How Do You Build Trust In Your Relationship? 5 Tips To Try, Because It's Not Always Easy
When we think of the key components that form the foundation of a healthy relationship, trust is at top of the list. It makes sense, too — trust gives you a sense of security, and allows you to be honest in sharing your needs, feelings and experiences without fearing that your boo will run in the opposite direction. But how do you build trust in your relationship? The thing is, while there may be a certain degree of trust when you start dating someone, you typically need to earn it. Fortunately, there are ways to strengthen trust, and in the process, strengthen your bond.
Indeed, trust can definitely be damaged, but it can also be repaired. And as it grows, it can have a dramatic impact: The more trust you and your partner mutually have, the more you both can be your authentic selves.
“Real trust is knowing that you can be open and vulnerable and that your partner will not exploit your vulnerability but, instead, will do everything they can to let you know that they've got you,” explains Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent dating and relationship therapist in Los Angeles. “The ability to sustain love over the long haul is utterly dependent upon developing trust so that you and your partner can feel safe being open and authentic with each other.”
So, how do you build trust? Here are a few tried-and-true tactics recommended by relationship experts.
When someone continually flakes on you, your trust naturally begins to erode — they have proven that they are unreliable, and therefore, you are no longer able to believe them when they say they’ll call you after work or pick you up at 8. That’s why licensed clinical social worker Melanie Shapiro says it’s crucial to do what you say you’re going to do — from small things, like texting your partner to let them know you got home safe when you promised to, to more significant situations, like showing up to their sister’s wedding on time.
Speaking from experience, this is a big one for me. It’s how I knew my current relationship had long-term potential, and it allowed me to open up far faster and fall much harder than I have in the past. From the get-go, my boyfriend followed through on everything he told me would do, and every single time he did, it reinforced the idea that I could rely on him. It’s that easy, folks: Simply show up. Do everything you can to keep your promises, and trust will naturally flourish.
Let them in.
Especially in the early stages of a new relationship, it’s totally natural to feel hesitant about letting your partner in on certain things. Maybe there’s a particular family member whose unpredictable behavior makes you nervous. Maybe you had a traumatic experience in the past that you’re afraid of opening up about. But it’s super important to gradually take steps toward letting your partner in on these aspects of your life, no matter how vulnerable it may feel.
“This allows them to see all of you,” says Shapiro. “It creates a greater bond and greater feelings of trust and intimacy.”
Of course, you should only talk about something when you feel ready. But doing so with reckless abandon will show your SO that you trust them, and in turn, likely encourage them to trust you to be honest with them.
Listen with an open mind.
Speaking of vulnerability, it’s critical to keep an open mind and really listen to your significant other when they’re sharing their thoughts, feelings, or concerns. Shapiro advises offering a “safe, not judgmental place” for your partner when they’re talking about something that’s difficult for them. That way, they’ll learn that they can come to you and talk about anything without worrying that you’ll be critical, defensive, or otherwise lash out.
“It is common to try to solve your partners’ problems because you don’t want them to be in pain,” explains Shapiro. “But just listening and offering empathy can build trust and intimacy in your relationship.”
Dr. Brown recommends using reflective listening when talking about your partner.
“Repeat back to them what you think they are saying,” he says. “This helps with trust because your partner will feel that you are genuinely interested in hearing what they have to say.”
In addition to showing your partner that you’re listening and that you care, this is also an effective strategy for preventing any potential misunderstandings.
Take responsibility for your missteps.
It isn’t always easy to admit when you’ve been wrong. For some of us, it’s harder than it is for others. But learning to take responsibility for your mistakes is a crucial component of building trust.
“This helps your partner trust that you are not addicted to being right all the time,” explains Dr. Brown.
And of course, this goes both ways. When your SO admits to being wrong (and hopefully apologizes), resist the temptation to punish them somehow or say “I told you so!” The more you both feel emotionally safe, the more likely you both are to own up to your mistakes — which is so key in building trust.
Be real — even, and especially, when it's hard.
When your partner does something that bothers you, you may find it difficult to tell them for fear of hurting their feelings. When you do something that you know might bother them, you may struggle to admit it to them. There are guaranteed to be times when you have to confront an issue with your SO, and it’s imperative that you boldly dive into those conversations, no matter how anxiety-inducing it may feel.
“This will take a degree of vulnerability and courage at times,” says Dr. Brown. “Your partner will, hopefully, appreciate you taking the risk.”
Being real AF with your partner is, without a doubt, one of the best was to build trust, because it shows them that they can depend on you to be honest. That means they won’t have to dig for the truth, or figure out what you’re thinking or feeling, because they know that you’ll always be open with them about whatever’s on your mind.
Remember: Building trust is a marathon, not a race. Be reliable, be compassionate, and above all, be patient. Each of us has had unique experiences in our past relationships that can affect how easy or difficult it is to earn our trust. Still, by doing what you say you’re going to do, owning up to your mistakes, openly sharing your thoughts, feelings, and concerns, and listening to your partner with an open mind, you’re sure to gradually build a strong foundation.