Rebuilding Trust in Relationships
“Trust can only be built when our words and actions work in tandem over time.”
If you’ve ever dined alone, it can be very difficult to pay attention to your own business, right? Like yesterday. I had the opportunity to enjoy an early dinner by myself at a local café. It wasn’t busy, and since there were just a few of us there, it was very quiet. A little ways away from me were two men meeting after work and it was virtually impossible for me not to overhear a conversation between them. I just sat and sipped my soup, quietly listening. At first, they talked about business stuff, comparing the things that men do, but then it got personal. (That’s when my ears perked up!)
“How are things going with Sonja?” (I changed her name)
“Well, ok I guess. We’re doing better but it’s still really hard.”
“Are you two going through with the divorce?”
“I hope not! I mean, we’re working on it, but you know, there does come a time when you just need the other person to DO something! To do the things they say they are going to work on, you know? I need to see some progress!”
I heard mumblings about “rebuilding trust” and “trying to hang in there,” but my sandwich was gone and my soup bowl empty. I was tempted to stay a little longer to hear what this poor guy had to say, but I had to go. Besides, I didn’t want to get caught spying—that would’ve been very awkward.
I got into my car, discouraged by yet another case of a marriage going bad. It’s happening everywhere, you know? I thought about going back in there to talk to him—to give him a woman’s point of view. But I didn’t. First, I didn’t even know this guy, and second, I’m smart enough to know there are two sides to every relationship problem. Also, gauging from this man’s stress and concern, it was obvious it was a complex issue with a lot of pain and past hurts.
On the drive home, something he said stuck with me. I mean, here you have this man and this woman having true marital problems. Enough so that they are separated though working on mending their marriage. Yet, there’s a sticking point! She’s not doing the things she says she’s going to do and it’s getting in the way of the relationship being healthy. From what I could gather, trust needs to be reestablished, and something she’s not doing is hindering him from being able to trust her again.
The truth is that trust can only be built when our words and actions work in tandem. Assuming she’s the issue, she’ll need to follow through with what she agrees to do on a regular, consistent basis, otherwise the marriage will be broken. Let’s say she had an affair. Say she agreed to stop seeing or talking to this other man, but her husband found out she’s still in contact with him. Can he trust her? No! What is he supposed to think the next time she says she’s going to do something? He won’t really believe her. It’s going to take consistency in actions and words on both of their parts over time. I don’t know what their issues are, and I don’t know if they’ll be able to pull it out, but they are going to have to reestablish trust, otherwise the marriage can’t make it. Trust is that foundational.
Actually, this issue applies to all of our relationships. For a relationship to work well, there has to be a level of trust established between all parties. Someone who is untrustworthy and unreliable is really difficult to have a relationship with. Your friends, co-workers or boss, children, and especially your spouse have to know that you’re good for your word. Your spouse gains trust when you regularly choose the marriage over your own needs and wants; your boss gains trust when you consistently meet deadlines or show up to work on time; your friends learn you’re a person they can trust when you keep a confidence or pray for them like you promised; and your kids learn you’re trustworthy and safe when you follow through with consequences, commitments, or rewards.
I’m not talking about the occasional change-of-mind or unforeseeable circumstances; I’m talking about habitual wishy-washy-ness, pure selfishness—putting your own problems, needs, desires, and wants ahead of someone else’s. If we don’t consistently do what we say we’re going to do, the people in our lives just won’t believe us. We lose credibility and we can’t be trusted or counted on for really anything. Eventually, the people in our lives will fade away, or we’ll get fired!
Take a look at this verse—it’s pretty straightforward. I’ve used it numerous times in my life to spur me on to follow through with things I’ve committed to, even if it was really hard or inconvenient. When you can live by this rule consistently, you’ll undoubtedly be someone people can trust and your relationships will be rewarding and healthy.
“Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’;
anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Matt. 5:37 (NIV)
By-the-way, I did (and still do) feel really bad for this couple and their marriage. Even though I wasn’t in a position to help them directly, I did do something…I prayed for them. Maybe you can too—it went something like this:
Please help this couple! Help their efforts to fix this marriage. Let them be patient, kind, and gentle with each other. Give them self-control over the things they say and do.
Let them see each other with a whole new perspective, with Your eyes and in a new way they’ve never been able to before. Give them an understanding of what the other one is feeling and thinking.
Help them to forgive the past hurts and the wrongs they’ve inflicted on each other; put each hurt into it’s proper perspective—that neither one of them means to purposefully hurt the other. May they see that life is too short and they are too important to each other to allow anything to get between them, even if they have the right to be hurt. Help them to not be easily wounded by anything the other one says or does by accident.
The fact that they are working it out tells me there is hope. Please allow each one to experience something hopeful about their relationship today.
In Jesus’s Name,