By: Cristina Trette, MA, LMFT
What exactly does trust mean? Does it mean that you know your partner won’t cheat on you? Or that you believe your partner will always tell the truth. Well, yes, it encompasses these examples, but true trust entails far more than this. True trust means that you know that your partner will be there for you. If the level of trust in your relationship is lower than you would like, read on for some trust building tips.
Trust, along with commitment, is a key aspect of a meaningful, happy, long-term relationship. Therefore, if you discover that trust is lacking in your relationship, you will want you to spend time working to improving this aspect of your partnership. How exactly is that done? Keep reading.
1. Stop blaming
It only takes one person in the partnership to create a shift and improvement in the relationship. That person can be you. Rather then focus on all the things your partner has done to dampen trust, commit to taking responsibility for being the person to build trust in the relationship. If you are focused on blaming it will be very difficult for you to move forward. Begin the shift by taking an inventory of where you have contributed to the low trust dynamic. Take full ownership of all the ways you have dampened trust.
2. Scale your trust
On a scale of 1-10 how much trust do you have in your partner? On a scale of 1 - 10 how much do you think your partner trusts you? Notice that there are some situations that may decrease your trust. Give these situations a score. Pay attention to the events or situations that decrease your trust in your partner or where you think your partner may not trust you.
3. List encounters that lead to jumps on the scale
Make a list of situations and actions that increase your feelings of trust. Some trust enhancers may include vulnerable and open conversations, a fun night of dancing together, a quiet night of talking after the kids have gone to sleep, trying something new together like rock climbing, or a particularly adventurous night of connection and sex. Once it is clear to you what is working, do these things more.
4. Speak up
If your partner is engaging in hurtful behaviors that undermine trust, accept reality as it is. Lets suppose your partner is consistently late for dinner or you have a intuitive feeling that your partner is not being faithful. I do not recommend that you remain passive in a situation that is increasingly destructive or unhealthy for you. If trust has been an ongoing issue in your relationship, speak up and take action. It does not mean your relationship is doomed to fail but it does mean that it is time to have a conversations.
5. Be Assertive
Using “I-statements” is a great way to be assertive while remaining respectful. For example, instead of lashing out by saying “How can I trust you when you are always late for dinner?” you might try “I feel concerned when you are late for dinner. Can we talk about this?”. One way to build trust is to engage in difficult conversations while staying responsive. Create the space for of you to express their feelings, needs, and requests. Move slow in these types of conversations and monitor your tone and feelings. It is possible that your partner never realized the impact their behavior is having on you. It is also possible that you can come to a solution together.
6. Engage in inner work
If you find it very difficult to trust, without any evidence that your partner is not to be trusted, this may signal the need for you to heal past wounds. We can develop patterns, and core beliefs, that we are not aware of, and that make it difficult to trust due to painful experiences from our past. Sometimes exploring, processing, and healing events from childhood or former relationships enables us to trust fully in our current relationship. If this resonates with you, I encourage you to find a therapist to help you explore this.
7. Accept that you will feel hurt and scared
Often when we are struggling to trust, we feel scared and hurt. When you feel scared or hurt, look at this as a signal that something in your relationship needs attention and care. If you can nurture each other during these hurtful moments, it will be an opportunity to increase trust.
8. Expand your definition of trust
Trust goes far beyond knowing that you and your partner are people of integrity. The deepest form of trust in a relationship is experienced as each partner being there for one another through all parts of life. I appreciate Dr. John Gottman's definition of trust:
“Trust refers to each partner knowing that the other partner will be there for them in a host of ways: when they are sad, angry, frightened, humiliated, overweight, underweight, triumphant, defeated, joyous, despairing, sick, broken, helpless, hopeful, dream filled, and so on. Trust is erected by each individual choosing to show up for the other – not perfectly, not every time, but as much as one can.”
How have you navigated trust in your relationship? Tell me about trust the comments box below.
Hello! I am Cristina Trette. I am a Couples Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Certified in Perinatal Mental Health. I write on all things related to relationships, parenthood, and connection.