Trust is that deep sense you have that your partner has your best interest at heart, which is crucial to the well-being of your relationship. With trust, anything is possible. Without it, your relationship won’t survive, at least not happily. In this three-part series, I explore lessons from my work with couples over the last 25 years. I often encounter couples suffering relationship breakdowns. The names below are changed, but their stories illustrate how easily trust can be lost, and what it takes to rebuild it. In this first segment, I offer the simplest tips, but ones that have helped many of my clients.
Tip #1 to building trust: don’t lie to your partner
Jack and Molly’s relationship suffered a major setback when Molly found out Jack lied to her. He was supposed to do the couple’s shopping, but said he couldn’t because he had to go in to work. Molly saw him at a bookstore, sipping coffee and reading. Jack was there alone, but now Molly is afraid she can’t trust him to tell her the truth about anything.
Being truthful to your life partner seems like a no-brainer, but many find it hard to adhere to that. People lie for many reasons, finding creative ways to justify it. “It was just a white lie” or “she isn’t always truthful either” are two examples. Getting caught in a lie is a trust-killer. Think about all the politicians caught in lies – they usually get in trouble over those and in worse trouble when they lie more to cover up the initial lie. Be truthful even when it’s uncomfortable.
Tip #2 to build trust: be trustworthy in your words and actions
Perhaps you find yourself constantly late to dates with your partner. This may make her feel the relationship isn’t a priority for you. No matter how many times you say your tardiness just shows poor time management, each time it happens, you have a harder time convincing her.
In situations like this, you need to reflect on why you’re always late. If it’s a matter of carelessness, start caring. If it’s losing yourself in the task at hand, set an alarm. If there’s a deeper reason, perhaps it’s time to seek relationship help.
In a relationship, you want to enhance trust and support it at every turn. Telling your partner what you will do and then doing it reassures him or her you can be trusted.
Tip #3 to build trust: trust your partner
Unless you have a legitimate reason not to do so, trust your partner. Don’t let jealousy drive you to spy on her, expecting to catch her out. If you do you’ll begin misconstruing innocent things she says, does, doesn’t say, or doesn’t do as proof she’s not trustworthy. This will drive you crazy with doubt over the relationship, ultimately sabotaging it.
Even if you never make a comment about something you aren’t supposed to know, and never get caught where you aren’t supposed to be, your distrust will color how you relate to your partner and the relationship will suffer. Communicate by word and deed that you trust her, especially after an argument, as that’s when the relationship is most at risk.
Tip #4 to build trust: be consistent
If you change your mind from day to day about what’s important to you, you’ll make your partner question what’s going on, undermining his trust in you. He’ll find himself constantly wondering and never feeling stable. Always think about how your actions and words may affect him. Talk things over before changing course in something significant. This will help your partner maintain an even keel in the relationship.
First Takeaway about Building Trust
It’s not rocket science that if you want to be trusted, you need to give back trust, as well as being truthful and never lying to your partner. Being consistent just helps avoid raising doubts needlessly. However, as simple as that concept is, many find it hard to stick with it. If you commit to implementing these three simple tips in your marriage, you’ll do your relationship a world of good.
In the next post in this series, I offer tips on handling the emotions underlying building trust. These are more complicated than whats above, but are key to diving beneath the surface and strengthening trust.