Trust is essential in couple relationships as much of our lives together rely on trusting our partner emotionally, physically, financially and practically. Broken trust can feel like a betrayal and can take time to heal.
The difficulty for couples is that there is no universal definition of what constitutes a betrayal or a broken boundary, and we all have our own rules of what is or isn’t acceptable. We may think we are aligned with our partner, however, when we are not it can feel devastating. This can lead to conflict, disappointment, blame, judgment, criticism, feeling alone, ashamed, a lack of sexual or emotional intimacy, anxiety, jealousy, sadness, distress, or rage. Sometimes relationships head toward separation and/or divorce.
Here are 3 tips to build a relationship based on trust:
Conversations to create a framework of trust
Have a series of conversations about how we will treat each other and important issues that we will need to navigate in life together. It is critical to understand each other’s viewpoint, as this can guide behaviour, actions and words to be more protective and trustworthy.
These issues include –
Understand your conscious and unconscious past experiences regarding trust
We all need to understand aspects of our own past experiences with broken trust and how we carry these into our couple relationship. Some of our trust difficulties are conscious and others are unconscious. As you will see from the examples below, trust issues will impact our relationship whether we are aware of them or not. It is critical to understand them so we keep our relationship as healthy as possible.
Example 1: If an ex-partner cheated on me then I may secretly check my new partner’s phone in an attempt to feel more secure that no one else is on the scene. Can you see that my conscious need for security in this area changes my behaviour, and I justify being secretive with my new partner. Will this ever solve my trust issues? What do I do with any “evidence” I find? Will my partner be happy with me checking their phone? Or will they mistrust me now? Will this cause us further relationship issues if I don’t resolve it?
Example 2: If one of my parents had an affair when I was young, I may not be aware this is impacting me in the present. It is unconscious. Do I understand why I send my partner frequent text messages when they are out at night or why I question them like a detective on their return? I am filtering my relationship through my historical lens. What impact is my unresolved trust issue from the past having on our relationship?
Create an agreement
If you want to build a relationship based on trust, I believe partners should create an agreement stating that “if we cannot solve a difficulty in our relationship by ourselves, and one of us wants us to go to couples therapy – we go. No excuses, no waiting period, we honour our agreement.”