Learning to Trust Again
Q. My husband and I are having some financial problems. He recently confessed that he has been lying to me about some of his spending. He has asked for forgiveness, but I've lost trust in him. How do I allow myself to trust him again?
A. Issues of trust touch all relationships in one way or another. We either have difficulty trusting others or are frustrated that someone won't trust us. But trust is especially important in a marriage relationship because of the intimacy involved.
Intimacy means opening yourself up and sharing some of the deeper parts of yourself with another; therefore, marriage always exposes some degree of vulnerability and involves an element of risk. As soon as you open up, you expose yourself to the possibility of being hurt, ridiculed, or rejected. You choose to lay down your normal protective barriers, and you become exposed to possible loss and disappointment.
Ultimately, you'll know you can trust your husband again when you feel save enough to be open and vulnerable with him, believing that he'll respect, honor, and care for you and your feelings. Trust occurs best when we feel completely safe. We are then able to relax, let down our guard, and be ourselves without having to worry about being hurt or fear being judged, ridiculed, or rejected. It's in this open, honest, and exposed state that deep intimacy can flourish.
The key to healing your relationship with your husband is to create an environment where both you and your husband feel secure and can be completely open. Then your marriage becomes a sanctuary, a safe place you can go home to.
Creating a relational sanctuary requires mutual effort. There are two commitments that both you and your husband must maintain in order to create the umbrella of safety and begin to establish a foundation of trust.
1. Commit yourself to being trustworthy. Trustworthiness exists when you recognize and respect the incredible, infinite worth and value of your mate, remembering that he is vulnerable and can be hurt. Realize that it's a special privilege to be given access to your mate's innermost self. Realize your potential to hurt each other; and commit to doing everything in your power to avoid hurting, devaluing, disrespecting, or dishonoring the other.
2. Require your husband to be trustworthy toward you. This commitment requires that you first recognize and respect your own worth and value, and that you understand and accept your own vulnerability. As a result, you require him to proceed with honor and care as you allow him to regain access to your innermost self. Then, when he forgets to treat you with honor, you can respectfully remind him that you do not owe him your trust; it is earned and must be maintained and continually re-established through respectful, honoring behavior.
Trust is never something that is earned once and for all; it's something that is warranted by consistent honor and care toward each other. But when you and your husband mutually commit yourselves to being trustworthy, your relationship will begin to feel extremely safe. You'll tend to relax and open up, creating greater opportunities for deep and satisfying intimacy.
Dr. Greg Smalley is president of the Smalley Marriage Institute and chairman of the board of the National Marriage Association. Erin Smalley is trained as a clinical psychologist and is currently a speaker and stay-at-home mom. They live in Branson, Mo., with their three children.
The material on trust was developed by our friend Robert Paul. The Smalleys and Robert work at the Smalley Marriage Institute in Branson, Mo. They specialize in working with couples on the brink of divorce. For further information visit www.smalleymarriage.com.