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How to Build Trust in a Relationship

Ms. Carroll is a contract paralegal who enjoys freelance writing in her spare time.


What Trust Is and What Trust Isn’t In a Relationship

Trust is knowing. It’s knowing that you can depend on someone to come through for you. To go to bat for you. Or simply be there for you. Trust is believing. It’s believing in something you cannot see. It’s feeling something strong enough in your gut to act on it. Trust is the ultimate form of intimacy. It’s a sense of knowing that even when the going gets tough, trust gets going. Perhaps a good way to define trust is to define what trust isn’t.

Distrust is unbridled skepticism. It is mistaken perceptions which are caused by excess garbage in the heart and mind. Distrust is the outgrowth of self-doubt and guilt. Distrust is dis-allusion and fear. It has the temperament of defensiveness and shows a lack of interest because it seeks to hide itself. Distrust is imprisonment, while trust is an attempt to set someone free.

Have you ever been upset when your partner told you he/she wanted to hang out with their friends without you? Where do those feelings come from? A sense of rejection, surprise, or disappointment? Sometimes those feelings are distrust. Ask yourself why the news bothered you. Then ask yourself if it’s because you don’t actually trust that your partner would rather be with you than his/her friends. This doesn’t mean your lack of trust is without blame. It takes two people to cultivate trust in a relationship. Insufficient trust means that something's wrong on the inside. Therefore, outsiders pose a threat to the delicate balance in a relationship and threaten the cornerstones of the relationship.

"You must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, let it go. "

— Mary Oliver, In Blackwater Woods

1. Be Loyal

Trust will be improbable, if not impossible, if the relationship brings with it a history of infidelity. A relationship shrouded with adulterous beginnings, is destined to fail. A relationship with secrets is also destined for failure. If you have infidelities in your past, it doesn’t mean that you are unworthy of trust. If you hide them, it does.

2. Build Self-Esteem and Confidence

Building confidence in the relationship itself is important, but it is just as important to build your partner’s confidence in him/herself. Taking the time to compliment your partner, especially in front of others, shows you are willing to go out on a limb for him/her. Showing an interest in your partner’s hobbies or interests says "you mean more to me than anyone else." This cultivates trust.

It eliminates the doubt that comes with superficiality. It expresses clearly that you are not the center of your own universe. It bridges the gap between feeling and knowing. With adequate confidence, a person is freer to trust not only him/herself, but to trust you. Trust allows you to give freely, without expectations for something in return.

3. Forgive

Forgiveness builds insurmountable trust. Do you say you can forgive but you cannot forget? What a wicked dart the un-forgetful mind throws at the inner sanctity of trust. Harbored resentment, grudges, and other negative emotions of the same ilk, only serve dis-allusion and skepticism. Retaliation, vengeance, and expectations are their by-product. If you want someone to trust you, you need to leave bad memories at the doormat.

Once an apology is made, accept it. If you say you accept it, then you must live out that acceptance. Otherwise, you will not be trusted. Just as "forgiveness is the fragrance of dew the violet spreads on the heel that crushes it" (unknown), trust is knowing that forgiveness is as certain as rain or sunshine. That doesn’t mean you are free to act out and then expect blind forgiveness. It means genuine repentance should be met with genuine acceptance of the repentant, leaving you both free to move past the pain of the circumstances.

4. Propose

In early Judaism, a man could marry by sex with a virgin. The act of submission by a woman or man said, in effect, "I Do." In 2800 B.C.E., a ring was use to symbolize a binding partnership. The advent of the diamond engagement ring wasn’t until the 1500's. But with or without the sex, the ring, or the paper license to remind you of the day of your nuptials, marriage is actually nothing more than an act of trust.

Some might argue that staying together without the ink on the page actually shows more trust than the nuptials do. But the point here is that committing to stay together cultivates trust. The wedding vows were carefully written to carry the message of a binding trust—"in sickness and in health;" "for better or for worse;" "til’ death do us part." What a splendid way to cultivate trust in your partner. When you propose marriage or say "I Do," you are saying to your mate, "you can trust me to be there for you."

5. Stand Up and Stand For, Don’t Just Stand By

Life throws punches. That is not mere chance, it is fact! Will you stand by your partner when the punches are thrown? Or will you criticize and debunk, leaving them to manage the ravaging waves alone. This form of trust applies analogously to friendships which pre-existed the relationship. If you move into a new relationship and shelter your mate from friends and family, you will breed distrust.

If you go out of your way to ensure your partner feels included, rather than excluded, you will build respect and trust. This says to your partner, "you are good enough for my friends." Guard against making unproductive comments to your friends about your partner. Ultimately, whether stated in humor or bachelor crass, the emotional intelligence of the one who trusts you will hone in on it. And he/she will not trust you any longer.

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6. Don’t Cross the Line of Scrimmage

Respect and understanding are the keys that turn the lock of trust into motion. Differing opinions, expectations, hurdles, hopes, and dreams, all complicate relationships. How you reach a solution to your problems or compromise when you have a different set of wants or needs is an important element of trust. Why? Because working together to solve problems shows your partner that you value him/her. Being willing to compromise on matters says to your partner, "you are worth a sacrifice."

When the line of scrimmage is drawn, however, you cannot bully your way to those solutions or compromises. You must amicably respect your partner’s position on the field. There is an imaginary line you cannot cross if you expect to maintain trust in the face of adversity. There is no place for accusations and name calling on the field of trust.

7. Tow the Line

That old adage that "trust is earned" is true! You might begin with a clean slate and a blind trust, believing that you have made the choice to trust until someone gives you a reason not to, but ultimately you will be given a reason. Only perfect people won’t and there aren’t any of those. It takes time to build trust and until that foundation is established, you will be operating blindly on gut instinct and your own sense of knowing. How you react to the dismantling of trust’s atomic bomb is critical to maintaining trust in the future.

Once an act of distrust occurs, communication is critical. You must explain yourself and you must do it with the kind of sincerity and openness that counter-acts the act of distrust. You must explain your position with compassion, understanding the impact of your crime. An apology will not help you here, but a heartfelt explanation may save you. Admit your insecurities or doubts. This means searching yourself, and that means caring enough about your partner to search yourself!

8. Walk the Walk

This should probably be number one on the to do list for trust. If you say A, then do B, you are not inviting trust. It is equally as bad to say you will do something and then not follow through with it. The consummate excuse maker will only get by a couple of times before trust begins to errode. If you say you will do something, it's simple - just do it.

Make yourself trustworthy. In the same vein, it is important to do things for your partner without being asked or told to. Silence on a matter doesn't breed trust any better than excuse making does. Your silence will not go un-noticed when it is perceived that you should step up to the plate, but are conveniently quiet on the subject. If you cannot or will not step up to the plate, then you should at least say why you cannot or will not.

The highest form of trust is self-trust.


Trusting in Yourself

The highest form of trust is self-trust. Self-trust is allowing yourself to be who you are and who you were meant to be without fear of reprisal or rejection. It’s not taking your hands off of the steering wheel and trusting the car to stay between the ditches. It’s confidence in knowing that if you keep your hands on the wheel, you can and will safely drive yourself to your destination. It’s not an act of submission or omission, but an act of aggression. It requires effort. It’s not going with the flow, but it’s directing the flow. And with that effort comes the total confidence required to sustain you through your life’s difficult times and guide you to your aspirations.

At the same time, self-trust carries with it an element of responsibility. That responsibility is to yourself. If you don’t feel it in your gut, know it in your bones, or at least feel like you are progressing toward that end in a relationship, you have an obligation to let go. Otherwise, a cloud of self-doubt will engulf you and destroy what has taken you years to develop—trust in yourself. "To thine own self be true" and thine own self will be trusted. When you trust yourself, you make yourself worthy of the trust of others.


Beautiful Garbage from Louisiana on July 18, 2013:

Great hub! Very informing, and useful. I have learned a lot about trust here, thanks!

Sandra Busby from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA on November 07, 2012:

Words of wisdom we all need to be reminded of. Thanks, alahiker. Voted up, interesting and shared.

Dan Harmon from Boise, Idaho on October 16, 2012:

An excellent hub with a lot of truth in it. Your points and thoughts are spot on - if only more people would listen the world will be happier place.

Trust is absolutely paramount in a successful relationship, but just as you say it must be built. You must earn trust; it is not automatic, and it takes very little to destroy it.

Vicki Carroll (author) from Greater Birmingham Area on October 12, 2012:

Well, Jerry, I never thought of this as "preach-worthy," but if it saves one person a lot of heartache, I guess you are exactly right! Thanks for the post.

Jerry W Hulse from Kingsport, Tennessee on October 11, 2012:

Wow, This needs to be preached upon the house tops!!!

Tijani Achamlal from Morocco on October 11, 2012:

Very interesting and wellinformed. Thanks for sharing it with us.

In fact,trust is like a mirror..once its BROKEN you can never look at it the same again and To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on October 10, 2012:

wow this is a wonderful hub. so well documented .. so easy to understand.. really like this hub

blessings and good to meet you



Hannah Qua from San Francisco, CA on September 16, 2012:

Love this post! It's so, so true. Thanks for this!

JustChristianDate from United Kingdom on September 15, 2012:

A relationship without trust isn't a sound relationship at all. Trust is a must in any relationship. Thanks for this useful post

bobby on August 30, 2012:

great i

jeevansathi from Noida on June 21, 2012:

Trust is surely the most important point in a relationship and the points mentioned to cultivate trust are also very important and required to add trust in a relation.

Vicki Carroll (author) from Greater Birmingham Area on June 07, 2012:

Hi dan333,

Your friend is violating some basic principles of trust. You clearly expressed an issue with trust. Once you did so, your friend agreed to come clean but then didn't. Consequently, trust begins to errode regardless of his good excuses. Ask yourself what's right here on two levels? One, is it reasonable that your friend maintains comminque with his ex's and why? And two, is it something you can live with if the explanations seem reasonable to you? It's normal to value relationships, even with ex's under amiacable breakups. It's not normal to pursue an ex's continued friendship without involving YOU.

Vicki Carroll (author) from Greater Birmingham Area on June 07, 2012:

thank you Sergio. the fact that you listen to advice like this and actually heed it makes me thing you're going to make someone very lucky one day, despite any trust issues. good luck.

sergio G on June 06, 2012:

reading this really helps because i have trust issues and i am able to trust people fully but i always have this fear inside that something will go bad and ill end up getting hurt, and therefore any little thing that seems off about someone ill instantly start seeing/thinking things that arent there and i connect invisible dots. i really messed up with my gf because of this. reading this shows me what i need to do to better myself and not have that fear anymore idk how long it'll take but thank you for putting this out there for people to read.

dan333 on May 30, 2012:

Hi Thanks for the article, very interesting. I am at the moment in a very confused place. Me and my bf have been together for 2.5 years. There have never been any signs or proof of cheating so far. I have very bad trust issues and very low self esteem. I have been cheated on, had very bad relationships were i was constantly abused and hurt. So one day my bf opened his fb in front of me and i saw that he had a conversation with his ex and i demanded that he tells me about these things. He agreed and promised. A couple of month later, i saw going through his fb and found a conversation with another ex gf asking for help with something. I was so shocked that he hadent told me again and very very upset. Since all of this i have not been able to trust him, i have been fighting with over anything he does, accusing him of being a liar and constantly trying to find evidence of cheating. This week i found another harmless spam email from an ex gf of his which he deleted and didn't tell me about. The content of this email and previous conversation were are very very innocent. His reasoning for not tell me this time is because he didn't want to cause another fight about trust. I see his point, i have made him very uneasy with anything he does, even looking at another girl has ticked me off and given me bad vibes.

After all of this, do you think there is a chance for me to trust him again, even though he doesn't tell me everything after he promises he's gng to? i know i am being controlling here and i want to stop and just trust him but do you think it will ever work?

mikayla on May 28, 2012:

What a lovely reading materal I really enjoed it I feel that you should bring more out about trust so that every1 can understand what it really means :)

Sandra Busby from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA on March 13, 2012:

You are so right about many things, but the one I resonate with is the highest form of trust is self-trust. Great hub. Thanks. Sandra Busby

carbon12 on March 06, 2012:

A great article indeed. I vote you up.

Have a great day my friend.

yogi on October 12, 2011:

hiii..guys...i want be some more know about the trust relition ship

(brifly tips) ...any budy will tell me ??

Vicki Carroll (author) from Greater Birmingham Area on February 07, 2011:

That's AWESOME not only that your boyfriend read this, but that he agrees. That means he's coming from a non-defensive position, but from one of an open heart. Sounds like you guys have what it takes to make it last.... thanks for your post.

KNSarmiento4 from Florida, USA on February 05, 2011:

What a great article, this has helped so much!

There was a bit of infidelity in my relationship and we have been working past it. It's been okay, but your article gave me some new ideas to make things better than 'okay'. I just sat here reading this to my boyfriend actually, and he agrees.

Thank you for such a beautiful hub.

Vicki Carroll (author) from Greater Birmingham Area on December 21, 2010:

Don't beat yourself up, GlstngRosePetals. Once deceived, everyone struggles with trust. You were either blatantly deceived and found out the hard way, or you had subtle suspicions all along that came to life. Of course that changed you. Just be honest and tell any prospective or new partner that you have trust issues, but issue a clean slate. If trust gets corroded, don't assume it's because of YOUR past. It could be because of your PRESENT. In other words, trust your gut. An understanding partner will not begrudge you your past. But a defensive partner, may just well have something to hide. Gavin deBecker wrote a great book called "The Gift of Fear." The book is more aimed at avoiding being a victim of crime, but there is a wonderful chapter in the book about tactics used by men (and women alike), to victimize women into controlling relationships. I recommend you read it.

GlstngRosePetals from Wouldn't You Like To Know on December 21, 2010:

I really enjoyed reading your post because I have a trust issue and it bothers me that I do and I'm not sure why and I beat myself up on the inside trying to figure it out. I know if you don't have trust then you have nothing in a relationship. I also know that you should trust until your giving a reason not to but like I said it's hard for me and maybe it has to do with childhood issues and past bad relationships even though your past shouldn't interfere in a new relationship but unfortunately it does and it sucks..Read about my other post like why daddy why and My cinderella Story because that's where I'm at right now.. Thanks

Vicki Carroll (author) from Greater Birmingham Area on November 04, 2010:

I read your post. I do believe it is possible to love someone and not trust them, but only initially. It is impossible, however, to MAINTAIN a relationship without trust. Trust is not automatic. It is E-A-R-N-E-D. Once violations of trust take place on any of the levels mentioned, then it becomes corrupted. Without earnest apologies and explanations, you will never regain it. At this point, it is more important to trust your gut.

Tooti G on November 03, 2010:


Thank you so much for this post. I really enjoyed reading it and it was very enlightening. you see, I have some serious trust issues with my boyfriend and I am looking for ways to overcome them before I lose him. there are things that he needs to work on, of course, but I know that eventually I will become a problem in our relaitonship; added to the ones that we are already working out. Once again THANK YOU!!!! Please check out my blog "Can you love without trust?" and gather a little more insight of my situation and leave a comment or two for me. Tell me what you think, if you will. Maybe you will be able to why i am on the side of the road so to speak.

Vicki Carroll (author) from Greater Birmingham Area on June 24, 2010:

Thanks for reading. I read your article. Two things come to mind. One is something I told my son the other day. You have to go through the thick of things before you can give advice about it - unfortunately. Two, if someone hides an infidelity, I'm not sure you can ever completely trust them. But if they admit it (without having to be prodded), I would say they earnestly regret it enough to ensure it doesn't happen again. Most people handle the truth real well. Unfortunately, there are those that consider an omission the mere absence of truth. But those kinds of omissions are nothing but lies. And you can't trust someone who lies. Again, thanks for commenting.

Sue1226 from Dallas, Texas on June 24, 2010:

wow, Thanks now I have a little more to think about, liked your article and I think it will help me a lot, and maybe I am having trouble because of past stuff. Again thanks.If you may be wondering what I'm talking about please look at my article to trust or not to trust, I would appreciate your advice and opinions.

anonymous82 on February 24, 2010:

What a great article. I hung off every word you said. I came here looking for advice and I got it. Thank you for your hub.

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