We’ve been talking a lot over the past few blog posts about how important trust is in a marriage. It creates safety, openness, vulnerability, love, and all those other feel-good vibes that make living life with the person you love that much more special. We have also talked through how anger in a relationship erodes trust and makes trust extremely hard to build. Without trust, there’s no way any of us can expect our relationship to survive.
But just because you and your spouse trust each other today doesn’t mean it will naturally be that way forever. Trust is earned over time, and then we must build and maintain it as we move forward in life together.
So that begs the question: How then do we build and maintain trust in our marriage?
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Trust doesn’t just happen once and for all in a relationship. It is
built and maintained. Keep at it. Don’t give up!
4 Ways to Build and Maintain Trust in a marriage
Consistently show and express acceptance of one another
John Gottman says in relationships where there is trust, there is mutual respect and enjoyment of each other. Couples learn and keep building knowledge of each other’s likes and dislikes, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams. They hold each other in high regard and express fondness not just in big ways but in small ways day in and day out. (Like: “Hey, I missed you today,” or “I love how you take such good care of your mom”).
They also accept each other’s influence. That means they take their partner’s opinions and feelings into account in mutual decision-making. There is an acceptance that problems will happen in any relationship, and they learn to accept them. It has been found that behavior changes in a relationship are generally NOT as important as feeling accepted for who they are.
For example, maybe your spouse tends to spend money on others, which doesn’t always sit too well with you. But you also see that they are very generous to people and very selfless. You don’t want them to change this completely because you see the positive impact they have on others. So you help them modify this a little or find ways to give you more of a say before they spend too much.
Exhibit deep friendship
Friends spend time together intentionally and consistently according to Gottman. They talk and help each other with stresses and concerns. Each of them perpetually works to make things better all the time. They learn to live with problems and manage them to minimize them. They turn toward each other with positive bids for connection. These bids can be verbal or nonverbal, something spoken, or a touch or pat on the leg. They can also be low level like asking for information, or a comment that asks for more thought and further conversation.
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There are no perfect relationships. We learn to accept our friends as they are. We show gratitude for what they offer us in the relationship and accept their limitations.
Not fighting means we don’t treat each other as enemies when there is conflict. We don’t tear them down, name call, or treat each other with disrespect or contempt. There will always be conflict. But we do not have to be harsh, hurt our partner, or inflict damage on the relationship. Great couples learn to stop negativity before it starts and repair and deescalate when a conflict conversation becomes negative or gets loud and ugly. They approach conflict gently and with great thought and purpose.
They also maintain dialogue and stay positive in both their words and in the way they think about their partner when in conflict. Escalation, or getting loud and ugly, is part of the process of REJECTING your partner’s influence. It shuts your partner down in a conversation. You should instead seek common ground for agreement and give in where you can.
Awareness and intentionality is a must for emotional presence
If we are going to be there for our partners, we must be emotionally intelligent. One of the hardest things for couples is often their inability to tolerate difficult or negative emotions. We are all easily troubled and sometimes hurt in this life. We experience difficult circumstances and have challenging encounters with others at work, school, and home. But whatever the circumstance, HOW you talk will always be more important than WHAT you talk about!
Starting by attending to emotions will keep most conversations from going badly. Rarely is the task we are trying to accomplish more important than the person we are in a relationship with.
All we’re trying to say is that trust is essential to every relationship — especially marriages. Couples who can see, express, and feel trust in one another will have the marriage they’ve always dreamed of. But don’t forget to keep working on it as you continue your marriage journey. Trust us when we say it will be worth it in the long run.
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Did we leave anything out? What are a few ways you are building and maintaining trust in your marriage? What are you doing to build on that? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going at Mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.