a couples guide to trust

Defining, Redefining, and Negotiating Trust in Relationships

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How do we know if our partner is sharing lunches with an attractive person of interest? How do we know if our partner is still in love with us? How do we know that our partners aren’t feeling the same “curiosity” we feel around other chemically attractive people?

Trust is a Two Way Street

In any relationship, trust may be the biggest challenge. Here’s what’s hard about trust.

  • We have bad examples of how trust led us astray
  • We have examples of broken, damaged, and crushed trust
  • We’ve been in relationships where anxiety ruled and trust was made up
  • We have lied and been lied to
  • If we distrust ourselves from time to time, imagine how far out we can get around our partners

Trust forms the basis for intimacy, but it’s a feedback look, intimacy forms trust as well. When we love deeply we are putting our trust in the other person. We are believing that they are being honest and that our efforts for trustworthiness are being mirrored and honored. If we are trust-builders and we’re in a relationship with another trust-builder, perhaps there’s a chance for a lasting partnership. But things can still go wrong.

Where Trust Dies In Relationships

I’m going to speak for myself, most of us have shared little white lies with our partners. We tell them we are going to lunch with an old friend and forget to mention that we were past lovers. We forget the dry cleaning on the way home (Do people still waste money on dry cleaning?) and blame it on a power outage at the business. We use little untruths to avoid conflict and strife.

But little white lies can become a pattern if we’re not careful. If we want to build a lasting relationship we’ve got to rid ourselves of the need to tell little white lies first. It’s the bigger lies (infidelity, consulting with a divorce attorney, spending money off the books) that will bring down a partnership. But, it’s the little lies that pave the way to being less than 100% with your partner.

What causes me to tell a little white lie?

  • I made a mistake but don’t want to suffer the consequences of disappointing my partner
  • I want to have sex tonight, so I’m going to leave out the minor fk up of the day
  • We’re in a “good zone” and I don’t want to rock the boat when things are easy
  • I’m afraid of letting my partner down
  • I’m afraid there will be blowback from my poor decisions

Again, we’re talking “little” lies. But still, the underlying issue is trust. We don’t trust that our partner will respond in kindness to our faux pas. We expect a negative consequence if we tell the absolute truth, so we lie. Just a little one. Just a juicy tidbit of truth held back to preserve the peace. But something is missing here. We’re mistrustful of our partner and their potential response.

When We Get Out of Alignment with Our Partner

If we allow this distrust to fester. If we don’t go for the heart of the disconnect to solve and resolve our fear and frustrations with our partners, we’re going to allow those “issues” to gain momentum and power in our lives. We don’t want to be ruled by the little white lies of life. We want to be connected at the highest level with our significant others. We want to trust more and more deeply. We want to build trust with every interaction if we can.

Several parts of the puzzle I have begun to figure out.

  1. Scheduling is a team sport
  2. Sex is a mutually appreciated activity, both partners should be interested in finding time
  3. White lies are still lying – address the underlying issues
  4. Appreciation and adoration are very easy skills to practice
  5. Texts can be erotic without being dirty
  6. An “I Love You” text during the workday makes everyone smile
  7. Kisses can be gifts, or they can be “are we okay” check-ins (you can feel the difference)
  8. Both partners have trust issues, they may look and act differently

Alignment on your journey with your partner is the goal. 100% of the time. If you are not moving towards and in sync with your partner, you are moving away and out of the trust zone. It’s a good idea to make note of the activities and phrases that cause your partner anxiety or stress. Then, simply avoid using those phrases or behaving in a pattern that makes your partner uncomfortable. I don’t have to understand why my partner has anxiety when I haven’t texted back in 30-minutes or more. But, I can do my best to respond in the moment, when possible, and as soon as possible, when I can’t.

Rebuilding Trust Is a Joint Effort

Trust cuts both ways. If you have a trust-traumatized partner, you may need to go out of your way to demonstrate your care, attention, and trustworthiness more frequently. If you are the one suffering from separation anxiety, it’s your job to ask for what you need to build, repair, and establish good “trusting” boundaries. Often, it seems like one partner will have “trust issues” with much more urgency and frequency than the other. That’s okay. The balance is in moving both partners toward the trusting middle, together. Move towards your partner in all your actions and future plans. Let them know ASAP when there is a change of plans, or some other potentially disturbing event that you can get out ahead of.

Always love your partner in their anxiety and fear. Your loving partnership may be the key for them to heal some of their past trauma. It is not our responsibility to heal our partner, but it is our responsibility to be the most trustworthy and thoughtful partner they’ve ever loved. By loving more closely and loving with more openness and trust, both partners can express themselves more honestly. You’ve got to identify what’s bugging you and then ask for a behavior modification.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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How I Can Help

I am a relationship coach and a dating coach. I coach women in 1 x 1 zoom or facetime calls. I work in monthly blocks (4 sessions). We establish a relationship. I become your wingman in navigating and sorting through the bullshit of dating and relationships. If you are here, you’ve probably already read some of my opinions. If we’re a fit, we will both know on our first call.

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