In today’s #MarriageMonday, we’re talking about the trust bucket each of us have in marriage, and the truth about what it looks like to refill that bucket after trust is broken.
Jill: Stephen Covey once said, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” This statement is so true. Trust is the foundation of a relationship. So what do we do when trust has been broken?
Mark: This is the work we get to do most every week. Whether we’re coaching or doing an intensive, we regularly sit across from couples who are struggling with this very thing. They’re asking, “How do we recover from broken trust?”
Jill: After our marriage crisis ten years ago, we found ourselves in this very same place. We knew we wanted to make it work, but how could I learn to trust Mark again after his affair? Additionally, how could he trust me to not repeat some of the patterns that led to disconnection in our marriage?
Mark: When we get married, it’s like we each have a bucket of trust, and it’s (usually) full. We don’t have a reason not to trust one another. When trust is broken in little things, it’s like sloshing a little bit of water out of the bucket. If that’s repeated, you can lose quite a bit of water! However, when something big happens like infidelity, or deception, it’s like we completely dump out the trust bucket.
Jill: That is so true. Once that happens, there’s not a trust spigot you can just go to and “start over.” You can’t just say, “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.” Trust doesn’t work that way. Instead, the trust bucket has to be filled one drop at a time.
Rebuilt Trust = Consistent Changed Behavior + Time
Mark: The only way to rebuild trust is through consistent changed behavior over time. That’s the equation. How much time? That depends on the situation, but I can guarantee that it’s not brief.
Jill: Each of the drops we’re adding back into our bucket are a consistent changed behavior. Humility puts trust in the bucket. Kind, patient conversations put trust in the bucket. Owning what we did and the hurt that it caused puts trust in the bucket. Making consistent changes in your behavior puts trust in the bucket. This happens one changed behavior at a time.
Mark: After our marriage crisis ten years ago, this is the exact road we had to walk. There were often times when a memory would come up about my affair, and Jill would feel insecure or unsure. These were the times when I would need to add drops to the trust bucket. I would need to repeat a genuine apology. I would need to listen to her without defensiveness. Beyond that, deleting social media accounts, going to counseling sessions, and having vulnerable conversations with Jill were all drops back in the trust bucket.
Jill: This wasn’t a short process, and I had my own trust rebuilding to do! I had to show Mark that I wouldn’t be harsh with him, be overly critical of his emotions, and repeat old unhealthy patterns myself. Over time (months/years), that trust bucket was refilled.
How Full is Your Trust Bucket?
Mark: Today, we want to invite you to consider how full your trust bucket is. Is it close to full? If that’s the case, protect your bucket. This may seem like a silly phrase, but this is the season of life I find myself in. After Jill and I have refilled our bucket, I want to do everything to protect how full that bucket is. Keep investing in your marriage to solidify how well your bucket is protected.
Jill: Maybe you have had water sloshed around from the little things. Is your bucket half-empty? This often happens through patterns of disconnection (what we like to call slow fades), unfulfilled promises to change, or repeated negative behaviors like bursts of anger, excess spending, minimizing emotion, etc. I want to encourage you to start putting drops back in the trust bucket now. Don’t wait until something big happens and that bucket is empty.
Mark: Or maybe you find yourself with completely broken trust. Is your bucket completely empty? I want you to know that you’re not alone, and I want to invite you into the journey of rebuilding trust. (In fact, you can find the whole roadmap right here.) If you are both on the same page about wanting to rebuild trust, this is your opportunity to refill the bucket drop-by-drop. I specifically want to encourage you to stay steady. Set the expectation that this will take time, and stay committed to the journey of refilling that trust bucket.
Jill: If you find yourself in a waiting season, I also want you to know that your wait is not wasted.
Mark: We have to recognize that, in all reality, it takes very little time to dump the bucket, but it takes a lot of time to refill that bucket. It is absolutely possible, but it’s important to have a realistic expectation of what that journey looks like.
Jill: This is our story, and we’ve seen it in countless other marriages as well. It is possible for trust to be rebuilt. It’s a two-way street, so it requires effort from both people, but we firmly believe the truth that trust can be rebuilt in a marriage. Trust can be rebuilt in your marriage.
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