Where would your relationship be without trust? The answer is “Over!” Trust is a necessary component for healthy and strong relationships and deepens the level of intimacy. But trust comes in many different forms including physical, emotional, financial, relational, and behavioral. Where do we learn about trust? Obviously we learn how to trust through our role models and experiences, our parents, teachers, family, friends, pastors, coaches, and later in life, our peers, colleagues, and mentors. Some of us trust too much while others don’t trust enough. Finding a healthy and appropriate level of trust takes time and awareness in relationships. Breaking trust could involve routine matters such as not following through on projects, always running late or overcommitment to activities and an inability in saying no. Rebuilding trust that has been broken takes acknowledgement of the pain it caused, remorse for the hurtful words or actions and a commitment to change one’s behavior. Trust building requires action, not just words.
Many of the couples I work with have lost trust in each other either because of destructive behaviors such as infidelity, substance abuse, excessive spending, lack of commitment, perpetual lies, and/or abuse of some sort. When we violate other’s boundaries, humiliate each other, and discount feelings and needs, we are likely to erode any trust that may have existed. Even overreacting, giving the silent treatment, interrupting, and controlling behaviors can damage the level of trust in the relationship. The good news is that people can regain trust and repair wounds by changing their behaviors and making better choices. When we make the choice to change, trust building becomes possible. Being consistent in our words and actions builds trust.
Letting go of our defensiveness and our need to justify and blame the other person are the first steps in repairing trust. Being open, honest, and direct in a respectful and kind way paves the way for restoring trust. Couples need to be able to say and accept no and maintain healthy boundaries to establish greater levels of connection. Building trust requires an acceptance of responsibility for your actions and an apology. In order to grow the relationship the couple will benefit from self-disclosing, being vulnerable, and forgiving each other. Confronting and resolving conflict along with letting go of emotional pain is necessary to build trust. Ultimately, this process takes time, courage, and patience, but can greatly enhance the connection. Trust is the most important part of a relationship. Consider what you need to do in your relationship to build trust.