Andy and I aren’t qualified marriage counsellors, but we invest a lot of our time coaching couples in trouble. We love seeing couples grow back together again. However, last year, after many hours with one couple, the husband made a comment that made us realise it was not going to end well. He said, “I just don’t trust her”.
He wasn’t talking about his wife being unfaithful. Over the course of their married life together he’d felt betrayed time and time again until his trust had been eroded to the point that he felt his heart wasn’t safe with her.
I wanted to know when he had first started shutting his heart down to her, and what had occurred to make him do so, but he couldn’t tell me. Sadly, in this case, they didn’t make it.
Trustworthiness is essential in marriage. Our hearts have to feel safe with one another, don’t they?
John Gottman, relationship ‘master’, believes that in marriage, we’re all quietly asking the same questions:
- Can I trust you to respect me?
- Can I trust you to do what you say you’ll do?
- Can I trust you to keep my confidence?
- Can I trust you to work hard for our family?
- Can I trust you to choose me over your friends?
- Can I trust you to be financially faithful?
- Can I trust you to help around the house – to help with the kids?
- Can I trust you not to cheat on me – to be sexually faithful?
- Can I trust you not to use my weaknesses against me?
So how do we build trust so that our hearts remain open and we feel safe?
Gottman, says trust is built in the small interactions of everyday life; when we choose to ‘turn towards’ our spouse in daily moments.
Every time a couple interacts they have a choice to either ‘turn toward’ or ‘turn away’ from their spouse. Each time a couple ‘turns toward’ they are building trust.
Let me give you a personal example from my own life.
We had some friends coming over for dinner and I was enjoying preparing them a special meal. Andy was in the study working on the computer, and I knew he was waiting on some blood results and was worried. As I headed into the study to get my recipe book I heard Andy groan “Uh oh”.
I remember in that split second thinking, “I really don’t want to deal with your health issues right now. Maybe I could just pretend I didn’t hear that and just sneak back down to the kitchen.”
But because I work at FamilyLife and travel around NZ teaching this stuff :), I checked my attitude. You see, I knew in that moment, I had a choice to either turn towards Andy, or turn away.
I walked into the study, put my arm around his shoulder and asked, “Tell me the bad news.” I was so glad I did because in that very moment Andy needed my support and reassurance. He needed to know that, once again, I will be there for him and that he can trust me with whatever “uh oh’s” come our way.
Can I encourage you, rather than turn away from your partner in those small difficult moments, instead choose to ‘turn toward’. It will build trustworthiness in marriage which is an antidote to conflict and foundational to healthy happy marriages that last.
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