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How to Build Trust in Your Relationship

couple building trust in their relationship with couples counseling in boulder and longmont

Why Is Trust Important In Relationship?

When we are first falling in love with our partner, deep inside we long for the assurance that we will be loved unconditionally and that we will feel safe with this person. Our most vulnerable self asks the questions in our minds – ‘Can I trust this person to be honest with me? Will they stay when things get hard? Can I count on them to do what they say they will do? And most importantly, can I trust this person will not hurt me?’

Trust is the foundation for romantic relationships. Trust can bring feelings of safety and the lack of trust brings up fear and insecurity. The more safety and security in the relationship, the stronger the relationship foundation is.

What Does Trust Look Like in Relationship?

“Just as important as those three little words ‘I love you,’ being able to say ‘I trust you’ is critical for love that lasts,” says Jessica L. Griffin, associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. But trust is not something that happens overnight. Trust develops over time, based on the experiences the two of you have with each other. Particularly, when there are difficult times and the two of you are able to get through them together.

Signs that you have trust in your relationship:

  • Open conversations: - You are both willing to let your guard down and share your secrets and fears.

  • You are each other’s priority: - You both put each other’s needs and interests first. You both show care and consideration with each other.

  • Physical intimacy: - It’s the little things, not sex, that shows how strong the bond is; a gentle kiss, holding hands or hugging.

  • Admitting mistakes: - You are both honest about mistakes and don’t cover them up with excuses or explanations.

  • Efficiently resolve conflicts: - If you can both work through disagreements in healthy ways, then it shows your relationship is solid.

When There is a Lack of Trust In Your Relationship

As time goes on in relationship and you experience disappointments and hurts, trust and safety can be replaced with doubts and fears. The fear of being rejected and alone can prevent you from being honest sometimes. Also, insecurities you may have about yourself can prevent you from trusting your partner’s love for you. If you don’t believe you are truly lovable it’s hard to accept your partner’s love for you. You suppress parts of yourself, avoid asking for what you need or saying how you feel. It’s important to know that without trust, it’s difficult for your relationship to grow.

Experiences from childhood can cause you to have mistrust. If your parents frequently let you down or were physically or emotionally abusive, it would be hard to feel safe with them. This can lead you to have the expectation that you will be letdown or betrayed in the future. It can also cause you to questioning your own ability to judge the trustworthiness of others.

You may struggle with trust in relationships if….

  • You avoid commitment – No matter how much you care for someone, you refuse to commit yourself to him or her.

  • You don’t forgive the smallest mistakes – You make a big deal out of nothing and it’s the end of the world if someone makes the slightest mistake.

  • You feel like it’s best to take control and do everything yourself – it is difficult for you to rely on others and risk being letdown.

  • You imagine the worst when you can’t get a hold of your partner – Your mind goes to 'who are they with'?

  • Or, you are suspicious when he/she receives a text – You may try to search their phone to view their messages.

If you have experienced infidelity in your relationship, trust can be especially hard. It can cause you to question just about everything in the relationship. Rebuilding trust after an affair requires its own set of guidelines that are beyond the focus of this blog. Learn more about healing trust after an affair:

couple talking about building trust in their relationship

3 Ways to Build Trust in Your Relationship

1. Be Honest - What You Say Matters

When the two of you can work through difficulties in a honest, healthy way, it shows the relationship is strong enough to endure any challenges that may come up. Are you a safe person for your partner to open up to? Do you listen with curiosity and respond in a respectful way? Or, do you lose your temper or shut down? Most of us didn’t have good role models for how to communication in a loving and respectful way.

Lies will erode the trust that’s so important to a healthy partnership. Tell the truth and choose your words carefully. Consider words are like bullets. Once you pull the trigger and a bullet leaves the gun, you can’t take it back. An apology later can only do so much to relieve the pain caused by hurtful words said during an argument.


Couples Counseling Boulder with Darleen Gegich MA LPC


4 communication approaches that always damage trust:

  • Shamingconveying your partner is wrong for how they feel, or what they are wanting or needing. It is most often a statement made with a tone that conveys disgust and gives our partner the message that they aren't OK or are somehow bad or wrong. It is important to allow your partner to have his or her own thoughts, feelings, and desires that may be different than yours.

  • Blaming – making the problem your partner’s fault. Instead, it is important to identify what may be your role in the conflict as well.

  • Criticizing - judging your partner’s character when they make a mistake. Instead focus on the behavior or choice they made that you are not happy with.

  • Sarcasm – is a way to mask vulnerable feelings like hurt or disappointment by using ridicule to convey your unhappiness. Sarcasm is like an IV drip of negativity in the relationship. Shooting verbal bullets back and forth will always injure your relationship.

2. Be Reliable

Can you be counted on to follow through with what you say you will? If there is any doubt you can fulfill a request from your partner, let them know. When you say yes and don’t follow through, it can feel like a form of betrayal to your partner.

Even with what seems like small disappointments, over time they have the potential of creating resentments. So, it is important to take it seriously when you say will do something.

On the flip side, there will be times when your partner will let you down. We are all human and mistakes happen. Being willing to forgive unintentional disappointments here and there is important. But if they happen often, it’s a problem.

3. Be Vulnerable

Being vulnerable in your relationship means sharing with your partner your desires, your fears, and your weaknesses. It can feel scary to invite someone else in to the most intimate aspects of yourself. You risk being judged or worse having that information used against you. Ultimately, the fear of vulnerability is a fear of rejection or abandonment.

Trust is built when your partner has the opportunity to let you down or hurt you but they don’t. In order for them to prove they can be trusted; you must make yourself vulnerable to that letdown. Which means you have to be willing to take an emotional risk.

But when you are new in relationship, it is good to take vulnerability slowly. Allow yourself time to get to know this person a bit. You may need more time than others. If you have been hurt in past relationships, you are more likely to be guarded. Move at the pace that feels right for you.

“By being vulnerable, people are being their authentic selves which helps others to understand them on a deeper level.” Brene’ Brown

happy couple after building trust in their relationship

You Can Rebuild Trust in Your Relationship?

When trust in your relationship has been broken, it’s natural for there to be negative feelings, doubts, or insecurity. If both of you are willing to take steps together to change the way you communicate and how you show up for the other, you can rebuild trust in your relationship.

According to John and Julie Gottman in their book Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, both partners assessing how they contributed to an incident and holding themselves accountable, each person apologizing and accepting an apology, and developing a plan to prevent further breaches of trust from occurring is essential.

Getting support and guidance by an experienced relationship counselor can be a good place to start.

I am here to help

If the two of you are ready to take your relationship to a deeper level of connection and commitment, Imago Relationship Therapy can help. I am a certified Imago Relationship Therapist with 20 years of experience working with couples. Feel free to contact me today to schedule a 20-minute phone consultation to talk about how couples counseling can help.



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