In a relationship, trust is one of the most important things. Without it, you won’t have a healthy and lasting partnership. If you want some tips on how to build trust in a relationship so that you can have a happy future together, read on.
What does it take to have a healthy, lasting, and loving relationship? Is it holding out for a ‘perfect’ partner? Is it never running into conflict or disagreement with your significant other? Not necessarily. One of the many keys to a successful relationship, and perhaps the most important, is trust.
In this article, we’ll offer some practical tips and advice on how to build trust in your relationship so that you can maintain and even improve it, starting today. First, we’ll explore why trust is so important.
Why is trust important in a relationship?
Trust is the foundation of healthy and strong personal relationships – romantic, professional, or platonic. In this article, we’ll focus on the importance of trust in romantic relationships. Still, you can take the advice outlined later and adapt it to any relationship in your life, such as that with a friend or family member.
Trust creates a happier relationship
‘Trust between couples is a prerequisite for stable and satisfactory romantic relationships,’ explains researchers in a relationship study in the journal PLOS One. In a trusting relationship, you have room to grow and need not fear any consequences for being yourself. You can also offer that same space for your partner.
You can tolerate physical and emotional distance from the person you love because you know that your partner has your best interests at heart, even if they need to be alone or need a break. You can trust them to be honest about their feelings and experiences within the relationship and will be willing to have a healthy conversation and even conflicts when necessary.
A lack of trust is stressful
Without trust, you won’t have the time, energy, or confidence for the above. You might always feel like you’re walking on eggshells or dealing with internal conflict about the loyalty and faithfulness of your partner.
You won’t feel like you have someone to rely on when things are tough, and you may end up losing a sense of trust in yourself. You might even stress and worry to the point of physical illness.
Tips for building trust in a relationship
So, how do we build trust in a relationship? And how do we make it last?
Understand what trust means to you
The first and most crucial step in developing a trusting, healthy, and mutually beneficial relationship is to understand what trust means to you.
The more you know yourself deep down, including your fears, insecurities, emotional wounds, as well as your joys and pleasures, the deeper you can go with a partner. Greater self-awareness leads to more conscious and present relationships – relationship characteristics that are fundamental to trust.
Consider the relationship between trust and childhood
Our capacity for trust stems from our experiences with our caregivers in childhood. In our earliest years, we learn to trust or mistrust the world around us based on the consistency of care we received from our primary caregiver (usually our mother).
As we grow a little older into young children, we recognize and pick up on subtle indications of honesty and dishonesty in others’ behavior. We view the world from a relatively innocent perspective, which allows for some objective insight into human behavior. The more untrustworthy behavior we see, the more we’ll come to believe that the world is as such.
Along with trust, communication is one of the most important aspects of any relationship. Healthy and effective communication keeps both partners on the same page regarding the current state of the relationship. It creates space for issues to be tackled as they come up and prevents partners from having to guess how the other person feels or thinks.
What happens when communication breaks down?
A lack of healthy communication in a relationship is sure to lead to its downfall. When communication lacks, so does trust. One or both partners are left in the dark about what’s going on in the relationship, and space is created for mistrust, loneliness, and even suspicion and paranoia.
Types of communication
Understand that we’re communicating all the time, even if we don’t intend to. We communicate how we feel and think through our body language, tone of voice, and behavior.
For example, if you turn your body away from your partner or avoid eye contact when they try to have a conversation with you, you demonstrate that you’re not really listening or that you don’t really care about what they have to say.
Communication through behavior can be subtle but is vitally important to understand if you want to have a healthy, lasting relationship. For example, if you constantly show up late to meet your partner for dinner and don’t let them know in advance that you’re going to be late, that’s a form of communication. You’re communicating to them the fact they are not a priority and that you don’t care about following through with agreements.
On the other hand, if you are there for your partner and always (or as much as possible) follow through with plans and keep to your word, you communicate that you’re reliable and that you care about your plans.
It takes time to build trust. You might feel like you trust a new partner immediately, but in reality, you don’t actually know if you can trust them just yet.
People are complicated and contain multitudes, and it can take a while before ‘negative’ or untrustworthy behavior shows up – partly because people are generally on their best behavior in the early days of a relationship.
If you want to have a trusting, healthy relationship, then you must have patience. Trust builds over time and as a result of the consistent demonstration of trustworthiness. It’s also affected by an individual’s ability or capacity to trust, which may be influenced by their childhood or by previous relationship experiences.
Honesty is paramount to any healthy and trusting relationship. Sometimes we’re not completely honest with our partners because we don’t want to upset them and make them feel betrayed, or we don’t want to feel judged for a mistake. We’d rather keep some things to ourselves, sweeping them under the rug instead of letting our partner in on our reality.
Sweeping things under the rug, choosing to keep them secret, or avoiding the truth altogether may help you to keep your interactions with your partner pleasant and easy, but how authentic is that relationship? If you don’t practice honesty with your partner, you’re leading them to believe that you’re someone you’re not or that the relationship is other than it is.
The impact of dishonesty on a relationship
In the long-term, dishonesty rots away a relationship from the inside. You’ll be holding a secret inside, which will change your behavior and even your mannerisms over time. Holding onto a secret or not letting someone know something they’re entitled to know can lead to more dishonesty. It can also lead to guilt, which in turn leads to stress.
Your partner will come to wonder why things aren’t the same as they used to be, and you’ll continue to suffer from that guilt and stress.
Of course, we’re entitled to a private life, even when we’re in a close, intimate relationship. You don’t have to tell your partner every single detail about your life, and even when you’re going through a difficult time, you might want to process your feelings by yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that.
However, if the secret or privacy is about something that your partner deserves to know, then it’s vitally important, to be honest with them. Not being honest in this context is a form of emotional manipulation because whatever it is might be something that makes them have to recalibrate and reconsider some aspects of the relationship.
We often keep secrets for that very reason – we don’t want to jeopardize the relationship. However, sooner or later, the truth either comes out, or its bottling up leads to other problems that jeopardize the relationship anyway.
You can promise the world to your partner, but if you don’t follow through on your promises, they’ll never trust you. Actions speak far louder than words, so remember to follow through with what you’ll say you’ll do. If you agree to meet your partner at 7 pm for dinner, don’t be late. If something gets in the way of making it on time, let them know in advance.
Keep to your word
If you have a conversation about emotional boundaries, then remember what was spoken and keep to any promises you’ve made. For example, sometimes, we behave in unhealthy coping behaviors to deal with difficult feelings.
We might feel slighted or upset with something our partner did. Still, instead of confronting them with the issue in due time and with wise tact, we use passive-aggressive behavior, such as punishing them indirectly or giving them the silent treatment.
Passive-aggressive behavior is toxic to any relationship and may leave your partner feeling confused or frustrated. After some time, they may notice your behavior and tell you that if you want to have a relationship with them, you need to be honest about how you feel – you need to confront issues when they come up instead of using childish tactics to get ‘revenge.
Granted, that’s a heavy conversation to have, but it’s important to look at it for what it is instead of becoming defensive and not listening. This is your partner telling you that they will want to have a relationship with you, but unhealthy and passive-aggressive behavior will not be tolerated.
They’re telling you how to have a good relationship with them. After they’ve said their piece, you’ll likely agree that it’s fair and promise to take a more mature and honest approach next time something bothers you. If you can do this, you show your partner that you can stick to your word. You let them know that you listened and that you care, and that you’re a reliable partner.
If, however, you promise to make that change but then continue to use those indirect tactics to deal with an issue, you show them you’re not reliable, and the trust between you will deteriorate. You become the proverbial boy crying wolf and make it hard for your partner to place their trust in you.
Respect between partners is a prerequisite to a successful relationship. How could you be happy, excited, and invested in a relationship in which you’re not respected or in which you don’t respect the person you’re with?
Even though respect is a given, many underrate how important it is and don’t always know what it means. We might think that respect is simply about not saying mean things or remembering to include our partner in our plans, but it extends far beyond that.
Respect is about being actively concerned with your partner’s well-being, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually. It involves respect for your partner’s body and mind. It’s about understanding their emotions and sexual vulnerability and not doing things that jeopardize their ability to feel safe and secure.
Partnership, not ownership
Relationships are a type of partnership, not ownership. If you view your partner as someone who has to always be there for you, acquiesce to your wishes, and agree with you all the time, then you don’t respect them. You’re using them for your own ego validation.
Healthy relationships are those in which both partners have the right to choices, including physical and emotional distance and the right to private life. Trust builds when you can show your partner that you love and appreciate them for who they are, not for some idealized projection you hold.
Emotional intimacy is an essential part of any romantic relationship, but it gets destroyed when respect is absent. You can’t expect anyone to be open and vulnerable with you if you consistently disrespect them. Real emotional intimacy involves giving your partner space when they don’t want to talk as much because it means attentively listening when they do.
Respect in the bedroom
The presence or absence of respect is highly apparent when it comes to sex. The way you treat your partner in the bedroom says an awful lot about how much respect you really have for them, even if you’re ‘respectful’ in every other aspect of your relationship.
Physical intimacy is often when we’re at our most vulnerable, so if you don’t listen to your partner) not just what they, but also their body language) then it may be that you’re using them for sexual gratification, which is disrespectful and leads to a lack of real, deep trust.
Can you rebuild trust after it’s been broken?
Rebuilding trust after it has been broken, even just once, can be tricky. It takes a lot of patience and a leap of faith to place your trust in someone who has hurt or disappointed you and made you lose trust.
Many people conclude that once trust has been broken in a relationship, the relationship should end. That’s a valid opinion – sometimes the hurt, disappointment, or betrayal can be so significant and deeply hurtful that trusting that person and allowing them to remain in your life as close as they are in a relationship might be a bad idea. It could be setting yourself up for further pain.
However, some people still want the relationship to continue after trust has been broken, but they won’t allow it to continue without any consequences. There may be many wonderful things about their partner and the relationship that make it worth saving, but still, the person needs to know that they can trust their partner moving forward.
What can you do if trust has been broken?
If one partner has betrayed the other’s trust, all hope is not lost, but both partners will need to put in some conscious effort to save the relationship. That involves:
Consider the importance of the relationship
The first thing to do if there has been a breach of trust is to deeply consider if you truly want to continue with the relationship. Understand that broken trust can make it hard to feel safe and respected.
That’s not to say that safety and respect are impossible to achieve after broken trust – they are – but both partners are required to make a conscious effort to keep the relationship transparent and healthy in order for it to work. If that’s something you don’t think you can do, then the relationship may become a significant source of stress.
Be honest with yourself
So, ask yourself why you want the relationship to continue. Is it because you believe one mistake or problem is not enough to tear apart the significant relationship you have with your partner? Is it because you have responsibilities together that are more important than a mistake?
Or is it because you feel a sense of familiarity with your partner, and you’d rather stay with them even after they broke your trust instead of leaving them and potentially feeling alone and lonely?
Set some ground rules
If you do decide the relationship will continue, then both partners must commit to honesty. The perpetrator of broken trust must be prepared to make an honest, authentic apology. Not only that, but they must also demonstrate reliability after they promise – it’s no use apologizing if you’re going to do the same thing again.
Trust is fragile. It can take years to build but can be broken in an instant. Any relationship with having is one in which you can trust the other person.
To have this kind of relationship, it’s wise to observe how trustworthy your partner is. Be patient because real trust takes time. Don’t forget that trust is also something you must bring to the relationship yourself.