The Biggest Enemy to Marriage
In my many years of counseling couples in troubled marriages, I have found that betrayal is the biggest enemy of a harmonious marriage. What betrayal does is destroy trust. Trust is fragile. Once broken it is hard to mend. This is all the more so in a marriage. When trust is gone, the marriage is on shaky ground. Thus it is imperative to restore trust to save a marriage that is heading for break-up. Let me share two critical elements in restoring trust.
Two Critical Elements to Restore Trust
Although it may be difficult to restore trust, it is not impossible. Trust can be restored through two main elements. These two elements are attitude and action. When trust has been betrayed in a marriage, in its place comes suspicion which leads to distrust and secrecy. Thus to restore trust, there must be openness, accountability and assurance. In essence, these three things are different attitudes. Openness is an attitude to adopt. Similarly, to be accountable is first an attitude before becoming an action or behavior. And likewise assurance to your spouse that you are trustworthy is an attitude also. Allow me to elaborate on these three attitudes.
The attitude of openness is displayed by allowing the aggrieved partner to ask any question he or she wants for as long as necessary. It is better for your partner to ask concerning anything that still troubles him or her than to keep it inside only for it to flare up in future and destroy trust again. The attitude of openness leads to accountability.
Being accountable to your partner is a crucial step in restoring your partner’s trust in you even though it might be an inconvenience to be accountable. It is important that you bear with the inconvenience and not give in to irritability, impatience or frustration. If need be, allow yourselves to be accountable not only to one another, but to another close friend or marriage counselor. Having an objective third party friend helping out goes a long way in restoring trust. Once openness and accountability are achieved, the third attitude of assurance becomes much easier to attain.
Your partner needs to be assured because he or she might be thinking about whether it was a mistake marrying you. Thoughts such as, “If he has done it before, he may do it again,” will be running through her mind. These thoughts make your partner feel extremely vulnerable thus it is important you assure her both in words and actions. These three attitudes are for the partner who is in the wrong to adopt. But trust cannot be fully restored without the other partner. The partner who has been betrayed also has attitudes to adopt to restore trust.
On the part of the aggrieved partner, the attitude of letting go of the past failures of your partner is essential. If you keep remembering and harping on the wrongs of your partner, you will never be able to trust him or her. Your attitude should be to forgive and forget as far as possible. Let bygones be bygones. Do not hold your partner’s wrongs against him or her. Closely linked to the attitude of releasing the past is the next attitude.
The next attitude is that of believing the best about your partner. There must be intentionality in giving your partner the benefit of the doubt and believing that he or she is trustworthy. Coupled with that is the attitude of giving second chances. Although it is hard to do, you must allow room for failure in your partner. This does not mean condoning infidelity or deceit but it does mean that you are willing to keep on trying provided there is repentance and change by your partner. Now let me share about the next element required to restore trust, that is action.
Correct attitudes would lead to correct action. The erring partner should take appropriate actions such as changing behavior, breaking off an affair or becoming a more responsible spouse or parent. The other partner must reciprocate in like manner with actions such as acceptance, support and cooperating with your partner in rebuilding the relationship between the two of you. Restoring trust is a process. It is built through persistent, sustained and appropriate attitudes and actions of both partners. It is necessary that you cooperate with one another. Help one other trust each other more. As mentioned, get another couple to hold you both accountable for certain actions over a period of time. People usually do what is inspected rather than what is expected. That is why accountability towards someone else is very helpful.
Trust is the foundation of any relationship. The closer the relationship, the more important trust is to that relationship. There is no other relationship closer than marriage for two human beings. Thus restoring trust is imperative to save any marriage.