Imagine you’re on the Family Feud television show. The show host steps up to you and your opponent and says: “We asked 100 people this question, and the top three answers are on the board. What is the key to intimacy in a marriage?” I can imagine a lot of words that might race through your mind. Sexual compatibility. Time. Romance. Open Communication. Compromise. Forgiveness. Kindness.
All of those are good answers. But I’d like to suggest that there’s a strong case to be made that trust is an important key that unlocks the door to emotional and physical intimacy in marriage. Before I make that case, I’d like to address what trust really is, how trust is earned, and different levels of trust.
What is Trust?
In the context of the marriage relationship, trust means you have placed your confidence in your spouse. When you trust your spouse, you are confident that they:
- are who they say they are…that they are authentic…the real deal.
- will always speak the truth to you and will not keep secrets from you or share your secrets with others.
- will do what they say they’ll do…you can “take it to the bank” so to speak.
Levels of Trust
You trust some people more and some people less. That’s because some have made more deposits into your trust account than others. For example, the person I trust most in my life is my wife, Susan. Why? Well, it’s pretty simple actually. She’s earned it. She’s authentic. She always tells me the truth, does not keep secrets, and is an open door to me. As a result, she’s amassed a lot of wealth in the trust account. Likewise, I’ve amassed a lot of wealth in her trust account for the very same reasons.
On the other hand, there are many people I know but don’t know well, who have made smaller deposits into the trust account. They may be wonderful people, but not enough time has passed for me to really get to know who they really are and how they will really behave in the relationship.
And, over the years, there have been a few people I’ve encountered who have proven to be frauds, liars or deceivers. Their accounts have been completely depleted and no trust is there.
Trust Must Be Earned
Trust is not something that anyone owes you. It must be earned. Let me illustrate. When you get your paycheck, you deposit it into a bank. Then the bank pays you a little interest for keeping your money there. In the same way, each time your spouse shows their openness and authenticity, tells the truth or does what they said they’d do, a deposit is made in your trust account. The more deposits that are made, the more you trust them. On the other hand, if just one dark secret comes to light, one lie is told to you, it can completely deplete their trust account with you. Then they’ll have to start from scratch to make deposits to build up that trust once again.
A Breach of Trust Locks the Door to Intimacy
A breach of trust—a lie, an affair, a secret addiction—will quickly slam the door shut to intimacy and closeness in your relationship. When those things are discovered, there is a “run on the bank” and every deposit ever made is suddenly gone. When there is a breach of trust by a spouse, the other is often deeply wounded and in enormous pain. To avoid any more pain, they understandably put up protective barriers or walls around them. Emotional or physical intimacy quickly disappears and it will take a lot of work by the offending party to rebuild trust in the relationship.
Other things may not seem as serious, but cause a lack of trust. Unwillingness to be open for inspection, careless spending, verbal abuse, and inconsistent living, privately and publicly, all can be culprits. When there is a lack of trust, the door to intimacy may be open, but certainly not very wide. There is an underlying sense of doubt and a feeling of insecurity. And when a spouse, especially a wife, does not feel safe, both emotional and physical intimacy may be there, but are usually very restrained. Being honest in hard things may cause a major setback now, but will eventually build even more trust and greater intimacy.
Being honest in hard things may cause a major setback now, but will eventually build even more trust and greater intimacy.
Trust Unlocks the Door to Intimacy
As trust increases between a husband and wife, there is less and less fear of being hurt. They feel safer and can be more vulnerable. The door to intimacy then opens and the couple can share their desires, hopes, dreams, and bodies freely with one another. The more you trust your spouse, the more you want to invite them into your life and give yourself to them. What is your level of trust with your spouse? Have you experienced trust in your relationship that has led to deeper intimacy? Please share your thoughts.