Updated: Feb 22, 2019
I am often asked the secret to a great marriage. Over the twenty years since I started this journey in the marriage enrichment space, I have read many books, spoken with hundreds (if not thousands) of couples, and written hundreds of thousand words on the topic of marriage. I’ve come to a conclusion. There is no secret.
Marriage hinges on one single thing. Trust. That’s it.
Don’t get me wrong. Trust is expensive currency. Some authors suggest marriage is just one big trust bank in which actions of each spouse add or subtract trust from their marriage account. Dr. John Gottman, a prolific marriage researcher, notes that it takes five positive actions to offset just one negative action when balancing one’s trust account. In other words, trust doesn’t come cheap because it must be earned. Yet, it is easily devalued through inconsiderate actions. After writing this post, I was amazed to find the attached video from Dr. Gottman on "The Importance of Trust". Definitely take a look after reading this post.
It is easy to throw the word ‘trust’ around. However, too often we have a very narrow lens through which we assess it.
When we think of ’trust’, we most immediately think of infidelity. A husband might then say, ‘I don’t know why she doesn’t trust me. I’ve never cheated on her.’. While sexual fidelity is a very important facet of trust-building, it is far from its totality.
I would like you to consider a fuller consideration of how ’trust’ looks in a marriage.
Can your spouse trust you to pay attention enough to remember to pick up the items from the grocery store that she requested?
Can your spouse trust that you will really share your feelings when a difficult subject arises rather than shutting down?
Can your spouse trust that she matters more to you than any of the things that you have?
Can your spouse trust that you really do prioritize her needs over your own?
Can your spouse trust that your financial decisions do put the family in a better place than they were?
For Christian couples, the ultimate signature of trust, may be whether your spouse trusts that you are dutifully hearing and obeying God voice. As a leader of your Christian home, are you steering your family down a godly path or one that satisfies your own desires?
Many of us Christian husbands lament when our wives do not trust us with big and small decisions. But, the reality is that too often we have not earned that trust. We want our wives to accept our decisions on blind faith and follow our lead. The harsh reality, however, is that blind faith is only going to take you so far.
It is unreasonable to expect either spouse to put their lives in the hands of their mate who is untrustworthy, in the full sense of the word. If behind you lies a trail of broken promises, unexplored opportunities, selfish tendencies, and tear-stained faces you are not fulfilling God’s plan for your life. In these situations, you cannot blame your spouse for her hesitancy in trusting you. We each have to look for evidence that we are trustworthy.
So, how do we build up that trust bank?
First, you must embrace trust as an outcome rather than an input. Like any outcome, it is created. You create a trust culture in your marriage through repeatedly investing in it. You must be willing to invest listening (attention) and prioritizing the needs of your spouse (empathy) to earn trust.
How ironic that the word ’trust’ has ‘us’ smack dab in the middle of it.
In the marriage relationship “us” is the one-flesh covenant. Us is the three-strand cord that cannot be broken. Us is the faith prayer that puts ten thousand to demons to flight. Us is a kingdom perspective that we are greater than the sum of our individual parts. Us recognizes that our personality and preferential differences are divine, not divisive.
As a Christian couple, you change the game by changing your point of view from “me” to “us” in every meaningful life decision. Is this really for us or just me? How will this action benefit or harm “us”? Is Christ pleased with “us”?
The best of your marriage rests on your commitment to trust. For the Christian couple, this trust always start with one’s own trust in Christ. He must be part of your ‘us’. Without him, you never adopt an ‘us’ mindset because of your innately sinful nature.
For this reason, Proverbs 3:5-6 has encouraged people of faith for millennia. It reads,Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (ESV). A recording artist who I enjoy, Lauren Daigle, sings one of my favorite songs about trusting in God. Listen and trust in God.
Christ, your spouse, and you—now that’s an ‘us’ that God can trust.