How to Build Trust in a Marriage

When a couple starts dating and enters a more serious relationship with each other, they automatically seem to trust each other. They don’t question each other’s motives. The couple gives each other the benefit of the doubt. Then one day something happens to disturb their tranquility. A negative event can strike anytime after a couple has started dating, when they are engaged, or even after they are married. Trust can quickly be lost. Whether small or large, the earthquake shakes their view of each other and leaves cracks in the foundation of the relationship.

Ever wondered how to build trust in a relationship or a marriage, despite the inevitable conflict that will arise? That’s what I want to help you with. The possibilities of things that can break trust can be endless. However, we can examine some very specific things that can help a marriage build and retain trust between the spouses involved. After researching and diving into many resources that help us understand trust and what it is, I have compiled information to help you see how trust is built. Trust in marriage is built by having complete honesty, consistency in behavior, genuine affection, openness and vulnerability, and validation and listening.

What is trust in marriage?

Trust in marriage is the confidence we place in our spouse. This confidence is placed on them to follow through on what they say they will do for us and to accomplish the things we reasonably request or expect. It’s not a question whether they care enough or if they will do what you ask them to do, you just assume they will act on their love for you. It’s kind of like sitting in a chair. When you assume that the chair will not fall apart as you sit down, you trust the chair to stay strong.

Understanding that we tend to have an overabundance of confidence in new relationships helps shed light on the fact that sometimes our expectations and assumptions can get us in trouble. However, trust is not expecting something unrealistic. Unrealistic “trust” is irrational and foolish. Real trust is more understood as faith or hope in something. Faith and hope keep trust tempered. They don’t allow us to go all in but do keep us open to the possibilities. Faith and hope keep us more rational while keeping a healthy understanding that what we are trusting may reasonably fail us.

Humans are fallible and imperfect. Trust in marriage comes with the cost of sometimes not seeing our desires fulfilled. We don’t get to choose our spouse’s choices. We only choose whether or not we will place our hope and faith in their abilities. Their potential ability does not spell accuracy or completion of the thing we are hoping for. So trust in marriage is when we decide to place our hope in our spouse’s potential to serve us, protect us, and love us. We do this despite the possibility of being disappointed. A more thorough explanation of trust can be found in my article: What is trust?

What does the Bible say about trust in marriage?

The Bible is not as specific about trust in relationships but has much to say about trust. The following are a few verses that describe God’s view of trust. Read them and determine how you think they apply to marriage.

Biblical Verses:

Jeremiah 17:7  “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose hope is the Lord.”

Proverbs 3:5-6  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”

Meaning of trust in these verses…

Let’s look at the Hebrew of the word trust in these passages. Betach: means to be bold, to have confidence, to be secure, and to feel safe.

It can also be translated at times as trust, confidence, secure, confident, bold, careless, hope, and sure.

Do you notice that this usage of trust is a verb or action word. Remember I mentioned the word choice or decision above in our definition. Making a choice is the action you are taking. The Bible implies that trusting someone is a choice to have confidence or hope in. It also talks about being bold. Boldness is when you make an effort to step forward in a more aggressive choice.

5 Ways to Build Trust in Marriage

When you want to build trust in your relationship, at whatever stage it is in, I encourage 5 principles to help build and maintain trust. Other ways are also helpful, but I find these to be the most important. First, you need to be completely honest. Consistency shows you can be counted on as you continue in the relationship. Genuine affection and care display the truth about your heart. Openness and vulnerability ensure there is nothing hidden. Finally, Validating and listening to your loved one reassures them that they are important to you.

Complete Honesty in Your Relationship

The thought of being completely honest for some will sound daunting. Is anyone ever completely honest? A truly born-again believer might be, but even some well-known Biblical characters lied, usually out of fear. The question is, did it help them? I wrote more on this topic HERE. Most of the time when someone lies, it does not end how they hoped it would. The consequences can be big or small, with very few benefits.

When you choose to be completely honest in a relationship, you are telling your wife or husband that they matter more. They matter more than your emotional safety and more than your desire to be seen in a good light. Choosing to be honest no matter what provides them with little room to question you.

Being honest also provides you with peace. You never have to worry about whether you have to cover up a lie. As you live at peace with yourself, your spouse will feel your peace. She will enjoy the safety of knowing she can trust what you are saying without questioning if you are who you say you are. Our emotions, behaviors, and body language will reveal our true nature, and when you are honest, you will be giving off relaxed and comfortable vibes that your partner can count on.

Consistency in Behavior and Follow Through

Consistency is so important in everything. Think about going to work. When you are consistently late, your boss can’t trust that you can be counted on to be there when he needs you. He begins to trust his gut that you will be late more than you will be on time. He inevitably loses hope that you will be a good worker.

There are many more examples of consistency we can give, but when you are consistent, it shows! I have many spouses who say that their partner does not follow through when they tell them they will do something. Well, following through is a form of consistency. Do what you say you are going to do and your spouse will trust you in that area of your marriage and life. They may not trust you in another area, but have you been consistent there?

You will build trust when you show that you consistently follow through and don’t change positive behavior. Consistency reveals a pattern in behavior that says, I can be counted on! Isn’t that what we said trust was about? Be consistent in treating your spouse well, loving them, and speaking to the kindly. We get to know people by what we see them consistently do. Then trust is built by consistency!

Genuine Affection and Care toward Your Partner

Being affectionate and demonstrating care toward your spouse shows them that you are interested in them. When we see others being affectionate and caring for us, we automatically trust them. Affection and care towards others tend to mean that the person wants the best for you. We interpret that care and affection in a way that feels safe and as if they will not want to harm us.

I understand that this is an assumption, but trust is built somewhat on assumptions. Can you know for sure if someone is trustworthy? I believe you can, but it is questionable. I think real, genuine, affection does send the message that you are safe with me and I don’t want to hurt you, so you can trust me.

You may not gain trust just with affection and care, but combined with some of the other points we are making, you are more likely to build trust. The key is to show genuine affection and care. Being genuine is hard to fake. People can sense when someone is not being genuine. You may need to study and grow in love to be able to be genuinely affectionate. Nevertheless, trust can be built when a spouse shows genuine affection and care.

Openness and Vulnerability throughout your Relationship

A relationship thrives on trust. Trust thrives on knowledge and certainty. Knowledge and certainty are attained through openness and vulnerability. Not sharing information decreases the amount of information a person can know about you. Logically, the less you know, the more unsure you are about the topic.

Think about your job. When you started the job, you felt anxious because you didn’t know the people you were working with. The policies were new. The systems were new. At what point did you start to feel comfortable? It took me 3 months at one job. What is happening? You have to learn or gain the information to feel like you know what you are doing and that you belong.

This example demonstrates how a lack of knowledge decreases comfort or certainty. If you meet a new person, you don’t trust them yet because you don’t KNOW much about them. Skepticism may be high. The more open and vulnerable a person is, the more their spouse knows about them, thus increasing certainty and trust.

Validation and Listening to Your Spouse

First, let’s make sure we understand what validation and listening are. What we mean by validation and listening is the way you take in information from your spouse. You need to work to understand your partner. This can only be done by truly listening to and validating your spouse’s thoughts and experiences.

By validating your spouse’s experience and listening to them, they will more likely feel that you care about them. We have been suggesting that when a person feels cared about, they trust another person. This is because they believe the person would not want to harm them. Validation and listening create an emotional connection ensuring the person sharing information that the listener is interested in them.

Would you disagree that when you are interested in something, you care more about it? When you care about something, you are less likely to want to hurt it or push it away. Thus, you are more willing to take care of that thing or person. This spells trust. Validating and listening to your spouse are actions that show you are someone who cares and thus desires to treat your spouse with love. True love usually means that a person can place their confidence in the person that is demonstrating that love.

Conclusion

I understand that there are exceptions to the points above. However, if you are genuinely using these principles, your spouse will grow in their trust in you. They may not trust you immediately, but trust takes time to build. When you use the principles above consistently over time, you will build trust.

Combine the principles and use all of them. How powerful are these 5 ways of building trust when used together? They demonstrate love. True love! The difficulty is implementing these principles over a long enough period without losing focus and loving something more. This can be difficult when your spouse seems to not be “doing their part” to build trust, as some have said to me in my office. At least try them and see if they work.

If you already have broken trust and need to repair your relationship. You may want to read my article on Rebuilding Trust.

Brandon Coussens, LMFT

Brandon Coussens, LMFT

Author:

Brandon Coussens is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of Legacy Marriage Resources, LLC located in Augusta, GA. Find out more about him.