What’s hard to build, easy to ruin, and absolutely essential to any healthy intimate relationship? Trust.
“If you want a healthy, happy, long-term relationship, you’ll need to prioritize building and maintaining trust,” Theresa Herring, a licensed marriage and family therapist, says. “Without it, other things—emotional intimacy and connection—can’t fall into place.”
Why? You need trust in order to feel secure in what you have and to know that your person won’t dip when things get wonky. You need trust in order to know that when you are having a moment, they’ll be there to hold your hand. You need trust in a relationship in order to feel safe, embraced, and truly loved.
“Trust is the feeling of emotional, physical, and psychological security generated when a person is consistent with their behavior,” says Shawntres Parks, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
It’s the foundation for so many aspects of a solid relationship, such as feeling understood, having confidence that your partner is being open and honest with you, and having the freedom to express your authentic self. “Everything else feels a little easier and safer when there’s trust,” Herring says.
The bad news? Trust is a **delicate** thing. It’s a tough ask, especially if you tend to have your guard up because one too many people has betrayed you in the past (thanks for nothing, cheating exes).
Relationships are hard work, trust is a tricky business, and building and maintaining trust is a long-term, never-ending job for both parties.“Trust is built on regularly showing up in your relationship,” Herring says. “Small, consistent efforts are worth more than grand gestures.”
But where to start? WH tapped some experts for suggestions on how to build trust in your relationship. And just a reminder: These tips are for you and your partner, so you might want to encourage them to read this, too!
Be there when they need you.
When life throws you punches, it helps to have someone to weather the blow with you. Herring says that when these moments happen—like a family death, miscarriage, job loss, a pandemic, or the like—being present is essential. It’s about prioritizing your S.O. and their emotional needs and them doing the same for you, and it will show you’re always there to provide support in a vulnerable time.
“If your partner knows that you will validate their feelings and avoid defensiveness, it makes it easy to trust you with their emotions,” Herring says. “And we all want a partner who can be here for us when we’re having a hard time.”
Be responsive and engaged.
You know those times when you finish expressing your feelings, only to realize that nobody has been listening to you? Yeahhh, that is pretty much the worst feeling in the world. Establishing trust with your S.O. takes thoughtful communication and active listening.
“When you are communicating or spending time with your partner, be attentive and attuned to their feelings and experience,” Parks recommends. That means not checking Instagram while they are talking to you, as well as responding appropriately with your tone and emotions.
“Being attuned involves using your non-verbal and verbal communication to show that you are paying attention and that your partner and what they express is important to you,“ she continues.
If you are in a long-distance relationship, you can still validate your partner’s emotions and experiences over the phone, by text, or via video, “as long as you are paying enough attention enough to recognize how your partner is feeling and taking time to ask clarifying questions when you’re unsure,” Parks says.
If, on the other hand, you are the one who feels like you want to share something important with your partner, tell them before you jump in. Try, “Is this a good time to talk about this?” to make sure they are emotionally available. “Arranging a mutually agreed upon time to talk gives all parties the opportunity to be as present as possible,” Parks recommends.
Be consistent and committed.
“Anything that you do to build positive connection in the relationship has to be repetitive,” Parks says.
Building something nice doesn’t just take one random act. To crochet a cozy blanket, you gotta do that same darn motion like a gazillion times. And then, guess what? You have the warmest lil blanket handcrafted by your own two hands. In order to build a strong house, you have to place brick after brick after brick for it to feel like a home. Relationships are the same way—they take committed and consistent actions. And it’ll spare you tons of doubt and stress.
So, show up for your partner when you say you will—even when things get tough, and come through on your promises, so they know they can rely on you longterm. If you’d said you would take care of the pets, immediately tell your partner when they’ve hurt you, or work on building a stronger connection with their family, commit to doing these things—and not just long enough so you can get a pat on the back. Consistency is for the long haul.
Get in touch with your vulnerable side.
Bust down those walls, baby! Sharing things about yourself can be awkward, raw, and downright intimidating, but you gotta risk it for the biscuit. Start off by sharing that secret project you’ve considered starting, or why you’re nervous to meet their friends. While it might not come easy to you from the get-go, it’s a great way to feel more comfortable with the other person. That’s how you build intimacy and confidence in your bond—both of which create trust.
Oh, and don’t be afraid to make eye contact with your partner while you’re opening up. Even that small gesture shows you’re open and willing to connect on a deeper level.
“Getting in touch with your vulnerable side means that you are allowing yourself to make the courageous decision to be fully expressed in your relationship. The more vulnerable your words and actions are, the more authenticity your partner can expect,” Parks says. If someone’s into you, they’ve got to be into all of you, not just the side you show to impress people. But also being authentic is v hot.
Prioritize quality time.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, this is another one of those get-off-your-phones moments. But, chances are, you won’t develop a strong sense of trust if the only time you spend together is sharing TikToks. It means carving out time dedicated to each other, so those open, vulnerable conversations can happen.
“Prioritizing quality time allows you more opportunities to practice being emotionally accessible, responsive, and engaged. Quality time also helps you and your partner to build awareness about your personal boundaries and relationship expectations,” says Parks. (More on that boundaries point in a bit).
Respond to their needs.
Building trust can actually be very simple. “Listen to what is important to them, and do it,” Herring says. Sometimes, this calls for a little sacrifice, like rescheduling happy hour plans when your partner tells you they had a bad day at work and could use a cuddle. “Doing so says, ‘I hear you, I see you, and you’re important.’ And that is the foundation of trust,” she says.
You love your partner and everything, but you also get to decide when your business is just yours and when they can be involved.
Why are boundaries important, you ask? According to Parks, setting boundaries will help your partner treat you how you want to be treated. “Without knowing your boundaries, it is likely that your partner will do or say something that will cross one or many of them,” Parks says.
Don’t wait until your S.O. has violated a boundary to bring it up. Take some time on your own to identify your boundaries, and then set aside some time in your cals to have the discussion with your partner about them.
“You could tell your partner, “my time is really important to me. If you are going to be late, I’d appreciate you communicating that so that I can adjust my schedule accordingly,” Parks suggests. Easier said then done, sure, but because this conversation is happening before any boundary has been violated, it’s totally non-confrontational.
“While punctuality isn’t universally important, communicating personal boundaries like this over time creates a culture of understanding in the relationship where trust is strengthened as everyone knows what to expect from one another,” Parks notes.
Respect each other.
This might sound like a no-brainer, but it makes the list for a reason. Sure, it’s like the first rule of being human, but it gets taken for granted all too often. “Belittling, criticizing, and yelling erode trust—fast,” Herring says. “Over time, it can make rebuilding next to impossible.”
So, set up rules for your arguments, since that’s when respect often becomes an issue. Agree to never resort to the things you won’t tolerate. So, if that’s name-calling, cursing at each other, or calling each other crazy in the heat of the moment, identify those actions you want to avoid—and stick to your rules.
Follow through on promises.
“Say what you mean and do what you say,” Herrings says. “If your partner can trust your word, that goes a long way.” It can be small things, too, like promising to call the plumber and actually doing it. Trust develops in situations when people have the opportunity to drop the ball but actually come through to show they’re reliable.
Take responsibility for your actions.
On that note, if you ever do drop the ball (you’re only human), know that you can still nurture trust in your relationship by acknowledging your shortcomings. I know, I know—easier said than done, right? But accountability proves that you’re a team player and that you know your words and actions hold weight, so don’t skimp on it.
For example, if you forgot to pick up the dry-cleaning, instead of blaming your partner for not reminding you, ‘fess up and do it as soon as you can. Doing so encourages them to do the same, and it also says, “Hey, I’m not perfect, but I’m going to try my best for you.” That’s genuine trust at its finest.
Speaking of taking responsibility, these celebs somehow figured out how to rebuild trust once it was broken…
Don’t bail on commitments.
Of course, life happens, and sometimes you have to cancel your Zoom date because you’re dealing with a sudden fire at work. But as often as you can, show up for the things you’ve agreed to, especially plans you make well in advance.
“Following through with plans communicates that you are consistent, which is necessary to create trust in any relationship,” Parks says.
Doing so shows your partner that by sticking to the commitments you make with them, you’re sticking to your commitment to them—regardless of how you might be feeling when the time comes. You want the same from them, right? So be the example and you’ll help form a level of mutual, deep trust.
Bring up issues as they happen.
When something in the relationship bothers you, don’t bite your tongue. That’s holding out on your partner. You might think you’re doing them a favor, but you’ll likely end up airing your grievances in other (worse) ways down the road. No one wants to be the one who stews on an off-handed comment from three months ago, then starts an unfair argument out of nowhere.
Instead, share concerns as they arise. By doing so, it shows you’re comfortable enough to be honest and straight with your significant other in the moment. And this way “your partner won’t have to worry that a bad mood is about them, and they can more easily be there for you,” Herring says. “Good [and timely] communication facilitates trust.”
What if I have “trust issues”?
In the wise words of Julia Michaels, “I got issues and you’ve got ‘em too.” Yeah, girl, we allll have a lil bit of trust issues. The only thing you can do is be completely honest with your partner and let them know what’s going on in your noggin.
To keep anyone from getting defensive, Herring suggests clearly telling your partner how you feel (disconnected, for example) and what you need from them (like, reassurance about your future). “If you make it about their actions, they’ll reinforce the insecurity you’re already feeling,” she says. “Make it more about you, so your emotional needs are the ones in focus.”
Trust yourself…you got this!
Source: Read Full Article