It’s no secret that trust plays a critical role in healthy relationships. How can you truly be happy without it? According to clinical psychologist, professor, and author Andrea Benior, trust is necessary for emotional intimacy and a close relationship.
You shouldn’t be worrying about where your partner is “really” going when they leave the house, or ask yourself what their ulterior motive is when giving you a compliment. When you trust your partner, you know you’re their priority. They have your best interests at heart, and whenever you go through times, you know you can get through them together.
How Do You Know if You Fully Trust Your Partner?
So, do you truly trust your partner? Here are some important questions to ask yourself:
Are You Having Open Conversations?
Are you willing to let your guard down and share the deepest, most sacred things about yourself? Your fears, insecurities, feelings of doubt—the things that would feel completely inappropriate if you weren’t talking to someone you implicitly trust. If you truly trust your partner, you should be talking about deeply personal topics. Some discussions are tough, but the point is that you and your partner can “go there.”
Is Your Partner a Top Priority? And Vice Versa?
Putting your partner’s needs before your own is a strong way to build and maintain trust. It shows your commitment and lets your partner know how much they matter. (Ultimately increasing trust.) For example, when your partner takes time out of their workday to drive you to pick up your car from the shop, it’s a seemingly small (but significant) road paved toward a deeper trust.
What’s Your Eye Contact Like?
Eye contact is crucial in establishing trust. When partners are able to look directly into each other’s eyes when talking, it shows they have nothing to hide. That said, it shouldn’t be forced. Eye contact with your partner should come naturally when there’s a solid foundation of trust.
Are You Active Listeners?
According to Irene Hansen Savarese, LMFT, “Active listening is, if practiced and mastered, the best gift you can give your partner.” It means taking what you’re hearing and internalizing it as if it’s your own problem. Sometimes we have an urge to interrupt and offer our advice, which is not always the answer. Being an active listener means you’re so dialed in that you can read the nuances of the dialogue and be whatever your partner needs to be—showing them love, care, and respect (which adds up to trust).
Do You Both Feel Comfortable Admitting Your Mistakes?
What are your arguments like? When your partner calls you out, do you take a moment to digest before owning up to the mistake? Or do you fire off a return criticism to take the attention off yourself? In order to effectively solve problems in your relationship, you have to trust that any feedback your partner gives you has merit.
How Is Your Physical Intimacy?
We’re not just talking about sex, here. We’re talking about the little things—a surprising kiss, holding hands, a hand on the small of your back—that show the extent of your bond. While sex is important, it’s the little details that take your relationship and trust to a whole new level.
Is Your Dynamic Consistent?
It’s an all-too-common occurrence—one partner hits a breaking point and demands a change in the relationship. Maybe the initial conversation causes immediate change from the partner being asked of it, but over time, the behavior starts to fade and the dynamic returns to its old self. This is why consistency is so important! If you need something from your partner, you need to be able to count on them to provide it.
How Can You Build Toward Trust?
If you’ve identified some gaps in your relationship, don’t worry! We have 7 tips to help nurture and rebuild trust:
Step 1: If you’re going to communicate, mean it.
Unfortunately, as human beings, we have the tendency to manipulate our words or tell a little fib to avoid conflict. These “innocent” little fibs start to build up and eventually begin eating away at your trust. So, if you’re always promising to stop by the store but something always “comes up,” it’s time to be more mindful about following through with what you say. If you didn’t want to stop, then be honest about it! The constant fibbing will get old after a while, and all of your attempts to avoid conflict will actually fuel it more.
Step 2: A nice, easy path toward vulnerability.
When your partner asks about your day, do you leave it at “it was fine?” Or do you open up and let them know about the tough day you had? Sometimes the conversations you have with each other will be difficult, but they facilitate vulnerability and empathy, which leads to more trust. It also creates an intimacy that gives you the confidence to talk about anything and everything about yourself, connecting you and your partner on a deeper level.
Step 3: Respect is the name of the game.
When our instincts tell us that we need to unleash a barrage of honesty before we can start rebuilding trust with our partner, remember that the packaging of your words is just as important as the words themselves. There’s a difference between being honest and being downright mean. Of course, you don’t have to be awkward or professional—just respectful. Every time you speak to them in an angry or demeaning tone, it harms your connection and negatively impacts your trust level.
Step 4: Don’t always expect the worst.
Even if your trust has been broken, making a concerted effort to believe what your partner says is the healthiest starting point. It’s all about giving the benefit of the doubt! It won’t be easy at first, especially if your relationship involves substance abuse or infidelity. But the exercise is in letting go, forgiving, and building your trust back from a place of empathy. You have to give them a shot to succeed before you can even think about rebuilding trust.
Step 5: Have the tough conversations when you need to.
Some feelings are impossible to ignore, and it’s critical to express them. Being able to talk about emotional issues without shouting, verbal attacks, or totally shutting down is the precedent you want to set. Bottling up how you feel is detrimental to both your mental health and to your relationship. If you’re avoiding certain topics because you don’t want to start an argument, your partner doesn’t get to see the real you. You want that trust to go as deep as it can, and it’ll only get there if you open up and let it in.
Step 6: Take a leap together.
This can be anything. An adventurous backpacking trip through Europe, starting a new diet, watching a movie genre that you’ve typically ignored, or something fun in the bedroom—whatever it is, you’re doing it together. Shared experiences are the most natural way to build trust with your partner, so get out of your comfort zone!
Step 7: Remember, it’s a two-way street.
You might be feeling the urge to sit back and wait for your partner to show you how they’ve changed, but that’s not how it works. Remember, it’s a two-way street! You both need to put in the effort to build back what’s broken. When you are committed to showing support for your partner when they need it, they’ll be inclined to do the same for you.
Trust, ultimately, is the foundation of love. You can feed off the adrenaline (and turbulence) of chasing your partner forever, or you can achieve a level of trust that ensures they’ll always be there—we assure you that the latter is more enjoyable, healthy, and sustainable.