How to build trust in relationships
Healthy, successful relationships require several things: clear communication, empathy, appreciation – but first and foremost, trust. “Trust is the foundation of any relationship,” says psychologist and behaviour analyst Reena B. Patel. “Lack of trust can sabotage a relationship before it begins.” Patel explains that respect shows your partner you value them, allowing you to feel secure and confident. “Trust provides motivation and positive energy to help support a healthy relationship.”
It can take time to create the foundations that trust requires; it’s not something that simply happens overnight. “Trust develops over time, requires a level of reliability in knowing you will always be there, and understanding. Trust also requires sacrifice,” says Patel.
Before you learn how to build trust in a relationship, it’s important to understand why trust is so crucial between partners.
Why is trust important in a relationship?
Lasting relationships aren’t just about sweet words; a solid foundation is critical. “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 paediatrics. “Our partner should be our respite from the outside world, a soft spot for us to land. In order for trust to exist and grow, we need to know that our partner ‘gets us’, has our best interests at heart, and that we can depend on them to be available – both physically and emotionally present – for us.”
When a relationship has lost trust, it can feel off-balance, explains psychotherapist Sharron Frederick. “Trust is a difficult thing to define, but you will certainly know when trust has been lost in the relationship,” she says, citing lost trust as one of the main reasons people end relationships. Feeling safe is key to emotional honesty and authenticity, as well as communication that’s free from judgment, rejection or ridicule. “Our partners having our back is paramount and it allows us to confidently go out into the world and take risks, ultimately working towards being our best selves,” says Frederick.
Lies will erode the trust that’s so important to a healthy partnership. “Honesty is the mortar and bricks used to continue to strengthen, build and shape the relationship,” says clinical psychologist Bethany Cook. “Some individuals trust completely from the start and others must build the foundation of trust through honest interactions,” she says.
Cook notes that all relationships will be tested, and being fallible, all humans will make mistakes. At times, that includes dishonesty.
“When these moments happen, the most important thing to do is to repair the tear in the relationship with an apology and changed behaviour,” says Cook, adding, “One dishonest interaction may cause some crumbling of a relationship’s structure for a moment, but through continued honest interactions one is able to rebuild and repair the trust.”
Honesty isn’t just important to those you love; it’s also something you need to practice in yourself. “There are two important aspects of honesty – consciously choosing to speak truth to your partner and the second, working on increasing your ability to be honest with yourself,” says Drew. “Honesty with oneself helps a person to develop healthy boundaries as well as being able to clearly communicate their needs.”