We 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?
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 Trust
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?
“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?
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.
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.
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.
My 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!
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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
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