The Strong Marriage Check List: Item #2 – Trust

by Leslie De Morais

 

Opinions differ regarding what a marriage needs to either become strong or stay strong. The following is from a list I compiled of ten essential characteristics couples need to build a strong and lasting marriage.

Item #2: Trust

“The best proof of love is trust.” That’s a quote from the renowned American psychologist and columnist, Joyce Brothers1. We’ve all read something similar to her quote in the Bible.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.                            – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

That’s the Biblical definition of love. It’s what we are all striving for in our relationships. It’s what we want our marriages to be based on. But what if your marriage has suffered a breach of confidence? It could be a minor infraction like forgetting to accomplish a promised task or it could be infinitely more damaging like the infidelity with which some couples must grapple.  What do you do to overcome mistrust? On the other end of the spectrum, how can you regain your spouse’s trust once lost?

Entire books are written about questions such as these. I’ll not pretend to provide all the answers in a short post like this. However, after reading this you may find yourself pointed in the right direction. The hard work will then be up to you.

The Basis of Trust

Trust, like a good name, takes years to establish and only a single moment to lose.  It may be based on a handshake, a promise, a vow or even the simple desire to believe. Trust is the consensus between two parties of a mutual understanding.

In the beginning, trust is like a tiny sapling that has the potential to grow into a mighty tree; well rooted and immovable, with a fortitude that inspires complete confidence. Or, that same vulnerable sapling may also be stepped on and crushed.

Deep inside most of us is the strong desire to trust. We want to believe with all our heart, in someone or something. In marriage, we want to believe in our spouse and we want to believe in love. It gives us hope. Trust is that northern star that guides us and provides a sense of direction, purpose and stability.

A relationship with God is much the same. While alive on this earth, He is invisible to us. We cannot see, hear or touch Him, yet we are asked to believe and trust in His existence. His son lived a distant 2000 years before us and God works through a Holy Spirit, which is also unseen and not physically felt.  Everything about our relationship with God relies entirely on trust, and a blind trust at that. So why and how do we do it?

Why do we trust?

God has made Himself known to us in everything we see, touch and feel. He is all around us and in everything He created. Have you ever watched a sunrise or sunset and marveled at the beauty of it? Have you ever wondered at the complexity of a living organism? Have you ever been amazed at the perfection of the human body or the miracle of life in a newborn baby? That’s God making himself known to us so that we can trust Him.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  – Romans 1:20 (NIV)

How do we trust?

It starts with baby steps of faith. We read about God, His promises, His kingdom, His Son, His Spirit and we think, “Can it be true?” So, we take a small step and test our footing. Still on firm ground, we practice a Biblical concept to see what will happen. Perhaps we decide to make time for daily devotion and soon we feel closer to God. We start understanding a spiritual teaching and experience a shift in attitude or make a character change. We read some more. We wonder. We step out on faith. And we are not disappointed. We are building trust. Our walk with God begins and grows stronger.

Hopefully, your relationship with your husband began the same way. You got to know one another slowly. You deposited faith and confidence in each other. Trust grew little by little.

There’s only one problem.

God is amazingly perfect, always consistent, ever infallible, reassuringly reliable, absolutely dependable and completely trustworthy. We are not.

Then how can any marriage become strong if trust is one of the qualities a marriage requires?  How can we trust one another when we each have an imperfect nature and sinful tendencies?

The solution is simple, but not easy. We trust our spouse by imitating the attitude God has towards us. He trusts that we will keep our promises to Him. If or when we fail, He forgives us and we begin again.

When God asks us to trust not only Him but each other in marriage, He knows He’s asked a lot of us. Here’s a quote I really admire and ponder:

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”                  – Corrie ten Boom2.

Our future may be unknown to us and the depths of our spouse’s heart may also be unknown to us, but we are still in the hands of a known God.

Learning to Trust

My parents divorced when I was 12. It didn’t affect me much at the time since my father was predominantly an absent parent. My mother rarely criticized him openly, although I know she suffered greatly in a loveless marriage. During my adolescence, my mother sometimes confided in me more as a much-needed friend than a daughter. She began to open up to me about the reality of marriage. Out of a desire to protect and prepare me, she shared her acquired philosophy and worldly wisdom regarding marriage, gleaned from years of disappointment and disillusionment. She told me that all men cheated. She warned me about marrying a man from certain cultures because women were mere pieces of property to them. She advised me that if I chose to marry, I would be smart to have a separate and secret bank account so that when my husband left me I’d have something to fall back on.

Those comments, made continuously during my teen years, completely infiltrated and tainted my thinking. She had to be right, I reflected, just look at the outcome of her life and that of so many others. But was she?

When I became a Christian at age 22, I began learning how to discern spiritual concepts from worldly ones. I don’t doubt my mother’s genuine concern for my welfare. I believe she thought she was giving valuable motherly advice that would save me from pain and sorrow. However, her perspective was not biblical. It was based on her own experiences, which were not governed by Christ.

As a young disciple of Jesus, I had a long, hard road ahead of me to learn how to trust. It meant intense mental, emotional and spiritual training to undo the flawed ideas accumulated in the world and then carefully replace them with the spiritual concepts of Christ. It was necessary to learn a new perspective, believe a new narrative. God would reshape everything I had been taught up until then about men, relationships and marriage. This passage helped me:

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.    – 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (NIV)

By the wisdom of this world, I had no reason to trust anyone. As a Christian, I made the decision to no longer live according to this world, and in this case, that meant stepping out on faith by trusting.

God’s wisdom is definitely a mystery. But with the mind of Christ, we can comprehend even a mystery like trust.

Regaining Trust

The only thing more difficult than building trust is regaining it. We mere mortals seem to have an innate aversion to making the same mistake twice, hence the tendency to be unforgiving and to keep a record of wrongs.

There’s a Brazilian proverb that says, “A scalded cat fears even cold water.”

The truth is, regaining trust requires time and an impressive (and repentant) new track record. This passage outlines a plan:

First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.      – Acts 26:20

Repentance is change. It’s a change others can see. It’s a change made from the inside out. It’s real and it’s lasting. We obtain it by turning to God. Relying on Him is the only way to transform our true nature. Then, we prove we’ve changed by our actions and attitudes.

Humility is also key to this transformation. Have you ever known someone who was clearly in the wrong, sees they were wrong, and may even admit they were wrong, but gets defensive when the matter is brought up? Perhaps you’ve been that person. Someone sincerely interested in regaining trust has the humility and good sense to know others have reason to be cautious. The presence of humility will help assure and aid them in the healing process of regaining trust.

When repentance is coupled with humility, our past may be brought up, discussed and even used as an example of what not to do without affecting us negatively. Why?  Because of the positive change that has taken place.

Trust is more than a lofty idea or romantic notion. Trust is obtainable. It is real and worth more than you can imagine. It is truly the cornerstone of any solid relationship. What are your trust issues? Are you ready to align yourself with a Biblical standard? Take the time and the steps needed to nurture trust. You’ll be glad you did. Trust me!


As with any check list, this one may show your strengths and weaknesses, what’s already present and what’s missing from your relationship. A check list reveals where you’re at and where you need to go. The good news is you can celebrate what’s going well and make a plan to fortify what’s lacking in your marriage.  With reliance on God and some attention to the matter, you’ll soon be checking all the boxes!

The Strong Marriage Check List: Item #1 – Honesty

by Leslie De Morais

Characteristic #1: Honesty

“Honesty is such a lonely word…everyone is so untrue…honesty is hardly ever heard…and mostly what I need from you.” Billy Joel’s lyrics ring true. We all desire honesty in our relationships and especially in our marriage. As with all the other items on the Strong Marriage Check List, we must first ask ourselves, “Do I have the characteristic I’m seeking in my spouse?”

Fearless Honesty

During an eight-week marriage course my husband and I took a few years back, the question of honesty arose. Using a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being a perfect score), we were asked to rate each other on a list of desirable qualities for our marriage and then discuss our ratings with our spouse. As I thought about my husband, he scored well on all the honesty related queries. I assumed we’d breeze through that portion of the survey. I was wrong. First, I shared all the high marks I gave him, smiling and innocent as to what was to befall me. Then, as he took in a deep breath and revealed my shoddy scores, “Five in truthfulness, four in openness, and five in candor,” I gasped aloud. “What!” Was there time to revise the scores I had given him? How could this be? What was he thinking? If I had been a Russian gymnast, I’d have been given a one-way ticket on the next train to Siberia with scores like that!

We tend to think of honesty as simply telling the truth, which it certainly is. However, it is more than that. It’s not holding back any of the truth. It’s not sugarcoating or telling half-truths. No omissions or filtering. Honesty risks angering or even hurting your spouse’s feelings so they can know you fully and completely. Sometimes it risks losing someone’s admiration or good opinion of you.

“How have I been dishonest with you?” I demanded to know. “You don’t share your dreams with me,” he replied.  Whoa. He was right. I had made a conscious yet semi-unconscious decision to stop sharing certain thoughts, dreams and aspirations with him some time ago. I wasn’t even sure when, but I had done it. Why? Well, my husband is one of those realists, you know the kind, tell him a goal and he’ll be sure to show you how and why it won’t work. Share a starry-eyed dream with him and he’ll shoot it full of holes. Moreover, he thinks he’s doing you a favor by explaining why you shouldn’t waste your time, money and effort on something that won’t work. I had good reasons not be open about my fragile, vulnerable and precious little dreams…I didn’t want them killed!

So, with great care and uncanny detail, I reminded him of past massacres. He agreed and admitted he had not known how to listen to my dreams without resisting the urge to adjust them so they made sense in his mind. Okay. Now we were starting to get somewhere. As we continued to unravel the honesty dilemma, we came to several very important conclusions about how we approach life in different ways; neither way was better, nor worse, just different. As a compromise, we adopted the French phrase, “Vive la différence!”

Just as I thought we could move on to the next item on the survey, he asked, “So, are you going to start sharing your dreams with me?” I was hoping he wouldn’t ask. I was hoping I could share just a little bit more and it might be enough. He wanted it all. That would leave me feeling uncomfortably vulnerable at the chance of reliving past disappointments where dreams, goals and aspirations were slashed and slaughtered, much like the protagonist’s friends in a teen horror flick.

“But what if you do it again? What if you step on my dreams and discourage me?” I asked.

“It’s possible. I’m not perfect. I may not be able to change overnight. But if you don’t take the first step by opening up I’ll never have the chance to change,” he refuted. I couldn’t argue that rationale. “And besides,” he continued, “as Christians, we do what’s right because it’s right, not because someone else reacts perfectly.” Match, set and game. He was right. I could not continue to shield myself. If honesty was truly important to me, I had to risk openness because the reward of true closeness and unity was too great. It would most likely require some patience and undoubtedly some forgiveness on my part, but if he was willing to change his evil ways then I was too.

Share Your Life Openly

Some Bible study helped me to gain more conviction about what I was learning. Honesty, to be fully effective, goes hand in hand with love.  Consider this scripture:

Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.                                                  – 1 Thessalonians 2:8b (NIV)

In the beginning of the chapter, the Apostle Paul addresses the fact that even though Silas, Timothy and he had “suffered and been treated outrageously” in Philippi (the previous town on their missionary journey), they did not fail to share the gospel with the Thessalonians. They did it out of love; love for God, love for Christ and love for those who needed to hear the message. Their hope that the Thessalonians would soon become their brothers in Christ outweighed their fear of being hurt once more.

I couldn’t claim to have suffered or been treated outrageously when my husband applied his realist’s viewpoints to my dreams. There were even instances when he raised valid points about feasibility and finances. His perspective challenged me to do more than dream.

Speak the Truth in Love

For some, being completely honest is not an easy task because they are more concerned with their spouse’s feelings than with genuine openness. Others, are all too willing to tell it like it is, but lack the sensitivity required when discussing difficult topics. Biblical honesty will call us to new heights in our marriages. Honesty can inspire deep change and meaningful growth, not only in ourselves but also in others. However, there’s a way to do it.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.              – Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)

The word instead refers to the prior verse, which talks about the immaturity and instability that comes from unbiblical teachings and unspiritual influences. Only through speaking the truth in love will we ever obtain the unity taught in the rest of the passage.

My husband Alcides and I have decided to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…in love. It’s a decision I need to make repeatedly because I’m tempted to protect my feelings. We also made the decision to listen in love.

Honesty. Can you check this off on your list?

Decide to be open. Decide to speak the truth in love.

I’m convinced, it’s one of the best ways to stay in love.


As with any check list, this one may show your strengths and weaknesses, what’s already present and what’s missing from your relationship. A check list reveals where you’re at and where you need to go. The good news is you can celebrate what’s going well and make a plan to fortify what’s lacking in your marriage.  With reliance on God and some attention to the matter, you’ll soon be checking all the boxes!