One barrier many of us encounter in sexual intimacy is our inability to trust our husbands.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand my own trust issues.
Husbands can do things to damage our trust in them. Pornography use, infidelity, physical or emotional abuse, and a host of other things can betray our trust in significant ways. These kinds of things can require time, outside support, and a great deal of effort to work through. (Unrepentant sins of these kinds are beyond the scope of this post.)
In smaller ways, too, we may think that our husbands demonstrate their untrustworthiness. They forget to take out the garbage. They forget information that we’ve already shared with them several times. They stop romancing us once they’re married. Or they romance us only when they want sex.
When I married, I assumed that I couldn’t trust my husband since he was a man. Then, when he did these small things, I interpreted them as evidence that he was untrustworthy and that my assumptions had been correct.
In order to trust, I needed to feel safe—and this was especially the case when it came to sexual intimacy. When I didn’t feel emotionally safe with my husband, how could I welcome him into my body and heart? Could I really trust him with my feelings, with my insecurities, with my imperfect body, with my sexuality?
A couple years ago, I hit a decision point in my efforts to work on sex. I could have stopped where I was and we would have been okay. Big Guy and I were getting along pretty well, and we had a pretty good sex life. We were both enjoying our marriage. Life was good.
But I sensed a disturbance. My body was wholly my husband’s at that point—but I knew that my heart wasn’t. I was still afraid to trust him. I didn’t feel completely safe emotionally. Having made such big strides in the sex department, I’d caught glimpses of what else could be—and I wanted to experience that.
There had been moments when I could see the depths of intimacy that were available in our marriage—if only I could trust my husband.
If he could just change, I thought, I’ll be able to trust him. I’m so tired of having to bear it all on my shoulders. It would be nice to finally be able to trust him.
So I launched a new phase of marital growth (what I referred to in my recent Delight Your Marriage podcast as “stealth growth opportunities” for my husband). I decided I was going to teach him to be trustworthy.
I began to look for occasions when I could invite him to demonstrate his trustworthiness: asking him to carry the laundry down to the basement for me, requesting that he listen to me talk through my problem before telling me how to fix it, telling him that I needed him to hold me for a few minutes before we began any sexy stuff, and so on.
Everything became an opportunity for him to demonstrate trustworthiness.
But I was nervous. What if he fails? How can I help him succeed?
I decided to talk more about my need to trust him. “Sweetie, I am working on being able to trust you, so it’s really important that you keep your word and show me that I can depend on you.” “Can I trust you to carry the laundry like you said you would?” “If you say you’re going to do this and don’t, I’m worried that I might lose trust. How can I help you follow through?” “It would help me if you would tell me things you love about my heart and not just my body when we make love tonight.” I tried to make it easy for him to do well. (Big Guy did not point out to me that my comments were patronizing, although I eventually saw that on my own.)
Because we’d come so far in our marriage, by now I really wanted him to succeed. Instead of looking for evidence of his untrustworthiness, I was now looking for the opposite. I decided to look for even the tiniest thing he did as evidence of trust. “You remembered how much I like raspberry custard. I’m glad I could trust you to get what I like.” “When you did what you promised today, it made me feel really safe.”
I wanted to inspire him to exhibit trustworthy behavior, so I looked for ways to encourage him. And I learned to look more closely at what he was doing.
It worked! I gradually saw that my husband was doing a good job of stepping up to the plate. He was following through with things. He showed me that he valued me. He messed up sometimes, but because I was seeing so much evidence of his trustworthiness, those times didn’t have much impact.
Now that I could trust him, I began to be more open with him sexually as well. I knew that it would be safe to share my heart with him. I knew I could trust him with my sexuality and that he would treasure that trust.
The intimacy in our marriage had launched to a whole new level.
I patted myself on the back for getting my husband to change. I told him I was happy to see how trustworthy he’d become. He got a puzzled look on his face as he pointed out that he hadn’t been doing anything differently. He thought he’d always done a good job of responding—when I took time to let him know when something was important.
He thought I was the one who’d changed because I was doing a better job of communicating my needs to him and paying attention to what he was doing.
Uh . . .
He was right. He always had done the things I was now seeing him do. I just hadn’t noticed before.
It turns out the stealth growth opportunity I’d designed had worked—but on me, not on him.
When I stopped looking at everything and assuming the worst, I was able to see the good, trustworthy man I had been married to all along. (If my husband had been in unrepentant sin against me, I’m sure the challenges would have been greater—your mileage may vary on this.)
I thought I was teaching my husband to be trustworthy. Instead, I’d been teaching myself to trust.
Growing in Faith
One of the amazing consequences of the work I’ve done in my marriage is how much carries over into my relationship with God.
I have been struggling recently in trusting God with some things in my life. It is hard to let go of lifelong habits—but I know that if I stick with it, I can do it.
I’m teaching myself to trust God.
When I make the choice to look for the evidence of God’s trustworthiness instead of making assumptions, I see his bounty all around me. The problem hasn’t been that God isn’t trustworthy. The problem has been that I haven’t looked to see what he has been doing all along.
It never ceases to amaze me that working on sexual intimacy with my husband has strengthened my relationship with God.
Shared with To Love, Honor & Vacuum