How do you build trust in your marriage?
It’s a wonderful thing to be in a marriage where you trust your partner. Such trust builds security and hope, diminishes anxiety and fear and makes the challenges of family life much easier to deal with.
In my previous blogs I have dealt with the importance of trust and many situations which present us with the opportunity to build trust with each other. In this blog I want to be very direct in my approach and give you some advice which will be pointed and explicit on how to build trust in your marriage.
Make it easy for your spouse to tell the truth. If you think I’m saying that we can do something to help our spouse be truthful with us you are correct. Influence is the key issue here. You cannot make your husband/wife be honest with you but you can create an environment which can make it easier to be honest.
Think about this for a moment. Has there been someone in your life with whom you have felt safe to be yourself? What is it about that person that allowed you to be truthful about what you felt or where you had goofed up?
If you have been fortunate enough to have that person in your life I would say they offered you these things: a non-judgmental attitude, unconditional acceptance, understanding and a listening ear. These qualities create an environment which makes it easier for us to be truthful.
Pay attention to the things you need to do and things you need to avoid to make honesty an integral part of your marriage. Obviously, there are actions, attitudes or habits you will want to eradicate if you want to build a positive environment for truthfulness.
First, drop the critical attitude. Allow for human error and recognize that you are mistake oriented, too. Quit seeking perfection in your spouse until you have achieved that lofty goal for yourself.
Second, be generous with grace and mercy. Make allowances for personality differences and areas of weakness in your spouse.
Third, be quick to encourage and praise. Look for strengths and encourage your spouse’s efforts to improve. Few things help the marriage more than an attitude that is positive and looks for opportunity to encourage your spouse.
Fourth, listen with your heart as well as your ears. Listening is hard work. If you work hard and intelligently at it you will be rewarded with a deepened relationship which will grow in understanding and trust.
Do you realize your parenting affects the trust factor in your marriage?
One of the most important areas in which trust is built or destroyed in marriage is how you deal with your children. Having children, for most couples, is the easy part. Rearing those children to become healthy, responsible people is not so easy. Let’s face it; children are expensive and can be a lot of work if you do child rearing as you should.
There was a time in our country when the basic idea was that the husband earned the money and the wife did most, if not all, of the child raising.This attitude, I believe, is a very limited view of how parenting ought to be done. Thankfully, I see many young fathers taking a very active role in the care and discipline of their children. This is as it should be and builds strong ties with the child and trust with the wife.
However, there are moms and dads who, because of laziness, selfishness, or some other reason, put the work of parenting on their spouse. This is hurtful to the child and undermines the trust that is so basic to the marriage. What is there that a couple has that should be more important than the child they have brought into the world? To neglect the rearing of your child is a sin against the very marriage that gave the child its life. Such neglect can do nothing but destroy trust in your marriage.
As you realize, there is a lot more to rearing your child than the physical care and nurture they require. They are moral, spiritual beings which need guidance and spiritual foundations. Your time is limited,there is only a relatively small amount of time you have to lay the foundations of character and faith upon which the remainder of your child’s life will be built.
So, commit to work together to rear your child to have a positive influence on the world. By doing this you will build a trusting relationship in your marriage and give your child the character and balance he/she needs to face the challenges of life.
How dependable are you? The way in which you keep your word and do, or neglect to do, what you are supposed to do affects trust in your marriage. One word that aptly describes the idea I’m getting at is dependability. This is not so much about deliberately lying or misleading your spouse but whether or not he/she can depend on you to do what you’ve agreed to do.
Dependability covers a broad range of issues: faithfulness, truthfulness, and all the little things husbands and wives do to make their marriage healthy and secure. Marriage involves lots of mundane, ordinary stuff that has to be done to keep the household running smoothly. Most of this stuff is not glamorous or fun but it needs to be done. And, somebody needs to do it.
How does the stuff we need to do build trust? Let’s suppose you and your spouse both have jobs to support your lifestyle. And, let’s say the two of you have agreed on a division of work to be done to keep the household functioning well. For example, you have agreed to do the basic cleaning while your spouse has agreed to pay the bills. What happens when the bathroom is nasty and not cleaned for several weeks? Or, how does a pattern of late payments affect your trust of your spouse?
You and your spouse need agreements about who does what in the maintenance of your residence and the work that maintains your family. Where such agreements do not exist resentment grows and arguments are not far away. (Perhaps the arguments will lead to agreements). When the agreements are made, it is essential that you do your job in a way that says to your spouse: “You can depend on me to keep my word to you.” It’s amazing how dependability in these smaller matters builds up the foundation of trust so important to your marriage. Think about it.
What does a marriage look like where trust is intact in many areas of everyday life? Such a marriage is not free of problems or stain but it does have a sense of partnership and cooperation in dealing with life’s issues which makes marriage very satisfying and successful.
To more completely answer the question posed above I want to deal with some specific situations in marriage where trust is a core issue. Some would say that not having trust in these areas is a “deal breaker” or grounds for ending the marriage. All the areas I mention are important but do not, in my opinion, carry the same weight in the marriage. There is only one that is, by its very nature, destructive to the bond between a man and a woman. And, this issue I will deal with first.
Personal faithfulness. The bottom line is: you must be able to trust your spouse to be faithful to your marriage vows. Marriage is between you and your spouse, an exclusive relationship where there is no room for another person.
We are all human and can be tempted to betray our vows. Therefore, great care must be taken to protect our marriage and not become involved in an emotional affair or in activities that can lead to physical acts that betray our spouse. Trust is destroyed, and oftentimes the marriage with it, if there is a betrayal in this area. A decision to be unfaithful is tragic and leads to lifelong consequences which hurt many people.
Marriages can be restored where unfaithfulness has taken place if there is true repentance and great effort to rebuild the trust that has been broken. However, the offended spouse will also have some difficult work to do. They will need time to work through the process of forgiving and learning to trust again; a process which may take years to accomplish. It can be done and a strong marriage can be built from the pain.
Guard your heart. Keep it only for your spouse. You owe nothing to another man or woman that should cause you to dishonor yourself, your spouse or God.
Do you really want to build trust in your marriage? If so, you need to see how things you do or do not do everyday affect your spouse’s ability to trust you.
Marriage has multiple demands that go beyond maintaining and growing the relationship with your spouse. Work, child rearing, financial management, and such things as maintaining where you live play a part in how trust is built or destroyed in your marriage. With effort a deficit of trust in any of these areas can be overcome in time. However, an unwillingness to address trust issues will lead to a growing distrust and possible destruction of your marriage.
The real issue in making your marriage work well is CHARACTER. By this I mean that people of good character really want to mature and do those things that are healthy for their marriage. They will make mistakes but will also admit them and attempt to correct them. You will not need to try to change them because they will want to change for the sake of the marriage. So, it all comes down to a couple of things: heart and head.
The “heart” part has to do with will or intention. “In my heart, do I really want to do the right thing?”This question gets at the essence of the issue. If the heart is wrong or selfish then only a deep personal change such as conversion can change this.
The “head” part has to do with knowledge or understanding. A person can have a good heart or intentions but lack knowledge. For example, you may want to live within your means but are challenged when it comes to knowing how to make a budget. This principle applies in many areas of marriage and family life. Trust grows when each of you shows yourself willing to learn new skills which are important to the overall management of family concerns. Likewise, trust in these areas deteriorates when such issues are not addressed.
In the next blog I will address the trust factor as it applies in specific ways to your marriage.
Are you too trusting? In the previous blog I dealt with the issue of transference and how our difficult experiences in the past can cause trust problems in our present relationships. There is a “flip side” to transference which we also need to be aware of because that can cause tremendous heartache also.
Let’s say you grew up in a family where you could absolutely trust the word and character of your parents. And, for argument’s sake, let’s say that you would admit to being a bit gullible or naive about relationships. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Here’s the problem. When you grow up with trusting relationships you may assume you can trust almost anyone. You trust easily and have a hard time thinking that people aren’t using you or not telling you the truth. You want friendships and a special relationship with someone of the opposite sex. However, what you my experience if you are too trusting is heartbreak and disappointment and that simply cannot trust everyone. This is a hard and cruel lesson but it can be very helpful.
How can it be helpful to have your heart broken or be betrayed by a “friend?” Hopefully, you will learn that, while you are a trusting and trustworthy person, not everyone is worthy of your trust. And by the time you are ready for marriage you will not make the foolish decision of giving your trust and love to someone who can’t reciprocate in kind.
Our trust needs to be given to someone who will treat it as a sacred gift. But, for this to happen, we must first value our trust and ensure we don’t just throw it at someone out of a “romantic” infatuation and desire to be loved. Guard your trust wisely.
What is your trust quotient? Very trusting of others? Too trusting of some people? Distrusting of almost everyone?
How did we come to be who we are when it comes to the matter of trust? Since a good marriage and other important relationships depend on trust, it’s important for us to think some about these questions.
You may not have to search any further than your family of origin to understand why you trust the way you do. If you grew up in an environment that was emotionally stable it is likely you don’t have lots of trouble trusting others. However, if you grew up uncertain of the love of your parents, feeling you might be abandoned or that you had to earn their affection, you have probably struggled with trust issues. If you were a child of divorced parents this could also cause serious problems in trusting others. Abuse and neglect are also fertile soil for distrust.
“Well,” you may ask, “how does my trust quotient possibly affect my marriage?” Let me explain what could be happening. Transference is a term which means that we are acting in or reacting to a current situation based on past experience. For example, John says to his wife, Melanie, “I’m not your father. I’ve told you the truth and you refuse to believe me because your dad always lied to you.”John is saying that Melanie is accusing him of treating her the way her father did. She is transferring feelings of distrust and anger from her experience with her dad to her husband. There may be absolutely no rational basis for her behavior.
Obviously, John will feel like he is under scrutiny a good deal of the time and any slip up will bring the accusation, “You don’t love me.” Hopefully, he will see that, although he is trustworthy, he will need to be especially patient with Melanie in order to help her build the trust which will make the marriage work. Melanie will need to get some insight into how she has developed this deficit of trust and work through the emotional damage done to her so she can live with some sense of assurance and comfort in her relationship with John.
There is no way to overstate the importance of trust in marriage. Trust is to your marriage what your heart is to your body. Trust is absolutely indispensable to a healthy marriage. Therefore, our character and the things we do to earn trust are vital if we are to have a good marriage.
What I have just said implies at least two important things about trust. First, trust is a basic need in your marriage. Being able to depend on each other to respect your deepest feelings and needs builds security and gives comfort. When this is not true good communication is absent and there is a sense of anxiety and loneliness in the marriage. When your word cannot be relied on in ordinary, everyday transactions the foundation of trust is eroded and a deeper problem is often lurking just under the surface: If I can’t trust you in the small things, how can I trust you with my heart? Trust is basic to your marriage.
Another idea I want you to consider is that trust is learned. There is a real sense in which most of us didn’t really know our mate when we first married. Perhaps we had developed a certain level of trust strong enough to take a big chance on marriage. But, if our marriage has grown the way it should, we have had to continue developing trust in our spouse .The biggest issue for couples in this area, I think, is whether you believe your spouse is really trying to be unselfish and to look out for your best interest. If that trust is there you can continue to grow through mistakes by forgiving each other and address the areas where you need to grow. As you mature together in your love you will find that you have learned more and more how to trust each other.
Not all people enter into the venture of marriage with the same ability to trust and this can be a problem in making the marriage work. Why is this and what do you need to do if you are in this situation? We’ll look at this in the next blog.
Trust is vital in marriage. I recently heard of a situation where a young wife had discovered her husband was having an affair. When she confronted him about his unfaithfulness and the marriage vows he took he replied, “That’s just a piece of paper.” The “piece of paper” he was referencing was, of course, the marriage license. There are several things wrong with a scenario like this.
First, adultery is wrong. It is a breach of trust between a man and a woman who have agreed to be faithful to each other. There may be lots of excuses as to why a person succumbs to this temptation but there is no real justification for it. If a person isn’t mature enough to keep their libido in check they shouldn’t take on the responsibility of marriage. Adultery is the breaking of the trust which is vital to a healthy marriage. Trust can be repaired but only through a truly repentant attitude and hard work.
Second, there was probably a lot of misplaced trust in this situation. Sometimes, people allow passion to over rule wisdom. All of us need to be loved but we may fail to use caution when giving our love to someone else. Why? Because our desire and need for the security of being loved is so strong that we may naively accept the other person’s “I love you” as the real deal. The truth is that lots of folks talk about love without the foggiest notion of what real love is. But, we want to be “loved’ and are liable to fall for any counterfeit.In the instance cited above, trust was blind and naive.
Third, situations such as this cause me to question the character of those involved. I tend to see adultery in this instance as a symptom of a dysfunctional marriage. Something at the core of the marriage wasn’t right. There was no solid basis for trust because there wasn’t character to build on.
When a man and woman have committed to each other to be honest and meet each other’s needs a solid trust develops. The glue that holds relationships together in tough times involves the trust that has been built by the way they have cared for each other before the tough times come. We learn to trust our spouse, or vice versa, because we know them.
Trustworthiness is a part of good character and it is wise to have a good idea about the “character” you are thinking about marrying before you say “I do.”
More on this in The Trust Factor: Marriage (part two)