Being able to trust your partner is one of the most important parts of a relationship. Trust is the foundation from which a strong connection can be built. Without it, it can be hard for relationships to grow and progress to a deeper level.
Building trust is something that happens for different couples at different speeds – often over a matter of years. But there are ways to ensure you’ve created a good environment for building trust – and ways to avoid putting obstacles in the way.
Having clear boundaries together is a crucial part of starting to build trust. Boundaries help you define how much space you’re comfortable with in a relationship – be this emotionally or physically.
Boundaries can be about all kinds of things: how much time you need to yourself, how comfortable you are telling other people details about your relationship and so on. Having an understanding of one another’s boundaries is helpful when it comes negotiating your approach to the relationship.
- Define what your boundaries are. Think about what your ‘deal breakers’ would be and why they are important to you. Your partner may need to understand why you need these boundaries in place – as well as some of the things that you’re willing to be more flexible on.
- Talk about them. Set aside some time when you’re both feeling calm and relaxed and have a chat. Limit your conversations to little and often.
- Expect to have different views. It’s all about trying to reach sensible compromises. This will involve you both giving some ground to meet somewhere in the middle.
- Review them. It might sound a little business-like, but sitting back down every now and then to talk how you’re getting on can help to avoid slipping back into autopilot. It can be as simple as having another conversation every six months or so.
A big part of building trust is being able to openly talk to your partner about the future of your relationship. It’s important you’re able to talk about any worries, doubts and hopes openly, as this will help you negotiate your expectations and move forward together.
- Recognise what you’ve learnt before. Most of us carry positive and negative learning from previous relationships – it’s simply a part of life. Recognising what messages we’ve learnt and the ways in which it may be affecting our behaviour is important in avoiding making the same mistakes over and over. For example, waiting for our partner to raise a particular topic may mean you don’t every get to talk about the bit that’s important to you. Challenge these messages and take the lead.
- Be open about doubts. Many people feel guilty about having doubts in a relationship, but they’re a natural part of looking ahead long term. If you have doubts, don’t be afraid to talk to your partner about them. Often, simply being able to say them out loud will help you understand them better.
- Talk about commitment. Commitment can be a tricky issue to talk about, but it’s necessary if you want to be able to face the future with confidence. If you feel it’s time to talk about commitment, set aside some time and give the conversation the attention it deserves. Think about what commitment would look like to you and ask your partner to do the same. If you need more help figuring out your approach to commitment, why not take our quiz?
Bumps in the road
Every relationship has its ups and downs. Being able to deal with problems and move on is an important skill when it comes to maintaining a resilient partnership. If you need help working through disagreements or difficulties you may find the following tips useful:
- Stop – and analyse how you’re feeling. Think about how you’re feeling in relation to what’s happened and why. Think about how these feelings may be influencing your behaviour. Being able to resolve or find peace with difficult emotions like anger or disappointment can be an important part of moving forward from conflict.
- Think about your own part in what went wrong. While it can be tempting to blame our partners when there’s a disagreement or fight, we’ll usually be able to see there are things we could have done better too if we’re honest with ourselves. It’s not always easy, but try to recognise that every argument has two sides.
- Talk about what happened. Take turns to communicate how you’re feeling about the issue and listen to what your partner has to say. It can be helpful to use ‘I’ phrases: ‘I feel…’, ‘I think…’, rather than ‘you’ phrases: ‘you always…’, ‘you seem to think…’. This way, you’re taking responsibility for your own feelings and your partner won’t feel like they’re being attacked.
If you need some support building trust in your relationship, we can help.