  Have compassion for what your spouse is going through as a result of your affair.  Respect their feelings and emotions and consider his/her needs before your own.

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Throw your selfishness and self-centeredness out the window for good.

Also, have some compassion for yourself when you screw up – because you will screw up at times during the recovery and healing process.

“The most trusted people have the ability to think beyond themselves,” says David.  Take that message to heart.


Pillar #3: Character

For Businesses:  In David’s research, the people who best exemplified this pillar all had one thing in common: they did what needed to be done, when it needed to be done, whether they felt like it or not.

If you consistently do what needs to be done, people will understand your true character and trust you for it.

For Wayward Spouses:  Man, you can just take the business perspective and apply it personally.  Simply put, do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, come hell or high water!

If you tell your spouse that you’re going to be home from shopping, the game, or whatever at 4:00, then do it – or be sure you call and let them know you’re running late and why you’re running late. 

Understand that everything you do and say is being hyper-scrutinized by your betrayed spouse and even the seemingly smallest of indiscretions here can cause trust to blow up.

Pillar #4: Competency

For Businesses:  To maintain trust, David says we have to stay fresh, relevant and capable.

People trust you when they know you are an expert in your field. To be an expert, you have to keep learning.

For Wayward Spouses:  Though you don’t have to be an expert at relationships or healing, it would be wonderful if you at least educated yourself somewhat.

Books and people are your best resources for this. Be humble and teachable. Find a mentor who is successful or wise in the way you’d like to be.

Be competent as well in knowing why you do the things you do.  Peel the onion away on yourself and truly discover what makes you tick.  Don’t be afraid to go deep!  Doing the same with your betrayed spouse would be an awesome thing to do as well. 

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Learn new ways of doing things both personally and within the relationship.  After all, the old ways apparently weren’t working.


Pillar #5: Commitment

For Businesses:  How you respond when the going gets tough is a defining moment in your trustworthiness. As David points out, “We trust those that stick in the face of adversity,” whether that’s on the scale of Martin Luther King, Jr. fighting for civil rights or the tech CEO who jumps into customer support calls when the service goes down.

For Wayward Spouses:  Be committed to your spouse and to the recovery and healing journey no matter how hard it gets, as it will indeed be hard.  Don’t expect this to be a quick endeavor, so don’t try to rush the process.  Healing takes place at your spouse’s pace, not yours.

Your spouse will trust you more if you are committed and tenacious even when things seem like they couldn’t be any worse.

“The people who stick with you when things are tough are the ones you can really trust,” David says.


Pillar #6: Connection

For Businesses:  People want to do business with friends. Opening up your office doors and working with others will develop trust within your company and with your customers. If a company is willing to connect with others, they’ll bring a lot more to the people they serve.

For Wayward Spouses: Sometimes we feel that we have to do this alone.  But that doesn’t have to be the case at all.  Find others who you can rely on for support and encouragement – and to kick you in the ass when you need it.  Consider individual therapy, mentoring, church groups, or getting involved in online support groups or forums.  Connecting with others who have traveled the same road can be tremendously beneficial.

By seeking out support, you will demonstrate to your spouse that you are serious in your intent to make important personal changes.  And yes, that will help to rebuild trust.


Pillar #7: Contribution

For Businesses: “The bottom line is you have to contribute results if I’m going to trust you,” David says.

Whatever product you deliver, there has to be an expected outcome. You have to perform. It has to work.

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For Wayward Spouses:  You and your spouse should regularly evaluate where you’re at in your recovery process and make any needed adjustments as you go.

Results are important.  If there is no progress, then something has to change.

Regularly and proactively ‘report’ to your spouse the work that you have been doing.  For instance, report the results from your weekly counseling session or from a book you’ve been reading – what you learned and how you will apply it in your life on a daily basis.

Ask your spouse on a regular basis whether he/she has noticed any changes in you and how that affects him/her.  Ask whether there is anything you could improve upon so that you can deliver better results.  You’re opening yourself up to criticism perhaps, but trust can build when your spouse sees this vulnerability and your willingness to keep fighting on.


Pillar #8: Consistency

For Businesses: David calls consistency the king of the pillars because whatever you do consistently is what people will trust about you.

 “People want to know you are going to act the same, deliver the same service or product, and conduct yourself the same regardless of the circumstances,” David says.

For Wayward Spouses:  Simply put, be consistent in your actions and interactions – even those that have nothing to do with your marriage.   

Of course, it goes without saying that if your consistent actions or interactions include lying, emotional abuse or other acts of deception, you aren’t going to be very successful rebuilding trust.

The small consistent behaviors over time will build trust.  It could be something as simple as leaving your cell phone at home while you go out for your morning jog.  It could be telling your spouse on a daily basis that you love them and appreciate them.  I think you get the idea!

We don’t always have to read or listen to marriage or relationship content to learn something that might affect our recovery journey.  I often apply business concepts and fundamentals to all areas of my personal life, because it works for me. 

In the comment section below, feel free to offer additional actions or behaviors to any of the 8 pillars that you feel would help build trust.


    24 replies to "The 8 Pillars of Trust  – Ways the Unfaithful Spouse Can Help Rebuild Trust"

    • Shifting Impressions

      I think the thing that I found most hurtful was the fact that I am married to someone who applies all those pillars of trust in every area of his life…….except when it came to our marriage.

      • Shifting Impressions

        Martin Luther King Jr….Might not be the best example, I believe he cheated on his wife. Another example of someone betraying the person he should have had more loyalty to than anyone else. Yes, he did amazing things but he failed when it came to applying those principles to his personal life.

        • Doug

          I agree SI. Probably not the best example from a relationship standpoint. Mr. Horsager mentioned that as an example of a person who continued on in the face of adversity.

          • Tired

            What did you do when you were caught Doug? Did you keep on lying, or tell Linda the truth?

            • Doug

              I continued to lie, of course. Then I trickled-truthed her to the point of utter exasperation. So people need to learn from my mistakes!

      • Sarah P.

        Hi SI,

        This is a conundrum that I struggle with each day. That is, how can one person be a “good person,” live the above pillars, and be a trustworthy person in every area of his life except his marriage?

        These things come very easily to some until they are truly challenged by a situation. That is, they did not have to give up anything by living those pillars for success. They figured out that if they treated people well within a work and friendship context, they reaped the benefits.

        But, then they are challenged by an affair. You cannot truly live and exemplify those pillars and have an extramarital affair. And maybe the extramarital affair feels like a bigger ego stroke than living those pillars?

        Not an excuse.

        But perhaps the answer is that people used those pillars of success to reap the rewards in inter-personal relationships. But, they never took those pillars into their core being. The pillars were always a tool but not a core quality.

        That is one explanation for it, even if a lame one.

        • Shifting Impressions

          Sarah I wish I had the answer to that one as well. But I do know that the affair doesn’t define him. Maybe the fact that he embraces those principles is the reason that we are still together.

          He is one of the most amazing husbands that I know….but when life became difficult he stumbled. And once they are caught in the web of deceit, I believe it’s hard to pull themselves out.

          The fog has lifted, there is true remorse and slowly slowly we are moving past this.

          • Sarah P.

            Hi Shifting,

            I am grateful that you got one of the good ones and that you are working things out and moving past it. It sounds like he did indeed stumble. The more I read, the more I discover that many people cheat right after some kind of tremendous crisis. Life falls apart after a crisis and some people are vulnerable to an affair at this time. And of course, there are spouse poachers just waiting in the wings to pounce. Not an excuse for those who fall prey to poachers– just a pattern.

            Personally, I would give anything to know that I am safe in my marriage til death do us part, but this is not possible for me or anyone else since there are two people in each marriage. I/we can only control myself/ourselves and no matter how great the marriage partner, there is never a guarantee.

            I know who I am and what I have to give: absolute integrity and loyalty among many other things. But there is never a guarantee that another person can give that back no matter how well-meaning they are. And whenever I think of that, I get scared and also very resentful.

            Some personal disclosure: this week I have had the past four nights plagued with unrelenting trauma dreams. Each time (in the dream) I am back in a relationship with my ex, only this time he and I have kids. And each time he is approaching me and telling me he is getting a divorce and taking all of our houses and our kids. (In the dream we own four houses and have three kids). And then I start crying in the dream and eventually wake up hyper-ventilating and the room spins around me until I get my bearings.

            This whole thing about affair PTSD is very real and it pops up very unpredictably.

            SI, do you have trauma dreams that bring you back to d-day?

            Does anyone else out there have continued trauma dreams about d-day or another shocking aspect of betrayal?

            The most terrible aspect of trauma is that my case happened in early 2002. And I think I have not been able to move on because of the PTSD but also because of the “runaway spouse” aspect. What Vikki Stark describes in her book is exactly what happened to me. And even though he and I were together almost 4 years, it is not about the time element. It is about the utter shock element, the no warning, the inability for closure, and of course the fact that he became violent so that I would be forced to leave our co-owned home. Earlier that day I thought I was getting married to the love of my life and later that day I was being kicked out of my house. It’s a tremendous amount of shock.

            Anyhow, I know I covered a lot of this in the trauma post, but I just cannot get over how the PTSD comes out in night dreams no matter what I do and no matter what positive self-talk I engage in during the waking hours. I truly believe PTSD rewires many different parts of a person.

            • Shifting Impressions

              Sarah I am so sorry to hear you had such a terrible week. Did something happen to set off the dreams?

              I did have sleep issues and troubled dreams right after D-day but that happens only occasionally now.

              I was traumatized by the fact that my husband betrayed me with two EA about 15yrs apart but I did not experience the brutality that you did. I remember you story well. If I rember correctly your ex was never held accountable for his actions. Could that be part of the problem? Is there still unfinished business there??

              I too wish that someone could guarantee me absolute safety in my marriage but I agree that is just not possible. I can only control my own actions.

              I had two very strong premonitions before my two d-days. Both of them the night before….the two very almost accidental d-days. The d-days were about a year apart. The premonitions almost felt spiritual…if that makes sense.

              So yes, I believe in dreams and premonitions. Pay attention and maybe get some help. Take care of you…..I’m so sorry you are struggling with this.

    • TheFirstWife

      I had suspicions about the A from a dream.

      Since I was a child I have had dreams come true. Conversations. Locations.

      I woke up on a Saturday morning from a dream that the following month my H would tell me he wanted a D. Very specific date.

      I thought it was a weird dream so I started to pay attention a bit more. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

      3 weeks later he admits A. Wow!!!

      Two weeks later (exact circumstances) he wants a D.

      After we have R I have another dream. We are at a specific location and he turns to me and says he wants a D. So I ask him if he’s been happy past few years. He says yes. And I say ok – we are getting a D.

      No tears or drama b/c I just don’t care. Like I knew it was going to happen in my dream. I expected it.

      It is 4 years from DDay but that last dream was as vivid as the first one that predicted his D request (though the dream did not say the reason gor the D request was b/c of the OW).

      Not sure If this second one is real or just a dream as a result of the A.

      • Sarah P.

        Hello TFW,

        Wow, you have some natural psychic skills and that is a gift. I am well-versed in both Christianity and Judaism because of my family situation. But, Judaism considers this type of knowledge foretold in dreams to be very real and also a form of spiritual sight that is specifically bestowed by God. It is something very special.

        However, these are dreams that none of us want to come true. I am sorry that what was to happen in your marriage was foretold, but maybe on one level it allowed your brain to start processing (in the background) something that was to occur.

        As for the second dream, it could be you seeing the future, but it is better explained by the connections our minds make when we are asleep. There is probably a part of you that still wonders if he wants to be in the marriage. But, you have also gotten strong at your core because you had to. These are the experiences that force us to find inner strength even if (in general) we believe we never had it. I think a part of you knows that if he were to ask for a D you and the kids would be okay and I think a part of you also knows it has to prepare for such an event even if it never happens. This is all because of what he did in the past. Before D-Day you likely believed he was not capable of such things. Then you found out he was. Then he adds insult to injury after the details of the situation came out. So, our mind works through these things often below our awareness and possible scenarios can play out in the dream space.

        For example, I know one of the reasons I have dreams about my Ex and I am always back at the moment where I am losing everything (my safety, my relationship, my home) is because I will never be able to truly trust again. I have what I would describe as “functional trust” where I trust that people I am friends/associates will follow through on whatever is going on, but I do not trust commitment. Prior to the affair, I trusted what I saw and what a man said. Now, even though I did not reconcile with my ex, a part of me will never trust marital commitment. My sub-conscious mind is always waiting for the other shoe to drop and so it comes out in traumatic dreams. My traumatic experience demonstrated that even though it looked like I had an idyllic life and relationship, none of it was true. It sure looked true, it sure felt true– and he even said it was true. But, then one day it was all taken away within minutes and without ANY warning. So, I am trying to come to terms with the idea that nothing is ever as it seems (when it comes to marriages) and it causes me to be hyper-vigilant in my thinking.

        That is my explanation of your second dream– it could be your mind putting you on notice because it knows what happened in the past and doesn’t want to experience such pain ‘out of the blue’ again. Or, it could be the future. But, that is for you to decide. You need to listen to your gut on this one. But, from what you have described, I just DO NOT see your husband leaving or asking for a divorce. That is just my feeling on it, but take it with a grain on salt.

    • TheFirstWife

      Sarah P. I think the interesting part of the second dream is my attitude.

      I just go on like the conversation never occurred. I just accept it and move on.

      So weird but proud of my strength in the dream. And I don’t think my H wants a D any more but never say never.

      We all know that.

    • JTK

      New topic
      It’s been 7 months since dday. My W still denies it. Two weeks ago I caught her lying about a rendezvous she had with the OM. Now I wonder if it’s more than an EA. She has no desire for me anymore- kisses lack desire, sex lacks desire. This just adds to the devastation. I have sins from before we were married, before dating that I think led to our issues. I don’t blame her for losing her love for me and no longer desiring me (been married 25+ years).

      I am thinking it is best to leave. So my concern is being alone. I don’t want another relationship. I would not want another woman to inherit my issues. Yet I have a need for companionship; I have my love of God, but I need love with skin on too. How hard is it to find a woman that I can be friends with? Does anyone have similar struggles?

      • Shifting Impressions

        You seem to be taking on the blame of your wife’s actions. We go through a lot of emotions when our partners cheat. It’s somewhat like a wild roller coaster ride. But no matter what, your wife made those choices, not you.

        You are worthy of love. Perhaps it would be a good time to get some counseling for yourself as you go through this. Take care of you first. Deal with the issues at hand.

        It’s normal to worry about being alone in the midst of the turmoil you are going through….but it is far more important to stay in the present, and take care of you.

        • JTK

          What are your thoughts on hiring a PI to find out if more is going on?

          • TheFirstWife

            I say if you must then you must.

            In some cases it may the only information &/or truth you get.

            What will you do once you have the info?

            My H had a 4 year EA 20 years ago and never admitted it. Made me out to be crazy. Stonewall snd gaslight and ignore me and never discuss. Until he told the last OW he had an A with all about it.

            Yes he admitted to someone else.

            So you want to be prepared for what happens when you find out about the A.

            She may only admit to things you can prove in black and white. As an example my H told me he was ending the A. A 73 minute phone call. I had access to the cell phone account. I could see every time he spoke with her.

            Once he knew that they only Skyped.

            So Be prepared is all i am saying.

            • JTK

              I am wondering if it is more than an EA. If it is not, I don’t suppose more evidence does much. I don’t think reconciliation and/or breaking out of the fog can happen until they own the A. So I thought some indeniable evidence would get us there.

              Although I think this is an exit affair. My W’s faith is strong, and I don’t think she could do this unless she was ready to end us. I have reflected on a lot of things she said in recent years that now add up to her bailing at some point.

              It is a little weird in that she is still doing some things to try to keep us maintained, friendly, but that’s it. I think her motivation is financial to max use of my income while kids are in college.

              This pain is !!!! So much hurt; so much loss.

            • Shifting Impressions

              Yes the pain is overwhelming….that’s for sure. Just let me caution you about speculating whether this is an exit affair or not, Often the actions of a CS make no sense at all. My husband is also a Christian and yet was involved in an EA….and no it wasn’t an exit affair. Trying to get inside their heads is almost impossible.

            • JTK

              Yes, I suppose I can’t know what she is thinking. I wish she would either love me or leave me.

              It’s hard to just live in the present when the present is my W is in love with someone else. I am exhausted enduring the pain everyday. I hope I can start to focus on something else.

            • Shifting Impressions

              If you can, try to remember that there is a lot of fantasy involved in affairs. They are not based on reality.

              Take care of you…and remember your wife isn’t the only one that has a choice here, you do as well. You deserve more.

              Have you read Sarah P’s most recent post….the one after this one? It might be really helpful to you.

          • Shifting Impressions

            In my situation I wasn’t put in that position. The emails I stumbled across had enough evidence that an EA was going on. My husband did not deny it and stopped all contact immediately.

            If I remember correctly you had enough evidence in emails as well, right?? But your wife is still denying and works with the OM, right?

            I imagine your motivation is two fold….to get the whole truth and to get your wife to stop denying.

            So if you have enough evidence……do you really need more? Of course only you can answer that question.

            Perhaps it would be good to ask who on this site used a PI and what their experience was like.

            • JTK

              Yes, you right that I have enough email evidence and that my W still denies the EA. And yes I want the whole truth, wondering if it is more than an EA, and so my W could no longer deny it.

              I think I remember Doug saying there would be an article soon on PIs.

    • theresa
    • Nicole

      Find out before you freak out. If they are big enough to do it, they should be big enough to own up to it. Cheaters are cowards who lack self-worth and often have low self-esteem. Something is missing or lacking, they might even be envious of what a good decent person you are compared to them. Often they self-loath but their ego is inflated and they appear confident and secure. They need to be validated by unavailable people to feel their worth. Maybe they were neglected as a child or they are addicted to feeling the need to be desired. Whatever it is, make sure you’re not accusing them of something that might not be true, but be wise enough to know when they are gaslighting you with their words. Because let’s be honest. One thing cheaters are not is… honest. That’s why it’s important to have actual evidence and allow them the space to respectfully explain what their intentions were by the evidence that you found. Tell them you respect their privacy but you would respectfully like them to explain what they meant by the evidence you discovered. People lie for several reasons. 1. To protect themselves. 2. To protect someone else. 3. To protect you from the hurtful truth. If you have phone records, emails, or text messages take screenshots, save or print copies. Let the evidence speak for itself. They will gaslight you by telling you that you’re invading their privacy, or that it’s not what it looks like, or that nothing is going on, etc. Remember these are the same lies they were even telling themselves. That helped them justify it and make it okay in their mind to do to you and your marriage. Remember no one hides a respectful relationship from anyone. Also if you did know about this person but you were only getting a half-truth about the true nature of the relationship. A half-truth is still a full lie. That’s not being honest or respectful. It’s unkind and hurtful to do that to someone whom you vowed to love, honor, and cherish. If this other person respected themselves, they too would want to protect their reputation and make an effort to be open and respectful about their relationship. Stick to the facts and ask them how this hidden relationship was benefiting them. How was it making your marriage and family better? People who respect themselves also respect other people. They have good character and hold to that. Disrespectful people use other people to feel respected. It’s empty and weak. Ask them if they would feel respected if you had this same kind of relationship with another person as they seem to be having. That’s where the answer is. Don’t name-call them, but use lots of “I” statements when confronting them. Say things like… “I felt unloved and disrespected when I found out….” “I would like you to…..” and remember this is on their paper. They need to fix it, and you can let them know that you need time to decide what you’ll do next. Ask them “What are you doing? What are you supposed to be doing? Are you doing that? ” Then go take care of yourself. Treat yourself with love and respect, and do little things that bring you joy. What did you love doing when you were young? Maybe something silly like coloring or riding your bike. Do that again. Do you enjoy baking or cooking? Try a new recipe. Keep it simple. Be the god/goddess of love and light with everyone. around you. Manners look gorgeous on everyone. Let them know that you love and support anything they do that is loving and respectful to you, your marriage, and even to them, but that you can’t ever support being disrespected like that by them or another person who has no business being in your marriage or not respectful to your family, nor would you expect them to allow it either. Stand tall, and stay true to your standards. Respect yourself.

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