“How Can We Rebuild Our Trust?”

The treasure of trust—it’s in your hands. It is yours to develop and yours to destroy. It is yours to respect and yours to betray. Your usage of trust will determine the length and depth of your relationship. Your stewardship of trust will measure the health and happiness of your relationship.

Indeed, trust is a foundation rock upon which a healthy relationship can be built. Without trust the relationship house has no solid foundation and will most likely crumble and tumble when the winds of life howl with fury and the stress of life hurls its force. As a foundation for relationship success trust is a treasure to be sought and safeguarded. 

Because of its importance trust is a topic that merits our full attention as we strive to travel safely and successfully along the Relationship Highway. How is trust developed and maintained? What leads to the loss of trust? How is trust regained following offenses and betrayals? These questions are relevant to any two people who hope for a healthy relationship.


Refining Trust . . .

The term “trust” is probably interpreted in various ways by different individuals and couples. However, the core idea is “to believe in, have confidence in, to be able to rely upon.” The person who is trusted is deemed to possess “trustworthiness” and is perceived to be reliable, dependable, and faithful. The trustworthy person practices a lifestyle of truth-telling with congruent behavior. His truthfulness invites other people to trust in him.

The development of trust is an interesting and important issue. Some people seem to be quite willing and able to trust other people in an appropriate manner. In contrast, however, other people really struggle with the whole trust process. In their travels down the Trust Highway these strugglers encounter roadblocks and collisions because of two basic trust errors. Some of the travelers commit the error of “under-trusting” other people. They start off a new relationship with a minus-level of trust; they actively distrust a new person until actual trust is somehow cultivated. The extreme of this error is paranoia, an overly-suspicious state of mind that tends to block the development of any real trust. For the “under-trusting” people the development of trust is probably “too little too late.” The second problem is the error of “over-trusting” other people. These individuals often get hurt in relationships because they trust too quickly and thereby take unnecessary risks through excessive self-disclosure and inappropriate behavior. Their naïve, gullible approach invites abuse and manipulation from self-serving people. For the “over-trusting” people the development of trust is “too much too soon.” The use of wisdom in our relationship development will lead us to avoid both of these trust errors as much as possible. 

Without doubt our ability to trust people in adulthood is highly correlated to our experience and training during our childhood. Children tend to imitate and replicate the trust style they see in their parents and other significant adults. Furthermore, the betrayal of trust through childhood abuse or abandonment usually leads to trust problems in adulthood. The development of healthy trust may seem impossible for these wounded individuals, and the inability to trust will prevent depth and intimacy in any relationship attempted. These individuals usually need to consult a well-trained professional counselor to resolve these “trust roadblocks.”

A typical relationship begins with a neutral or low trust level. For the relationship to grow into a significant, healthy relationship the two people must work very hard to mature their trust in each other. I think of this maturing process as trust refinement. We have to refine our trust until it reaches a high level that is essential to healthy, long-term relationships. This refining of trust is a critically important area of relationship work. 

We are mistaken to believe that a high level of trust is achieved magically and automatically just because we begin a new relationship. Just as years are required to refine the skills necessary to excel at a musical instrument, a long period of time, probably years, is also required before sufficient mutual trust can be refined for relationship health. This refining process involves at least two vital components: truthful communication and trustworthy behavior.



                    “Why Does He Have to Grumble So Much?”

The weary wife looked hopeless as she described her husband’s grumbling pattern. She was excited about the upcoming holidays—Thanksgiving and Christmas. Unfortunately she was married to “Mr. Grinch.” It seemed to her that every expression of joy was countered by her husband with either a complaint or a criticism. Throughout their relationship his negative attitude about life in general and holidays in particular had stolen much of her excitement and enjoyment. Emotionally drained by her spouse’s frequent barrages of negativity, she was searching for solutions—not for him but for herself. Somehow she had to find a way to survive The Grumbler (“Mr. Grinch”) to whom she was married. She had long since abandoned the hope of any positive change. He was not likely to allow his heart to grow three times bigger, as was the case with Dr. Seuss’ Grinch. The Grumbling Highway on which their marriage traveled was covered with the ominous clouds of emotional exhaustion. Their relationship journey was headed toward a major collision with tragic consequences.
This couple is not unique. Many relationships are adversely affected by a grumbling pattern on the part of one or both spouses. An occasional grumble usually does little harm, but a full-grown pattern will threaten all travel along the marital highway. Because the grumbling pattern has significant implications for human relationships we would do well to explore three key areas: the cost, the cause, and the cure.

Counting the Cost . . . 

A common definition of “grumble” is “to mutter with discontent.” Similar words include complain, gripe, whine, and “belly-ache.”  With this definition in mind let’s consider the cost of grumbling on both individual and relationship health.


                                   “Talk to me, please!”
Has that declaration ever been directed at you? If so, your spouse is probably frustrated with your lack of talking. You may have gone into “silent mode” in order to protect the relationship from potential harm, but, more likely, you’re frustrated about something and you’ve chosen to clam up. Regardless of your reasons, your journey along the Communication Highway is experiencing tension and turbulence that could lead both of you into marital misery.

Healthy relationships require effective communication. While good communication is not a guarantee for a happy marriage, it does provide a strong reassurance that the husband and wife will continue to travel safely and successfully in their marital journey. Conversely, when the communication process is sputtering or spinning the overall risk of collisions and breakdowns increases for the couple. Wise couples will invest a great deal of energy and effort into the cultivation and maintenance of a positive communication process. That process involves two key components:  supplying self-disclosure and learning to listen. (The listening component is explored in detail in a separate article. This article addresses the issue of self-disclosure.)
Clearly, both components are required for healthy communication. One spouse could supply a strong level of self-disclosure but the communication process is thwarted if the other spouse chooses not to listen. The process is also hindered when there is listening being done but there is no self-disclosure being supplied. Both spouses need to self-disclose to one another and both spouses need to listen to one another.  

As a Family Life Educator and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist I’ve been privileged to work with many individuals and couples who were frustrated about insufficient self-disclosure. Most men and women choose to marry in order to enjoy a close, intimate relationship. However, their dream is lost when there is not enough mutual self-disclosure to allow for relationship depth and personal intimacy. Admittedly, some people have a different concept of “intimacy” for which self-disclosure is a non-issue. But for those couples dreaming about emotional closeness the frustration level increases if both spouses have to mind-read and guess about each other’s wants and needs. In the absence of self-disclosure guessing becomes the default game plan. Rather than guess they could simply ignore each other’s wants and needs, but the result will be relationship distance, not closeness. So, what’s the roadmap that will encourage mutual understanding and relationship closeness? Among other ingredients the solution involves appropriate self-disclosure.

                                      “How Can I Stop the Spending?”     

The man’s frustration was obvious as he struggled with his wife’s overspending habits. Regardless of how much money he brought home there was never enough to pay all of their bills. According to him, they were living in a money mess from paycheck to paycheck and the pile of debt was growing daily. Credit cards had already been maxed out and a second mortgage had been obtained months earlier. Tears welled up in the man’s eyes as he admitted, “I guess bankruptcy is the next step for us.” His next words reflected his hopelessness:  “But after bankruptcy she’ll just keep on spending, and the same problem will happen again.” Clearly, this couple was slowly drowning in a flood of debt.

Before going any further I need to clarify two aspects of indebtedness. First, the story just related involves an overspending wife. However, I’ve heard similar descriptions about husbands who were overspenders. The problem is not gender-specific; men and women alike share the capacity to spend more money than they make. Secondly, in this article I am not speaking of situations in which indebtedness is incurred due to sudden job termination or catastrophic medical issues. This type of indebtedness is regrettable but understandable.  I’m referring instead to the unhealthy pattern of overspending, the practice of spending more money than we have available to spend through which we incur debt and increase individual and family stress.

Overspending has apparently become a national pastime in our country. Government officials and elected politicians continue to practice a pattern of unbridled spending. Regardless of their rhetoric their practice maintains the message that overspending is allowable and indebtedness is acceptable. As a result of inadequate management our nation is now facing a pile of debt that threatens the health and safety of every citizen and every family. Our continuing travel down the Overspending Highway will bring many hardships related to breakdowns and collisions. The basic problem, however, is not a government issue; instead, the core problem lies in the heart of each individual person. Our hearts have been attacked by a serious “money infection” that can disrupt and destroy our lives at all levels of society. Aware of the threat, we need to investigate the infection, invite appropriate intervention, and make a concerted effort to invest in financial integrity. Through this three-part process we will be more equipped and encouraged to overcome our overspending.


                                      “You’re Not Listening to Me!”     

Speaking these words with tension and tears, Mary* revealed her growing frustration with her husband. She was convinced that John* no longer cared about her feelings. Her conclusion seemed justified by his reluctance to listen to her. As I tried to understand their situation, I could empathize with her stress in that John did not appear to make any real effort to listen to her. In fact, he seemed to be more interested in getting her to listen to his side of the issue. In frustrated and angry tones he described to me how unfair Mary was to accuse him of indifference toward her when she didn’t even understand his point of view. Strangely enough, he insisted that he did care about her but she didn’t care about him. Back and forth the comments and complaints flew as John and Mary continued to “spin their wheels” in a communication pattern that was well-developed from years of practice.
It seemed clear to me that John and Mary each felt very misunderstood. This couple’s lack of mutual understanding was contributing to a negative cycle of conflict that was escalating in frequency, intensity, and duration. The resulting emotional distance between them was now threatening the health and happiness of their relationship. Clearly, John and Mary were struggling and their journey along the Marriage Highway warranted some much-needed road repair.

John and Mary are not alone in terms of their communication roadblock. Actually, they are representative of many couples who disagree about and struggle over important issues in life as they travel together on their marital journey. Like John and Mary, these couples are unable to resolve their problems because they do not understand each other’s perspective about the underlying issues. Most spouses unfortunately work much harder at being understood than they work at trying to understand the other person. More unfortunately, their relationship will continue to sustain damage as long as the negative current communication pattern remains the same.


Introductory Note: Dealing with death is a challenge for each of us, whether it’s our personal death we’re facing or the death of a loved one to which we’re responding. In this article I’d like for us to consider the Christian’s hope of heaven as an effective solution for coping with death and as a helpful component in grief recovery.—Dr. Bill Baker

Seven cities of gold. No man knew where they were, but many men wanted to find them.
The date was February, 1540. Vasquez de Coronado, a Spanish soldier and explorer, determined to find the famous Cities of Cibola. Driven by dreams of an Eldorado where wealth was waiting, Coronado and his men explored much of the Southwest United States. But to their great dismay and disappointment they never found their “city of gold.”
Some thirty-five centuries before Coronado entered the scene of human history another “explorer” lived who also searched for a city. The story of his search is recorded in the Bible. According to Heb. 11:10, Abraham “looked forward to a city with foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Speaking of Abraham and his descendants, the writer adds in verse 16: “But, as it is, they desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
Searching for a city! Regardless of the century of time every person is searching for a city. Like Coronado, most people seem to be searching for some type of earthly city in which they hope to find personal happiness and worldly success. In contrast, some people imitate Abraham in that they are searching for another type of city—a heavenly city whose builder and maker is God.
In 1949 Ira Stanphill wrote the words to a familiar song which captures the heart of this search for a heavenly city. Verse two of “Mansion over the Hilltop” contains these words:  “Don’t think me poor or deserted or lonely; I’m not discouraged, I’m heaven bound; I’m just a pilgrim in search of a city; I want a mansion, a robe, and a crown.”
These lyrics suggest three important ideas for us to ponder in our minds and to apply to our lives. “I’m just a pilgrim.” “In search of a city.” “I’m heaven bound.”

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