Healthy relationships of any kind are built on a solid and essential foundation of trust. In fact, social psychologists say that the number one quality people look for in a partner is trust. Without trust, you are unable to be your true self and you may always feel like something is missing in your relationship. The tricky thing about trust is that in order to establish trust, you must open yourself up to the possibility of being let down.
Author C.S. Lewis explained this so well when he said,
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable“.
To love and trust another person means you must risk the chance of exposing yourself to pain and broken-heartedness. To trust is always risky. But the risk is completely worth it in order to ultimately find trust and love. That being said, finding trust doesn’t mean you have to leap blindly into love. You can and should take smart steps to build trust in your relationship and look for signs that your significant other is trustworthy. I asked some I Believe in Love contributors to help identify four ways you can build trust in your relationship. Here is what we came up with.
01. Practice healthy communication.
If you and your significant other know that you can discuss tough issues openly and honestly, you’ve already taken critical steps in establishing a relationship based on trust. John Gottman, Ph.D., relationships researcher and founder of The Gottman Relationship Institute found in his research that couples who are able to talk about the tough issues not only build trust but are more likely to stay together for longer. I Believe in Love contributor, Adam says of his relationship with his wife Kara, “If Kara shares a worry with me and I say, ‘Oh, that’s silly, forget it,” she won’t share future worries.” April agrees saying, “We are very different [but] nevertheless, when one of us is sharing with the other our thoughts and feelings, the other listens respectfully and tries to understand it.” Being there to support each other helps to establish trust. If, on the other hand, you don’t feel comfortable bringing up the tough issues, ask yourself why you feel that way. It might be a sign that it’s time to work on establishing a deeper level of trust in your relationship.
02. Invest in your relationship.
One of the best ways to invest in your relationship is to be intentional about getting to know your significant other well. Dr. Gottman recommends asking your significant other about their dreams for the future and making an effort to demonstrate your support of that dream. Remember that it takes time to build up trust in a relationship and putting in the time and effort to get to know someone on a deeper level will help you to see if they have trustworthy qualities. Adam says that being in a clearly defined committed relationship is an important element of trust, he explains that, “I’m not going to share some of my dark secrets with someone who may or may not be around tomorrow, that doesn’t necessarily mean marriage, but as the commitment grows, so does the trust.” Schedule a bi-monthly date night where you make a game out of asking questions that will help deepen your relationship. For some great examples of questions to ask your significant other, try The Gottman Institute’s “Open Ended Questions” App.
03. Be trustworthy.
It is also important to demonstrate to your significant other that you are trustworthy as well. After all, trust is a two-way street and showing the person you love that you are trustworthy is mutually beneficial because it will help both of you feel comfortable being vulnerable with each other. Social worker Terry Gaspard says that showing your partner that you have their best interests in mind is one of the best ways to establish trust. When you are open, honest, and look for little ways to demonstrate that you are trustworthy, your significant other will feel more and more comfortable being vulnerable with you. Adam says, “You only trust someone else as much as you feel worthy of trust. If you are hiding things, it’ll hurt how you approach the other person.”
04. Be vulnerable.
I Believe in Love contributor, Carrie, puts it well, “We can’t be vulnerable with someone we don’t trust, and vulnerability is essential in marriage.” Vulnerability is a key component in a trusting relationship, it means that you allow your flaws and insecurities to be known by another person, giving them the power to love you because and in spite of them. Barry Ginsbery, Ph.D., director of the Center for Relationship Enhancement, found that feeling safe to be vulnerable in their relationship helps couples to build up the trust between them. If you don’t feel comfortable around your partner, ask yourself why you feel this way. Are you struggling with the way you feel about yourself or has your significant other given you a reason to doubt his or her trust? Trust your gut, but ask yourself why you feel that way. “You have to feel comfortable being vulnerable,” says Nicole and, “if you constantly feel like you are striving to impress or please someone, you may not trust that they would be there if you let them down.”
So it turns out that building trust isn’t exactly easy. But the good news is that there are ways to intentionally cultivate trust in your relationship. Remember to be vulnerable and honest. Look for ways to get to know him or her on a deeper level. Open up and talk about those tough issues. And then watch as the trust between you grows.
This article is not intended to be a substitute for or serve as professional counseling or treatment.
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