It’s been said that all bonds are built on trust. This statement is never truer than in a marriage. In a healthy relationship trust grows, develops, and deepens over time. Most couples understand that there are ups and downs during life. While these times surely test trust, it is a couple’s daily interactions which offer the most opportunities to demonstrate trustworthiness.
If you’ve ever been part of a remodeling project you’ve undoubtedly discovered that it is far easier to destroy than to put something back together. Trust works the same way. Avoiding the destruction of trust is a top priority. So, what destroys trust? Let me suggest that the chief destroyers are wrong words and actions.
The old saying “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” is simply a lie. Words have a powerful and long-lasting effect–especially on relationships. I am far removed from childhood yet I remember words that hurt during elementary school. To avoid the hurt one must be intentional when choosing the right words and using the right tone. Words that are harsh in choice or tone will erode trust. Being critical, demeaning, or unkind are trust destroyers. It is important to remember, in nearly all instances, the person receiving the words determines whether they are harsh. Using excuses such as “I just tell it the way it is” or “I’m direct, that’s just how I am” to justify wrong words or wrong tone or believing it is the hearer’s problem is a distorted, wrong-way thinking. The best way of determining if the words or tone are wrong is to ask the hearer if it was wrong. A follow up question would ask how the same idea be communicated using the right words and tone. Proverbs 15:1 teaches that a gentle answer turns away anger. It is also true that a gentle approach (right words, right tone) will avoid many hurts. The reality is that words can hurt–sometimes for a lifetime. Learning to approach a subject with the right words and tone of voice will avoid many of the trust destroying scenarios.
Assumptions, premature conclusions, and dishonesty are other trust-busters. Assuming or reaching a conclusion before a spouse feels fully heard breaks trust. A spouse unwilling to listen suggests a problem with pride, arrogance, or impatience. Obviously, dishonesty, whether by misleading statements or out-right lies, destroys trust in a relationship.
Improper actions play a similar role in destroying trust. Hurtful actions include physical hurts as well as those that hurt emotionally. The action of withdrawing, silent treatment, or avoiding is often intended to gain attention or punish someone. In either case, they are unhealthy, hurtful, and destroy trust.
Seeking inappropriate stimulation through channels such as illicit drug use, alcohol abuse, or viewing pornography will destroy trust. Even “good” stimulation such as viewing or participating in sports or work activity can become sources of inappropriate stimulation and damage trust in marriage.
Misaligned priorities also wear away trust. When activities such as work, video games, TV, sports, children, ministry, or friends become a higher priority than engaging the marriage relationship trust deteriorates over time.
While it is not impossible to rebuild trust in a relationship, it is far simpler to avoid the issue in the first place. A trustworthy person is a safe person, a safe haven. A trustworthy marriage partner is a safe haven physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The happiest marriage partners learn how to interact in a trustworthy manner. Being a trustworthy spouse is rewarding also. A man who can trust his wife has greater peace, greater intimacy, and feels greater respect and honor. A wife who can trust her husband has less anxiety, feels greater security and love, and is all-in with her spouse. A trustworthy person consistently chooses to use the right words and actions to deepen trust knowing that the reward will far outweigh the effort.
(A shorter version of this post appeared in the Cedar Street Soundings)
Other newsletter articles:
Childishness: The Missing Marriage Element
Grief: States not Stages
Spiritual Battlefield Resiliency
Youth Milestones Toward Maturity
Long Live Romantic Love