Do you trust me?
I remember asking my daughter that question as I waited for her to jump off the diving board at the pool for the very first time.
Trust. Sounds so simple. So easy.
Yet when standing on the diving boards of life, it is not as easy as it sounds.
Especially when you calculate the human factor – when other people are involved in the equation.
This is doubly true for marriage.
Trust is more than having confidence your spouse is faithful. In fact, that level of trust is the lowest level of trust. If that is missing in your marriage, I encourage you to watch this.
The higher level of trust is knowing that spouse is our biggest fan, greatest supporter, and most secure safe place.
Without this level of trust, we will continue to struggle in our relationship and never cultivate the type marriage we truly desire.
Since trust is vital to the health of our marriage, it’s crucial to learn how to build trust in our relationship.
In this article I draw from several key leaders in the marriage field to talk about…
5 ways of building trust in marriage.
#1: Ask Yourself The Big Questions
According to loveisrespect.org, we should ask ourselves three questions to discover our level of trust.
Is My Partner There for Me (and Am I There for Them)?
We’re not just talking about being there physically, but emotionally, too. Does your partner listen to you and support you? Are they sensitive to your problems, worries and fears? Do they show compassion and genuinely care about you? A person who is trustworthy is able to demonstrate consideration and care of others. This also means that they trust you to know what’s best for yourself. A partner who tells you they know best, or that you don’t know how you really feel, isn’t showing that they trust you.
It’s also important to keep in mind that in a healthy relationship, you can trust that no matter what comes up your partner won’t react in a way that threatens your safety or harms you. Everyone deserves to be in a relationship with someone who can resolve conflicts in a healthy, respectful way.
Is My Partner Consistent (and Am I Consistent with Them)?
Each person in a relationship demonstrates their trustworthiness through consistency in their actions. The first behaviors you look at might be relatively small, like showing up for dates at agreed-upon times. Keeping private information just between the two of you and always respecting boundaries are other clues someone is dependable. Again, learning these things in a relationship happens gradually, as you both show that you are consistent with your actions not just occasionally, but all the time.
Does My Partner Say What They Mean and Do What They Say (and Do I Do the Same)?
Another way a person shows they are trustworthy is when their words and behavior match up. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “That person is all talk.” It generally means that someone’s words and actions don’t really correspond; they say one thing and do another. For example, if someone says they love you, and then they act abusively toward you, their words and actions don’t match. When you love someone, you do not abuse them.
#2: Do The Right Thing
Barrie Davenport from Live Bold and Bloom, lists 11 ways to cultivate trust. It’s interesting that most of the eleven things she mentions revolve around doing the right thing.
For example, the first three points are about integrity:
1. Be honest.
This should be a fairly obvious candidate for the top eleven ways to build trust. Being honest with yourself, though, is just as important as (if not more than) telling the truth when a loved one asks you a question.
2. Say what you’re going to do and do it.
When you commit to doing something (especially if you’re doing that something for someone else) make your commitment clear and then do it. Hold yourself accountable and allow others — particularly those affected by your actions — to help keep you on track.
If you want others to trust you, let them see your ability to follow through and finish what you start — unless you come to an agreement that finishing a particular project isn’t in anyone’s best interests.
3. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
If you’re in the habit of making promises and then breaking them, don’t be surprised if no one trusts you to keep your word — even if the excuses you give every time you break a promise are “understandable.”
Better to under-promise and over-deliver. It works as well for personal relationships as for customer service.
We stand or fall in our relationships based on our trustworthiness. Integrity is the single most important aspect of our character when it comes to building trust.
The last three points are about cultivating the habit of making good emotional choices:
You can never underestimate the power of simply doing what is right, even if it is inconvenient and costs you. Click To Tweet
9. Make a habit of doing the right thing.
A one-off good deed isn’t enough. If you want people to trust you, you’ll have to make a habit of doing the right thing. Your consistency is what will communicate your commitment to doing the right thing even when it costs you.
10. Acknowledge and make amends for your mistakes.
Don’t be too proud to apologize and ask forgiveness when you’ve hurt someone. Call your misdeeds or hurtful words what they are (without “but” statements to explain or justify them), and do what you can to make amends for your mistakes.
11. Make forgiveness a daily habit.
Forgiving even small “trespasses” makes a difference. Forgiving large offenses is life-changing.
You can never underestimate the power of simply doing what is right, even if it is inconvenient and costs you.
#3: Being Honest and Vulnerable creates an Atmosphere of Trust
Heather Craig from PositivePsychology.com offers this advice about honesty.
As young children, we quickly learn to tell if someone is being untruthful. It may be that someone doesn’t follow through with their promises, or a parent makes threats they don’t follow through on. This form of self-protection evolved to help us survive, so nearly all of us are able to notice the “proverbial boy crying wolf” (Bonior, 2018).
As we grow older, we finetune our expectations and behavior by learning not to trust an untruthful person, which helps protect ourselves from being let down again. So, when trying to develop trust in a relationship, don’t say things that you won’t follow through with.
It’s also important not to say things that don’t accurately reflect how you feel. Consistently telling lies, even if they feel small or inconsequential, will result in the other person no longer trusting what you say (Bonior, 2018).
Honesty is only part of the equation. To build trust requires a level of vulnerability.
Another aspect of building trust is to become increasingly vulnerable in the relationship as it develops. People feel trust when they rely on one another. In the relationships we have, we build trust through vulnerability (Bonior, 2018). Part of this will happen automatically over time through our daily interactions—such as feeling assured that our partner will be there if they have offered to pick us up from work (Bonior, 2018).
It is also important to be emotionally vulnerable (Bonior, 2018). Building trust requires you to open yourself up to the potential risk of being hurt. This could be revealing things that scare you or exposing aspects of yourself that you don’t consider attractive (Bonior, 2018). In other words, trust is developed when our partners have the chance to let us down or hurt us, but they don’t.
I love the quote at the end…’Trust is developed when our partners have the chance to let us down or hurt us, but they don’t.
When we prove to our spouse that we are ‘for them’ and won’t abandon them (it’s not about being perfect, but about being ‘there’), we create trust.When it comes to healthy relationships, it's not about being perfect. It's about being 'there.' Click To Tweet
#4: R.E.S.P.E.C.T – Find out what it means to me
Tina Turner sang about it, and Andrea Bonior (Ph.D) from Psychologytoday.com wrote about it.
One of the most emotionally lasting ways that our partners can damage us — and our trust — is by belittling us, making us feel less-than, or viewing us with condescension or contempt rather than respect.
Think of a basic level of respect as the common denominator in any relationship, whether between a cashier and customer or a mother and son. And the more emotionally intimate your relationship, the more important that keeping up that basic level of respect becomes, not less.
Unfortunately, when we are tightly intertwined with someone, we sometimes show them our worst — which can be positive in terms of being vulnerable to them, but it also may involve treating them badly.
Ironically, we may lash out at our mother or child or partner in ways that we never would at a cashier — and we forget that respect is even more important with our loved ones because of the damage the lack of it can do over time.
This does not mean that you must be formal or perfectly polite always with your partner. But it does mean that you must remember that every time you treat them in a way that demeans them or violates that basic minimum of dignity and respect, you harm your connection a bit — and make it more difficult for them to trust you over time.
Read that last section again slowly.
Every time we demean our spouse, we break the connection of trust. This in turn damages the relationship and makes it harder to trust in the future.Every time we demean our spouse, we break the connection of trust. This in turn damages the relationship and makes it harder to trust in the future. Click To Tweet
So, what do you do if you are in a relationship where trust has been broken?
Begin by discovering what not to do, and build on the principles laid out by Dr. Lee Baucom in ‘Save the Marriage System.’
#5: Take Responsibility
I want to close with this short comment from Sylvia Smith in an article she wrote for Marriage.com.
To build trust in a relationship, own up to your behaviors, actions, and inactions, don’t try to shift the blame to a circumstance or someone else.
It would also be a good idea to try relationship building activities like scheduling fun together, sharing gratitude list, thanking your partner, befriending healthy couples that rub off their relationship satisfaction on you and building and achieving mutual goals (exercise, finances, professional success). These trust-building exercises for couples will help cement trust in relationships, and also answers the question, how to fix trust issues in a relationship.
One of the ways to build trust in a relationship is, to be honest with yourself and to your partner as to why you made your decisions, actions, and inactions.
One of the most difficult decisions we will ever make is to stop trying to change our spouse, and start trying to change ourselves.One of the most difficult decisions we will ever make is to stop trying to change our spouse, and start trying to change ourselves. Click To Tweet
When we take responsibility for our own actions, and our role in the relationship, things tend to move forward instead of backwards.
Wrapping It Up
We’ve covered five important ways to build trust in our marriage.
To recap, here they are:
1. Ask Yourself the Big Questions
2. Do the Right Thing
3. Being Honest and Vulnerable creates an Atmosphere of Trust
4. R.E.S.P.E.C.T – Find out what it means to me
5. Take Responsibility
When we put these things into place, we start the journey (because it is a journey, not just a destination – think about that) of building trust in our relationship.
Now it’s your turn.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, AND find out what you do to create an atmosphere of trust in your marriage.
Leave a comment below and let me know.
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