What’s one thing that takes ages to build, is easy to ruin, and is integral to any strong intimate relationship?
Building and prioritizing trust is absolutely essential to any relationship, but especially an intimate one. Without trust, things like emotional intimacy, connection, vulnerability, and authenticity simply can’t fall into place.
The bad news is that trust is a really delicate thing – and is easy to break if you aren’t careful. Trust is always built on small, consistent efforts, not necessarily big romantic gestures. It’s the hard work you put in every day.
Keep reading to learn how to build trust in a relationship, and how to keep it for the long-term.
Table of Contents
1. Be there when he needs you.
The best thing about having a relationship is knowing that even when life throws you punches, there’s someone there who’ll stand by your side. It’s not quite the same with friends and family as it is with a romantic partner.
The basis of long-lasting trust in a relationship is the solid belief that the person next to you will have your back, no matter what – throughout a family death, job loss, a pandemic, and through whatever life throws your way (or his way). It’s knowing you’ve got each other, and that you’re stronger together.
Being there for him means:
- Validating his feelings
- Being open to constructive feedback
- Not blaming him when something goes wrong
- Being able to put his emotional needs first
- Giving him the space that he needs.
When he’s having a hard time, you have to understand that it’s about him dealing with it, with your help – and not making it about yourself.
2. Be engaged when having conversations.
One of the worst feelings in the world is expressing your feelings openly and being met with silence or just a short “yeah”. When we aren’t fully engaged or responsive in conversations, it can make the other person trust us less and be less likely to open up to us again.
If you want to build trust, you need to make the time for quality conversation:
- Make sure your partner has your undivided attention.
- Be attentive to what he’s saying.
- Practice active listening by listening to understand, not just waiting to interrupt.
- Make sure serious conversations aren’t interrupted by the TV or by your phone.
- Use verbal and non-verbal communication to show that you’re truly listening to him and that what he’s saying is important to you.
- Ask clarifying questions if you’re unsure what he means.
- Play back information to him to demonstrate that you’ve listened, and to check that you 100% understand what he means.
Although this is particularly tough in a long-distance relationship, it isn’t impossible; it just takes a little practice.
If you remain open and non-defensive, communication will flow a lot better. You’ll end up understanding each other on a deeper level – and can trust that you can be open with each other.
3. Be committed.
To build a positive connection and trust in any relationship, you need to be consistent and committed. That requires a fair dose of repetition in everything you do and means your partner should know what to expect of you.
You can’t expect to build that kind of connection with random acts; it takes many consistent actions – and shouldn’t be mistaken with lack of spontaneity, mystery, or surprise. There’s room for those, but when the situation allows it.
- Show up when you say you will
- Apologize when you’ve said or done something wrong
- Take care of him when you know he really needs you – he shouldn’t even have to ask.
One of the biggest reasons for arguments in a relationship is failing to clarify what’s been agreed. It can sometimes feel like you and your partner speak completely different languages. So, it’s vital that you are clear about your expectations and especially that both of you know what’s been agreed after an argument.
Trust is built not by avoiding a tough conversation, hoping the other person has got the message somehow. It’s built by choosing to have those tough conversations and trusting that your partner will respect you and understand exactly why the conversations need to be had.
4. Be vulnerable
In order to really build trust with your partner, you need to tear down any walls between you. It can be intimidating to be vulnerable, raw, and awkward – but that’s the true secret to building long-lasting trust.
There are many ways you can do that, including:
- Stop putting make-up on all the time when you’re together and embrace your face the way it is. Trust that he still loves your make-up-free face and that you don’t have to put in so much effort to impress him.
- Share a secret with him that nobody else knows about you.
- Admit when someone’s hurt you and you’re feeling weak, even if you feel like crying – it’s okay!
- Seek his advice in a tough situation, showing him that you value his perspective.
- Don’t keep secrets from each other.
5. Set boundaries.
No matter how much you love your boyfriend, it’s important to also have healthy boundaries. For example, you shouldn’t be checking his phone, and neither should he. It’s okay not to know each other’s passcode.
There’s a concept that you should share everything and know everything about one another – and while that might work for many couples, it doesn’t need to be integral to your relationship. In fact, it can lead to a lot of unnecessary fights – and there’s little point to that.
Healthy boundaries are good. A bit of personal space is good. Sharing things with your best friend and not keeping your boyfriend in the loop is good.
Remember that you are still two individuals after all, so it’s okay not to tell him everything. Make sure he knows when your time or personal space is really important to you, and protect them.
6. Put him first.
For him to truly trust you, you have to be his biggest fan – no ifs, and no buts. If you aren’t his biggest fan and ally, then why are you even with him?
There’s nothing worse than girlfriends who trash their boyfriends in front of others whenever they get the chance. They recap entire conversations and situations, seeking pity or understanding from their friends – often at the expense of their boyfriend’s reputation. It’s quite nasty!
At its core lies insecurity, frustrations, jealousy, and immaturity. If something’s really bugging you, don’t go blabbing it to the world. All it does is build walls between the two of you and you know that no friend can tell you what to do in your relationship.
You need to trust that you can discuss the issue with your boyfriend, and he needs to trust that you respect him in the same way you want him to respect you. Ask yourself: would you be okay with him talking to his friends about something bad you did?
You must remember that you and your boyfriend are a team. It’s you two against the world – so you need to act like teammates and not disrespect one another.
7. Bring up issues as they happen.
Another no-brainer is addressing problems head-on, instead of avoiding them until they become huge issues. If you’ve got an issue with something, then speak up before it’s too late. He isn’t a mind-reader! You may have a disagreement or an argument – but at least once you’ve spoken about it, you can move on.
The passive-aggressive “nothing’s wrong” or “it’s fine” don’t work, and shouldn’t be part of mature relationships. The more you share your concerns as they arise, the more comfortable you become with being honest and trusting that it’s okay to disagree.
This way, your partner will also know that when you’re in a bad mood, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s because of something he said or did; he can trust that if there’s an issue you would have already told him.
8. Take responsibility.
It’s okay to make a mistake. We’re all human. But, the worst thing you can do, is not taking responsibility for your actions. You can’t blame someone else for things that you did – especially when you knew full well what decisions you were making.
Don’t blame alcohol for your flirting with the waiter. Don’t blame your friend’s attitude for losing your cool and making a scene. Be a grown-up, and fess up as soon as you can. It’s okay to admit you’re not perfect – and is even better when you are willing to work hard to be better.
9. Other things you can do:
There are plenty of things you can do to build trust in your relationship. Here are some quick tips you can try:
- Schedule quality time together and make it a priority. When you’re especially busy is when you really need it, as that’s when your relationship can really suffer from the lack of time together.
- Ask for forgiveness and be okay with admitting that you were wrong.
- Say “I love you” more often; it never goes out of style.
- Share a gratitude list with each other, listing all the things you love and appreciate about one another.
- Share a list of Stop, Start, Continue with each other, to really go on a deeper level in your relationship communication. It might be hard, but it’s essential for relationship growth.
- Thank your partner often and don’t take him for granted. He needs to know that you notice the things that he does.
- Spend time with healthy couples and learn from them. You’d be surprised how much their relationship satisfaction, respect, and trust can rub off on you.
- Avoid spending time with couples who have trust issues or problems with jealousy who tend to fight constantly. You don’t need that kind of toxic energy in your life.
- Refrain from discussing your relationship with other people. What’s between you should be intimate and sacred. Don’t let others interfere.
- Build a list of mutual goals which push you both to do better, whether that’s fitness, finance, or professional goals. Hold each other to account and encourage one another.
Trust helps partners fight problems together. It helps them have their life, time, space, and friends outside of the relationship – so enjoy that, instead of feeling threatened by it.
The Bottom Line
Trust is built when someone is consistent with their behavior, thus generating emotional and psychological security in the person they are with. It’s the foundation of feeling understood and valued – and having confidence in your partner.
It’s the basis of honesty and being able to truly be their most authentic selves. Everything is a lot safer and a lot easier when there’s solid trust present.
Trust is the glue of a strong relationship – one in which both partners respect each other’s individuality and know that the other person would never hurt them intentionally. Such people don’t have time or energy for petty jealousy, petty fights or blame language.
Trust is also gained in the knowledge that your partner has your back – which makes you feel like you can do anything. You have more strength and ambition because you’ve got your partner encouraging and supporting you.
When there’s a lack of trust, all sorts of issues arise – loss of intimacy, jealousy, fear, doubt, and insecurity. It becomes difficult for the relationship to thrive or grow, and both partners may feel stuck.
Overall, trust is about creating and preserving that safe space where you can be your true authentic selves in the relationship, without fear of being criticized, misunderstood, or rejected.