Building a Better Marriage: Tool #2 It’s a matter of trust

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Okay, I admit it.  I had grandiose plans to knock out four marriage blogs in four weeks and then…life happened.

However, don’t give up on me yet!  We will finish this together!  Trust me.

Speaking of trust, that’s our next topic.  If we are talking about essential elements to building a better marriage, trust is at the top of the list.  We talked about communication last time and that is definitely important.  Some might say that communication is the most important tool in your tool box.  I would disagree.  Obviously, I think it is important because I included it in this series but without trust, communication is pointless.

I read a quote recently that said ““Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.” When trust hasn’t been cultivated and more importantly, when trust has been broken, you can do all of the right things in your marriage but it will feel like you are spinning your wheels.

Here are just a few suggestions for how to cultivate trust in your marriage:

Having each other’s backs in public and in private.  Let’s admit something.  Life is hard and being in a relationship that lasts for a lifetime is hard too.  There are times when you will disappoint, wound and alienate the person that you love most.  Listen to me, it is going to happen.  Let’s all admit that and move on.

When that happens, you need to have people that you can confide in that will help you through those moments.  You need to speak honestly and candidly about how you are feeling.  That’s normal, and that’s human.  Make sure that when you are confiding in someone about those things, that they have your best interests in mind and that includes your marriage.

If you are talking about how your spouse has wounded you, be sure that you are fair in how you present the problem and try to keep yourself from ranting about the other person or letting your friend rant about them.

Also, when you are in public situations, don’t bad mouth your spouse.  Sure, it can be funny at times but your spouse is not there to defend herself/ himself.  If they catch wind of the situation it will feel like a violation of privacy and it is incredibly embarrassing.  If you don’t believe me, switch roles for a second.  Imagine that you found out that in a large group of people, you were being made fun of.

Conversely, always speak well of them.  Focus on their strengths and brag about them.  Yes, your spouse has strengths no matter how bad your situation is.  You can choose from the following list if you are having trouble:  hard worker, loving parent, gives great advice, is generous, extremely disciplined, funny, kind toward their friends…etc.

Doing what you said you would do.  This is pretty simple.  The more that you do what you say you will do, you become predictable (in a good way).  When you say you will call someone to fix something, do it.  I mess this up all the time by the way.  This is not about being perfect, it is about being consistent.  If you drop the ball, pick it up!  If you forget to call someone that day that you should have called, pick up the phone and call.  

Don’t be legalistic about this, just use your common sense.  If you’ve had a tough and busy day, chances are your spouse has too!  Give them space to get things done on a timeline that makes sense.  Empower them to make good on what they said they would do.  Don’t scold them because they didn’t do something.

My wife is excellent at this.  She kindly reminds me to do things and then gives me credit for accomplishing the task when it is done.  She never forgets to say “Thanks for doing that.”  She’s pretty awesome that way.

Telling the truth.   This seems like a no brainer but each of us violates this at one time or another.  This might not be a straight out lie but could be more innocent.  Some of us reading this article may have had a whopper dropped on us and could probably teach me some things about trust.  When you have a steady habit of telling the truth, you create a safe space in your home.  Again, you become predictable in the best of ways.  

If you make a mistake and hurt your spouse, own it.  Don’t explain it away or worse, blame it on them.  Tell the truth.  When your feelings have been hurt but you are worried it will hurt their feelings, you need to tell them how that affected you.  As always the truth must be wrapped in love and delivered in grace.  

If you have in some way violated the truth and have wounded someone else by misrepresenting the truth or intentionally deceiving, the best way to start the healing process is with a good old fashioned apology.  When we ask forgiveness, we admit wrong doing and resolve ourselves to do better.  When we forgive someone, we take the weight of guilt and shame off of someone and give them a second, third and fourth chance.  

Both of those actions cultivate trust and respect in the other person.

Make grace your default.  When we’ve been wronged or hurt by someone, our defenses are up.  If forgiveness hasn’t taken place, we grow bitter.  That one two punch is a killer.  It is really easy at that point, to begin looking for fault in another person.  

Let me be clear.  There are situations in life that seem impossible to forgive someone.  Some of those life circumstances, by the grace of God alone, I’ve never had to deal with.  Things like abuse, adultery and addiction can create deep wounds that aren’t easy to overcome.  I never want to minimize that.

However, for most situations in marriage, the path of forgiveness is not quite as challenging.  That doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard just the same.  Our pride and sense of feeling like we are right, often delays our willingness to forgive.  If we can get into the habit of forgiving quickly, we begin to make showing other people grace, or unmerited favor, a thing in our marriages.

If we have been wounded and that has not happened, it is easy to begin to find fault in the other person on a regular basis.  Trust me when I say, that is a tough train to stop.  Just think about it, what is your natural reaction when someone judges you for something?  You immediately find fault in them right?  This is a tough cycle to stop.

The best way to stop it, is to individually decide to make grace your default.  Look for the best in your spouse and not the worst.  When you begin doing this, it opens the heart of the other person and puts wind in their sails!

There’s still hope.  Now, sometimes you see a list like this and say to yourself, “Great.  We’ve royally screwed up at least two of those.  We are hosed.”  In Christians circles sometimes, we are really great at telling people what they need to do without being completely honest.  What I mean is, even though we know what the right things to do are, everyone of us messes at least one or two of these on occasion or sometimes regularly!  Do not give up hope.

If you are not doing some of these things, the hope in this is: at least you know what to shoot for!  I am never more hopeless about my situation as when I feel like I am not doing a good job at something and I have no idea how to make things better.  My prayer for you is that you don’t lose hope but have hope that you know the direction that you should go.

When I look at this list, I can think of a handful of situations where I have gotten this completely wrong.  Let’s just take the “Do what you say you are going to do.” portion.  Do you know how many times both my wife and I have gotten home from work and the first chance we have to talk, she asks me “Did you call the roofer?” or “Did you pay our electricity bill?” or better yet “Did you check our kids homework?” and my answer is “uuuuuuuuuuuh…I’ll get right on that.”?  This has happened only about a billion times.  Don’t get me wrong, my wife has her own list and does a lot for our family.  However, there are many times where I say I’ll do something and because of the business of life and my A.D.D., I don’t do it.  I believe that trust is built in the moments where I admit my failures, she shows me grace and love and we both move on.  Of course this is a two way street.  

Getting this perfect is not the goal.  Keeping these things in mind in your marriage is.  If we can practice these disciplines regularly,  it will be a reminder that a marriage thrives when trust is cultivated.  

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