In the first part of this three-post series on trust in relationships, I offered four simple ways to building such trust in your marriage. In this second part, I offer three more, these dealing with some of the deeper emotions involved in building trust.
Tip #5 to build trust: be honest about your emotions
Kevin and Sarah are working to rebuild their trust. Kevin says Sarah wasn’t straight with him about his spending time watching football with his buddies. Whenever he’d go out for an evening with the guys, he says, he’d come home to the silent treatment. Sarah is struggling to be honest with Kevin about how she feels. She doesn’t want to come between him and his friends, but she’s afraid that when he spends his “fun” time with friends, their own relationship loses out.
People in relationships value comfort and security in the relationship. In the short term, this could make you hide dissatisfaction from your partner. Don’t, or you’ll set yourself and your partner up for problems down the line. If your partner asks if you’re OK with something and you’re not, say so. Hide it and you may become resentful, causing bigger problems later on. If your partner can’t trust what you tell him, how can he trust you?
Once Sarah expressed her emotions honestly, they were able to come up with a solution. They began scheduling dates with each other again to liven up their routine. Fun is not a zero-sum game. Kevin can have fun with his friends as well as with his wife.
Tip #6 to build trust: make sure your partner always knows how much you care about him and his happiness
A part of trust in a relationship is trust in its future. Each of us needs to get consistent messages from our partner that we’re doing OK. To avoid inadvertently pushing him away, make sure to send these reassurances by preparing his favorite food, watching his silly sci-fi series with him, or whatever else makes that point. Constantly communicate your love for each other and your commitment to the relationship, and each of you will know you can lean on the other when you hit the inevitable rough patch.
Tip #7 to build trust: don’t bring up old hurts to bash your partner
Sam constantly brings up the time Dave put her down in front of his family. It was a holiday meal and he’d had a little too much to drink. Although Dave apologized afterwards many times, and has done everything he can to show her how much he appreciates and loves her, it seems that each argument they have brings out that old hurt. If Sam doesn’t stop using this as a weapon in their spats, it threatens their relationship.
Once an issue has been resolved, let it be. Don’t reopen old wounds just to score points in an argument. How you fight with each other is one of the predictors of the expected longevity of your relationship. All relationships have ups and downs. When you have a disagreement, don’t stonewall your partner. Let him know what’s hurting you. When you do talk, don’t use sarcasm and name-calling. If you can come out of a fight with neither of you feeling emotionally mauled, your relationship is likely to endure.
Second Takeaway on Building Trust
It’s an interesting observation that we’re rarely upset about what we think we’re upset about. Unless you’re willing to explore and deal with your deeper emotions, you’re left trying to fix symptoms instead of root causes. The above three tips will help you build and maintain trust by addressing the underlying emotions that help or hinder trust in your relationship.
In the third and final installment of this series, I offer three final tips that offer mastery in the art of building, maintaining, and regaining trust.