If you want a rich harvest of intimacy in your marriage, make sure there is an abundance of trust in the soil of your relationship.
Trust is critical to any meaningful relationship, and it’s especially important in marriage. Intimacy requires being known, and revealing your genuine self requires an atmosphere of trust. The level of intimacy you have with your spouse will be capped by the level of trust you share.
Trust, or lack of it, provides good insight into what you actually believe about your spouse. (Note: it works the same in our relationship with Jesus.) Trust is faith in action. Trust says I believe in you, and I believe that love is at the center of your intentions toward me.
Generally speaking, the need to feel trusted is significantly higher for men than for women, though certainly everyone wants to feel that their partner trusts them. Men typically want to be trusted for what they do (like being a good provider and a capable leader). Women, on the other hand, tend to want to be trusted for who they are (the goodness of their hearts and intentions).
Despite these differences between the sexes, there are some actions both can take to build trust in their relationship.
1) Do what you say you will do – Be reliable. Don’t require your spouse to follow up a dozen times before you get around to doing what you committed to. Everyone forgets sometimes, but if you want your spouse to trust your word, be consistent about making good on it.
2) Be real – It’s very difficult to trust what you do not know. That means that openness, truthfulness, and vulnerability are necessary prerequisites to establishing trust. If you make a habit of hiding your faults or being closed off from your spouse emotionally out of fear or shame, don’t expect to earn their trust.
3) Empathize (don’t criticize) – in times of struggle. Getting your spouse to open up to you about their struggles requires that you don’t use what they tell you against them. Being critical or judgmental over exposed weaknesses will make your spouse feel they can’t trust you in their times of need.
4) Speak Kindly and Affectionately – An atmosphere of kindness is conducive to trust and vulnerability in your relationship. Speak kindly to each other. Show affection often. In addition, never speak negatively about your spouse to others, including close friends and family members. Even if your spouse never learns of it, it creates an atmosphere of distrust in your marriage.
5) Forgive quickly (and forget) – Apologize when you’ve done wrong and be quick to accept an apology when you have been wronged. Don’t rehash past issues that supposedly have been dealt with or use past mistakes as a weapon. That sends the message that you haven’t really granted the forgiveness you said you gave.
6) Put your relationship above your rights – We live in a country founded on rights, and there is a strong societal message that says you have to stand up for and assert your rights. But, in marriage, when your insistence on your rights comes at the cost of the relationship, it sends the message that your spouse can’t trust you to take care of the relationship. As my wife says, it’s not about being right, it’s about being love.
7) Value freedom (vs. control) – When you try to assert control over your spouse, it sends a pretty clear message to your spouse that you don’t trust them (whether you feel it’s actually true or not). Conversely, when you allow each other freedom, it helps to build an atmosphere of trust.
How many of these trust builders are commonplace in your marriage? Are there other trust-building habits you can think of? Leave a comment with your thoughts.