Sep 232021 8 Responses

How to Build Trust in Marriage

Trust is everything. Without it, a true relationship cannot exist. With it, there is no limit to what a connection can achieve. In both Friends, Partners & Lovers as well as Fearless Families, I have written that trust is the foundation. It’s the foundation of marriage because it is the key ingredient to a healthy friendship. It’s the foundation of a healthy family as the Home of the Brave builds on trust while the Home of the Afraid creates a foundation of safety.

In writing and speaking, no one ever questions the value of trust. I’ve never received a single question implying that trust lacks importance. Instead, one of the most common questions I receive is “how can we build trust in marriage” or, more often, “how can we rebuild trust in marriage?”

Trust Is Built

The first realization regarding trust must be an understanding that trust is never given; it is always earned. Imagine how foolish it would be to walk up to someone in Wal-Mart and say, “I’m going to trust you forever.” Obviously we would never do that. Trust is a quality which a person earns over time. While we can assume the best in someone and give them an initial amount of opportunity, what they do with that chance determines if we trust them more or less going forward.

In dating, a couple is figuring out if the other person is trustworthy or not. Their connection should evolve at the same rate as trust is experienced. Many relationships are destroyed because a couple tries to move faster than trust can develop. Trust bakes slowly. It takes time. To rush the process is foolish.

Because trust is built, we must realize that every action either builds or breaks trust. There is no neutral action when it comes to trust. Either what I do gives Jenny more confidence in me or less. This provides a good framework by which decisions can be made. If left with a few options, I can ask “will one of these options hurt Jenny’s belief in me?” If so, it is likely the wrong option.

It Can Be Broken

Knowing trust is built brings with it the reality that trust can be broken. It’s fragile. No matter how long it has been developing, we are not ensured it will be present tomorrow. We must continually be cultivating trust while also being aware that at any moment a single act of foolishness can undo any good work we have done. (See: Why Others Don’t Trust You)

Trust is primarily broken in one of two ways:

Explosion. One dramatic failure can destroy trust that took decades to build. As a pastor, I’ve experienced many explosions in the lives of others–an affair, financial deceit, a foolish choice, addiction, etc. While explosions are horrific, they do have one silver-lining…they are undeniable. When an explosion happens, a couple immediately knows trust is broken which provides the opportunity for them to recognize it and get to work on rebuilding it.

Erosion. A more subtle way to destroy trust is via erosion. Rather than one dramatic action, trust can be destroyed by the slow drip of inconsistency. Failing to do what you say, apathy, selfishness, dishonor, an unwillingness to protect the heart of the other, or a general failure to love can slowly erode trust. The difficulty of erosion is that it often happens without awareness. We don’t realize trust has been lost until we wake up one day and notice we don’t fully believe our spouse is for us.

Knowing that trust can be broken should motivate diligence. We should continually pursue trustworthiness as we seek to love one another well.

It Can Be Rebuilt

While the breaking of trust is tragic, the hope is found in the truth that trust can be rebuilt. The loss of trust does not ensure the failure of the relationship. An inability to rebuild trust does guarantee the marriage will forever be dysfunctional. Yet when a couple does the work, they can rebuild trust.


Here are a few steps to rebuilding trust:

Acknowledge it has been broken. Trust begins with truth. Until we recognize that trust has been broken, it cannot be rebuilt. Acknowledgment requires ownership. If one party has broken the trust, they must take responsibility for their actions. If both parties are responsible, then both spouses must recognize their role. But no matter who is at fault, rebuilding trust is a two-person process. Both husband and wife must play an active part in rebuilding trust.

Define the goal. While acknowledging when trust is broken, a couple should then state that they desire to rebuild what has been lost. This must be a goal to which both are committed. By stating the goal, both parties are more likely to prioritize the process. If a husband or wife is not willing to say they desire to build (rebuild) trust, that is a major red flag within the relationship.

Small actions over time. If trust were an equation it would be consistency + time = trust. Trust can’t be built in dramatic ways. It is primarily developed brick by brick, action by action. As I consistently show Jenny that I have her best interest at heart and prove that through a million small actions, trust is built. It never happens as quickly as we desire. Time is a necessary ingredient. Yet as we consistently tell the truth, do what we say, and put our spouse’s needs above our own, trust is built.

Don’t overlook failure. Building trust doesn’t mean perfection. Instead, trust is most often built in how we handle our mistakes. When we recognize our wrong actions, admit them, seek forgiveness, and learn from our mistakes, we are showing our spouse emotional growth which builds trust.

There is no way to overestimate the importance of trust in a relationship. It is so vital that a couple should prioritize building trust as their top priority. In the end, trust is simple. When trust is present, I can confidently say my spouse loves me and is for me. This becomes the lens through which everything is experienced. When two people are confident the other loves them and is for them, there is no limit on what they can accomplish.


8 Responses to How to Build Trust in Marriage

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