Trust is the foundation of any relationship. It is built by making and keeping promises. These promises are not the big things we say but all of the little things we do that keep the promises we made. Therefore, making and keeping promises means everything.
When you break a promise, you lose trust — the foundation of a relationship is eroded. It is exceptionally difficult to restore that trust. A lot of work must be put in place to rebuild the trust and is focused solely on making right what you have done to break the promise you made in the first place.
Jim and Suzanne put a lot of work last weekend into rebuilding trust. They are on a thin footing right now, but it is real, and based on the little things they do and not the big things they say, they have a bright future together.
If I regret anything this weekend, I regret that, against Marti’s objection, I stubbornly introduced the traditional wedding vows — the “have”s and the “hold”s “from this day forward,” etc. — instead of sticking with the promises they spent the whole day creating out of the ashes of their fore relationship. Their promises were heartfelt and beautiful and gritty and based on the little things they can do.
By bringing in the traditional vows, I forced them to say a bunch of big things that most people don’t even think about, much less know what they mean. It was my weakness, trying to satisfy my memory of traditional weddings through the sound of the familiar words spoken. Their own promises were much more intimate and something real to build on, and all that was necessary. It’s like an old friend of mine used to say all the time, “Why be cute when you’re already beautiful.”
Emotionally, trust is where you expose your vulnerabilities to someone, believing they will not take advantage of your openness. Being vulnerable is risky business. Jim and Suzanne were extremely vulnerable to each other and that’s largely why they were able to make such progress.
To win trust you must be reliable, consistent, communicate that you have concern for the partner’s needs and find ways to “smile” or other social cues that build rapport. The question we must continue to ask ourselves in a marriage is whether what we do demonstrates these elements. Are we being consistent? Reliable? Are we demonstrating that we are predictable as a partner? More than anything, have we proven to our partner that we will act in caring and loving ways towards them regardless of what the future holds?