How Mistrust Can Destroy a Second Marriage and What to Do About It

How Mistrust Can Destroy a Second Marriage and What to Do About It February 11, 2020

The breakup of a marriage can set the stage for feelings of mistrust – even if you’ve never had trust issues previously.  After a marriage ends, especially if you’ve endured infidelity, it’s normal to doubt your ability to trust yourself and others. Falling in love and getting remarried can be invigorating but can also be scary at the same time.

Love can be sweeter the second time around but when the bliss wears off, trust issues may surface and cause you to lose faith and confidence in your partner. An inability to trust a new partner may take on several forms – ranging from feeling they’re dishonest or secretive or doubting they’re going to keep their promises or be dependable.

We all bring baggage to our intimate relationships and issues of infidelity or trauma from the past can set the stage for mistrust. However, trust forms the foundation of real love and intimacy. That why it’s crucial that remarried couples allow themselves to be vulnerable and discuss breaches of trust when they occur.

For instance, Brianna, 46, finds her second marriage to Kevin, 50, challenging because they’re raising four children in a blended family and it’s difficult to squeeze in alone time as a couple. As a result, the secure connection they once had has been evaporating and Brianna often finds herself questioning Kevin’s feelings for her. In fact, Brianna wonders if he’s starting to have a roving eye because she’s put on twenty pounds in the past year and that’s causing her to feel insecure.

Over the last several months, Kevin has grown weary of Brianna’s constant badgering. After all, he’s never given her reason to lose faith in him and he feels he’s earned her trust by being there for her in so many ways, such as caring for all four children and paying bills.

Kevin puts it like this: “My feelings toward Brianna haven’t changed but she’s pushing me away with her questions and constant lack of trust. I know we both have a lot of baggage but I just want her to relax and realize that I’m not going anywhere.”

Unpack the Baggage from Your First Marriage

Take a moment to consider this: your partner is not solely responsible for creating mistrustful feelings. In most cases, you must take equal responsibility for creating an atmosphere of safety and security in your relationship. Dealing with baggage from your prior marriage is part of this. In order to begin the process of overcoming mistrust ask yourself:

  • Does my fear of loss and abandonment cloud my perspective and cause me to overreact to my partner’s actions?
  • Do I feel comfortable asking for what I need and allowing myself to be vulnerable?
  • Do I bring my best self to my interactions with my partner?
  • Do I possess self-love and allow myself to be loved and respected?

 Are Mistrustful Feelings Based on the Past or the Present?

Karen, in her mid-forties, is a remarried architect whose first marriage ended due to infidelity.  She married her second husband Brian on the rebound after a brief courtship. Karen often reacts with fear and suspicion when he returns home late from work or there’s the slightest imperfection in his story.

Karen has a tendency to catastrophize when she says to Brian, “You’re always putting work first and you don’t care about me.” In the past, Brian reacted negatively to these accusations, but he has learned to reassure Karen and now calls her if he is going to be late and puts special time with her on his calendar.

Through being reliable and reassuring her, Brian is working on showing Karen by his words and actions that he is there for her. He’s deeply committed to her and doesn’t have a history of betrayal in prior relationships. Likewise, Karen must learn to examine her thought processes. Is her self-doubt and mistrust grounded in reality or a fragment of her past? She must be willing to let go of self-defeating thoughts – to free herself from the blueprints of her previous marriage.

Karen reflects: “It’s taken me a couple of years to realize that Brian is nothing like my ex who betrayed me. He’s committed to me and wants to be with me. If I need reassurance, I tell him and he gives me a kiss and tells me it’s going to work out.”

You may enter a relationship with fractured trust for a variety of reasons. Divorce is not always the root cause. Nevertheless, as you become more aware of your tendency to mistrust your partner, you can stop yourself and ask: “Is my mistrust coming from something that is actually happening in the present, or is it related to my past?”

Trust is an Essential Element of Intimacy in Remarriage

When you sustain the loss of a relationship due to broken trust, it makes you smarter and more keenly able to extend trust to those who are deserving of it. You can learn to trust your instincts and your judgment when you honestly deal with your fears. If you are able to come to a place of self-awareness and understand the decisions that that led up to trust being severed, you can start to approach others with faith and optimism.

Do you sometimes feel that love is easily broken and fear that it will disappear despite everything you do? Mistrust is often a lingering feeling in the back of your mind that your partner does not truly love you, or might abandon you. So much about trust is walking the talk. Your ex-spouse may have told you that he or she loved you, but did their actions support that? If you experience mistrust, all isn’t lost. Truth be told, you can begin to repair it with your partner step by step by considering the following strategies.

Here are 6 smart ways to repair broken trust:

  • Challenge mistrustful thoughts. Ask yourself: is my lack of trust due to my partner’s actions or my own issues, or both? Be aware of ghosts from your past that may be triggering mistrust in the present.
  • Trust your intuition and instincts. Have confidence in your own perceptions and pay attention to red flags. Ask yourself: does my partner have my best interests at heart?
  • Gain awareness about how your reactions may be having a destructive impact on your relationship and take responsibility for them.
  • If your partner lets you down, do not always assume that a failure in competence is intentional – sometimes people simply make a mistake.
  • Accept your partner and realize that we all have flaws. If he or she makes a mistake (like forgetting it call you) it may simply mean that they are human and perhaps a little forgetful.
  • Listen to your partner’s side of the story. Make sure your words and tone of voice are consistent with your goal of rebuilding trust.

A relationship that doesn’t have a foundation of trust will not endure because feelings of mistrust can erode love and intimacy over time. Remarried couples who share a vision for their marriage that includes building trust, intimacy, and profound love can help them to withstand difficulties together. Merging two families can be difficult at times but remarried couples who trust one another create solid partnerships that allow them to be resilient while facing the inevitable challenges of daily life.

Follow Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy A Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship was published in January of 2016 by Sourcebooks. Terry’s forthcoming book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True in February of 2019.

I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry 


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