Building Trust

Building Trust

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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Family Life – Loving differently

Family Life – Loving differently

Dear Friends,

I think it’s so easy to go through married life, taking each other for granted. Andy and I spoke with a dear friend recently who lost his wife a few years ago. He was musing about how he would love her so differently, if he could. Listening to him I want to learn from his loss, and not miss out on the lesson in my own marriage.

Here’s some of what he shared:

He said, “I think back on all the emotion and time we both wasted having conflict over things that are meaningless. I would get “angry” with her and whine when she’d lock her keys in the car for the umpteenth time. Now I see that instead of an annoying waste of time, it was an opportunity to serve her and show her how much I loved her.

Dozens of stupid conflicts . . . when she’d dry a piece of clothing I told her not to, and now it fits my son instead of me. Big deal. Leaving the gas tank empty. Big deal. She’d occasionally leave the oven on all night. Big deal. I’d get mad at her over . . . nothing!

Almost all our conflicts (like leaving the lights on, missing the rubbish truck, leaving the gas tank empty) were almost always rooted in hurting my pride, making things harder for me, wasting my time. Ya, right, like how much time am I getting with her now?

Seriously, giving time and energy to all that kind of pettiness was just a freaking waste. I’d give anything to have those times back and just love her instead.

Secondly, I would concentrate on not taking her for granted. I would try to recognize as many of the “normal” things she did for me, acknowledge them, thank her for them, reward her more often for them. I’d end every phone call, email and text with “Love you” and mean it.

On the same line, I wouldn’t take life so much for granted either. We just don’t know how much time our wife has, ourchildren have, we have. I wouldn’t postpone special times, trips etc. because it was an inconvenient time, or would stretch me financially. I’d make a marriage and family “bucket list” and pursue it with Kathy whole heartedly. Sadly, I have time now, money now, but not Kathy.

Now that I’ve actually written this down and not just mused about them, I’m dreadfully saddened. I was such a fool.”

Wow. Amazing insights. Precious words. And a great lesson for us all to heed.

As for me, I’m going to try and lift my “love game”.

What about you?

Oh….one more thing….please pray for our friend Bob as he continues to do life without his precious Kathy.


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