Trust may come easy to some people, but sometimes building trust can be a challenge — maybe things got off to a rocky start, or maybe you or your partner have been hurt by past partners and it's left you wondering how to work on trust in a relationship. In any case, the good news is that trust can be built and even repaired — you just need to be willing to communicate with your partner.
And if you have problems trusting new romantic partners, or if you've had trust issues in the past, don't worry — you're definitely not alone.
"We've all had these issues when it comes to love!" psychotherapist, author, and relationships specialist LeslieBeth Wish tells Elite Daily. "Why? Well, we don't want to get disappointed, fooled, hurt, misunderstood or mistreated! Falling in love means opening your heart and feelings and future. And we all probably have made missteps in love that have now made us a bit like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz."
Whether you're dating someone new and want a strong foundation of trust, or you're recovering from a violation of your trust with a partner you've been with for quite a while, here's what you need to know about building and working on trust in a relationship.
Talking about your experiences and expectations is key.
The biggest thing when it comes to building trust in a relationship is communication — you and your partner need to be willing to talk about things openly and honestly from the beginning so that you can prevent major issues down the road.
"Use the dating process and the relationship to communicate what you expect, what you like, what you dislike and what you’re doing that may be causing a problem for a partner," relationship and etiquette expert April Masini tells Elite Daily. "This is the only way you can both make changes, so speak up in a non-confrontational way, before your temper blows."
According to Wish, you should be sure to talk about things that happened in your past dating life so you're not holding onto past problems as much.
"Talk about the most important things to you in a relationship," Wish says. "Be sure to include those things that got in the way in your previous relationships. You are still carrying these things in your head — so why not get them out in the open now?"
So, what do you even talk about?
If you're not sure where to start or what topics might be a point of contention in your relationship, Wish has some suggestions, like talking about how you feel about (and what your history has been like with) cheating.
"Explain your current views," Wish says. "Is one incident enough to end the relationship? Perhaps you don't know. After all, a third of couples stay together and work things out when cheating has happened."
Another thing Wish says you should talk about are money issues and your careers.
"Who pays for what?" Wish asks. "What are the expectations? Do you lend money? Split everything? Take turns?" And as far as work goes, Wish adds, "Discuss your work hours and commitment. If you and your previous partners had trouble with this issue, talk about it with this new person."
You should also be willing to talk openly about sex, and address things like whether or not you're open to certain activities in the bedroom, or how you feel about potentially having an open relationship, Wish explains.
And of course, you should also discuss issues surrounding your (and their) friends and family.
"When, in the past, did you or your partner feel comfortable meeting family, friends, children?" Wish asks. "Would you like to take your time doing these things until you know that your relationship is a go? It's easy to get swept up in falling in love — and then finding that his or her family does not like you, and that your partner cannot override them! So, it can be helpful to talk about your past experiences with those issues."
And what if your partner has already broken your trust?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the key to dealing with a violation of your trust is to talk about it too — though it's, of course, a different kind of conversation.
"If you feel that trust has been violated, talk it out," Wish says, noting that you should "report your feelings — do not be your feelings."
This is important because entering into a super emotional, reactive state isn't going to be the thing that fixes your trust, even if getting it all out there temporarily makes you feel better.
"Ranting, raving, slamming doors, throwing things, crying hysterically will not help," Wish says. "Report how you are feeling. Explain again why this issue is so upsetting to you."
Once you've talked about the issue and why you're feeling hurt and betrayed, than you can move toward a solution that works for both of you, Wish says.
"Move as quickly as possible toward a solution so you don't get stuck going over and over the incident," Wish advises, noting that couples can also seek counseling if they're struggling with a solution. "Then give the relationship time to heal. And calm down — remain optimistic."
The thing to remember, Wish says, is that you can make it work — but if it's not working despite your attempts, you can always break up.
Of course, a breakup might not be the outcome you want, but the point is, you shouldn't feel like you have to stay in something that isn't working, especially if it hurts you.
Make sure you still put yourself first.
To that last point, it's important that, no matter what, you're putting yourself — and your mental health (and safety!) first, even if you're in a situation where you're in love with a partner who's repeatedly breaking your trust.
As Masini advises:
If you’re dating someone who’s a chronic cheater, it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re not going to change him or her. So during the dating process, learn about their relationship with betrayal! Some chronic cheaters admit it. Some deny it because they’re in denial about it themselves, and others deny it to try and trick you into thinking they don’t cheat. It’s your job as someone who’s dating to get to know the other person. Don’t get caught up in a love storm. Instead, date smart.
And of course, if your trust is ever violated with any sort of emotional or physical abuse, remember that under no circumstances should you tolerate that kind of behavior, Wish says.
"[In an abusive relationship,] seek counseling before you decide to break up so you can develop a safety plan," Wish advises. "Serious abuse usually occurs at the time of break up, so it is wise to learn from a mental health professional how to manage leaving."
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