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Words That Build Trust in a Marriage

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The words we use can be a key factor in building trust. Recognize their power for change, and they become powerful tools in your relationship.

“Your call is important to us. Please hold for the next representative.”

What’s your reaction when you hear those words? You’re probably thinking, If you really thought my call was important, you’d have someone pick up the phone and talk to me. The company’s words are carefully crafted to make us want to trust them, but they often ring hollow and insincere.

Have you ever been talking to your spouse about something important, but they seem a million miles away? They might say all the right words (“I’m listening . . . that makes sense . . . yes, I’m paying attention . . . whatever you decide is fine.”), but it feels like you’ve got a recording that says, “All of our representatives are busy.”

In marriage, we can’t automate our communication. Trust is built in a relationship through words and time. The words we use early in a relationship help us determine the level of trust we have with the other person. Over time, that trust increases as we learn to feel safe with them, knowing that we’ll still be loved and accepted just the way we are — even when we disagree.

The words we use can be a key factor in building trust. Here are a few examples of words and phrases that characterize high trust in a relationship. Block time to go through them with your spouse and reflect on how often each one appears in your conversations. It’s not a test that you pass or fail; it’s simply a chance to evaluate your communication and strategize for growth.

“I was wrong.”

I was absolutely sure the roofers would paint the trim boards they had to replace. “They wouldn’t leave a job unfinished,” I confidently said to my wife. She, however, believed we would have to do it ourselves. I was frustrated that she couldn’t understand the obvious — which made it even tougher when the roofer said, “No, we don’t do any painting.”

I could have ranted about the business and how it made no sense. But my relationship with my wife is what’s important, not my relationship with the roofer. I took a deep breath and said, “You were so right, and I was so wrong.” It was that simple — and we were OK.

Strong people admit when they’re wrong, which builds trust. Weak people ignore their mistakes or defend them, which weakens trust.

“Tell me about it.”

It’s easy to ask, “How was your day?” But since your spouse can respond with a one-word answer, it feels routine and disengaged. Instead, say, “Tell me about your lunch with your friends today.” It’s an open-ended question that shows you were listening and allows them to share the details. Listen carefully. Ask clarifying questions. It builds trust because it shows your genuine engagement.

Any time your spouse tells you about something that happened, slow down, look them in the eye and say, “Tell me about it.”

“Help me understand.”

Disagreements start with a difference in perspective. Your spouse has their own way of seeing things. Most couples argue by repeating their position louder and louder; but when their spouse is talking, they’re not listening — they’re just planning what they’ll say when it’s their turn.

When you feel your emotions rising during a discussion, slow down and say, “Help me understand.” Set aside your agenda and listen without interrupting or planning your reply. Ask clarifying questions without adding anything to what they’re saying. If you just let them talk, they’ll see your focused attention as a gift — and will be more inclined to do the same with you. “Help me understand,” is a phrase that de-escalates tough conversations and opens the door to genuine, trusting connection.

How Healthy is the Conflict in your Marriage?

No matter how much you and your spouse love each other, eventually you’re going to disagree about something. As a result, a lot of people try to shy away from conflict or avoid it altogether. But what if conflict was actually healthy for your relationship? This FREE, 7-part video series from Focus on the Family can help you and your spouse see disagreements differently and use conflict to learn about each other and strengthen your marriage.

“What can I do differently?”

When someone we trust genuinely asks us our opinion, it feels good. When you say, “What can I do differently?” it gives your spouse permission to speak into your life. You’re not asking for a list of things you need to fix but for ways you can fine-tune the good things in your relationship. You want to grow, and your spouse will appreciate the invitation to be part of the journey.

“I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Gratefulness only has an impact when it’s expressed. Whenever you have a success, tell your spouse about it so they can share in your joy. They may not have been directly involved, but let them know you appreciate their support — and the opportunity to do these life experiences together. In marriage, two become one — so both are a part of every outcome.

“What do you think? This one is your call.”

You’re going out to dinner, and you both have different places you’d like to go to. If it really doesn’t matter, let your spouse make the decision. Then agree that you’ll decide next time.

In marriage, picking your battles is important. Hold the little decisions loosely and save your best communication and negotiating skills for those issues that really matter most.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but simply a place to begin. Talk with your spouse about other words and phrases you might add in your own relationship. When they’re uniquely yours, it builds trust because you can share your heart and know you’ll be valued and treasured. Each trusting conversation reinforces the foundation your marriage is being built on.

Scripture tells us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” If words are that important, we should not be casual about them. Recognize their power for change, and they become powerful tools in your relationship.

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Your Teen Needs You Most of All

No parent of teens is perfect and even the best can learn how to better connect with their son or daughter. Get practical action steps to better connect with your teenager in 8 Essential Tips for Parenting Your Teen in this FREE video series!

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.
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Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.

Reconnected: The Digital Experience

Is the love there, but not the spark? Reawaken fun in your marriage and move from roommates to soulmates again with the help of this 7-part online video experience. Learn how to connect emotionally and spiritually as husband and wife using techniques such as dreaming together and establishing deep, heartfelt communication. The Digital Experience includes 7 teaching videos, an online study guide and access to additional tools and resources to help spouses reconnect.

Next Steps: Marriage Assessment

We want your marriage to be thriving and healthy. Take the free Marriage Assessment from Focus on the Family to learn how to strengthen your bond with your spouse and get the tools to help you need to grow closer together. 

Next Steps: Fruit of the Spirit Devotionals for Couples

The Fruit of the Spirit Devotional is a free series of nine short videos to get you into God’s Word and inspire you to seek the Holy Spirit’s help in loving your spouse.

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