Can There Be Too Much Trust in a Marriage?


Quick simple answer to the above question: YES. But please journey with me through a post rife with personal examples from a long marriage, and let me explain.

I’ll begin with a anecdote that features my mother-in-law. Her only child, my husband, was born in 1971, so she progressed from being a stay-at-home-mother to being a stay-at-home wife, but the point is that she stayed at home. One weekly trip to the grocery store was the only time she was out of the house with any regularity. Meanwhile, she had a neighbor lady who was more of what we’d consider “normal.” This neighbor was a SAHM too, but she came and went as she pleased, running errands, shopping, volunteering, and so forth. One day my mother-in-law happened to tell me that the neighbor had dropped over and mentioned that later that night, she and a bunch of her 50-ish girlfriends were meeting for dinner and a movie.  Although of course he said nothing to the neighbor, my father-in-law had voiced his disapproval after she’d gone. “Granddaddy doesn’t think it looks right,” my mother-in-law confided. “A bunch of women running around without their husbands.”

Wow, right? How old-timey. It’s almost laughable if it weren’t pathetic…or so I thought when it first happened. Now don’t worry…I’m not about to declare it a sin for women-friends to go to the movies unescorted by male chaperones. Of course it’s fine for anyone to go about their day and accomplish whatever they need to do. But bear with me a moment while I talk about how things went in my marriage.

Brian and I got married in 1994, and we were as much in love, as sure of each other, and as bonded as we ever hoped to be. Besides that, I’d never been the jealous type. Near Christmas of our first year, he had a desire to make peace with his ex-girlfriend of several years (the one I stole his heart from). With my full knowledge and approval, he contacted her and they met for lunch. Things seemed to go as he hoped, assuring him that this person who had been important to his life could still be cordial and they could be at peace with one another. I guess she was curious to meet me, so, soon afterward, she came over to our home one evening. We invited a male friend as well. We had some drinks and played Scrabble. We still have a photo that the male friend snapped that night, of Brian on the sofa with me on one side and his ex-girlfriend on the other.  It was no big deal, really. It was fine.

But his family was shocked. His grandmother was scandalized. “You don’t do that,” they said, while we chuckled.

But a precedent had been set, and over the years, this sort of thing (with both of us–I have some ex-boyfriends and male friends myself) occurred with regularity. He went to lunch with female coworkers. He went out to play trivia with them. He texted and emailed and Facebooked with absolute freedom, and so did I. My ex-boyfriend from high school would invite me to lunch whenever he was near my workplace.  I went to a business seminar with some old bandmates of mine. I could give ten thousand examples, but the point here is that we had no boundaries, and we were proud of ourselves for it. We were so very modern and so very trusting that we felt perfectly secure and comfortable with our partner having platonic relationships with people of the opposite sex.

Can you guess how it all turned out? Sure you can…but some of us have to learn the hard way. In 2000, one of us became emotionally entangled with a “friend.”  This incident raised the caution flag for a while (that’s an understatement), but eventually everything died down, the threat passed, and we relaxed back into our old habits. A full decade later, the other one of us was unexpectedly tempted, and got into an even more unfortunate situation with a so-called “friend,” (from childhood!) who didn’t give a moment’s thought to wrecking the lives of others for sheer amusement.

We–Brian and I–take responsibility for our own actions, and since we moved to Florida and began a new page in 2011, we have changed up the game. We have (finally!) learned the lesson of how simple life can be if you keep your partying self at home, and limit your friendships to same-sex ones, or shared friendships with other couples.

The Bible has many wise things to say on the topic of keeping your spouse to yourself and yourself to your spouse, but the one that stands out in my mind the most right now is this:

 Proverbs 5:15 -17: “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers.”

Can you have too much trust in a marriage? Yes. Just as a teenager will go off the rails if no caring adult is watching over their behavior, so will a spouse. I think it’s better all around to have some parameters. Depending on your personal convictions, they need not be terribly stringent–maybe just an agreement not to be alone with the opposite sex would be enough. Maybe you and your husband should agree that your phones are available for inspection anytime. Do whatever it takes for you both to feel respected and secure. Just remember that too much trust, while it may sound very loving, can actually leave your partner more vulnerable to temptation. It’s healthy for all of us to know that someone who places the utmost value on us is, shall we say, keeping an eye on the valuables.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tania Vaughan
    Aug 05, 2014 @ 21:56:52

    Thank you for sharing such a personal story. Boundaries are so important in every relationship. Our modern world sees boundaries as an infringement and yet there are clear examples like yours where you can see why we work much better with them.


  2. Stephanie Loudmouth
    Aug 07, 2014 @ 05:59:04

    I agree with this post. I never understood why people stayed friends with their exes. I really have no reason to talk to anyone else that I’ve dated and I think it’d be weird if my boyfriend wanted to hang with an ex. It’s not that we’re jealous or not trusting — there’s just no reason to invite those people back into our lives.


    • Sweet-Water-and-Bitter
      Aug 07, 2014 @ 07:55:26

      Thanks for the comment. In our particular situation, it wasn’t exes who actually caused problems, although I see how they could for many people. I think the most vulnerable time for a marriage is either when you’re not getting along generally, or when one of you is “down” for some reason–unemployed, sick, burdened by something that takes attention away from the marriage, etc. That’s when a new person who has no connection to all that negativity can be awfully tempting. And the thing is, it’s the temptation you have to prevent–long before the action itself. It can frazzle your brain and wreck your normal judgment; it’s very difficult to resist. That’s why our policy now is not to be in a situation (i.e. alone with someone) where a proposition could even be made, or where flirtation can happen.


  3. Sarah Ann (@faithalongway)
    Aug 09, 2014 @ 11:40:30

    I LOVE this post! We have our marriage set up with boundaries and I love the security of them. Found you through Missional Women and would love to have you share your heart at the Saturday Soiree Blog Party at!


    • Sweet-Water-and-Bitter
      Aug 09, 2014 @ 12:43:06

      Hi Sarah Ann, thanks and I appreciate it very much! Just this morning I was looking around for a Saturday link up. We are about to leave for a trip to Orlando but I will definitely come to the party next week!


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