If a marriage has problems, the chances are good that trust has been broken. And yet, trust is a central component for a successful marriage. So how do you restore broken trust? And how do you do it without spending months in marriage counseling?
Trust can be broken in so many ways. The most common culprits are an affair, hidden addictions, lying, and financial secrecy.
But if you look deep into the heart of a distrusting spouse, it goes beyond the usual trust busters. Trust is weakened in a relationship when a spouse is frequently late, unreliable, or insensitive. Hiding a few empty beer cans can damage trust between you. It doesn’t take much to shake trust.
But it sure takes a lot to rebuild it!
We live in a microwave world of fast food, express delivery, and speedy-print. And so we figure, if we lost trust in an instant, there must be a way to rebuild it in an instant too. NOT!
Trust is built one small step at a time. There’s no other way. There’s no Herculean event that can deliver instant-trust. In fact, by definition, trust is about CONSISTENCY. That’s what it means to trust someone to be able to PREDICT their behavior. Predictability is a function of repetition. Repetition comes with TIME.
Think about it. When you trust someone, it means you can RELY on them. But before you can rely on someone, you must depend on them time and again and NOT be disappointed. If you’re disappointed, even once, the trust is broken.
I often compare the building of a relationship to the building of a house both happen one brick at a time. And every brick is significant because it strengthens the foundation. The stronger the foundation, the more room you have for error. For example, how damaging is it to ruin one brick when you’re working on the 3rd floor of a house? It’s no big deal, right? You have a strong foundation, the house is in tact, you clean up the mess, and you build on.
It’s like that in a relationship. If you have a strong foundation, you can make a mistake without ruining everything. It’s no big deal. You can move on.
But trust is DIFFERENT. One mistake kills you. Because trust is about CONSISTENCY.
Building trust is NOT analogous to building a house; it’s more like climbing a ladder. You don’t have a foundation to support you. If you slip, you fall all the way to the bottom.
That’s how trust works. It’s unforgiving.
So if you’re trying to restore trust in your marriage, and you’re expected to meet your spouse for dinner before your marriage counseling appointment at 6:15PM, don’t arrive at 6:19PM. For you, 6:19PM might be a matter of 4 minutes and no big deal. But to your spouse it might be about reliability, and you may have just slipped all the way to the bottom. You just broke whatever pattern of consistency you built prior to arriving late. And now you have to start all over again.
How do you rebuild trust? You make and keep promises. Make and keep. Make and keep. Make and keep. Over and over again. AND DON’T MISS! Nothing destroys trust faster than making and BREAKING a promise.
To be consistent (to build trust), you need lots of opportunities to come-through. So create them for yourself.
“Honey, I’ll pick up some milk before I come home.” And then do it!
“I’ll meet you at our marriage counseling appointment at 9AM.” And then do it!
“I’ll read it by tomorrow.” And then do it!
“I’ll say it differently next time.” And then do it!
Look for opportunities to make and keep promises. That’s your opportunity to build trust. Like a ladder climb one rung at a time. It takes time. There’s no short-cut. And you can’t slip. You have to stay focused.
And just to be clear, the little things count big. If trust is about consistency, then it doesn’t matter what you promise. Just promise and come through.
Don’t think that just because trust came crashing down in one dramatic event (an affair or whatever) that you have to reestablish it with one dramatic event too. You can rebuild trust by making and keeping SMALL promises over an extended period of time.
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