Recovering Friendship in the Wake of Broken Trust


They remained the best of friends… or so Ruth thought.

They were close friends first, having met in while playing in a college band. Somewhere in the mix Ruth and Jack fell in love and three and half years later married. He worked from home as a building manager, she as a social worker. They remained the best of friends… or so Ruth thought.

Next door neighbors, Mark and Chris, provided the bulk of their friendship in the large city. So when Chris started struggling with depression, Ruth encouraged Jack, who was home during the day, to reach out. “She was vulnerable, and I basically gave her my husband,” said Ruth. According to Jack, he and Chris spent a lot of time talking.

“At first it was an emotional relationship based on her need and my concern,” said Jack “Within a year, however, it turned physical.” Unbeknownst to Ruth, the relationship would carry on for three years.

“I thought everything was fine,” said Ruth. “I felt like we had a good marriage and we were good friends on all levels.” When Jack finally did confess the relationship, her world crumbled. “The betrayal was incomprehensible to me,” said Ruth. “I don’t know what felt worse, that my best friend had stabbed me in the heart, or that I encouraged it.”

“For both of us, there was no question whether or not to salvage the relationship,” said Jack. “We decided we would do whatever we could to repair the friendship and honor the commitment we made to each other.”

“We also committed to the process of reconciliation because we saw value in each other and in our relationship,” said Ruth. “Neither of us could imagine living without the other. I remember telling Jack that I loved him in the midst of horrible, painful, tearful conversations.”

The first act Jack and Ruth took was to spend a week away at a quiet resort. It was a time of simply being together and building new memories. They spent a lot of time talking and crying.

Jack and Ruth did all the right things to repair their shattered friendship. They went into marriage counseling. “I don’t think we would have made it without professional help,” said Ruth. “We learned how to communicate, and we learned about the brokenness and behavior patterns we brought into the marriage. Clearly there were issues that had lain dormant for years.”

The couple also cleared their lives of all time commitments outside of work, “We needed intense face time,” said Ruth. “We had to face deep, painful and uncomfortable things about one another, and we had to do it alone.

“Jack said over and over to me through tears, ‘I can’t be trusted.’ I checked in every day to see if he was being honest and faithful. I policed his Internet use. This kind of exercise fueled my suffering. Finally my counselor told me that Jack needed someone else to monitor his thoughts and activities. He entered into a transparent accountability relationship with a mentor.

Ruth knew she also needed accountability, a compassionate ear, and encouragement. A mature woman whom she knew well stepped forward and provided that support.

On the sexual front, Ruth did not know how she was ever going to be naked in front of her husband again. “We took small steps toward intimacy,” she said. The betrayal took a long time to get over.” It would be years before she didn’t think of Chris during their most intimate moments.

The couple credits the affair and its aftermath with the creation of a transparent, vulnerable and rock solid friendship. These are the hallmarks of their relationship today:

  • They spend significant “face time” together, taking care to connect when life gets hectic.
  • They’ve made a habit out of thanking one another for the mundane, such as doing the dishes or taking out the trash.
  • They engage in little every day kindnesses. They serve the other at every turn.
  • They are accountable to one another.
  • They’ve found many common passions and they engage in them regularly.

Jack and Ruth remain best friends.


This article was extracted by Focus on the Family Malaysia with permission.

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