3 Ways to Measure the Trust in Your Marriage
- Jennifer Slattery JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com
- 2015 26 Oct
Trust is the foundation, the necessary glue, of every marriage. Without trust, intimacy is impossible, and trust encompasses much more than fidelity. It provides an emotional safety net that allows us to unveil our deepest hurts, needs, desires, and feelings without fear of rejection or retaliation.
So how can we tell if our marriage rests on a foundation of trust? How can we deepen our marital trust when areas of suspicion are revealed?
First, recognize, when there’s been an obvious betrayal like infidelity or dishonesty, whatever trust the marriage once contained most likely has been shattered. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be rebuilt, though it will take a great deal of time, prayer, and really hard work to do so. In these cases, counseling can be imperative.
But whether we’re rebuilding our marriage after an affair or betrayal or simply doing life together, chances are we’re harboring some degree of distrust toward our spouse. The first step toward overcoming this and replacing it with intimacy is to recognize signs of suspicion.
1. Evaluate your assumptions.
When an issue arises, do we automatically perceive rejection or malice, or do we assume the best in our spouse? Do we believe they truly love us and would never intentionally hurt us, even during conflict, or do we feel as if they are our enemy poised for attack?
How might they answer that question?
When speaking of a well-known biblical wife, Proverbs 31:11-12 says, “Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life” (NLT).
Her husband knows she has his best in mind, always. This type of trust is foundational in marriage.
According to Reality Church’s (http://reality.church) Life Groups Pastor Roger Graber, many times, when we interact with others relationally, there will be a gap that is void of information. How we fill that gap is up to us.
“For example,” Graber says, “if someone is late for a meeting, unless they tell me, I don’t know why they’re late. I don’t know their motives, situation, or priorities. In other words, there’s a gap of missing information. I can fill in that gap one of two ways: with trust or suspicion. Trust believes they are doing their best. Perhaps they ran out of gas, or wrote the wrong date in their calendar. Suspicion assumes the worst in the individual and says they don’t value me or the meeting.”
It’s impossible to assign motives and intention to a particular action. Doing so almost always leads to division, increased distrust, and decreased intimacy, and, if we’re not careful, retaliation. This in turn leads to a cycle of conflict, conflict that many times was based on miscommunication, false assumptions, and misconceptions. In other words, conflict that could have been avoided entirely had we chose to assume the best in our spouse.
It helps to recognize our spouse might need to grow in this area as well and offer grace. Doing so enables us to view false assumptions on their part as a sign of distrust rooted in brokenness, a brokenness that will take time and a great deal of love and gentleness to heal.
2. Evaluate your ability to clearly express your needs.
Why is it so easy to say “I’m hungry” or “I’m cold” but so difficult to say, “I need you to hold me,” or, “I need more time with you”?
Our level of vulnerability reveals our level of trust. When my husband and I were first married, I had a difficult time expressing my emotional needs. It was as if I expected him to automatically know what I needed, and if he didn’t, I interpreted this as rejection.
The problem was, he and I were so completely different. I needed time together and physical affection, like hand holding and snuggling, to feel loved and secure, whereas he didn’t. Not being hugely physical, he gave and received love in other ways
I didn’t understand this, and, unfortunately, filled the gap with suspicion rather than trust. Because of this, it felt risky to express my needs to him. Fear of further rejection caused me to withdrawal, which led to increased distance between us, which led to further distrust.
Trust enables us to express our needs freely, without fear of rejection. Similarly, if we’re uncomfortable sharing honestly with our spouse, this could indicate distrust. To overcome this, find a time and place where you can communicate openly with your spouse, and then do so. But don’t expect instant change or action because as you unveil yourself, your spouse will be doing the same. Be patient and gentle, choosing to believe your spouse truly does want to have an intimate relationship with you.
3. Evaluate the condition of your sex life.
When describing the first married couple to live on earth, Genesis 2:25 says, “Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame” (NLT).
According to Rob Morton, Senior Pastor of First Christian Church of Middlesboro, Kentucky, (http://www.fccmky.com/) this verse describes the type of relationship these two first humans had. “They were completely open with one another,” Morton says.“They hid nothing… The buzzword that describes this today is transparency. They could see through each other, had nothing to hide.”
Whenever either spouse harbors even the smallest bit of distrust, it will be most apparent in the marriage bed. If trust enables us to unveil our truest and most personal self to another without fear, then distrust causes us hide. To self-protect and to build defenses around our vulnerabilities.
When my husband and I were first married, I was incredibly shy and insecure in the bedroom. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my insecurity revealed an underlying distrust. I was afraid, should my husband see me, all of me, he’d reject me. My fear of rejection diminished as my trust grew. Furthermore, our trust grew as we learned to take emotional risks and communicate openly and honestly with one another, express our needs, and assume the best in one another.
Trust takes a great deal of time and energy to grow. We’re broken people living in a broken world, and our natural tendency will be to isolate and self-protect. But God wants to help us grow closer to our spouse, unveiling our deepest selves with reduced fear. In addition, He longs for us to protect the hearts of those we love, allowing them to reveal themselves without fear. When we do that, trust will become the foundation of our marriage, and that in turn will lead to a deep and lasting intimacy.
Jennifer Slattery lives in the midwest with her husband and their teenage daughter. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Internet Cafe Devotions, and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and compilation projects.
Publication date: October 26, 2015