The Marriage Dance of Trust–and how to Recover from Stumbles

Invite and Inspire Your Partner to Join in the Relationship Dance

If you have worked with LIFE Marriage Retreats before, or read some of our blog posts and other materials over the years, you will note that the accountability to create positive results and grow the trust in your relationship starts with YOU. You don’t need to wait for your partner to be prepared or for them to make the first step. This is about Invite and Inspire. You invite your partner to trust you through the building of your own trustworthiness, and at the same time you Inspire them to build their own trustworthiness.

Dr. Dana Fillmore compares marriage to a dance. When one dancing partner changes the dance step or rhythm part way through a dance, their partner will likely try to adjust to match the new dance. In marriage, one partner can enormously influence their partner by changing their own intentions and behaviors, thus inviting their partner to join in this new and joyful marriage dance. Your influence is powerful.

Matt and Cindy’s Difficult Dance

We worked once with a couple named Matt and Cindy. They had experienced a long decline in their marriage relationship. Over the years they made promises to each other to change and improve and indeed there were brief periods of happier times, but things always settled back into previous behaviors and patterns. While they both were responsible for the relationship mess and Cindy had plenty to work on, both agreed that Matt had the more difficult time sticking to new relationship plans and commitments.

He would, for a time, be conscientious in spending time and having meaningful communication with Cindy, and being his word more completely, but then seemed to drift back into spending most of his free time with friends, or tinkering out in the garage, and slipping on his commitments, placing minimal energy into the relationship. They had both reached a point where they felt they had only one chance left to break through and find happiness so they came to a LIFE Marriage Retreat.

In the weeks leading up to the Retreat Matt worked hard to engage more fully in his relationship with Cindy, taking time for dates, helping more around the house, and even taking some initiative to engage in meaningful conversations with her. It was easy to see at the Retreat that Matt was feeling good about his efforts and the progress he had made.

He was surprised when, in one of their private sessions with us, Cindy expressed her hurt and disappointment over his lack of effort in the relationship over the years and how lonely she felt. Matt seemed genuinely mystified by her words and responded by pointing out positive contributions he had recently made. He concluded by asking, “Haven’t you seen the changes I have made? Don’t you notice the difference in our relationship?”

Cindy responded with the words we have heard hundreds of times over the years working with troubled couples. “Matt, I have noticed your efforts. But I have seen them before for a few days or a few weeks, but they never last. You always go back to the same old Matt. Then, as your efforts fade, I find myself retreating behind my walls to protect myself from being hurt again. How am I supposed to trust a couple of weeks of better behavior now?”

The Dilemma of Matt and Cindy that We all Share

Matt and Cindy were in a place where both of them wanted to believe and take the next big steps to relationship trust, but they didn’t know how to get through the past of broken promises, hurt, disappointment, resentment, and fear.

We will continue their story in the next Post, but for now consider these questions for your own relationship:

  • “What am I carrying from the past in my marriage that keeps me from trusting or being trusted?”
  • “Am I willing to take full accountability for my part in the decline of trust?” (don’t take more than belongs to you)
  • “Am I willing to change my part of the marriage dance for the better, seeking to inspire and invite my partner to join me?”

As you consider and answer these questions you will find the Cycle of your Thoughts-Feelings-and Behaviors (see previous post) becoming more positive and bringing an uplift to your life and marriage results. Check back soon for the rest of the story of Matt and Cindy!