Marriage and Trust: 4 Building Blocks of Trust and Intimacy

Few delights can equal the mere presence of one whom we trust utterly.   ~George MacDonald

Trust is the foundation of a healthy, fulfilling marriage/relationship.

Why is trust (and learning how to build trust) so important?

Relationship Trust allows you to:

~Open your heart to your spouse/partner;
~Share the deepest parts of yourself;
~Give and receive love;
~Rely on your partner in times of need;
~Find your emotional center;
~Feel safe and secure in your relationship.

Oftentimes, problems with intimacy are the result of underlying trust issues that may not be readily apparent. Trust and intimacy go hand-in-hand.

As you can see, trust is an essential ingredient of emotional intimacy, physical intimacy and love. But how did you grow to trust your spouse/partner? Are you still building trust for one another? And do you fully trust him/her?

When you reflect on the above questions, think about what has allowed trust to grow in your relationship. In other words, what have you and your spouse/partner done to become trustworthy?

Relationship Help: The four building blocks of trust and intimacy

(Think about the specifics of your relationship as you read through these):

1. Commitment

If your partner doesn’t show that s/he is committed to the relationship (ready to endure some rough times, as well as the good), you probably wouldn’t take the risk of trusting him/her fully. Commitment acts as the safety-net that lets you know that your partner isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Rate how committed you feel your partner is on a scale of 0 (no commitment) to 10 (100% committed). Rate your own level of commitment.

What would you both need to do to show greater commitment?

2. Reliability

For trust to grow, your partner needs to act in ways that feel predictable to you (and, of course, the same is true for you). Predictability leads to familiarity, which leads to greater trust. You’ve heard the oft-repeated saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” When you are reliable, you follow through on what you promise and you stand behind your word. It’s pretty hard to trust someone who seldom follows through on their word.

What is one thing you and your partner can do to become more reliable?

3. Consistency

When you are consistent, you act in ways that are familiar and predictable across different circumstances. Someone who is inconsistent might act very loving one day, indifferent the next, then withdrawn and uncaring in a different setting. While it isn’t uncommon for people to act a bit differently depending on the circumstance, you and your spouse/partner will need to show consistency in the areas that matter most to each of you.

Does it feel like your spouse/partner is consistent? How consistent are you?

4. Acceptance

Full acceptance sends your partner an invitation that reads something like: “You are cordially invited to bring all the different parts of yourself to the relationship—even the traits I don’t understand or that I find challenging.”

Of course this doesn’t mean you have to like every single personality trait of your mate. You may dislike the fact that he resembles a horse when chews his food, but when you practice acceptance, you’ve come to grips with the complicated reality that two fallible people are trying to make a relationship work.  (Of course, abusive behaviors should never be accepted.)

Do you frequently feel accepted by your spouse/partner, or do you feel judged and/or criticized?

How would your spouse/partner answer this question?

Abandoning the “I’m right, your wrong” judgmental mindset

This is similar to acceptance. Couples who keep score (“You forgot to empty the dishwasher last week!” “Big deal! You forgot to pick up my prescription yesterday!”) set up an adversarial, competitive atmosphere. It is very difficult to trust someone when you believe s/he is keeping score of every single mistake you’ve made.

You make mistakes and so does your partner. Maybe he makes more mistakes than you, maybe not—that doesn’t matter (at least it shouldn’t). Usually when couples begin tallying each others’ slip-ups, deeper, unresolved issues are at work.

We all judge people at times—sometimes our own criticalness can be very subtle. Are you willing to keep a record of every judgmental thought you have for an entire week? (Couples who complete this exercise are often surprised at the number of critical/judgmental thoughts they actually have throughout the day). Becoming fully aware of your own criticalness (self and other criticalness) is an essential step in abolishing this way of being in the world.

Trust takes time (at least it should)

Finally, real trust has to be earned (you may unconsciously test your partner to see if s/he is trustworthy). Trust takes time, and as you and your spouse/partner share more of yourselves, you each have the job to prove that you’re trustworthy. There is always a risk involved when you trust another person, since you place yourself in a vulnerable position.  

Are you someone who immediately trusts others, or do people have to prove their trustworthiness to you over time?

Wishing you a trusting and healthy relationship,

Dr. Rich Nicastro

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