When you think of trust in relationships, you likely think of rebuilding after an incident where trust was challenged and/or lost. Some common reasons trust becomes an issue in relationships are dishonesty, unreliability, and betrayal.
Let’s focus on building a foundation of trust from the start of the relationship. To prevent the pitfalls of the issues listed above, here are four practical, concrete ways to establish trust and maintain it.
BUILDING EVERYDAY TRUST
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Your word is important, so it is important to match actions with words. An example of practicing this is honoring commitments. If you say, “I’ll be there to help you move on Saturday,” you should make sure to be there on Saturday. It is extremely easy to promise the world (especially in new relationships) because you care for the person. But you do MORE damage when you make promises that you can not keep. This is not to say that you are not allowed to change your mind about something. Just be sure to communicate this to your partner. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say allows your partner to know they can trust your words.
- Communicate your intentions clearly. Having effective and clear communication is important in maintaining a successful relationship professionally and with friends and family. It is just as important in romantic relationships. Your partner is NOT a mind-reader, so state your intentions and state them often. Here's an example of practicing this: if you want to do movie night on Wednesday, you communicate this with your partner. Another example is, if you are contemplating making major life changes in the future, inform your partner (not necessarily asking permission). Communicating your intentions keeps your partner informed of what you are thinking so they do not have to guess, make assumptions, and get caught off guard.
- Admit your mistakes. Reliability and accountability are important in all relationships. Your partner wants to know that you will admit when you have made a mistake! We all make them. Building trust within a relationship is taking accountability for your mistake, asking how you can make it better, and making a commitment that you will not make that particular mistake again (or at least making a plan to limit that particular mistake).
- Always tell the truth. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many good-hearted people lie. Good people lie to avoid conflict, to get out of situations, and to please the person in front of them. When you are dishonest about small things (think white lies), it makes it hard for others to trust you when it comes to bigger issues. An alternative to telling a white lie is allowing yourself time to think about the issue. “I’m not sure yet, can I get back to you?” or “I am feeling emotional about this topic, I would like to table it and come back when I am feeling more grounded” are better options than lying. Always telling the truth is the first step in establishing everyday trust in relationships.
BE CONSISTENTLY CONSISTENT
These four practical tips to building trust in everyday relationships will help start your relationship off with a strong foundation. If you are in a relationship now, I ask you to look inward and ask yourself if you are practicing these four tips. If you are not, pick one to actively work on. Practice the tip for two weeks before moving on to the next tip. Building trust is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient and take your time. Your relationship will be better for it.