Tag Archive for: Conflict

How to Validate Your Spouse’s Feelings

You can show them you value their emotions with these tips.

Your spouse: “I can’t believe you got lunch with Tim and Stacey without me. You know I would have liked to come, but instead, I was home alone with the kids. I wish you had told me.”

You: “It was just a last-minute thing. I’m sure we’ll see them again soon. You’re overreacting.”

Time out! Let’s press pause on this conversation. You know where this is going. Let’s be honest: We’ve all been there. We’ve probably all been on both sides of this conversation. I’ll be the first to step up; my emotions have been downplayed, and I’ve been the husband who downplayed my wife’s emotions. 

Remember, the key to healthy communication is listening. Often, our spouse just needs someone to listen and validate their feelings. 

Wait a second – my spouse wants me to validate their feelings? What do you mean by validating my spouse? 

I’m so glad you asked. Let’s dive into what validation means.

Validation is the act of helping someone feel heard and understood. When your spouse comes to you to share their feelings, it’s genuinely listening and experiencing the moment with them. It’s showing interest in what they have to say and valuing their emotions, words, and thoughts. Often when we share our feelings, we aren’t seeking advice; we’re seeking validation. We want to know that what we feel is valid and our thoughts have worth. Researchers have found that validation is critical to our relational, physical, and emotional health.

Here are some thoughts on how to validate your spouse’s feelings:

Remember, you’re validating feelings and everyone’s feelings are valid. Why they feel the way they do isn’t as important as addressing the emotions they are expressing. 

“Once you are able to let go of the content (which you may not agree with) and focus on how they are feeling (which is always valid), you will be able to support them,” advises Tamara Thompson, licensed marriage and family therapist.

What can you do to validate your spouse? 

Thompson offers some steps to show validation:

1. Listen, listen, listen.

Listen to understand the other person’s feelings. This isn’t about you. Don’t try to fix or solve the issue.

2. Empathy goes a long way.

You may disagree with the issue, but you can empathize with their emotions.

3. Repeat what they share.

Show you are paying attention and understand. Ask questions. 

4. Normalize their feelings.

Many people would probably feel the way they feel in that situation. Say that!

5. See it through their eyes.

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” It’s so true. Try to see the experience through your spouse’s eyes.

6. Touch them.

(Ask if they want to be touched first). Hold their hand, rub their back, or offer a hug. Physical touch is powerful. For some, this is their primary love language and it shows you are connecting with them.

Side note: If things are heated, it may not be the best time to make contact.

7. Use your body.

Make facial expressions, shake your head, lean in, make eye contact. Don’t stand there with your arms crossed or staring off in the distance. Be engaged.

Let’s rewind back to you and your spouse. 

Instead of saying, “You’re overreacting,” try saying, “I understand why you’re frustrated,” or “You’re right, you have every right to be upset.” Look for replies that validate the feelings your spouse has expressed. You may disagree with them (and that’s ok), but their feelings have value. If you don’t think you do this well, now’s the time to start validating your spouse. 

Other blogs: 

Should You Apologize to Your Spouse for Something You Didn’t Do?

7 Ways to Increase Trust in Marriage

The Art of Communication

Sources:

The Impact of Validating and Invalidating Responses on Emotional Reactivity

Validation Do’s and Don’ts for Couples: An Essential Component to Finally Feeling Understood!

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What to Do When Friends Are Hurting Your Marriage

While friends are a good thing, how they impact your marriage matters.

So, your wife has that one friend you think she always wants to talk about your problems with? Or your husband has a buddy that you think he wants to spend more time with than you? Have you ever felt that friends get in the way of your marriage? Friendships are essential, but they can interfere with your marriage if you’re not careful. By the way, your marriage is a friendship that should always come first.

But what do you do if friends are hurting your marriage? Do you demand that your spouse ditch the friends? Do you isolate your marriage from your friends? Let’s not get too drastic yet. 

In the Early Years of Marriage Project, researchers found an interesting relationship between friendships and the success of a marriage. Friends have a powerful influence on romantic relationships, both directly – by providing or withholding approval or support, and indirectly – by acting as a sounding board for marital problems. The approval of friends and family members is a strong predictor of a relationship’s quality and stability.

So, what can you do when you don’t like your spouse’s friend? Here’s some advice from experts.

Acknowledge that friends are influential on your relationship, in both positive and negative ways. 

Identify the real issues and talk about them. If you don’t like your spouse’s friends, ask why? Do you miss your spouse? Do you feel betrayed because they are confiding in someone else? Are you jealous? Your issue with your spouse’s friends may be the result of a more significant, underlying issue.

Do an intimacy inventory on your marriage. Maybe your spouse isn’t feeling emotionally connected in your relationship, so they seek it through a friendship.

Reframe your feelings. Don’t get stuck on the negative. Focus on the positive. What does the friendship add to your spouse and your marriage that’s positive?

Don’t issue ultimatums. If you don’t like your spouse’s friends, you don’t have to spend time with them. If you are confident that a friend is hurting your marriage, you should have a thoughtful discussion with your spouse. Issuing ultimatums without discussion puts your spouse in a challenging position. Open up to them about the issues you see.

A little caveat here regarding opposite-sex friendships: You and your spouse should definitely discuss boundaries when it comes to these. This can take the above advice to a deeper level. Opposite-sex friendships can cause the most damage to a marriage. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have them; I’m advising you to exercise extreme caution – and that’s a conversation with your spouse.

But, what if your friends are the issue? Here are some thoughts from the experts.

Come clean with your friend. If you’ve been complaining about your spouse to your friend, you need to let them know they are only getting one side of the story. Commit to refocusing the conversation with your spouse. Own that you’ve been confiding in a friend when you should be coming to your spouse with issues you see.

Ask yourself, “Is my spouse right about this friend?” If your spouse wants what is best for you and is looking out for your best interests, take the time to consider their concerns. Maybe your friend is divisive or a bad influence. Maybe your friend doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

Reassure your spouse that they are your first priority. Your relationship is your most significant friendship. Make sure your spouse knows you feel that way.

Friends should have a positive impact on you and your relationship.

It’s essential to nurture your marriage and ditch friends that hurt your marriage, but if you need to remove friends to have a healthier relationship, it’s best to make that decision together.

Other resources:

How To Talk To Your Spouse About Opposite Sex Friends E-book

I Don’t Like That My Spouse Has Opposite-Sex Friends

Are Opposite-Sex Friends OK?

Sources: 

Are Your Spouse’s Friends Interfering in Your Marriage?

“I Love You, Not Your Friends”: Links between partners’ early disapproval of friends and divorce across 16 years

Social Contexts Influencing Marital Quality

Social Networks and Change in Personal Relationships

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5 Tips for Getting Along With Your Spouse’s Siblings

Fostering good relationships with your in-laws is a win for your marriage.

Marriage is usually a package deal… I mean, yes, your greatest priority is your commitment and love for your spouse. But sometimes a spouse comes with extras… like their family. At times, those relationships bring added joy and challenges, especially when it comes to your spouse’s siblings. 

So how do you foster a good relationship and get along with your spouse’s siblings? 

Of course, a lot depends on the context. How well does your spouse get along with their siblings? What’s their stage of life and personality? How does your spouse’s family function overall? These factors often affect what getting along with your spouse’s siblings looks like. 

But if you keep the following tips in mind, you’re more likely to have good sibling-in-law relationships. 

1. Have Realistic Expectations

You probably know how you want the relationship with your spouse’s siblings to go. Maybe you’re ready to adopt them as “brothers and sisters of your own.” And who knows? They may feel the same about you. 

But your spouse’s siblings might feel differently, and those who are less eager to get close always set the relationship’s pace. If that’s the case, try to avoid taking offense. Remember, if you’re new to the family, there’s history that you’re not a part of. Rather than looking for that automatic connection, simply be gracious and open to their acceptance. 

2. Look for Opportunities to Support

Whatever their level of connection is, adding value to your sibling-in-laws’ lives opens the door wider. Find ways to use your time, energy, strengths, and skills to support what’s important to them. 

Support their business. Help with homework. Offer to help with yard work, pick the nieces up from school, or connect them with a colleague for a possible internship. Offer support without expecting thanks. Even if they turn down your help, continue to look for those small opportunities. 

3. Invite Them to Be a Part of Your World With Your Spouse

Invite them over or out for dinner. Ask them to watch the game with you. If the context seems right, create traditions in your home that include their siblings, like the annual college rivalry game or the summer camping trip. Including them in your world builds connection and a sense of bonding. 

4. Avoid Turning Down Invitations to Be in Their World

If they invite you to shoot some hoops, grab a cup of coffee, or go shopping, take the opportunity if you can. If you can’t, ask for a rain check and set a date. Your willingness to accept invitations speaks volumes about your desire to foster that relationship. 

5. Keep Your Marriage First

Here’s the thing: You want to foster a positive bond with your spouse’s siblings. But in their eyes, trust is based on the fact that you married their brother or sister. They’re looking at your commitment to their sibling. And when they see you keeping your spouse (their sibling) first and foremost and holding your marital commitment as a high priority, that goes a long way. Do all you can to strengthen your marriage and devotion to your spouse. 

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Getting along with your spouse’s siblings involves an understanding that every family is different. Chances are, your family is different from your spouse’s family. It’d be easy to spot the differences and count them as deficiencies. However, to do so would be a barrier to creating a connection with your siblings-in-law. 

Seek to understand them. Appreciate and understand your in-laws’ unique history. Let them get to know you. Respect the pace at which they allow you to know them. Relationships with your spouse’s siblings may take time; these tips and a little patience can hopefully add joy to the package deal of marriage. 

Other blogs:

What to Do When You Aren’t Crazy About Your Future In-Laws

How to Stay Motivated During Marriage Challenges

4 Ways to Feel More Connected to Your Spouse

How to Be An Emotionally Safe Spouse

The Art of Communication

Try these steps to prevent miscommunication in your relationships!

Have you ever gotten frustrated with your spouse because they didn’t listen to you? Misunderstood someone? Been misunderstood? I have. We’ve all miscommunicated and misunderstood. As the poet said, “To err is human.” 

At the heart of most relationship issues lies miscommunication. Whether it is parent to child, husband to wife, spouse to an in-law, or friend to friend, missteps in communication have the potential to devastate a relationship. Big time.

Communication is an art. But, how do we improve it? How do we lessen the misunderstandings in our relationships?

In his book, Happily Ever After, Gary Chapman suggests that we can master the art of communication with these three tools:

The Art of Listening

If you haven’t already figured it out, you can’t read minds. And no one can read yours. That’s really a good thing. (Flashback to Mel Gibson becoming overwhelmed when he can hear the thoughts of every woman around him in What Women Want.

We can observe behavior, though. That starts with listening.

Dr. Chapman breaks down listening into five steps:

1. Ask questions.

Asking questions that show you’re sincerely interested in someone’s answers is far more effective than simply assuming you know why they do what they do.

2. Don’t interrupt.

We’re all tempted to jump in and finish someone else’s thoughts, but doing that is harmful to the conversation. Chapman writes, “The purpose of listening is to understand, not make a point.”

3. Clarify meaning.

We often listen from our perspective. Take the time to ask additional questions and understand exactly what they’re saying. Repeat it back to them if necessary. You can always say, “Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying.” Then tell them what you heard. 

4. Express appreciation.

Thank them for sharing. You don’t have to affirm what they said if you disagree. “You are affirming their humanity, the right to think and feel differently from other people,” Chapman explains. 

Now, this is important: You must complete these four steps to earn the right to move on to number five.

5. Share your perspective.

“Because you listened, you are far more likely to be listened to,” Chapman stresses. You haven’t interrupted, you’ve clarified what they said, and you affirmed that they have value. Now you may share your viewpoint.

The Art of Speaking for Yourself

A crucial practice when communicating is to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. 

“When we begin a sentence with you, we are speaking as though we have ultimate knowledge of a person. In reality, we have only a perception,” Chapman shares. 

“You” statements can come across as accusatory and may lead to arguments. They are based on assumptions. Assuming is dangerous when it comes to relationships.

Beginning a thought with “I” shows you are revealing your feelings and your thoughts. You’re indicating a problem without condemning the other person. 

Instead of saying something like “You never listen to me,” try saying, “I don’t always feel heard.”

The Art of Negotiating

If you’ve been in any type of relationship, you know compromise is king. We all think differently and have different experiences.

When you learn how to effectively negotiate, you can build bridges with others. 

“Making a proposal is the first step in the process of negotiating. The second step is listening carefully to counterproposals,” Chapman notes. “Remember, negotiating has to do with two people trying to understand each other and reach an agreement that both of them will feel good about.”

“A proposal opens the opportunity for dialogue,” he continues. “The process of listening, understanding, and seeking to find an agreement is the process of negotiation.” When negotiating, it’s essential to get into the habit of making requests, not demands. 

Your relationships are worth the effort to master the art of communication. We’ll all make mistakes and miscommunicate from time to time, for sure. But you have value, and the people you are in a relationship with also have value. Take the time to communicate effectively and show lots of grace. Remember, to err is human.

Sources

Happily Ever After by Dr. Gary Chapman

The Importance of Communication in a Relationship 

What Great Listeners Actually Do

I have been a resentful spouse. My spouse has also resented me. Coming up on 28 years of marriage, my wife and I have five children, and we’ve seen it all. From socks that never made it to the hamper, to financially disastrous decisions, to weaponized sex, to disagreements about parenting, to not getting simple tasks done around the house, to navigating personality quirks. And did I mention infidelity? Yup, infidelity.

There are tons more examples, big and little. It’s not a contest. Whatever brought you to this blog is the biggest thing in your world. Nobody is dealing with resentment exactly the same way you are. But no matter why or how you arrived at this blog, resentment is a tumor in your marriage, and without proper treatment, it will keep growing.

Tumor?! Why would I refer to resentment with your spouse as a tumor? Resentment is a negative emotion that builds up over time. If you don’t deal with it, it will poison more and more of your relationship. It will come to dominate your marriage, making romance, compassion, and intimacy all but impossible. And the sooner you catch it, the easier it will be to treat.

Resentment cannot be taken lightly, but it does have a relatively straightforward solution. Each spouse will have to communicate – probably in a series of conversations. Each will have to express themselves appropriately and honestly. And each will have to listen to the other in good faith. The goal is to compromise and implement a plan. The plan will no doubt be revisited and modified. Resentment should yield resilience

Compromise and a Plan

The beauty of compromise and a plan is that they’re tangible and measurable. Ideally, as you see your spouse working toward compromise and following the plan, you can be confident. Perhaps confident enough to let go of some resentment and rekindle that spark you once felt. And when your spouse feels that spark, it’ll feed their efforts. Watch that positive cycle go!

So how can you put together a plan and work toward compromise? Here’s a 6-step process you can use as a guide. This isn’t an end-all-be-all on how to stop resentment. But instead, use these steps to help guide you and your spouse toward a compromise and a plan you both agree on that works for your relationship.

A Plan for Working Through Resentment With Your Spouse

1. Catch it early.

It’s much easier to manage and process through resentment before it builds.

2. Communication is everything.

This assumes you feel safe communicating in your marriage. You might need an older, wiser mentor couple. You might need a therapist or counselor. And you might need to establish some rules:

  • Each person gets to speak uninterrupted for 10 minutes. 
  • Try to separate the person from the behavior. 
  • Use “I” statements: I feel, I need, I’m hurting. 
  • Don’t escalate with volume, tone, sarcasm, or words meant to just inflict hurt.
  • Focus on being a good listener. Remember your body language.

3. The source of the resentment in your marriage needs to be front and center.

  • “When you do _____ it makes me feel _____.”
  • “I’m having a hard time moving past _____.”
  • “I don’t think you understand how much _____ hurt me.”
  • “We’ve talked about changing _____, but it hasn’t changed.”

4. Compromise is the goal. Both spouses need to win so the marriage wins.

5. Develop a plan for handling the situation(s) in the future. Write it down.

  • Think through different scenarios and have a plan for them.
  • Set goals.
  • The plan is the accountability and enforcement, not the spouse.
  • You can always revisit the plan and modify it where necessary.

6. Last but not least, start again with a clean slate. In good faith, you move forward.

The clean slate is going to be the hardest part. You’re hurt and you’re defensive. You’re in survival mode. Trust may have been broken. But if you really want to deal with resentment in your marriage, you have to move forward in good faith, with patience, believing the best, and extending grace. And hopefully, you will watch the downward spiral of resentment slowly stop as the positive emotions pick up some momentum.

For my wife and I, we’ve gone so far as to say, “THAT marriage is over. We start a new marriage TODAY.”

Other blogs:

6 Tips for a “Til Death Do Us Part” Marriage

Infidelity and Forgiveness

How to Divide Household Chores Fairly in Marriage

Is It Good To Fight In Marriage?

Suppose you’ve been married a few years or even a few months. In that case, you may have noticed that there’s a subtle emotional seesaw present. Resentment toward your spouse sits on one side and compassion sits on the other. Don’t worry; it’s in all marriages, although many of us may not even recognize it. The thing is, we often don’t notice until the resentment side gets a little too heavy. 

“Resentment is the persistent feeling that you’re being treated unfairly — not getting due respect, appreciation, affection, help, apology, consideration, praise, or reward,” says clinical psychologist Steven Stosny. 

Resentment tends to arise in a marriage when one spouse takes advantage of their partner or takes them for granted. Often resentment can arise from minor issues that compound with time. 

Common issues that lead to resentment are:

  • Habitual selfish behaviors
  • Prioritizing a job over the relationship
  • Not being fully present when you’re with your spouse
  • Expecting too much of your spouse
  • Failing to celebrate your spouse

If resentment builds, it can lead to withdrawal or contempt, and we don’t want either of those present in our marriage. So, let’s try to reduce our resentment before it becomes contempt.

Reducing resentment starts with you. You may have resentment toward your spouse, and they may not even be aware of the cause. Resentment is a self-destructive habit. Your spouse may have hurt or wronged you, but the resentment has grown within you. And it feels awful.



So to reduce resentment in your marriage, let’s look in the mirror and start there.

1. Your feelings are real, so don’t deny your feelings.

You don’t have to deny that you were hurt in some way. But keeping it to yourself or burying your feelings doesn’t help you overcome them. Identify them and seek to understand where those feelings are coming from. Once you have an idea of what’s causing you to feel the way you feel, express it to your partner. 

2. Write it down: how you feel, why you feel that way, your grudges, and their source.

This exercise of self-reflection can help you get to the source of your resentment. You may find that your resentment stems from an unrealistic expectation or from your perception. Now, write down why you should forgive your spouse so you can let it go.

3. Focus on your partner’s good qualities.

Remember, you married them, so there are lots of good qualities. Don’t let the mistakes that led to your resentment overshadow the positive. Choose to focus on the positive. Give grace. Don’t assume that they have hurt you intentionally. Think the best of your spouse. 

4. Build a habit of compassion.

As compassion increases, resentment declines. If resentment is a habit, the only way to break it is to replace the habit with something opposite. Exercise compassion toward yourself and then toward your spouse. Have empathy; it’s where compassion begins. Empathy is trying to see a situation from another person’s point of view. Remember, there are always two sides to every story.

5. Get help from a professional (if you need it).

A counselor or therapist can help you get to the root of your resentment. If you are habitually resentful, you can reignite the compassion in your marriage with just a little help.

Choose Compassion Instead

It may not be easy, but the more compassion you have in your marriage, the less room resentment has to live. Compassion can be contagious, so the more understanding you show your spouse, the more they may offer you. Healthy relationships start with compassion, genuine care, and concern for the wellbeing of each person. If you want to reduce resentment in your marriage and help your relationship thrive, choose compassion and grace instead of resentment.

Related blogs:

Why Compassion is One of the Most Important Qualities in a Healthy Marriage

How to Be More Compassionate to Your Spouse

Practical Ways to Practice Generosity in Marriage

Sources:

In Marriage, It’s Compassion or Resentment

Dealing with Resentment in Your Marriage

How to Stop Resentment from Ruining Your Marriage

Newsflash: Sometimes your spouse is going to make you plain mad.

(Not to mention you’ll inevitably do something to annoy the heck out of them.) 

Something is said, something is done without you being informed, something is left undone… 

And the blood starts to boil. 

Being angry is perfectly normal, and usually, things can be worked through. Mistakes and misunderstandings are a normal part of any relationship, especially a marriage. 

But it’s how a person responds in their anger that can help find a resolution or derail the marriage train. Passive-aggressiveness in marriage not only throws the relationship off its tracks, but it’s also downright destructive. 

Passive-aggressive behavior in marriage is when a person expresses anger or annoyance in an indirect way.1  

For example: 

  • One person forgot to put the dishes away. The other says, Wow, look at all these dishes in here. Sure would be nice if they were in the cabinet where they belong… 
  • One said something that embarrassed the other last night in front of friends. The embarrassed person hasn’t spoken a word to the other since thinking their silence will wake their spouse up to what they did wrong
  • One spouse left their dirty socks on the bed when they came home. The other nonchalantly throws them in the trash can and walks away with a smile. 

A passive-aggressive response in marriage is marked with quiet bitterness. It’s often a way to punish the offender emotionally, letting them “wallow in their sin” for a while. The “offended” seemingly avoids the conflict while putting the “offender” in a place of guilt, shame, and discomfort. It’s a power-play, a form of manipulation, and a highly ineffective way of dealing with conflict and strengthening a marriage.2, 3 

Just in case I haven’t been too clear on this yet: Passive-aggressiveness is not good for a marriage.4 

And yet, we all tend to act passive-aggressively at times. Fortunately, you can avoid it. 

How can you and your spouse end passive-aggressive behavior in your marriage? 

Talk about the importance of checking your anger before you respond.

It’s essential to pause and examine your emotions. Ask yourself, Okay, how am I feeling toward my spouse right now? I’m obviously frustrated. But am I being bitter? Am I trying to make my spouse feel ashamed or guilty? Am I expressing my feelings in a healthy way?

Agree to avoid dwelling on it.

This is when you replay the thing that has offended you over and over again in your mind. It builds negative energy and makes you even angrier the more you think about it. Decide together to talk about an issue directly, respectfully, and in a timely manner. 

Practice addressing an issue directly.

Establish some ground rules for working through more serious issues respectfully. Agree to sincerely express emotions with each other. To avoid ruminating, it might be helpful to have a 24-hour rule. If either of you has any beef with the other, you’ll address it in a civil manner within 24 hours.

Have weekly check-in meetings to resolve hanging issues.

Establish a regular time to meet together over coffee and simply connect. Use that time to calmly get anything out in the open that needs to be hashed out. 

  1. Hey, would you mind putting up the dishes tonight? I think it might’ve been forgotten yesterday. 
  2. Do you remember that thing you said last night? It was a little embarrassing. I know you didn’t mean harm, and I totally forgive you already. But I just wanted you to know how I felt.
  3. I know this is silly, but leaving socks out really bugs me. Would you mind throwing those in the hamper when you come in from work? 

Consider what you each are holding back from the past.

Is there something between you and your spouse in the past that causes passive-aggressiveness to creep into your marriage? Or perhaps from a previous relationship? We sometimes don’t even realize how these events shape how we handle present issues. Wrestling with them isn’t easy, but it helps you. 

Choose one of these strategies to work through and talk about as a couple this week. There’s always room to strengthen your marriage, and figuring out how to eliminate passive-aggressiveness is a major step to take toward a healthier relationship. 

Related Blogs:

5 Things To Do When You Feel Disconnected From Your Spouse

Is It Good To Fight In Marriage?

Help! My Spouse And I Can’t Stop Fighting!

The #1 Things That Can Secretly Ruin Your Marriage

Sources: 

1 Passive-Aggression

2 What is Passive-Aggressive Behavior? What Are Some of the Signs?

3 What is Passive-Aggressive Behavior?

4 Exhausting Silence: Emotional Costs of Withholding Complaints

Can A Marriage Survive Without Trust?

Tuning in can help you build trust.

When the trust was broken in my marriage, I wondered if we could survive without it.

Trust is a cornerstone of marriage. When we trust our partner, we feel emotionally safe with them. This safety allows for deeper connection and drives us to endure tough times when they arise. Trust is not only important for the health of our relationship but also for our physical health. 

For more than 40 years, Dr. John Gottman has been studying what makes a marriage work. He found that the number one issue for couples was trust and betrayal. During his study, social psychologists asked people in relationships, “What is the most desirable quality you’re looking for in a partner when you’re dating?” The number one response was trustworthiness.

Dr. Gottman found what many of us would agree with: Trust is essential to healthy relationships. 

So, how do we build trust? Trust is created in the small moments. Dr. Gottman calls these sliding door moments. “In any interaction, there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away from your partner.” One moment may not be that important when you think of it by itself, but if you continually turn toward your spouse in the small moments, you’re building trust. If you continually turn away from your spouse, you’re eroding trust.

But what happens when there’s betrayal?

Betrayal can come in many forms. It can be loud and big or subtle and discrete. You experience betrayal when you discover that your spouse is hiding information from you. Or when they withhold support when you need it. You feel betrayed when you cannot entirely rely on your partner. 

When we feel betrayed, it’s common to ask the question, “How can I ever trust them again?” But, here’s the good news: It is possible to rebuild trust. Remember those sliding door moments? Rebuilding trust takes lots of those. It requires choosing to move toward your spouse in the small moments. Trust is a two-way street, and to rebuild trust, you both have to move toward each other. In my marriage, we realized we could rebuild trust, but it would take time and intentionality. 

Dan Yoshimoto, a graduate student of Dr. Gottman, found in the study that the basis of building trust is attunement. He broke down the idea of attunement with an acronym:

Awareness of your partner’s emotion

Turning toward the emotion

Tolerance of two different viewpoints

Understanding your partner

Non-defensive responses to your partner

Responding with Empathy

When we are attuned to our spouse, we are better able to build trust.

In the book What Makes Love Last? Gottman and Silver lay out the following four methods for communicating with your partner that fosters trust through attunement.

1. Put your feelings into words.

It can be challenging to articulate what you feel. There’s no shame in that. Just communicate that to your partner. 

2. Ask open-ended questions.

Avoid close-ended questions that elicit one-word responses. Open-ended questions ask for a story and show genuine curiosity on your part. 

3. Follow up with statements that deepen the connection.

When your partner responds to one of your open-ended questions, reflect back on what you heard. In your own words, paraphrase what they said. Don’t make assumptions, defend yourself, or bring the focus to you. 

4. Express compassion and empathy.

Don’t tell your partner how they should be feeling. Don’t react defensively. Instead, hold space for their feelings, all of them, even if they feel uncomfortable to you. This creates a deeper connection and a sense of emotional safety. Your partner now knows they can talk to you about the hard stuff.

Trust is the bedrock of a healthy marriage. When it’s broken, it takes time to heal. Rebuilding trust between my wife and I wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Marriage can survive without trust, but it’s not as healthy. To have a healthy, life-giving marriage, choose to rebuild trust.

Related Blogs:

7 Ways to Increase Trust In Marriage

What Does Trust Look Like In A Healthy Marriage?

How To Rebuild Trust In Marriage

Sources:

John Gottman on Trust and Betrayal

The Deeper Meaning of Trust