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What is trust?

couple in love
Trust In Relationships

Studies on trust show that it is really two things - competence and integrity.

Competence in a relationship means our partner is good at being a partner. Think of this as a spectrum not a black-and-white thing or an on-off switch. Is your partner 80-percent good at being your partner? Do they provide? Do they soothe? Do they parent? Do they clean? Consider what your partner does well and seek to understand their competence overall. Our brain is biased toward protecting us from harm. It will always focus on the 20-percent of times where our partner isn’t a very good partner. In being protective, our brain isolates the hurt and it begins to feel very big and very present. You’re not wrong to feel hurt. Just remember that you have to do the extra step of assessing the good parts of the relationship too.

Integrity means that our partner does what they say they will do. This is generally where trust in relationships breaks apart. We get angry when our partner hurts us because we don’t think they did what they said they would do. A key to re-establishing integrity is to understand if the thing they promised is as clear in their mind as it seems to be in our mind. Sure, everybody knows you shouldn’t cheat or lie or get too drunk at the party but couples rarely talk about those things in a safe manner. We wait until something happens then bust out the rules that they’re supposed to follow. Successful relationships share expectations before problems occur and frequently adjust them together as life changes. Couples who discuss things like addiction, anger and infidelity are much more likely to get through those challenges if they occur.

How can I trust again?

Has your relationship history been full of people who let you down over and over again? Sometimes our history of disappointment can make it tough to trust anyone new or regain trust with people we’ve known a while. To keep past hurts from harming current and future relationships, we’ve got to understand trust a little differently. First, our brain doesn’t really “trust” people, it just takes them at face value until they hurt us. Then we say, “how can I trust you again?” We believe we have to re-create trust but our brain isn’t sure how it created trust in the first place - because it didn’t. Trust is just a lack of pain… which happens in about zero percent of long-term relationships. We let others down - not because we don’t love them - but because we’re human. The trick for building (or rebuilding) a strong relationship is to be able to separate the hurt from the person and place the anger squarely on the action. We shouldn’t hate our partner for their failings, rather we should talk about the failure and how it is not acceptable in the relationship. Successful relationships work as a team to identify risks and prevent them from happening. When mistakes or bad actions occur, the team regroups and works together to assess what happened and how to prevent it in the future. Taking action and creating safety for conversation will begin to rebuild the trust in your partner.

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