Many relationships deal with concerns about trust, whether it’s as simple as not meaning what is being said or something larger like infidelity. With the resources at our fingertips, we can happily provide information on how you can find the best ways to build trust in a relationship, ways to rebuild trust in a marriage, or ways to build back trust after cheating. Finding exercises that work best for you as a couple will help build trust in your marriage, and not everyone has a ‘one size fits all approach! Don’t be afraid to try new techniques or explore new options.
What is Trust?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines trust as “an assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” Other definitions include “dependence on something future” or “one in which confidence is placed.” All these lead to the same overarching meaning: one person puts faith in another and holds them to a standard. This could mean trust with secrets, love, friendship, or simple reliability. Placing trust in your partner sets the foundation for a relationship, and those without it will find themselves disappointed or even hurt.
Why is it Important to Build Trust in a Marriage?
If you don’t trust your partner, you may become suspicious of their activities and become paranoid. In cases of infidelity, it can mean you struggle with leaving them alone or when they say they are going ‘out.’ This can lead to arguments and instability in a relationship. A relationship is built on trust, and successfully establishing how to rebuild it will lead to long-term happiness. Here are some additional reasons why it’s important to build trust in your marriage:
Makes Us Feel Secure
When you build trust in your marriage, you know they will provide you with security and connection when you need it most. This can mean knowing that they will take care of you if you get sick. Or it could mean that you know they will respect your boundaries. This feeling of security is important to make our lives more meaningful and pleasurable.
Helps Us Rebuild
We have all experienced hurt when trust in your marriage has failed you. This happens as we grow out of old relationships and into new ones. It helps us recognize what we could have done better or what we need more of. For example, suppose you dated someone that hurt you by cheating on you or who was not respecting your boundaries. In that case, you may better recognize things that negatively affect you and communicate more effectively in your next relationship. When we work on trust and relationship building moving forward, we know what we prefer and feel happiest when we feel secure.
Gives Us Space
When you are in a trusting relationship, you feel more comfortable if your partner goes out or if you want to go on a trip. You know that they will do what is best and not ‘go behind your back. Space is healthy in a relationship, so having this peace of mind is a great foundation. We all have our preferences, and it is healthy to explore those. While you may love painting, perhaps your partner hates it, and you can feel satisfied going to a class without them.
Ways to Build Trust in Your Marriage
If you want to build trust in your marriage, you have to be willing to put in the work. It will not occur overnight and will take time and commitment from you. To begin with, you should establish why you want to work on these exercises. Is it because of a particular instance or example? Or is it something you both feel would be beneficial? Make sure you are on the same page and are willing to work on the steps required to build trust back in a relationship. Trust must be earned. This means that you must be consistent and driven to create this foundation that will lead to a happier, sustainable, and exciting relationship. Now, to the exciting part! Here are some ways to build trust in your marriage:
Have Open and Honest Conversations
This can be easy to state and difficult to do. Many times, people need some prompting to have these. To start, you can discuss why you want to work on trust-building. Is it because you need to work on building back trust after cheating? Perhaps you just want to have a stronger relationship. If you are working on building trust after an affair, being honest about why it occurred may be painful but necessary to identify a resolution.
These conversations don’t need to be that heavy to start. Feel free to ease your way into these heavier topics if you prefer. You can even start by talking about why you are both annoyed at a friend or family member or why a certain sports team is awful. Build up to the deeper conversations if needed. Trust takes time but remember that opening up and being honest is key to creating trust. If you can’t believe what your partner is saying is truthful, how can you feel secure in a relationship? Be honest but sensitive, and if the topic is creating strong emotions, perhaps take a break.
Talk About Mistakes
Mistakes can be a tough thing to talk about. Many people don’t like to admit they make them, but the reality is that we all do! When one of you feels disrespected, talk about what may have caused that. Don’t take this time to be overly critical of each other. Instead, focus on how you can improve the situation moving forward. Brainstorm ideas together on what could have been better and what you would like to see in future situations. Taking ownership of the mistake exhibits assertiveness about your partner’s preferences and helps them feel heard. While we cannot always be right or perfect, we can be better by working through errors as we learn them.
As issues come up, bring attention to them. You don’t want to sit and stew about something when it could have been addressed when it occurred. While we may think we are saving ourselves an argument, it will likely just stay in your mind and can potentially collect resentment. People cannot take back things that happened months ago, but if you bring attention to them when it happens, you can change the direction of the conversation towards something more productive.
One thing that upsets people is when your partner says something and doesn’t follow through. People don’t usually get upset about the dishes or cleaning- they get upset that they cannot trust someone to do them when they say they will. It’s okay to offer to do things but set a realistic timeframe for you or your partner. For example, instead of saying, “Sure! I’ll do the laundry tomorrow,” when you know you have a busy day, be honest and say something like, “tomorrow will be busy, but I will try my best, and I’ll get to it as soon as I can.” The transparency will help you set reasonable expectations and become more trusting that what is said will be meant.
Following up on your commitments means that your partner can rely on you, which is a foundation for any successful relationship. It’s a way to say that you are making time for what’s important to you as a couple. Occasionally you may not be able to go on the date you promised or do a certain activity, but if it must be canceled, make it a priority to follow up later. Staying true to what you say will help create mutual respect and trust.
Make Listening a Priority
Many people don’t realize how TERRIBLE they are at listening. Many of us are so busy trying to plan out our next meal, our next meeting, or focus on one sentence that we don’t want to forget that active listening goes out the window. This is especially common during arguments. We often become defensive and become so centered on one part of the conversation that hurt us that we want to fire back rather than taking the time to hear the overall problem.
This can be a hard issue to tackle since people don’t recognize their listening habits without taking meaningful approaches to break down the way they speak or hear. You can start with smaller chunks of conversations. For instance, you can have one person discuss, uninterrupted, for five minutes why something simple may bother them.
It does not have to begin with your relationship. It could be a pet peeve about an inanimate object or why they want to own a horse. It can be any topic. Have the other partner actively listen. This may be difficult at first, especially if they have a short attention span, but this is one of the best ways to gain trust in a relationship. Work on building up this skill and have each repeat back what you heard. If they (or you) aren’t catching onto the issue, keep trying. Be patient and work towards this together.
Make A Bucket List
While this might seem silly at first, it will help you open up to one another. Make a bucket list of about ten items you both want to do in the next year, five years, or your lifetime. You can make it longer if you’d like. Talk about where you’d like to be social, where you’d like to live, what car you want to open, how many children, any experiences or hobbies you want to pursue, or maybe something you’d like your partner to do! Here’s an example bucket list:
- I’d like to visit Puerto Rico
- I’d like my office to have a chaise lounge
- I want to start an online company
- I want to own a home with property
- I’d like to go skydiving
- I want to take salsa classes
- I want to learn German
This is in no way an exclusive list. If you find yourself having a hard time with this, do an online search for ideas. You might find that some of your bucket list items are similar and can help you find new things to do together. It can also be a great way to build trust and communication in relationships.
Try New Things
Now take that bucket list and put it into action! Trying new experiences can be a great way to bond and spend quality time together. If you find yourself unsure of what to do or where to start, here are a few ways you can brainstorm new things to do.
- Go onto apps like Groupon and search for things near you. Often they list community events you may not think of.
- Think of classes you may want to take together. This could be a new language or meditation, whatever you both like! No ideas? Look at community centers or colleges that usually offer free or low-cost recreational classes for adults.
- Think of fitness activities you both might enjoy. Some examples include going on a new hiking trail, horseback riding, surfing, or getting a fitness coach.
- Look at concerts or comedy shows. Some bars will host trivia nights or dance classes.
- Think of communities you both might be interested in. For instance, if you both enjoy reading, perhaps an online book club would be fun.
This list is just a start. New things can even be a nice vacation or a short night away from home, away from kids or pets. Find common ground and use that to come up with ideas. If you want to keep it simple, look at restaurants near you with cuisine you both like. This doesn’t have to be going out or spending money- you can always make a date night at home extra special.
Intimacy is not just about sex. While that’s great, and you can explore new things in the bedroom, intimacy defines a broader connection and can be a great way to work on trust in a relationship. Touch is a powerful tool that is often underrated. Building trust with your partner often includes intimacy and open communication. It can help us feel loved, wanted, and physically close to our partners.
Some ways to be intimate with your partner that doesn’t include sex can be cuddling, dancing, taking naps, giving each other massages, cooking together, or kissing. These don’t need to be sexual. Many of us consider intimacy touching, but intimacy can also be intellectual and emotional. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and find ways to enjoy being intimate.
Since you are working towards a relationship built on trust, you must communicate your boundaries. Something that may seem straightforward or unimportant to you may be a deal-breaker for them. Before the problems arise, think about what your boundaries are and work on discussing them with your partner.
A good way to approach this is to sit down and list things you’d like to establish a boundary on. You can do this alone or together. It may take some time for you to thoughtfully consider this, and sometimes we may not be able to easily identify them. The truth is, we have boundaries in ALL our relationships. It helps us maintain a sense of respect and healthy expectations.
Boundaries can consist of asking permission before doing certain things, being considerate of each other’s feelings, giving space when needed, and respecting feelings or opinions that may be different from our own. For example, you can set a boundary that says, “I’d like to have one hour to drink my coffee and journal on Saturday morning.” Your partner may not understand how much that means to you, so communicating these things can greatly improve your quality of life and trust in one another. Other boundaries may look like recognizing when things are too emotional and taking a break or having a night where you hang out with your friends or do your hobbies.
Build a Love Map
A love map is a fun way to learn more about each other and your values. This exercise can also help you learn each other’s boundaries. You can purchase cards or books that can generate ideas for this or use apps like Pinterest to find some questions. For example, you can ask each other things like:
- Who was your best friend as a child?
- Where is your favorite place to visit?
- What is a strength you see in yourself or your partner?
- What are your long-term goals?
- Who is your favorite family member, and why?
- Why do you think this relationship is different from others you’ve been in?
It’s easy to see how this is beneficial for ANY relationship, regardless of building on your trust! It’s a great exercise to learn more about each other and explore questions you may not usually think to ask.
As you work through the most effective ways to work on trust in a relationship, be patient with the process. You will learn as you go through it together. What works for some couples will not work for others. Perhaps going on adventures is more of a bonding experience for you, while for others, it may be doing tasks for one another. For some, purchasing gifts might be a fun experience as well!
Both of you will likely mess up along the way. Remember, this is a long game, and you will make mistakes. If you are transparent with each other, you can make progress and build trust. Try to address issues as they come up and talk about your feelings to prevent any resentment. You are a team with your partner, and you need to communicate as a team! Imagine if a football or hockey team didn’t talk about their plans, goals, or strategies. Communication can help ensure you are on the same page, even particularly vulnerable.
Use Your Resources
Be imaginative when finding ways to build trust in a relationship. The items listed above are just ideas to work towards. Find ways that you two can have fun with it! Some couples are more serious and might enjoy working on landscaping projects, while others may want to go on adventurous trips. Use the resources available to you. The internet has plenty of silly games to get you laughing, which is a great bonding experience to help establish a trusting relationship!
If you feel you are struggling emotionally or have difficulty opening up, don’t be intimidated by seeking professional help. Therapy is an excellent option to have a neutral third party guide you through the healing process. Especially if you are building back trust after cheating or building trust after an affair, which can lead to many hurts. Using the ideas above plus utilizing a therapist is a good idea. For some people, therapy is a helpful option. If it doesn’t work or is not appealing to you, that’s okay too!
No matter your situation, if you two want to make this work, don’t give up and be patient. To build trust in a marriage means healing wounds and working together. There may be some tears, laughter, or resentment. If you work through them together, you can find yourself on the path to a successful and fulfilling partnership. Trust is earned, but you can find this process rewarding with effort and commitment.