Building trust in marriage

By Dr Anthony van Tonder

Where does trust begin? It is a foundational issue. You cannot acquire it like a skill, it has to be earned. Imagine if you wanted to build a three storey building, what would the most important starting point be? It has to be the foundation. Scripture tells us: “Therefore anyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock.” Matt 7:24
Furthermore, it is fact that should the same three storey building be redesigned to become a twelve storey building, then the depth of the originally planned foundation would not suffice as the new height would require a deeper foundation.  1 Cor 3: 10b:11 points us to the most solid choice: “But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
The four solid pillars
The moment you want to build higher than one level, you will require four main pillars to support the structure. With the issue of trust, I have found four pivotal factors which undergird the processes of building trust. They are in no specific order:

1. Loyalty.
2. Forgiveness.
3. Holiness.
4. Romance.
These seem to fit together in the same way the Cross has a vertical axis and a horizontal axis. The vertical axis deals with the two issues where in direct relation to God, through your personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you are able to deal more appropriately with the issues of Forgiveness and Holiness. We need to cement these two factors in building trust. On the horizontal axis we are required to exercise Loyalty and Romance to further the building of trust in our relationships. It is as if these last two are more achievable through our self efforts.
Living out a life which portrays these four pillars, will take personal determination and commitment to building our trust relationship with others.
Loyalty is a perpetual test of one’s character.  D. L. Moody once said: “Character is who you are in the dark.” Loyalty is also an issue of the heart. No wonder Scripture says “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Prov 4:23. You can decide in your head to be loyal, but if it is not channelled through the emotion of your heart, it will never become a habit in application.
Areas to avoid whilst working on loyalty:

1. Do not have a deep one-on-one friendship with the opposite sex. It is disloyal to your partner.
2. Do not give in to temptation.Temptation in itself is not sin; it is what you do with temptation that becomes sin. That is when you become disloyal.
3. Do not criticise your partner. Choose selectively whom you want to embrace at a confidential level. (By the way, that person should never be your parent as they will naturally side with you and this could cause them to have a strained relationship with your partner.)
Maintaining loyalty at all times is a sure way to cement trust in your relationship.
“I’m sorry” does not really cut it. Why? Where is the control? The control is still with you. Asking “Will you forgive me?” is far more difficult as you would have to place yourself at the mercy of the other person.
You might be thinking, “But what if I do ask ‘Will you forgive me?’, and the other person refuses to do so?”  Well, then you are exonerated as you have done what you could if you really meant it. Time heals all wounds. Real life teaches that even when the wound has healed, it will sometimes leave a scar – that is unavoidable.
Steps to seeking forgiveness:

1. Be specific
2. Confess ( have remorse)
3. Ask God to help you (repent)
4. Ask your partner to forgive you.»
Forgiving unconditionally is an act of love through the Grace of Christ which will continue building the level of trust you desire within your marriage.
Note, the topic is holiness – not happiness. Society has a huge desire to influence our thinking that as long as everyone is happy, we will be morally strong. Just look around to see that the exact opposite is true. Happiness is not the key. Holiness is.
The word Holy comes from the word ‘sanctify’ which means ‘made Holy’, set aside for the Lord. This is our position in Christ because of His atoning death. We are progressively being made Holy by the continuing work of the Holy Spirit.Imagine if you were to ask several people to describe you as a person. Among the descriptions, would they refer to you as being Holy? Wow, what a thought. Society would look very different today if more Christians strived to please God in this way. As a pillar to build trust in our relationships, we have to realise that becoming Holy is not a self act. We need the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to live to  please God. Your partner will trust you if you live a Holy life.

So many people neglect this vital ingredient that builds trust in a relationship. Romance portrays outwardly what you treasure inwardly. Remember the days when he used to open the door for her, waited for her to start eating before him? She used to straighten his tie before he left and she whispered something into his ear…The list goes on and on, yet sadly, this relatively easy way of expressing your appreciation for one another dies over time in a relationship. It does not have to diminish.
Some reasons why romance disappears:

1. Loyalty is questioned.
2. Unforgiveness has deteriorated from unforgiveness to anger, to resentment, to bitterness, to vengeance.
3. Holiness is absent.

The Bible in Song of Songs 2: 2, 3 declares: “Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens. Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade and his fruit is sweet to my taste. He has taken me to the banquet hall and his banner over me is love.” Where trust is in place, it is easy to dream and romance about your spouse.

How to trust
• Start by giving trust.
• Stop being too jealous.
• Stop criticising yourself or your partner.
• Stop being too busy to spend time together.
• Become Loyal.
• Seek to Forgive.
• Prioritise Holiness.
• Enjoy Romance.

It is important to remember that unless we are dependant on God to meet our needs, our partner will always fall short. Actively decide to cast these four pillars as part of your permanent structure. You need to learn afresh how to manage your spouses’s emotional bank account. You cannot and will not be able to continue making withdrawals, if you do not make deposits. Often we want the quick fix by making a once-off large deposit. Results have shown that frequent small deposits on a regular ‘love’ basis sustain any relationship far longer. Be encouraged, trust is sure to return!