FAMILY AND MARRIAGE: Trust is easy to lose, hard to rebuild

  • Posted: Sunday, March 3, 2013 7:39 a.m.

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy man?” – Bible

Jack and Jill were having a serious conversation at the dinner table. They had only been married a short time, and already Jill was having a problem believing her husband. A mutual friend had mentioned casually that she had seen Jack sitting at a lunch table with an old girlfriend of his. Jill was clearly upset because when she first asked Jack about his day he didn’t mention his noon meeting at all until Jill asked him directly.

Jack replied a little defensively and with some irritation that it was just a harmless coincidental encounter and a chance to get caught up on some mutual acquaintances. He hadn’t told Jill because he guessed she would be upset.

Jill may be demonstrating a little jealousy here, probably not all that uncommon with newlyweds. Jack was not demonstrating sensitivity to his new wife and was starting down the path of “harmless” deceptions – which can eventually lead to tragedy.

Trust is an extremely valuable commodity in any relationship. In fact, George MacDonald, 19th century author, poet and Christian minister, said, “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” Trust is difficult to maintain and even harder to restore once it’s been broken.

The rules to maintain trust in a marriage are fairly easy to understand. The application is a lot more difficult. First of all, rules for behavior must be established. The best and simplest rule is to agree to honor one another; don’t ever think, say or do anything that might hurt the other person. This may require discussion, since husband and wife often have different ideas on what “honoring” means.

The next rule is to communicate! Don’t keep secrets. If we mess up on the first rule (and we all will), be quick to admit it, repent, apologize and do whatever is necessary to make amends.

There are other practices that will enhance trust, but commitment to love and honor one another unconditionally and to engage in frequent, open and intimate communication will go a long way toward a successful happy marriage.

If trust is broken, how can we repair it? Steve Arterburn with New Life Ministries suggests four simple steps.

Step 1: Sincerely confess the truth. This does not necessarily mean every intimate detail, but certainly enough to show your spouse that you are not keeping any secrets. If your spouse wants details, provide them. As they say in a court of law: the truth, nothing but the truth, and the WHOLE truth. The offending spouse is not off the hook if he claims his wife failed to ask the right detailed question, so he never told her – and hence never “lied” to her. That’s not the WHOLE truth.

Step 2: Be completely open. The offender must give up control of that part of his life that has broken the trust. If the offense is with money, e.g. the offender overspent the budget and didn’t tell his spouse, then he must relinquish any responsibility for their finances until he has demonstrated responsive change.

Step 3: The offender must truly repent and be sorry for what she did. The ultimate goal is true repentance on the part of the offender and true forgiveness from the one who is offended. The repentance must by definition include a change in the behavior in question.

Step 4: Rebuilding trust takes time and patience. If the offense is a simple lie, it may be easier to repent and forgive than if an affair was involved. Broken trust leaves a wound that takes time to heal. Even after the wound is healed the scar may remain. Boundaries and additional behavioral rules may be needed for a long time.

The best approach is prevention: honor your spouse and communicate regularly and with meaning.

The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken, Inc. (FAMCO) provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, Executive Director, FAMCO, 803-640-4689, rogerrollins@aikenfamco.com, www.aikenfamco.com.

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