As we continue our blog series on Trust, remember that LIFE has recently released its online course, “Rescuing Trust” where you can learn the principles and skills to grow and restore trust in your marriage. Go to

Which part of your brain do you want managing your marriage?

In these past few blogs we have been examining how to build trust through a conscious effort to make and keep promises and to make regular deposits into one another’s Emotional and Trust Bank Account. Another great gift from these interest bearing accounts: Even when something bad or stressful happens in your life or relationship, the end result does not have to be negative or hurtful, depending on how we respond to the challenge. Let’s take a look at our human brain. You see the image above divides our brain into three general areas: The Reptilian Brain, left over from our ancient ancestors, is focused on instinct, dominance, survival, and the need to be right. The Mammal Brain where our emotions are formed, and the Human, or reasoning part of our Brain.

Pop Quiz: Which one of those brain areas do you NOT want in charge of your most important relationship? Right, we don’t want the Reptilian Brain and it’s need to dominate, fight, and survive in charge when having a crucial conversation with our partner. Pop Quiz part 2: Which part of the brain do we humans tend to default to when our marriage is struggling and our fear, resentment, and mistrust are escalating? Right again, that part that pumps all the oxygen out of your brain to your fight or flee muscles, leaving you with the reasoning power of a lizard in your time of need.

Profound results of moving from our reptilian to our human brain

As you consciously move out of the so-called “reptilian” part of your brain that is governed by your reactive survival and self-defense instincts and your need to be right, and instead move to the thinking and reasoning portions of your brain, you will be led to make deposits into your own and other’s emotional bank accounts in challenging times (such as those times of conflict I mentioned in the previous blog post).

As you stay conscious and in your human or Responsive brain you will consider possible results before you speak or act. You will be much more likely to invite ultimately fulfilling and joyful results, not the depressing and stressful ones you might have become accustomed to by reacting with defensiveness or aggression. How would that be to end a discussion with your partner regarding an issue of conflict, in a better more trusting place than when you began? You can!

Don’t fear emotions in your communication, just manage them

By the way, some people who fear their own or their partner’s
expressions of emotion might look at the brain diagram and say, “Well, I sure
don’t think we should manage our relationship from our Mammal Brain where we
experience our emotions.” We often tell couples they don’t have to leave their
emotions at the door when dealing with relationship issues, but to process and
express those emotions through their reasoning Human brain to help them
determine the most healthy ways to express them. Emotions are natural, but we
are accountable for how we manifest them.

If Margo ever has
what I perceive as a bad moment toward me I might feel a brief stab of hurt or
anger, but not for long. I know Margo. She has made so many deposits into my
emotional and trust piggy bank that the inevitable issues between us don’t come
close to overdrawing the account. I know she is still on the journey with me
and that a brief misstep by either of us does not endanger our ultimate
destination. That brings a feeling of deep confidence and safety to our relationship.

As we wrap up the discussion on promises and piggy banks, please do not take the simple vision I gave you of a checkbook or piggy bank beyond what it is meant to be, just a simple visualization of the good that comes from making and keeping promises and treating one another with kindness and respect. Don’t turn it into a scorecard and spend your time obsessing over perceived overdrafts and spending limits. If you stay out of your reptilian brain and conscious of your promises and have good intentions, you will inevitably see your relationship accounts grow.