Don’t You Trust Me? – The 5 Characteristics of Trust

The 5 Characteristics of Trust - #staymarried, photo copyright Jake GravbrotWe have seen a lot of comments and emails from you all lately, and I keep coming back to the same theme over and over again. It’s a word, really, but such a loaded word that I can’t escape it. The word is trust.

“Don’t you trust me?”

“How can I trust him?”

“I can’t get a hold of my temper. But, it keeps coming back to whether or not he will be faithful now that he has cheated on me.”

“I’m not sure what to do. I cheated in the past and he has forgiven me, but now he wants me to keep my distance from other men. Is it unreasonable?”

Over and over again: trust.

Trust is foundational for all relationships, but especially for our marriages. We’ve found that trust is not so easy to cultivate and, once broken, can be excruciatingly difficult to repair.

Some people come by it naturally. They find it easy to trust others, maybe because they saw good examples of love, faithfulness, and trustworthiness in their childhood. I have a friend, Emily, who sincerely believes the best in people and is absolutely crushed when someone doesn’t come through. It makes sense to me. I know her parents. They’ve been married for a million years, they love and support her and her three sisters like crazy, and through all of their own transitions through high points and low points, have stuck together for better or worse. It makes sense to me that she is trusting and joyful.

But for others, like me, trusting people can feel foolish and uncomfortable. We don’t want to be let down, we have a hard time believing that people have good intentions and will follow through. This general belief that nobody is truly trustworthy can cast a shadow over all of our interactions. But, all is not lost. Trust can be learned over time and carefully cultivated within a relationship. But, how?

Trusting Yourself

It is difficult to trust others when you don’t trust yourself. The first step, then, is to become a trustworthy person. People who instill trust in others all share these same five characteristics.

The 5 Characteristics of TrustThe 5 Characteristics of Trust - #staymarried, photo copyright Jake Gravbrot

1. Integrity

Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. It means living your life Wholeheartedly, as Brene Brown puts it, having the same values at work as you do at home and around your friends. Do you hold the same values no matter where you go? Will you act on what you believe in?

2. Honesty

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” – Albert Einstein

With integrity comes the freedom to be honest in all circumstances. When you hold the same values in all circumstances, it is easy to tell the truth. Do you say what you mean or omit important details? Of course, everyone is prone to slip and tell a lie or exaggerate once in a while. But, an honest person will own up to the lie and admit the truth. Are you honest about who you are and what you believe, or do you cater your answers and change them based on who is listening?

3. Consistency

Like integrity and honesty, consistency is a crucial factor in building trust with others. Are you considered reliable or would people say you are pretty flaky? Do you come through for others when you say you will? Are you keeping the commitments, big and small, that you make to others? The kind of consistency that builds trust is the kind that others can rely on.

In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey writes, “One of the fastest ways to restore trust is to make and keep commitments – even very small commitments – to ourselves and to others.”

The 5 Characteristics of Trust - #staymarried, photo copyright Jake Gravbrot

4. Intent

Can others trust that your intentions are not solely self-preserving? Are you the type to throw someone else under the bus to save your own reputation, or will you sacrifice yourself? Gandhi once said, “The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted.”

People need to believe that your intentions are good and that you will act on them no matter what. Mistakes may happen and things may go wrong, but if those around you can sincerely point to a track record of your good intentions and actions upon them, you will easily be forgiven.

5. Transparency

How would you feel if anybody and everybody listened in on your conversations? How would you feel if your spouse were browsing your text messages and emails? This is one of the most divisive hurdles we hear about. However, if you are trustworthy, nothing in your communications to anyone should need to be so private that you couldn’t share them openly and willingly with your partner. Of course, there are gifts and surprises that we would like to keep private, but aside from those circumstances, full disclosure is critical in building trust with people that are important to you.

So, how do you fare? With the five characteristics above, where are you at? Would you give yourself a gold star or are there areas you could improve? It is easy to point the finger at other people, even our partner, but becoming trustworthy is the first step in building trust in your relationship.

Trust is a Worthwhile Risk

If, however, you are faced with much jealousy and distrust, and your partner shows a lot of the characteristics above, there is a different route for you. In order to build trust, you need to practice trusting. You cannot grow past your natural distrust until you give your partner room to show you that they are, in fact, trustworthy. This is the place I find myself.

My husband has done everything possible to earn my trust, and still, something deep inside doubts him. It isn’t personal. I have a natural disposition toward suspicion.

I know I need to continue to extend trust, to give him the benefit of the doubt if something seems fishy, and to believe that he really does have the best intentions as he’s shown me time and time again. But, when I can’t, when I feel compelled to question him, it is his response that makes all the difference.

The 5 Characteristics of Trust - #staymarried, photo copyright Jake GravbrotMy husband, trustworthy as he is, has never responded defensively to my doubts. He opens emails, hands me his phone, and would even stay in the same room if he’s talking on the phone to someone I don’t know if I asked him to. He is more than I deserve in every way, and given my immense baggage, he is beyond patient with me.

And, it is not all one-sided. Tony certainly benefits from his unending patience and transparency. Over time, I question him less and less. I get excited when he makes plans to spend time with his friends, or even to see a movie alone late at night. I don’t wonder where he is or who he is really seeing. He has built this bank of trust in our relationship that gives him much freedom.

That’s it, isn’t it? We all want to be trusted. We all want to be with people who are trustworthy, don’t we? It is important because, once we are trusted, once we are believed in, we are given more freedom and grace than we could ever need. When you are trustworthy, nobody looks at you sideways. Nobody wonders if you mean what you say or if you will come through on your promise. People speak well of you when you’ve earned their trust. They will stand up for you if anyone says anything negative, they’ll put themselves on the line.

When we’ve earned trust, when we’ve extended trust to others, we fortify our relationships so that they stand firm against any obstacle that might come against them. Trust is essential for our marriages, as the most important relationships we will ever have. Building trust, extending trust, and maintaining trust will fortify our abilities to #staymarried.

 The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

Special thanks to Jake Gravbrot Photography for providing the beautiful photograph for this post, image copyright belongs to him. I am in love with his Instagram feed, you should think of following him!

If you found this post helpful, we would be honored if you would share it. Our big dream is to see more and more people living in happy and healthy marriages!

Interested in more posts like this? You might like…
Three Marriage Monsters and the Secrets for Defeating Them
5 Trust Building Boundaries – by Tony
♥ How My Marriage Survived an Affair – guest post

Michelle Peterson #staymarriedInto podcasts? You might like ours! You can catch all episodes and the resources that go along with them on our Podcast Page.

If you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post. You can also find us on the socials: PinterestTwitterFacebook, and Instagram. I’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms.

Thank you ever so much for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle

 

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6 responses

  • Hi Michelle and Tony, thank you for your wonderful blog. I’m sure I’m not your typical reader, as I’ve been married 29 years and am 51 years old. I want you to know that your mission for “staying married” is near and dear to my heart.. I believe in marriage, working things out and staying together, but even more than that… Making sure that young marrieds do a MUCH better job of understanding “marriage” and their partner than I ever did! I’ve just been through the hardest 16 months of our marriage, I did not want to stay in my marriage because of all the lack of trust, betrayals, sex addiction on my husbands part, and just out and out lies. Your blog gave me hope and encouragement to stay the course, with my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. We are well on the way to not only salvaging our relationship but finally having true intimacy! A REAL relationship. Yesterday’s post on trust was awesome! It’s exactly where I’ve been.. I’m still struggling with trust, but I decided that I may never be fully able to trust my husband, but I do trust that God has my back. God is not only using our marriage struggles to reveal so much of himself to us, but to show us our own areas of weakness in order to finally live the life that He died on a cross for, to give us. I would never wish my story on anyone, but I’m thankful to God for how he’s used it to free me and my husband from faulty relating, addictions, and the destructive patterns we were in. I wanted to just encourage you in your work by letting you know how you’ve impacted our lives. It is well worth any and all efforts to stay together in love not only for our sakes but for the sake of our 3 children and their partners. Thank you again for writing your blog and dedication to staying married. Sincerely, Cindy Browning

    • Cindy!!! Your words mean so much to me! Thank you for taking the time to encourage US while you have been through so much. I hope we can continue to be a resource of hope for you and your husband as you do the hard, but rewarding, work to #staymarried.

    • Thanks for this awesome post. I recently stumbled on your blog and I’ve been reading and really enjoying the content. My wife and I are newlyweds and it is through and by the principles mentioned that we’re able to find comfort in knowing that we are each 100% committed to the relationship. Because we’re able to instill trust in each other we are constantly confident in our union. I pray that God will continue to work in marriages through this medium.

  • Thanks for your article. Trust in a relationship is foundational to its health, if not continuance. The difficulty is how to proceed when trust is lost. The following quote from David Hume, who lived in the 1700s, illustrates the dilemma between two farmers.

    “Your corn is ripe today; mine will be so tomorrow. ‘Tis profitable for us both, that I should labour with you today, and that you should aid me tomorrow. I have no kindness for you, and know you have as little for me. I will not, therefore, take any pains upon your account; and should I labour with you upon my own account, in expectation of a return, I know I should be disappointed, and that I should in vain depend upon your gratitude. Here then I leave you to labour alone; You treat me in the same manner. The seasons change; and both of us lose our harvests for want of mutual confidence and security.”

    The need for a third party peacemaker (counselor) is often essential to help mistrusting spouses to risk vulnerability for the sake of rebuilding the relationship.

    Dr. Ken Newberger
    Serving Southwest Florida (Naples, Fort Myers, and surrounding communities.)
    http://www.MarriageCounselingAlt.com/couples.htm