5 Trust Building Exercises for Couples That Enhance Relationships

The Bachelor is one of the longest running reality shows on television, first premiering on ABC in 2002. Unlike other long running reality series, the formula of the Bachelor has stayed fairly constant since its inception…

It involves one eligible suitor and a group of women who “go on a journey to find love.”  This journey is usually an extravagant expedition around the world with stops in some of the most exotic and romantic locations. 

In almost every season, there is usually at least one date involving an adventurous activity or an experience that instills fear.  These activities have ranged from bungee jumping, to scaling bridges, to free falling from skyscrapers. 

There are usually some cute one liners associated with these dates, such as “how far would you fall for love?” or “are you willing to take the leap for love?” 

The likely rationale for these dates is that terrifying experiences usually bond those who partake in them.  And on the Bachelor, the script is almost always the same. 

One or both individuals tearfully express fears as they near the edge of whatever precipice they are encountering.  Then, as if on cue, one offers comfort and support to the other with the simple phrase, “trust me”, which is usually enough to convince them to participate. 

The couple then goes on to complete the activity (of course, while holding hands) and upon finishing, celebrates that they were able to conquer their fears together. 

Science also plays an important role in these adventurous dates, as participation in daring activities can signal the release of adrenaline, oxytocin, and dopamine.

Adrenaline can imitate feelings of falling in love, oxytocin is related to attachment and bonding, and dopamine is linked with pleasure. The whole experience usually leaves both parties feeling like they can trust each other and do anything.

The Importance of Trust in Relationships

Trust is crucial to any relationship because without it, a relationship fails to exist.  Trust depicts vulnerability, constancy, and reliability. 

As we all know, trust is fragile and needs to be developed and fostered over time. Lasting trust cannot be sustained from a single experience and rather, needs to be consistent and proven across multiple experiences. 

Paradoxically, trust can also erode in mere minutes from one single, solitary action.   

Whether you are in a new relationship and are first building trust, in a long relationship and solidifying trust, or in any type of relationship where trust has been broken, you may be wondering how to form or re-build trust…

Thankfully, there are several exercises that couples can do to help enhance the trust in their relationship!

Below, are some examples of these trust-building exercises.     

Exercise #1: Sustained Eye Contact

Sustained Eye Contact Trust Building Exercise
Practicing maintaining eye contact with your partner is a wonderful and easy way to build trust daily.

William Shakespeare once said that “the eyes are the window to the soul.”  This expression suggests that a person’s eyes can accurately portray their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Whereas a person can feign a smile or mislead with body language, Shakespeare believed that the eyes were incapable of lying.  The eyes fill with tears when sad, avert from dishonesty, and light up with excitement and happiness.

Eye contact is an important component to verbal and non-verbal communication, in that it fosters engagement, connectedness, and intimacy, which are all important elements of trust.

How to Perform Exercise

In this activity, a couple sits across from each other, while gazing into each other’s eyes for a five-minute duration. Individuals should avoid staring at each other or making faces and instead, maintain comfortable eye contact.

Partners should NOT converse during this activity, but can put on some soft music if background noise if desired.

This exercise is recommended to be repeated several times per day on a daily basis.

It is important to note that this activity can often feel uncomfortable at first, but it is important to refrain from darting your eyes or averting eye contact despite this discomfort. 

Why It Works

The purpose of this activity is to slow down the busy pace of life and allow a couple to make an open, honest, and deep emotional connection. 

Continued eye contact allows partners the opportunity to truly “see” and understand each other. Sometimes, eye contact can elicit dormant emotions, giving a couple the opportunity to discuss and process deep feelings. Eye contact also allows individuals to showcase their vulnerabilities, as they are allowing their partner to look right into “the windows of their soul.”

If sustained eye contact is difficult or if it cannot be maintained, it is suggestive that a person is uncomfortable with being intimate or vulnerable.       

Exercise #2: Blindfolded Challenges

Blindfolded Couple Trust Building Exercises

When a person is blind or has temporarily lost their sight, they must rely on their other senses and on the assistance from others to navigate through life.  Relying on one’s own senses necessitates trust in yourself, while relying on others requires trust in those around you. 

The loss of sight makes a person both physically AND emotionally vulnerable to outside sources, as they have the potential to be hurt or taken advantage of.

If a person does not trust another to keep them safe, or if they lack faith that this person will get them to their desired destination, it is unlikely that they will allow this person to assist them. 

The purpose of this exercise is for one person to be blindfolded, while their partner assists them in completing a challenge. Once a challenge is completed, partners must then switch places, allowing both individuals to experience both roles.

How to Perform Exercises

There are several types of challenges that can be conducted, including an obstacle course, the trust fall, and the taste test

Obstacle Course

In the obstacle course challenge, one person creates a simple obstacle course using household objects, while their partner is blindfolded. Their partner must then remain blindfolded, while allowing their partner to lead them through the series of obstacles. 

Trust Fall

In the trust fall, one partner is blindfolded and stands several inches in front of their mate. Their partner stands behind them with their arms extended outwards. 

The blindfolded partner must then cross their arms over their chest, while allowing themselves to fall backwards, trusting that their mate will catch them. This exercise can be repeated multiple times as the couple moves further apart each time.

Taste Test

Finally, the taste test activity is when one partner is blindfolded, while their mate sets several different types of foods in front of them. The blindfolded partner must then taste each sample, while trusting that their mate is not going to subject them to something harmful or unfavorable.

Why It Works

The blindfold challenges give individuals the opportunity to be completely vulnerable with their loved one, while trusting that their partner will keep them safe and protect them from harm. 

If a person does not have this type of confidence in their partner, they will be unable to complete the challenge, or may not even allow themselves to be blindfolded in the first place.

The common theme in all the variations of the blindfold challenge is that mates must give up control and allow themselves to be guided, either verbally or physically, by their partner.

In order to be successful at these challenges, individuals NEED to release their inhibitions and fears while putting their complete faith in their partner. Trust will continue to grow with each successful completion of a blindfold challenge. 

Exercise #3: Acroyoga

Acroyoga Trust Building Couple Exercises

Acroyoga is a type of exercise that incorporates yoga and acrobatics, while focusing on a person’s overall health and well-being. 

The acrobatic portion of acroyoga is playful and fun, while the yoga component focuses on the balance between mind, body, and spirit. 

How to Perform Exercise

In acroyoga, there always needs to be at least two to three people participating.

One person is always lifted, commonly termed the “flyer”, while another individual maintains contact with the ground, known as the “base.”  Another person usually maintains the role of “spotter” to ensure the safety of the flyer.

Acroyoga is built on the premises of communication, connection, and trust and implores that attention must always be focused on your partner. 

Why It Works

Acroyoga can be utilized by couples as a trust enhancing activity and as a way to have fun. Partners need to learn how to practice and work together in tandem to be successful.

The “flyer” needs to trust that their partner, the “base” will hold them up without dropping them. Partners need to communicate (opens in new tab) and to be fully in tune with each other at all times, thus fostering intimacy and closeness. 

Exercise #4: Disclosure

Disclosure Trust Building Exercise for Couples

Children learn at an early age that a special type of exclusivity exists when secrets are shared. 

Children understand that secrets separate them from others not privy to their secret. 

At a young age, the content of the secret is less important than the fact that the person chose them to share it with. 

Nothing delights a young child more than being told not to share a secret with anyone else. 

At any age, the knowledge that another person deems you trustworthy can be quite powerful. 

A person does not share their fears, embarrassments, or soul crushing moments with just anyone, for fear of being judged, ridiculed, or misunderstood. A secret will only be shared if a person has confidence that it will be received with kindness, understanding, and acceptance.

Secrets leave people vulnerable to attack, as a person’s deepest thoughts often encompass their worst fears about themselves. 

Sharing secrets, disclosing past transgressions, and admitting mistakes will only occur when there is trust.  Simply put, if a person does not trust their mate, they will not open up. 

It is only when a person feels confident that their thoughts will be safe in the hands of their partner, will they practice transparency. 

The act of disclosure can be a powerful trust building activity for couples. 

How to Perform Exercise

One partner can take a turn disclosing, while the other partner practices listening without interruption. 

Partners can then alternate so that each has a turn to disclose and to listen. 

There are several variations of this activity that can be conducted freestyle, or through structured prompts. 

In a freestyle version, individuals are free to discuss whatever they wish, whereas in a prompt version, the topics are provided.

Regardless of the way that the activity is conducted, a couple can strengthen their bond through this experience

Why It Works

Disclosure can allow a person to apologize and to take personal responsibility, while also giving their partner the opportunity to show understanding and empathy. 

Equally important to disclosure is the way that a partner reacts to information that is shared. 

Complete acceptance of your partner’s ugly truths and past transgressions can be a powerfully intimate and healing experience.       

Exercise #5: Relinquishing Control

Relinquishing Control Over Finances Trust Building Exercise

A dynamic exists in most relationships where one party is more dominant than the other.

They are the ones that take initiative, plan vacations and outings, and handle the family’s finances. 

Some individuals may be more dominant due to personality traits and characteristics, while others may take control simply because they lack faith in their partner. 

This type of individual asserts dominance because they do not trust that their partner will come through. 

Sometimes this notion is perceived, while at other times, it is accurate. 

How to Perform Exercise

In this trust-building exercise, the dominant person in the relationship relinquishes control to their partner in some area, thus giving their partner an opportunity to step up and follow through. 

For example, a person might task their mate to pay an important bill by the due date. 

This person has clearly verbalized and outlined their expectations, while giving their partner the opportunity to follow through. 

If the partner is successful at completing the task, it affirms that the partner can also be trusted. 

This trust will continue to grow with each successful task completion.

By relinquishing control, a person becomes vulnerable to the possibility of disappointment

Why It Works

Reliability and consistency are the most important parts of this exercise.

The more times that a person can prove themselves reliable and trustworthy, the more that they will be trusted.

It is important to note that this exercise cannot occur in just one sitting and has to be run several times to be effective. 

Additionally, this exercise will only work if the less dominant partner wants to prove their trustworthiness

If they are not invested in this activity or in their relationship, they will continue to disappoint their partner, thus further eroding trust.  

Wrapping Up Trust Building Exercises

It is true that most of these exercises are far less exciting than the ones shown on The Bachelor. 

However, these exercises are easy to employ and can be conducted anytime, anywhere, and on a consistent basis. 

And, with any luck, the trust in your relationship will far surpass the length of any relationship that results from The Bachelor.

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Tracy Smith, LPC, NCC, ACS

Tracy Smith, LPC, NCC, ACS is a Licensed Professional Counselor in New Jersey, a Nationally Certified Counselor, an Approved Clinical Supervisor, and a mental health freelance writer. Tracy has fourteen years of clinical and supervisory experience in a variety of mental health settings and levels of care.

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