You could say a close relationship depends on trust.
To feel close, you need to open your inner world — your thoughts and feelings — to another person. You have to trust your partner to care about how you feel and to respond.
As you find your partner cares about you and treats you kindly, you can risk being vulnerable. If you can’t trust your partner to respond to your needs and your relationship well, it’s hard to make love last.
Trust deepens each time a partner makes the other feel seen and accepted. Each time two people turn toward each other emotionally, trust recharges. One person says, in some way, “I need you,” and the other responds, “I’m here.”
Trust can fade too. The more couples emotionally tune out and turn away, the more they risk draining the power of trust from their love, until its strength runs out.
“My guess is that if you do nothing to make things get better in your marriage but do not do anything wrong, the marriage will still tend to get worse over time,” says renowned researcher Dr. John Gottman.
To maintain a balanced emotional ecology you need to make an effort—think about your spouse during the day, think about how to make a good thing even better, and act.
From: Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last, by John Gottman and Nan Silver
A Definition of Trust
When your confidence in each other is high, it’s easier to commit to a relationship.
Staying happily committed is the challenge.
Trust is not some vague quality that grows between two people. It is the specific state that exists when you are both willing to change your own behavior to benefit your partner.
From What Makes Love Last?: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal, by John Gottman and Nan Silver
A big warning sign that trust is slipping away, says Gottman, happens when negative feelings start to override positive ones. One partner starts to think the problems come from the other’s character flaws or wrong priorities. One or both of you may even change the whole “story of us” to reflect the new opinion.
The reasons for the bad rap might not even be true. But a negative filter now taints everything the partner sees. When partners lose sign of each other’s good nature or intentions, negative thoughts start to overpower the positive ones.
Want to stop the downward slide? Catch it early!
Recognize that trust naturally ebbs and flows in a relationship. Ask yourself what you’re thinking about your partner. Then check in to learn what’s true.
Can you see events from your partner’s point of view? Can you seek to understand your partner’s actions?
If you can tune into each other and appreciate what you find, you can build trust. Focus on the the many things that bring you emotional connection.
How Trust Helps Your Relationship Work Well
A healthy relationship built on trust is likely to have these traits:
- You can have your own friends without your partner monitoring conversations or becoming jealous.
- You feel fully able to tell the truth, rather than limiting your story to what you feel is best for the other to hear.
- You divide housework, child rearing and financial duties so it feels fair to both.
- You mutually invest in keeping the relationship healthy or making it even better.
- You ensure you take time to relax and enjoy being yourselves together.
Trust gives a secure relationship roots to grow on.
Notice what makes you both feel seen and cared about. Do you enjoy a sense of belonging, feeling safe in the world, and happiness being yourself with each other? Such moments come from trust in your relationship and your partner.
You can say a big yes to sharing your life together when you have built confidence through many little yeses.
You can start building trust with something small, like agreeing to squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom. With time and care, you can build trust into a great source of security, confidence and fulfillment.
We Are Here For You
Sometimes, couples don’t see each other’s bid for more connection or support. But it is possible to become more responsive and feel safe. We help couples expand their connection in ways they both want. To work with our skilled couples therapists in Alexandria, Virginia, please call us at 703-768-6240