Trust is key to successful partnerships. But how do you build trust in a relationship, especially if you’ve been burned before?
A new relationship! On the one hand, you want to jump in with both feet. On the other, your momma didn’t raise no fool. You want to enjoy the ride, but if it turns out the person you’re trusting is actually a toad, you want to be prepared for that too – without sabotaging everything before it starts.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people who are trusting are more likely to forgive their partner’s mistakes because they remember transgressions as less severe. On the flipside, those with trust issues have the opposite reaction and remember them as more severe.
According to the study’s lead author Laura B. Luchies, your psychological reality of trust in a relationship isn’t what actually happened, but a distorted memory – when you trust your partner, you assume the betrayal is a one-time thing; when you don’t, you assume it’s a pattern of bad behavior (which is a lot harder to forgive). For those trying to build trust in a relationship, this can easily turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more you try to avoid something you’re fearful of – being cheated on, turning into your mother – the more likely you are to make it a reality. Sh*t.
When it comes to trust in a relationship, you get what you give. More than that, forgiveness isn’t foolish – it’s brave. Here are seven ways to build (and maintain) trust in a relationship:
1. Trust yourself.
There’s a fine line between forgiving someone and allowing them to use you, so many of us overcompensate with a tough girl routine to avoid getting hurt – and miss out on the entire ‘trust in a relationship’ experience. When going all in, trust your ability to make the right decisions for your well-being. This will put you at ease and help you feel empowered.
2. Surround yourself with trustworthy people.
I’ve seen many couples crumble not because of the lack of trust in a relationship, but because of who the couple hung out with – lazy friends, narcissistic ones, drama queens, even ex-flings (I mean, seriously?!). Surround yourself with people you both trust and feel comfortable with – building trust in a relationship is hard enough as it is!
3. Don’t keep secrets.
If you’re going out with friends, don’t say it’s an innocent slumber party. If someone hits on you at work, don’t keep it from your partner. If you’ve messed up or get in a sticky situation, your beau needs to know that he’s the one you turn to – especially if the potential backlash involves him by association. When you make him the first person to know what’s going on in your life, he’ll do the same for you.
4. Consider your relationship a separate entity.
Leave your emotional baggage at the door. What’s happened to you in your past relationships have nothing to do with the current relationship you’re in. Use this as an opportunity to set boundaries and build trust in a relationship. It may make you uncomfortable when your partner’s co-worker flirts with him, or make him uneasy when your ex texts you. Respecting each other’s boundaries shows that you’re taking your relationship seriously and that you have top billing in each other’s lives.
5. Keep your promises.
Broken promises will never build trust in a relationship. If you say you’ll call him tomorrow, call him tomorrow. If you say you’ll meet him for lunch, be there with bells on. Of course, sometimes the day can get away from us, so if something’s causing a delay, always get in touch with a back-up plan. Don’t be a flake – a little effort goes a long way.
6. Be yourself all the time.
Face it: Eventually you’re going to have to let go of the whole brush-your-teeth-and-run-back-to-bed-like-you-woke-up-with-minty-fresh-breath thing. Gradually let him into your world by showing him that you are, in fact, human. Letting go of the small things will make you feel more comfortable to reveal your bigger quirks – especially the ones you’re not willing to budge on. Trust he’ll be supportive and offer that same support in return. Trust in a relationship is a two-way street.
7. Ask him for help.
The best part of trust in a relationship is having each other’s back. If you’re going to be late getting off work, ask him to pick up dinner. If you’re having a problem with a friend, ask him for his advice. Eventually, you’ll feel comfortable relying on each other completely.
How do you build trust in a relationship?
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Image: Katie Tegtmeyer