Trust is the state that occurs when you know that your partner acts and thinks to maximize your best interest and what is of benefit to you, not just your partner’s own interests and benefits.

In other words, this means:

  • My partner has my back.
  • My partner is there for me in terms of who I am as a person and what I need.
  • My partner honours me, considers me, and protects me.

Trust is not rebuilt through one big gesture. Trust is rebuilt through small and consistent follow through. That you say what you do and do what you say.

 Steps to build trust:

Trust is built by being there for your partner and through small steps of “attunement,” which is truly understanding your partner and being able to be with them through difficult emotions.

  1. Attunement: being there for one another, which involves active listening, empathy, and validation. Openly share your feelings and communicate transparently. Make commitments and keep them. Share vulnerabilities. Make decisions that have your partner’s best interest in mind.
  2. Fairness: if power is shared equally in the relationship, then things are perceived as fairer and trust develops.
  3. Repair: when there is a miscommunication or argument, couples repair. Repair involves fully processing negative feelings and events.
  4. Turning towards: happy couples have 5 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction. Unhappy couples have 1 positive to 1 negative interaction. Here are some ideas of how you can turn towards each other and increase the number of positive interactions in your relationship.
Trust Building Exercises

Open Phone Policy
Allow your partner to check your phone as they like. This can be a meaningful trust building exercise. Eventually, trust will look like your partner not needing/wanting to check your phone because they trust you. What matters is your attitude behind allowing your partner to check your phone. Being open and inviting builds trust. Being secretive and hesitant hinders trust.

Set Boundaries
Have a conversation about the boundaries you each need to keep the relationship strong. Your couple boundaries support and honour the relationship and are important for both people to follow through with. For example, you might have boundaries that involve limiting contact with people outside of your relationship or you might have boundaries about limiting phone use while with each other. Ask your partner for one to two boundaries you could do to build trust with them. Then share one or two boundaries that your partner could uphold to build trust with you.

List Writing
Write a list of small and large things your partner can do and say to build trust with you. Share your lists with each other and try to communicate with your partner when you notice them doing or saying something off your list. Here are some examples:

Small Trust Building

  • Follow through on what you say you’ll do
  • Provide me with an accurate itinerary when you travel
  • Tell me how you find me attractive
  • Tell me when you feel proud of me and why
  • Text me that you are committed to our relationship
  • Support me when I am having a bad day
  • Stick up for me
  • Tell me how you feel, share your intimate thoughts with me
  • Tell me when you are optimistic about our future together
  • Ask me how I feel. Do not interpret my behaviour or assume you know how I feel
  • Make some fun, new weekend plans for us

Large Trust Building

  • Go to therapy with me to understand our relationship better
  • Put some of your money into a joint account
  • Don’t contact or associate with the affair-person’s circle of friends
  • Stop associating with someone who is unhealthy for our relationship
  • Go on a romantic vacation with me

Take Turns Planning Date Nights
Part of building trust is giving your partner enough space to show they can be trustworthy.  Alternating planning dates, builds trust through you and your partner showing up for each other and putting in intentional effort. Often in long term relationships, desire decrease because novelty/newness decreases. Date night/quality time is both a chance to do familiar things you love and an opportunity to try something new and bring excitement into the relationship.

Talk About Your Fears
Intimacy in a relationship can only happen when you and your partner are willing to be vulnerable and talk openly with one another. One way to show your vulnerability and build trust is to discuss your fears and insecurities. It’s important to sit down and talk about what you may be afraid of without shame, so you can leave that in the past and move forward. It also gives your partner a chance to show they can comfort you.

Create Your Own Language Together
Creating your own language together includes coming up with specific words or phrases that mean something important for the two of you. Come up with a word to use when you want your partner to know that you’re being serious about something, and another word for when you feel like your boundaries are being pushed. Creating your own language and applying it is a great way to build trust and strengthen your connection.

Use the EARN Formula (this can help you and your partner feel validated, heard, and understood)
E = Emotions = Acknowledge your partner’s emotions.
A = Actions (Yours) = Acknowledge how your actions impacted your partner’s feelings.
R = Responsibility (Yours) = Acknowledge how you will adjust your actions in future.
N = Need = Ask for what you need that would help you better respond to your partner’s needs.

To learn more about trust, check out this 5 minute video Dr. John Gottman (a researcher of love and relationships).

Please reach out if you are struggling with trust in your relationship and want help rebuilding it.

Written by: Hadley Mitchell, R. Psych
Map Psychology Solutions
[email protected]
(587) 330-2999

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