How to Trust and Be Trusted in a Relationship
When it comes to relationships, any expert will tell you, the common denominator in making it work is trust. Without a solid foundation in mutual trust between your partner and yourself, little else matters. To get the scoop on all things related to trust in a relationship, we’ve enlisted relationship expert and family therapist Alyson Jones. So how can you trust and be trusted in a relationship? From defining what trust means in a healthy relationship to outlining how to build the trust back after betrayal, we’re examining all angles of this key ingredient to ensure your happily ever after.
Definition of trust in a relationshipWhile trust may sound simple enough, relationship expert Alyson Jones argues that trust "is actually a complex, multi-layered concept.” Says Jones: “When we talk about and define trust, we are talking about a confidence that we feel in a relationship with someone where we feel both emotionally and physically safe with that person.”
Trust between two people is all about the give and take. It also has everything to do with choices we make. Says Jones: “We need to choose each other, and in this choosing, we will need to be available and vulnerable to the other person; while holding space for them to be available and vulnerable with us.”
Importance of trust in a relationshipThis should come as no surprise, but trust plays a major role in a relationship. Jones notes that trust is “a cornerstone in a relationship – it creates the space in which we can get to know ourselves and the other person on a deeper level.”
The benefits of embracing trust, according to Jones, are plenty. “Trust allows us to recharge, reenergize and pursue our goals. We feel empowered when we feel someone has our back.”
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How to recognize if there is – or isn’t – trust in your relationshipExpert Alyson Jones shares some indicators on assessing the level of trust in your relationship with the following questions:
- Are you and your partner open and honest about your life?
- Are your partner’s stories consistent? Or do you frequently find gaps in what they share?
- Do your conversations feel natural and direct?
- Does your partner easily offer to introduce you to others in their life?
- Does your partner’s body language appear open and relaxed? Or do they turn away and avoid making eye contact?
- Are you both open with each other about technology? This does not mean you should go snooping on each other’s devices, but is trust established via an openness with one another’s computers and phones?
How to build trust in a relationshipAccording to our expert, building trust is a process. Says Jones: “It does not happen all at once; and boundaries need to be defined and respected along the way.”
In carefully taking those small – but significant – steps, Jones believes the trust will naturally grow. Ultimately, it’s all an exercise in reciprocal sharing and communication. Jones adds: “When we share information and resolve issues, we will deepen our trust and develop a stronger foundation for the relationship.”
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How to maintain trust in a relationshipTrust in a relationship is more of a constant journey than a goal to be achieved. Jones believes maintaining trust in a relationship is all about embracing the process. She notes: “We can maintain and deepen our trust with one another through being consistent in our behaviours, our commitment and how we share information with our partner.”
The biggest takeaway, according to Jones, is this: “Being honest is important, but we need to remember that being honest does not mean being perfect with one another – it means being real!”
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Red flags for trust issues in a relationshipWhile there is no definitive list of what to look for when assessing trust issues in a relationship, expert Alyson Jones notes some key signals that shouldn’t be overlooked. Says Jones: “If you or your partner are jealous to the point of constant vigilance, this is not a secure relationship. If one partner attempts to control, this demonstrates a lack of trust. If one person always assumed betrayal…this indicates a trust issue.”
Among the red flags, one common factor, notes Jones, is drama: “Too much drama in the relationship is a sign of a trust issue. Suspicion and defensiveness are very hard on relationships.” Jones believes these issues are often a result of “past disappointments and attachment wounds.”
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How do you fix trust issues in a relationship?This one, like almost everything else relating to trust in a relationship, takes teamwork. Jones believes: “To repair trust issues both partners need to be open, honest and willing… it is hard work, but it’s not impossible.”
According to Jones, communication is the key to healing those emotional wounds. “Discuss your personal values and then work together to build shared values that you both support – an emotional wound heals through acknowledgement, understanding and commitment.”
When to seek expert help for trust issuesIn spite of what many believe, couple’s counselling is far from a last resort. Rather than waiting until the relationship has become so toxic that it may be beyond repair, experts would suggest taking a proactive attitude to seeking expert insight. Says Jones: “We can all benefit from counselling… it is important to seek counselling sooner rather than later to clear out the destructive patterns from the past.”
As a final thought on seeking expert help, Jones adds: “The more we understand ourselves, the more equipped we are to be successful in our present relationships… Counselling really can provide you with a toolbox for relationships and life.”
Learning how to trust your partnerThis isn’t always easy, as it can mean giving up our need to be in the driver’s seat of the relationship; and allowing ourselves to simply trust in and take our partner at their word. Says Jones: “The best way to build trust with your partner is to recognize that you cannot control them.”
Jones suggests those looking to better trust their partner should “act in a way that encourages a trusting environment. Discuss boundaries and fears. Ask your partner questions and be ready to listen. Foster kindness with each other and take responsibility for yourself and your actions.”
Learning how to be a trustworthy partnerEqually as important as trusting your partner is mirroring that behaviour back by being trustworthy yourself. It comes down to behaviours and communication. Alyson Jones breaks it down to the key elements: “Be open to hearing from the other person. Be consistent, caring and honest. Keep your word. Listen to your partner’s fears and make the relationship a priority – but remember to take care of yourself. [Share] the challenges and joys of your life.”
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How to build trust in a relationship after lyingCan you build trust in a relationship after betrayal? Relationship expert Alyson Jones believes it can be done – but not without putting in the work. She says: “To repair trust, we need to be aware of the injury. The hurt party needs to be able to express their pain and the other person needs to be able to hear how they have hurt their loved one.” This, insists Jones, is essential to the healing process. She adds: “Betrayals that are not addressed or resolved will impair the intimacy in a relationship and will undermine the foundation of that relationship.”
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Signs that loss of trust is beyond repairNot every fractured relationship can be repaired; and not every loss of trust can be rebuilt. Says Jones: “When someone repeatedly tells you that they will change and then their behaviour tells you something different, pay attention. There are some patterns that will not change; and some people who make empty promises without any intention of changing.” Ultimately, if you feel insecure or unsafe in your relationship, nothing should prevent you from making the changes necessary to ensure your self-worth and sense of safety remain intact.
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Trust exercises to do as a coupleSharing her expert suggestions on trust-building exercises for couples, Alyson Jones recommends the following:
- Share something personal to create a sense of trust in the relationship
- Practice forgiveness by sharing something you’ve done in the relationship that you feel bad for and ask for their forgiveness
- Make eye contact by looking at each other in the eyes for 1 – 2 minutes
- Do a question and answer round for several minutes without interrupting your partner, to allow them the space to answer freely at their turn
- Take turns telling each other three things you love about one another
It starts from within: how to trust yourselfTrust represents a constant journey of growth between your partner and yourself; but before you can ever hope to succeed in a partnership, it’s vital to get in sync with the person within and harness the ability to have trust in yourself.
Moreover, says Jones, trusting in yourself has a lot to do with letting go: “We are letting go of control. The idea that we can control anyone else is false; and there is no safety net that will assure us 100% that we are now safe in a relationship and will not get hurt. What this means is we can learn to trust ourselves.” Explains Jones: “We need to trust our ability to establish and keep boundaries, and trust that we will know if there is a bridge back even when we have been hurt.”
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