What Does Trust in a Marriage Look Like?

By: Christine Hammond & Brian Murray

At some point in every marriage the issue of trust rises to the surface.  During those moments, you have to decide if this issue of trust is a mountain event or a mole hill event.  Mountain events are infidelity, addictions, abuse, and abandonment.  Mole hill events are making a decision without discussion, over-commitment, not getting along with your friends, and unmet expectations.  The key to gaining trust in your marriage is securing your spouse’s deep need for trust instead of focusing on your need for trust.

Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development begin with trust vs. mistrust.  While these stages are designed to be life stages, they can easily be applied to a marriage as marriage unites two people into one new entity.  Because marriage is designed to be the most intimate relationship that you have, at the foundation of your marriage must be trust.  Without trust, your marriage is not a marriage; rather it is a living arrangement of two roommates who may or may not even be friendly.  However, just as a man and woman are physically different, trust likewise looks different.

What trust looks like for a man.  For a man, trust begins with a thought and then translates into a feeling. When a man thinks a woman supports him and thus encourages him to participate in activities both in and out of the marriage, he feels she is there for him. This translates to feeling respected and honored; it gives him a sense of security in the relationship and he doesn’t have to worry about jeopardizing his freedom to explore and be adventurous.  It provides him with confidence to be more assertive professionally knowing that his home life is secure and his wife has his back. 

What trust looks like for a woman.  For a woman, trust begins with a feeling and then translates into a thought.  When a woman feels like she is trusted by her spouse and she feels as though she can trust him, then the trust foundation is laid.  She feels secure in her marriage and knows that no one is more important in her husband’s life than her (with the exception of God).  She feels safe in her home and knows that her husband will protect and not harm her.  She feels loved by her husband and knows she is nurtured and cared for.

What mistrust looks like for a man. When a man recognizes that his spouse is too manipulating, condemns what he does, or nags about his activities, he begins to question why she is doing this and begins to mistrust her motives. He feels abandoned and alone and he will begin to develop the fear of being rejected. He feels this way because he does not feel desired any longer. Over time he begins to feel more and more neglected. As a result, he may begin to withdraw or shut down toward the marriage. The validation of being the man in her life loses its gusto and he no longer feels like the hero in the marriage but a source of frustration for her.

What mistrust looks like for a woman.  When a woman is unable to trust her spouse her deepest fears rise to the surface because she is afraid of being exposed and appearing weak.  Think of it as a sexual intimacy where a woman must open herself up to receive her husband and in doing so is at her most vulnerable state.  If a woman mistrusts her husband, she feels helpless.  She feels insecure about her marriage and fears she will be abandoned.  She feels unsafe in her home and fears her husband will harm her.  She feels unloved by her husband and seeks other ways to fill the void in her heart.

For the Christian.  You cannot achieve a level of trusting your spouse if you have not learned to trust God.  Trusting God is not just something you sing about on Sunday mornings, it is a way of living every single day.  Do you trust God that He will protect your family when you are away from them?  Do you trust God that He will provide resources to meet your basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing?  Do you trust God that He will hear you when you pray?  If you find yourself lacking in these areas, begin with working on your relationship with God first and then work on trusting your spouse.

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