Trust in a Relationship
|10 Crucial and Surprising Steps to Build Trust in a Relationship
1. Be predictable
When do seeds of suspicion emerge? When one begins to think, "What's up? Why is he doing that? He's never done that before? That is so unlike him? He loses 30 pounds, buys a new wardrobe and comes home late from work. He changes his patterns. His behavior becomes unpredictable. You get the picture? Any movement away from predictable behavior can become suspect and trust can deteriorate.
Focus on acting predictably if you need to build trust. Be consistent in what you do.
This doesn't mean you must be boring. If there is a twinkle in your eye and a dose of spontaneity every so often, for goodness sakes be spontaneous and fun loving. But, be spontaneous consistently! Be true to who you have always been and be that consistently, whoever you tend to be!
2. Inform your significant other when you become "unpredictable."
No one goes through life the same person. We all make shifts and changes. Frankly sometimes we may be fairly clueless about what is happening and where we are going. Those times may be very intense and we do some silly things or make some downright dumb decisions. Life gets can get very squirrelly and unpredictable. (I have a favorite phrase: Gold is refined through intense heat.) Growth in an individual, marriage or family often is accompanied by a little chaos.
Welcome these shifts, for there is a part of you searching for something better/different/richer/deeper, but for heaven's sake, inform your partner of what you are experiencing. Say, "I really don't know what is going on in me right now, but I'm moving in a different direction. Be a little patient with me while I figure this out. I might do some silly things, but my intent is not to harm you or scare you. Accept some of my wondering and wandering and please be there for me? I may need to run some of this by you every so often!"
3. Make sure your words match the message.
Mean what you say and say what you mean. When your partner hears one thing in your words but your tone of voice, body language and facial expressions are really saying something else, you open the relationship to some crazy making days. Which message is she to believe? This can waste a tremendous amount of energy and she learns not to trust part of what you are saying.
Here's a very simple but common example. You are getting ready to go to a formal dinner. Your wife comes to you and says, "How do I look?" (And she's wearing a dress you don't particularly like and her hair is pulled back in a way that turns you off.)
Not to spoil the evening you enthusiastically say, "You look great." You don't really mean it and a part of her knows you really don't mean it. But, you leave it at that.
This might not seem like a big deal - we all have done something similar - but if trust is shaky to begin with, it is even shakier now.
Here's how to match the words with the nonverbal: "I think you are a beautiful person. I want you to know that. I love you dearly and it will be wonderful to have you by my side tonight. Others will see your beauty. (As you say this, you look into her eyes as you put your hands around her waist.)
She's not concerned so much with how she looks but is expressing a need for affirmation. She's not talking about her dress or hair, but about wanting to know the evening is going to go just fine. You respond to the real message.
You can take this one step further, if you like. At some point you might bring up her need for affirmation and talk about that. Ask her is there is anything you can say or do so that need is met.
Trust is awareness of the intent beneath the obvious message and responding to that!
4. Believe the other person is competent.
I hear this phrase very often: "But, I don't want to hurt the him." A couple things are at play here. First, she may not have the skill of confronting the other with the truth in a way that brings reconciliation and understanding. She believes truth telling is destructive or entails some sort of drama. Neither is true. The truth is never destructive and can be conveyed in loving ways. (With that said, what we believe to be the truth may indeed be a distorted perception that fits our personal needs.)
Or, she may see the other person as a wimp; someone she believes cannot handle rigorous personal confrontation. She doesn't trust that the other personal has the internal strength or stamina or skills to be in a relationship of mutual respect and equality. The other person picks up on this mistrust and does what he does (feigns inadequacy and incompetence) to avoid the personal confrontation as well. A dance is acted out.
Believe and know in your heart that the other person, somewhere and somehow, beneath the games, has the internal strength and capacity to handle anything. Such trust builds trust in the other person and begins to pervade the relationship. "Hey, she thinks I can handle this! Hmmmm, this is mighty good! I CAN engage her and be truly intimate!"
5. Be very very careful of keeping secrets.
If he knows there is an elephant in the room and doesn't talk about it, the elephant takes up tremendous space in the relationship. It takes energy for him to walk around it. She may not see the elephant but knows he is bending his neck to look around something. She will be curious, mildly disturbed, have feelings but no words to wrap around them, might wonder if something is wrong with her or struggle with trusting her intuition (her intuition KNOWS an elephant is there.) And, when we can't trust the messages that come from within us, we find it very difficult to trust the messages of the other person.
Secrets demand tremendous energy and erode trust. The relationship is doomed never to experience wall-banging intimacy. This is why extramarital affairs are so damaging. She is not so much concerned about him having sex with someone else as she is about the betrayal, lack of trust, the secrets and deception that are crazy making and energy draining.
Now, please. I'm not saying that you sit your partner down and divulge the 23 secrets of your illicit past behaviors. If you have resolved those, i.e. forgiven yourself, understand those behaviors, learned from them and were able to use them to make the internal shifts necessary for your personal development, they do not qualify as an elephant. Hopefully, in the course of growing intimacy in your relationship you may want to share some of those events as you disclose to your partner where you were and where you are now. You do so without emotional charge.
However, if a secret takes up room, i.e. still has an emotional charge and holds you back from disclosing more and more of yourself in the growing stages of intimacy, you have a problem that needs to be addressed with your partner.