E-Mom at Chrysalis hosts Marriage Monday bimonthly (click the button above for more information). I may have participated once or twice, but usually I look at the topic and can’t think of much to add. This time with the topic simply being “Trust,” at first I thought, “Well sure, we trust each other to be true to each other,” and that was about it, but then my mind started rolling — so I thought I’d jot down a few ideas.
What are some ways trust is built in marriage?
We bought our first home from a young woman who lived with her boyfriend yet kept her own apartment as well. When I commented on the problems of maintaining two residences, she replied, “Well, you want to keep your options open because you never know what will happen.” That seemed so sad to me: I don’t see how there could be much stability in that kind of relationship.
On the other hand, we all have known people who have said the words, made the vows, yet did not uphold them. Commitment is more than a one time exchange of vows, though that does help to “cement” the commitment. But to maintain it you have to continually work at reminding yourselves and each other that, “You’re the only one for me.”
It seems like that would go without saying, doesn’t it? But let’s think about love in marriage just a moment. In English we apply the word “love” to chocolate, football, cute shoes, and several human relationships. Most of the New Testament was written in the Greek language, which has three main words for love:
Eros is physical, erotic, sexual
Phileo and its derivatives indicate a tender, brotherly, affectionate love
Agape is a self-sacrificial love best described in I Corinthians 13, the kind of love that God shows us and wants us to show others, which we can only do with His help (see Vine’s Expository Dictionary for more explanation).
We all know that we need to be available to our husbands physically, and we know we need to show agape love to each other. But did you know that in Titus 2:3-5, where older women are instructed to teach younger women, among other things, to love their husbands, the word used for “love” there is Philandros, a derivative of Philos, the friendly kind of love? Our husbands should also be our friends, our best friends. And a friendship type of love is built by sharing time and experiences with each other.
We should feel utterly safe with each other: we should know that anything said will not be ridiculed or demeaned and will be kept in confidence. We should feel free to be completely ourselves with our husbands more than anyone else.
We should also feel safe in that we never give each other reasons to doubt each other’s love and faithfulness. Every dealing with the opposite sex should be above board. There should be no flirting with anyone other than our husbands.
The Bible mentions another kind of safety in Proverbs 31:11: “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.” This seems to be a financial reference: the wife shouldn’t be a gold-digger, and should handle the family funds wisely and not deplete them for personal pleasure. Likewise the tenor of Scripture would indicate that the wife be able to trust her husband not to be a spendthrift or to jeopardize the family finances through gambling, etc.
This overlaps commitment a bit, but by loyalty I mean that we always stand up for each other. We shouldn’t put each other down to each other or to other people. What if your spouse has done something dumb? How would you want him to handle it when you do something dumb?
When discussing the need for honesty, sometimes people take an extreme tack of saying every little negative thing they think: “Your hair looks awful today.” “You’re wearing that?” No, we need grace and tact and kindness with each other, but one of the quickest ways to destroy trust is by dishonesty. We need to always be truthful with each other.
One time in our first year of marriage, I didn’t realize how much I had spent during a particular shopping expedition until I got home and added it all up. I was stunned and fearful. My father had had a bad temper which would burst forth like a sudden thunder storm, and now I feared the same reaction from my husband. This would be the first real problem in our marriage and I dreaded that my new husband was going to be really angry with me. I knew I needed to be honest: I couldn’t manipulate the facts or the situation to make my offense seem lighter or somehow not really my fault. When he came home and I told him what had happened, there were no fireworks or storms: he just quietly said, “Well, just learn from it for next time.
Elisbaeth Elliot said in her book On Asking God Why, “If a man who is a sinner chooses as a life partner a woman who is a sinner they will run into trouble of some sort, depend upon it.” Since we’re all sinners, we can expect that sometimes the other will do wrong. Knowing that the other will handle our wrongdoings large and small with grace and forgiveness goes a long way toward building trust and security with each other. That doesn’t mean these things don’t need to be discussed more thoroughly sometimes in order to learn from them and change: as one former Sunday School teacher used to say, “My wife and I don’t fight, but we do have tense discussions sometimes.” But if we handle the infractions of the other the same way we would want ours handled and forgive as we have been forgiven, that will help us handle them with grace.
Colossians 3: 12-14 speaks of “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another.” One former pastor used to say forbearance was just “good old-fashioned putting up with one another.” You put any two people under the same roof for very long, and they’ll find irritating things about each other. Those things are fine to explain and discuss sometimes, but sometimes you just have to let them go and allow the other person to be human with his or her own foibles. Sometimes you have to allow that there is more than one way to do some things, even though you might feel your way is better. Sometimes you can have the exact opposite opinions on some things (the infamous over- or under- toilet paper roll controversy). But a constant nitpicking will erode those feelings of love, safety, and security. “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (I Peter 1:8).
What if you or your spouse has violated areas of trust? What if there is criticism and ridicule or a lack of commitment? None of us is perfect in all the areas and we need to be constantly growing, but if there has been a serious violation on your part, then, of course, seek to change by God’s grace and with his help, asking His forgiveness (and your husband’s, if necessary) for failure. If there is failure on your husband’s part, in some cases you might need to prayerfully, carefully, and graciously talk to him about it, but in other cases you might need to just pray and wait on the Lord to change him.
Many of the above traits feed on each other: commitment helps build trust, and trust reinforces commitment, etc. The more we work on these areas that build trust, the stronger our marriages will be.
Don’t forget to visit Chrysalis today for more thoughts about trust in marriage.