Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Why Mutual Trust Is So Important In Marriage

September 18, 2006

What do we hope for in our marriage? We probably want a healthy combination of the following qualities: love, intimacy and sexual expression, communication, trust and commitment, equality and respect, compatibility and companionship.

Of all of these qualities, mutual respect may be at the core and is an essential component of love, one’s willingness to be intimate, and the hope that differences can be resolved through effective communication. Respect leads to a meaningful conversations even when hampered by hurt feelings or strong differences. .

Courtship. In courtship, one is attracted to the outstanding qualities of his or her dating partner. Virtues such as honesty, moral integrity, consideration, acceptance of others, loyalty, trustworthy, reliability, openness and the ability to communicate show what kind of partner their prospective mate might be. Women rate a man's dependability, emotionally stability, flexibility, resiliency and agreeableness.

They size each other for:

Dating partners look for signs of future commitment and fidelity. Virtues such as honesty and moral integrity, being considerate, acceptance of others, loyalty, being trustworthy and reliable, and openness and the ability to communicate show what kind of partner their prospective mate might be.

Women rate being a good listener as especially important while men rate a woman’s willingness to be helpful and supportive as a key quality of respect. .

How respect leads to trust. Respect in a close relationship is an attitude or disposition to regard one’s partner good qualities as worthy and admirable. There is genuine to listen and hear his or her viewpoint and then to being receptive to influence by it. Respect and trust lead to greater sharing which leads to change which leads to greater trust which leads to dependency, commitment and love.

Each dares to bring up deeper and deeper emotional concerns, knowing that there is gentle and understanding heart who can be counted on for commitment and anxious concern. Each partner comes to see the other as someone who can be relied on for protection, comfort, support and encouragement. Each becomes a safe haven for the other -someone who is consistently loving, accepting, honest, truthful and responsive to needs.

In her book, Respect, An Exploration, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot lists six qualities that makes people respectworthy.

1. Dialogue - engaging in real communication

2. Attention - being fully present

3.. Curiosity - being genuinely interested in others’ thoughts, feelings and fears

4. Healing - nourishing feelings of worthiness

5. Empowerment - enabling others to make their own decisions, nurturing their self-confidence and self-reliance

6. Self-respect - helping others to feel good about themselves

How loss of respect affects love and marriage. When marriages start to fall apart, lack of respect may be at the bottom of the difficulties. Here are some reasons for loss of respect. .

* Failing to act with moral integrity. Trust is undermined by lies, deceit, dishonesty, and failure to say the truth about feelings.

* Failing to listen. Being closed and rigid. Being right, argumentative, and judgmental. Being a poor problem solver. Avoiding conflict. Withdrawing from communication.

* Failing to address self-destructive habits. Alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling, obesity, workaholism, smoking, pornography and other sexual addictions, compulsive spending or other behavior problems threaten the security of the relationship. Making repeated promises and a series of failed attempts to change erode trust.

* Having explosive outbursts of anger. Physical and verbal abuse and disrespectful judgments disqualify oneself as a source of comfort, strength and safe haven for emotional security.

* Being too self-centered to give love. Failure to show anxious concern for their partner’s needs. Inconsiderate. Indifference. Lack of caring. Non-responsive. Possessive and controlling. Jealous. Prone to self pity. Not being there for your partner during times of great distress, loss or threat.

* Being emotionally unstable. Being helpless and depressed. Moody. Failure to take responsibility for one’s life. Being a complainer, an excessive worrier, a procrastinator, impulsive, compulsive, or dependent. Being someone who breaks down or who is inconsiderate under adverse circumstances.

* Being disloyal. Having an affair and forming a relational bond with an affair partner leads to disrespect and withdrawal from the marital bond. The offending spouse rationalizes, casts unfair judgments, and rewrites the history of the marriage in negative terms. The question becomes which comes first, infidelity leading to disrespect or disrespect leading to infidelity?

* Showing contempt. Viewing one’s partner as beneath dignity and essentially beyond the reach of rational discussion. Refusal to meet needs or regard partner’s feelings seriously. Failure to show recognition for worth and value of partner’s outstanding qualities through compliments, appreciation, affection and verbal expression.

Take inventory. It you lose respect, the loss of love will surely be quick to follow. Couples must address concerns in their relationships that detract from their mutual respect and equality. The process of communicating about concerns should be respectful. Learning respectful ways of communication about problems may be the first obstacle to overcome.

Conversely the respect a couple has for each other enables them to have meaning discussions when there is not enough love being shown in their relationship. Mutual respect becomes the bedrock for listening to each other and taking corrective actions that preserve their love, empathy, and connection.