One morning not long ago, my husband, Lloyd, went to work wearing his fashionably correct business suit, his silk paisley tie, and his beige raincoat. As usual, he carried his leather briefcase—and the same old bright purple lunch box with “My Pet Monster” lettered on the front.
You have to love a man like that.
After he left, I went grocery shopping. At the store, all the tabloids featured stories of the rich and famous and their unhappy relationships. I have to admit that sometimes I have envied their affluence, especially during those times when it seems by comparison that my husband and I have mainly debts and children. But reading those tabloids reminded me that Lloyd and I have many things far more important than material wealth. The trust we share, for example, is of inestimable value in today’s world.
In our twenty-six years of marriage, we have discovered that there are actually several levels of trust. The first is the most obvious: spouses should be able to trust each other to be faithful.
My husband and I had been married about three years when I realized that I trusted him completely at this level. A friend came to me in tears and told me that she had seen her husband driving with a young woman in his car. My friend was convinced that her husband was having an affair. I could not understand how she could reach that conclusion with no other evidence. If I had seen my husband in that situation, I would have assumed only that he was giving the young woman a ride for the sake of her security. I don’t take Lloyd for granted, but I know that he avoids spending time alone with other women. He knows that I observe the same caution about spending time with other men.
Marriage vows should place unbreachable walls around a couple. Sometimes people selfishly and mistakenly see these as prison walls from which to escape. But committed couples can see them as walls around a beautiful garden. With so much peace and happiness being cultivated inside, why would anyone want to go outside?
The next level of trust became apparent to me a few years later in our marriage when I realized that I trusted Lloyd never to hurt me deliberately. Even if he said or did something that someone else could possibly construe as thoughtless or insulting, I would not see it that way, because I know he did not mean it hurtfully. I know he is always—and in all ways—on my side.
This level of trust includes unconditional acceptance. Lloyd is the only person in the world who will still love me if I have been weak, whiny, imperfect, or childish. We two know a thousand little details about each other—some of them embarrassing or painful—and yet we rely on each other never to use the knowledge in a hurtful way.
Thoughtfully, he never chews his ice around me because he knows it makes my teeth ache and my hair stand on end. I know that he often gets embarrassed when surprised by something inappropriate in a movie and averts his eyes by putting his head on my shoulder. He understands, or at least tolerates, my enthusiasm for “Star Trek”; he isn’t jealous of the huge picture of Captain Kirk in our room and never complains when he bumps his head on the model of the Enterprise hanging from the ceiling. I know how much he loves his old Fiero and understand why he dreads letting anyone else drive it.
Undoubtedly in every marriage the partners have their share of strong personal preferences, peeves, foibles, and weaknesses. Some of ours could be sources of contention between us—if we chose to make them so. We have chosen instead to accept each other unconditionally, as we are.
The third level of trust we have discovered is a complete openness that allows each of us, when we operate on this level, to be a better person because of our relationship.
A few years ago, for example, summer brought us several unusual expenses. There were the costs of sending children to camp or to visit relatives, and we had to replace some household appliances. When I ranted that there was not enough money to go around and that some bills were not going to get paid in the month that was upon us, Lloyd reminded me, “But look what we have been able to do this summer. Let’s focus on that instead of on what we can’t do. We’ll be happier if we have more gratitude.” Because I knew that he was right and that I could learn from him in this situation, I didn’t allow myself to feel defensive. An important part of openness between marriage partners is being able to accept suggestions and ideas from a spouse without assuming that any criticism was implied.
The deeper levels of trust in a marriage can be hard to achieve; some come only after years of shared struggles. For example, I have gone through pregnancy and childbirth nine times with Lloyd at my side. Those experiences, along with the responsibility (and sometimes heartache) of rearing each child, could either drive a couple apart or cement them together. We have chosen to let our shared experiences be like cement between us. We hope to learn much more about levels of trust—learning that can only come if we work together. Perhaps this is part of what it means to “cleave unto [each other] and none else” (D&C 42:22).
Besides the shared hard times, there are also shared good times—the indescribable sweetness of family life. It may not be full of the thrills and excitement that some people seek, but we had all the excitement we could handle not long ago when we helped prepare four science fair projects at once. Our children have brought us so much more than responsibility and occasional heartaches; they have been a large part of the happiness in the garden my husband and I are cultivating.
I have heard many people say, “You have to work at marriage.” In many ways this is true. But a strong marriage is not all work; there is also plenty of humor and play. I have known many couples who have achieved the levels of trust mentioned here, and their marriages are filled with fun.
I am grateful for my knowledge of eternity, because the measly fifty years my husband and I might spend together in this life just isn’t enough. We want it to go on. When we put our arms around each other, it doesn’t matter what is happening outside our garden. The earth could be shaking and falling down around it, but here inside, everything is all right. For us, that is a start on something we would like to build on forever.
This article may be the basis for a family home evening discussion or for individual consideration:
How does trust enable married couples to live more joyfully with each other?
Do my words and actions generate trust?
What can I do to build trust in my marriage or in other relationships?