THE SPIRIT OF MARRIAGE: EPISODE 3 – Part II of FRIENDSHIP AND PARTNERSHIP IN MARRIAGE: Starting with Trust
A fourth suggestion on how to embed trust in your marriage is maintaining OPENNESS. This is sharing with your spouse what’s going on in your life, at work or business and so on; giving your spouse access to what’s going on in your life; not keeping secrets. If you are secretive and you keep things from your spouse, your actions are saying, ‘I don’t trust you’ and you are also saying ‘You shouldn’t trust me because I might be hiding something that’s detrimental or hurtful to you’.
Let’s say a wife wants to use her husband’s laptop while he is out of the house but it has a password which she doesn’t know. So she calls him to ask for it. 1st scenario – He sends it by text. The next day, she needs the laptop, he is out of the house. She uses the password from the day before. 2nd scenario – He hesitates then asks, ‘Can’t you wait till I come back?’, ‘Must you use it now?’, before he gives it to her. 3rd scenario – He gives it to her. Later that day when she needs to use it again, he is at home but since he gave her the password earlier, she doesn’t ask him only to find that he has changed the password. The first scenario shows trust-building behaviour, the other two show trust-killers. A spouse in either of those two situations will wonder, ‘What are you hiding? Why the secrecy?’
A person might become secretive because the spouse is overly suspicious or is monitoring and spying on him/her – these are trust-killers. You know, things like checking your spouse’s emails, browsing history; or wanting to know where they went to, who was there and so on. There is a level of curiosity about your spouse’s daily life that is healthy and encouraged but it gets to a level where your spouse will start to feel suffocated and may respond by pulling away which might translate into trust-killing behaviour such as being reluctant to let you have the password to their phone or laptop.
To build trust therefore, there should be openness as well as giving one’s spouse some spy-free space.
It is important to understand that such suspicion sometimes comes from lack of security or low self-esteem. A couple of years ago, burglars came to my home at night and stole things by reaching through the windows. For quite a while after that, I would wake up at the slightest noise and go from window to window, peering round the curtain, checking that everything was okay. Alhamdulillah, that phase of feeling unsafe has passed. But that is what it is like when your spouse feels unsure of him or herself in the relationship. Insecurity or low self-esteem could have come from some circumstance that has nothing to do with you or the marriage itself. Whatever the case may be, its presence could make your spouse or you unwilling to be trusting or to be trustworthy. Or the nosiness may just be a habit picked up over time from parents, perhaps.
Let’s look at this issue of openness and suspicion from two perspectives.
If you find that you are very suspicious of your spouse without good reason or that you always feel the need to know where your spouse is going and what your spouse is doing, be careful, because you would easily misjudge your spouse’s actions. There is the story of a woman whose husband was very suspicious of her. One day, he saw a car that looked very much like hers in an area far from her office at a time when he expected her to be at work. Later on that day, he asked her about it and she said she didn’t leave the office. He kept insisting that he saw a car very much like hers until it turned into an argument – not because she did anything wrong but because he was seeing her actions through the screen of his own imagination. There are cars that look so much like yours that if you weren’t driving yours at that very moment, you’d wonder if someone had stolen your car. I also know of instances where people have attempted to open stranger’s cars because the car looked exactly like theirs. It has happened even to me – I mean, I walked right up to a car thinking it was my husband’s and I think I reached for the passenger door before I realised that there were strange men sitting in it and the strange men gave me strange looks then smiled in an understanding way when they realised that I had thought the car was mine. But, if I had an extremely suspicious husband, he would think I was up to no good. Yes, there may be times when one may have good reason to suspect one’s spouse but unless your spouse has behaved in a way that is definitely suspicious, look for reasons to trust your spouse, don’t reasons to doubt them. Make excuses for your spouse until you have given them a chance to explain their actions or you have verified that they are being untrustworthy.
If you are the one being monitored by your spouse when you know there is no need for that and you know that you are absolutely trustworthy, a suggestion for building trust is to let your spouse know that you are aware of their extreme need to know what you are saying, doing, etc. Let him/her know that there is nothing to fear, then go beyond words. Your spouse always wants to check your phone – share or remove the password, give your spouse the phone to hold or help you dial or compose a message. Your spouse eavesdrops – speak loudly and clearly and in their presence. Your spouse always wants to know where you are going – invite him/her on outings with you as much as possible. Your spouse always wants to know who will be at gatherings with you – tell them all about it. Send them pictures. If, however, you know that your outings, interactions, decisions and actions are suspicion-creating, then change before you venture to share.
These ideas won’t work in all situations and for all people and for all situations but there is some use in them. You are giving your spouse the opportunity to join you in building trust. Remember, a spouse may open the door of trust but the other has to be ready to walk through it by acting in a trust-building way. I mean, for instance, if you have trust issues, your spouse would give you the password and you would think to yourself, ‘The only reason why he/she gave me the password is to deceive me. I am sure there are hidden files on this computer. What of the tab? Or the office computer?’ Don’t be imprisoned by your spouse’s trust issues but support them with your actions; if you are the one with trust issues, then liberate yourself. Remind yourself that your spouse is not that person (parent, ex-, sibling, whoever) who made you feel that people are not to be trusted, that you will not be given trust in your marriage or whatever. Remind yourself that you – and no one else – are responsible for building up your marriage. You build it up emotion by emotion, word by word and action by action.
Suggestion 6: READINESS TO TAKE A STEP TO TRUSTWORTHINESS
When I just got married, my husband would often go to another room to make calls. The trust-killing option open to me was to go and listen at the door quietly so that I could hear what he was saying and figure out whether he was saying something that I should be worried about. Alhamdulillah, I took the trust-building option – I told him what I had observed and asked him why he did that. He said he often felt he might be disturbing me especially when the calls would sometimes go on for a while. I said I didn’t really mind so he stopped going elsewhere to take his calls except when he knew for certain it might disturb me such as I am watching the television or carrying on another conversation. He did the trust-building act of being open even when he could have said, ‘I can receive and make calls wherever I like. Don’t you trust me?’ When you go out of your way to make your spouse feel secure and at ease, you are acting in a trust-building manner.
Suggestion 7: Always let your words and actions make it clear to your spouse that you are interested in protecting their interests, preferences and choices. Once, when my late husband had to make a career decision, he spoke to me about it. I knew what I would choose if I had to make the choice for him but by that time I had learnt the importance of giving space to one’s spouse and putting one’s spouse’s interests and needs at the top of one’s list. So I avoided telling him what I wanted him to do. He consulted with friends and family and when he told me his decision, it was exactly what I would have picked but I asked if that was what he really wanted, he said yes. Then he said to me, ‘thank you for not pushing me’. Many times we mean well, we see what our spouse ought to do and what our spouse needs. Sometimes, though, as part of the trust building process, as part of saying through actions, ‘You can trust me to look out for your interest and needs,’ we have to not be quick to think and act for our spouse but to let our actions say, ‘Let’s talk about what you want, what will be best for you.’
This is the end of demonstrating trust in order to build Friendship and Partnership.
Here is a little something that you and your spouse might find useful. Each of you thinks about things, big or small, which the other person either shared with you or allowed you to know or gave you access to, which makes you feel that you are trusted, which makes the very idea of hiding something from your spouse or monitoring your spouse is unnecessary. When you have thought of these things, share them and keep building on them.
Next episode, we will turn our attention to another aspect of Friendship and Partnership which is The Right Investments.
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