Marriage is a beautiful journey, filled with countless precious moments and shared experiences that bind two people together. Yet, it’s not a journey that comes without challenges. Building and nurturing trust in a marriage, much like growing a garden, demands time, effort, and consistent care. Trust is a key component in the recipe for a successful marriage, a foundation on which couples can rely during trials and celebrate triumphs.
Consider the conventional wedding vow, “forsaking all others” – a lifelong commitment of fidelity and dedication. It evokes the compelling image from Sheldon Vanauken’s book, “A Severe Mercy”, of the author and his wife Davy’s ‘Shining Barrier’ – their unyielding devotion to maintaining the exclusivity of their love. Their relationship, so consumed by their commitment to each other, serves as a stark reminder to Christian couples of the dangers of excluding God from their marriage.
However, their unwavering exclusivity in marriage does spotlight an essential truth: Trust is vital for a flourishing marriage. Sheldon and Davy were fearful that any breach of trust would shatter their ‘in-loveness’. Consequently, they painstakingly nurtured and fortified trust within their relationship. Every Christian couple can draw inspiration from this commitment, striving to deepen trust while eschewing any tendencies toward extreme exclusivity. This is achievable through three unique yet interconnected postures in marriage: face-to-face intimacy, back-to-back partnership, and side-by-side friendship.
The Dance of Intimacy
Intimacy is a profound expression of love that transcends the physical. It’s the deeply personal dance of two souls, moving in sync with the rhythm of shared experiences, joys, fears, and triumphs. It’s the moments of prayer before sleep, the gentle teasing and laughter shared in daily life, and, yes, it does include the passionate expressions of love too.
Face-to-face intimacy is a beholding of the beloved – an act of turning away from self and the world to truly see and appreciate the other. It’s an exercise of vulnerability that requires both partners to open themselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually. This fosters a deep trust, essential for a strong, healthy marriage. Nurturing this kind of intimacy takes time and patience, but it brings an unparalleled sense of belonging and connection.
Guardians in Partnership
In a marriage, couples know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities better than anyone else. This deep knowledge enables them to guard and protect each other, fostering a kind of back-to-back trust. This posture is about defending each other against the adversities of life, external pressures, and temptations.
It’s about standing back-to-back, fighting off threats together, encouraging each other, and sharing in the joy of every victory. This posture fortifies trust and enhances the resilience of a marriage, ensuring it can endure even the toughest of life’s trials.
The Joy of Shared Friendship
The third posture, side-by-side friendship, allows couples to foster trust through shared interests and activities. This posture is marriage in its friendliest form. Friendships often blossom around shared passions, fostering a deep sense of camaraderie. When couples engage in mutual pursuits, the sense of trust and companionship between them flourishes.
The joy of shared interests isn’t merely a frivolous pursuit. Instead, it’s a vehicle to prevent a creeping separateness that can erode the closeness of a relationship. Sheldon and Davy warned against this, recognizing it as a potential threat to love.
However, it’s not just about pursuing shared hobbies or interests. The most fulfilling shared pursuit is the one leading toward God. A Christian marriage thrives not just on eros or philia, but on a mutual devotion to God and a shared agape love. This shared devotion strengthens the face-to-face intimacy and the back-to-back partnership and ensures a thriving side-by-side friendship.
These three postures aren’t separate or isolated aspects of marriage; rather, they reinforce each other in a symbiotic harmony. By nurturing these facets of trust, couples can strengthen their bond, safeguard their marriage, and experience the profound joy of a lifelong shared journey towards God.