After talking about 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 on Sunday, I received several questions that all began, ‘How?‘ How do I become a trusted spouse? If I am not married, how do I find a trusted spouse? How do I trust my spouse when they have not been trustworthy?
These are such good questions and they reveal such tender places from the one who is asking. Fear, pain, hurt are regular companions in this life. Trust is often a choice made ‘in spite of’ and not always ‘because of’.
Learning to trust God so that I can trust my spouse and be trustworthy is a life-long learning process.
So I’d like to offer a few thoughts about trusted spouses as we journey through this week. Hope you can talk about them with your loved one and with your small group.
Build trust by voluntarily offering yourself.
- We would build trust emotionally by volunteering what is going on in our head and heart. This takes intentionality as you re-enter from the day. This takes ‘prior work’ to determine what we can volunteer. You have to consider, ‘what am I feeling and thinking today?’ It is a risk to share a story or anecdote with your spouse.
For married couples, one of the key friction points each day is moving from a state of being separate (geographically ‘at work’) and transitioning to a state of being together (geographically ‘at home’- for dinner, for the evening, for bed). That transition requires excellent (your best!) communication. One way to build trust is to offer as you enter in… ‘This is what I have been thinking and feeling today. This person or situation brought me joy or made me angry. This is when I thought about you or missed you…’ Offering our ’emotional state’ by describing it with words and stories is way to build trust in that transition from separateness to togetherness.
- We would build trust spiritually by volunteering what God is teaching us (in prayer, through Bible reading, in our small group and mentoring relationships). This takes intentionality as you leave for the day… It can be quick (none of us have a lot of time as we run out the door): ‘Here is a verse that I read this morning and it encouraged me, disturbed me, convicted me… Can I pray for your meeting, the pain in your body, the hard conversation you need to have?’
We all know that it can be chaotic as we ‘leave togetherness’, but taking seconds to communicate that ‘I have talked with God this morning and I am praying for you this day’ builds trust.
There will be times when you want to talk for a longer period of time about your relationship with God. Schedule a date! Put it in the calendar! Offer to your spouse- ‘Can I tell you what I have been reading? Can I share with you what I have been praying?’ I guarantee that they want to hear and I am confident that you sharing it will go a long way to building trust.
- We would build trust sexually by voluntarily not pursuing other sexual opportunities (porn, fantasy, novels, streaming shows). Decide now and renew your decision regularly to not meet your sexual needs outside of your marriage covenant.
Instead, talk about those needs with your spouse. Your courage to initiate conversation about that topic builds intimacy. It may not be easy, but it is brave. Also, talk about those temptations with your community (thinking of your small group or a few trusted(!) friends). Being known, understood, and prayed for helps those temptations lose their power.
Build Trust by Fighting Fair
- Be kind in the midst of conflict.
- Resist cursing (Cussing is cursing- saying things that are intended to do harm. As opposed to blessing- saying things that are intended to bring life and goodness).
- Resist the urge to insult behaviors or body parts. You will do damage that endures long after the conflict has ended.
- Make ‘I’ statements rather than universal declarations: ‘I hear you saying…’ rather than ‘you always…’
- Pay attention to body language- i.e. what your body position (and theirs) is communicating. Your stance, your facial expression, the fold of your arms, and the clench of your fists all communicate…
- Listen actively.
- Be quick to ask for help. A 3rd person in the room is invaluable to help 2 people hear what the other is saying. Reach out to your small group leader or to a pastoral staff member. We have many resources that can help.
Build Trust by Renewing your Covenant
Covenant renewal: When you get married, you make a solemn covenant with your spouse… your covenant partner. As time goes on, there is a need to rekindle the heart and renew the commitment. There must be an opportunity to recall all that the other person means to you and to give yourself anew. Sex between a husband and wife is a unique way to do that. In fact, sex is perhaps the most powerful way to help you give your entire self to another human being. Sex is God’s appointed way for 2 people to reciprocally say to one another, ‘I belong completely, permanently, and exclusively to you.” You must not use sex to say anything less…
So according to the Bible, a covenant is necessary for sex. It creates a place of security for vulnerability and intimacy. But though a marriage covenant is necessary for sex, sex is also necessary for the maintenance of the covenant. It is your covenant renewal service.”
Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
Build trust by the way you say no to sex.
Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
1 Corinthians 7:5
There will be seasons when sex is not an option for a married couple. As glorious as it is and as effective as it can be in the renewing of our promises and faithfulness to each other, sometimes it is not possible.
This verse gives simple, clear instruction on the conditions that need to be in place for a season of ‘no sex.’
- by agreement: Married couples decide together about sexual frequency or a period of sexual abstinence. It’s a conversation and not an unforeseen consequence. It is intended to be a help and not a punishment.
“For the next week or the next month, we are not going to have sex because…”
- We have hurt each other. (emotional trust is gone)
- It’s not possible physically. (my body is too tired or my body is not present geographically)
- We are fasting so that we can pray about a major decision or for a major breakthrough.
- For a limited time: The period of abstinence needs to have an end date. The goodness of that period is that it gives freedom for other intimacies to develop. (Can I express love this way since sex is not an option?)
There will be times of abstinence, but they should be chosen by agreement and they should be finite in length. As soon as possible, it would be good to re-introduce the act of covenant renewal… for the good of the covenant and the joy of the couple.
Building trust requires our most deliberate and careful work. May God pour out His grace upon you as you become a trusted spouse.