Trust is a fundamental element in any relationship, fostering a sense of security and allowing for open communication between partners. Understanding how to build trust in relationships takes time and effort, but the benefits can lead to stronger, more satisfying connections with those around you. 

By being reliable, honest, and empathetic, you can help create an atmosphere where trust can thrive. Consistently demonstrating that you value and respect your partner’s feelings can also help to reinforce the bonds of trust.

So what does this actually look like in a relationship, and why is building trust so important? Keep reading to explore the many ways to cultivate trust in relationships, including actionable tools to deepen your connections and strengthen your relationship.

What Is Trust?

Trust is one of the most sought-after emotions in human relationships, and yet it can be hard to define (like a lot of our feelings!) What trust means to one person can be very different from what it means to someone else.

At a basic level, trust in a relationship is the feeling of security and loyalty between you and your partner. It’s built on a foundation of honesty, reliability, and consistency in words and actions. When you trust your partner, you believe what they say, and you don’t question their intentions – even in times of conflict.

The way people experience trust in relationships can vary depending on various psychological factors.

The Psychology of Trust

Some people enter relationships with trust issues, while others might be too trusting. Your approach to trust in relationships can be impacted by several psychological factors, including:

  • Attachment style: Your early life experiences, such as your relationship with your caregivers, can shape your ability to trust others.
  • Past experiences: Negative experiences in past relationships might make it difficult for you to trust your partner.
  • Personality traits: Traits like empathy, openness, and agreeableness can affect your level of trust in a relationship.

Whether you enter a relationship with a strong level of trust in others, or you have a hard time trusting your partner, it is possible (and important) to actively build trust in relationships. This process starts by understanding the elements of trust.

7 Elements of Trust in Relationships

Brene Brown, a renowned researcher, professor, author and speaker, is most known for her work on vulnerability, courage and shame. But in one of her Super Soul Sessions events, she also talked about the seven elements of trust. 

Trust, Brown said, is not built by grand gestures of love or friendship, but in the small moments of life that show you a person can be counted on. 

John Gottman, a well-known psychologist, founder of The Gottman Institute and creator of Gottman Method couples therapy, has found similar truths in his work, writing: “Trust is built in the little moments of everyday life, not with grand gestures twice a year.” 

Watch the video below for Brown’s perspective on trust in relationships, or keep reading to explore all seven elements of trust:

Boundaries

Establishing clear and honest boundaries in your relationship is crucial for building trust. When you set boundaries, you express your needs and limits, which encourages your partner to do the same. Mutual respect for each other’s boundaries helps nurture a trustworthy environment.

Reliability

Reliability is the foundation of trust in relationships. When you are consistently reliable, you ensure that your partner feels secure and confident in your efforts. Demonstrate your reliability by keeping your promises and following through on your commitments. 

Accountability

Taking responsibility for your actions and admitting when you’re wrong is an essential aspect of building trust. By being accountable, you show your partner that you value your relationship and are willing to address mistakes in order to progress together.

Vault

The “vault” refers to the safe and confidential space you create with your partner by not sharing each other’s private information with others. Practice discretion and protect your partner’s privacy, as this will reinforce trust in your relationship.

Integrity

Maintaining integrity means staying true to your beliefs and values, even when it’s challenging. Demonstrating integrity includes being honest, making ethical choices, and acting in the best interest of your relationship. By doing so, you foster a sense of trustworthiness with your partner.

Non-Judgment

Creating an atmosphere of non-judgment in your relationship allows you and your partner to be open and vulnerable. Emphasize empathy, understanding, and support when communicating, which encourages trust and emotional intimacy.

Generosity

Be generous in your assumptions about your partner’s intentions. Give them the benefit of the doubt in situations where their actions may not match your expectations. Practicing generosity in your relationship fosters trust and promotes a secure connection.

A couple cuddles on the couch happily after building trust in relationships

How to Establish Trust in Relationships

When a relationship is new – or if your relationship needs a bit of a re-set – it’s important to pay close attention to the ways you establish trust with your partner. 

You can build trust by:

Setting Boundaries

Establishing trust in a relationship begins with setting clear boundaries. Define your personal boundaries and understand your partner’s boundaries. This includes:

  • Emotional boundaries: Consider how much personal information you’re willing to share and expect from your partner. Respect each other’s feelings and emotions.
  • Physical boundaries: Discuss your comfort levels with physical affection and your respective needs for personal space.
  • Social boundaries: Share your expectations regarding friendships, family relationships, and social interactions.

Openly discussing these boundaries will help you build a strong foundation for trust by ensuring that both partners feel comfortable in the relationship.

Practicing Consistency and Reliability

Another crucial aspect of building trust is demonstrating consistency and reliability. Here are some tips to achieve that:

  • Keep your promises: Whether it’s a small favor or a significant commitment, make sure to follow through with your promises. This will show that you are reliable and trustworthy.
  • Communicate openly: Honest communication is vital in building trust. Share your thoughts, feelings, and concerns with your partner regularly. Be open to listening and understanding their perspective.
  • Be supportive: Show your partner that you are there for them in times of need. Offer emotional support and encouragement when they face challenges.
  • Be punctual: Arriving on time for events, dates, or appointments shows that you respect your partner’s time and prioritize their needs.

By focusing on setting boundaries and maintaining consistency and reliability, you will create an environment where both partners feel secure and trust can grow in your relationship.

How to Maintain Trust in Relationships

Of course, it’s not enough to put time into building trust at the start of a relationship. It’s also critical to focus on maintaining that level of trust throughout the length of your partnership.

Maintaining trust in a relationship is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort from both individuals involved. Two of the most important aspects of maintaining trust in relationships include continuous improvement and conflict resolution.

Continuous Improvement

To keep trust strong in your relationship, focus on being true to your word and following through with your actions consistently. And hold yourself accountable when you fail. 

Here are some tips for continuous improvement in your relationship:

  • Communication: Regularly share your thoughts, feelings, and concerns with your partner. Make sure to listen and understand their perspective as well.
  • Honesty: Be truthful and transparent with your partner, even when it’s difficult.
  • Empathy: Try to see situations from your partner’s point of view and validate their feelings and emotions.
  • Support: Encourage and support your partner’s personal growth and interests.

Conflict Resolution

Disagreements and conflicts are natural in relationships, but it’s essential to address them in a healthy and constructive way to maintain trust. Here are some strategies for conflict resolution:

  • Stay calm: Approach conflicts with a calm demeanor and focus on the issue rather than attacking your partner’s character.
  • Active listening: Listen attentively to your partner’s concerns and demonstrate that you comprehend their point of view.
  • Collaborate: Work together to find a solution that both of you can agree on rather than imposing your own opinion.
  • Take responsibility: If you’ve made a mistake or hurt your partner, acknowledge it and apologize genuinely.
  • Forgiveness: Practice forgiving your partner and letting go of grudges to strengthen trust in your relationship.

Remember, nurturing trust requires ongoing effort, so implement these strategies consistently in your relationship for lasting results.

A couple embraces after learning how to build trust in relationships

Trust Challenges in Relationships

Unfortunately, even partners with good intentions can break their partner’s trust – or have their trust broken by a partner. 

Dealing with the betrayal of trust in a relationship can be incredibly painful. When you trust someone, you open up yourself to their actions and decisions, which could potentially hurt you. 

When betrayal occurs, it’s essential to first acknowledge your feelings. It’s normal to feel hurt, anger, and disappointment. Remember, these emotions are valid and should be respected.

Next, take time to reflect on the situation. Ask yourself if the betrayal was a one-time mistake or a pattern of behavior. Sometimes people make mistakes, and it’s important to differentiate between a singular event and ongoing disloyalty. 

Also, consider if there has been a communication gap between the two of you, as clear communication is essential to trust.

Lastly, seek professional help if needed. Whether it’s individual or couples therapy, working with a professional can provide valuable insights and guidance for rebuilding trust after a betrayal.

Common Questions About Trust in Relationships

What are key psychological principles that help strengthen trust in partnerships?

Key psychological principles to strengthen trust involve honesty, consistency, and empathy. Being open and truthful about your thoughts and feelings is crucial to maintaining trust. Consistently showing your partner that you follow through with your promises and plans helps to reinforce the foundation of trust. 

Also, empathizing with your partner’s feelings and experiences helps you both to better understand each other and develop trust.

Can trust be repaired once it’s broken?

Yes, trust can be repaired once broken, but it requires effort, time, and commitment from both parties. Steps to repair trust include acknowledging the breach of trust, expressing sincere remorse, and rebuilding trust through consistent actions. The person affected by the broken trust should express their feelings and be open to forgiving their partner. Patience is key, as rebuilding trust takes time and effort from both parties.

What can help develop trust at the beginning of a relationship?

In the beginning stages of a relationship, actions that contribute to developing trust include open communication, vulnerability, and dependability. 

Share your thoughts and feelings honestly, show your commitment by following through with plans, and demonstrate empathy for your partner’s experiences. Establishing boundaries and respecting your partner’s boundaries can help build trust as well.

How does trust affect relationship dynamics and what are its core elements?

Trust is at the core of any healthy relationship and affects multiple aspects, such as communication, emotional intimacy, and conflict resolution. Trust enables partners to feel secure, allowing for vulnerability and openness between them. Core elements of trust include honesty, reliability, empathy, communication, and mutual respect. 

Developing these elements can create a strong foundation of trust that supports the relationship’s growth and longevity.

a couple works with a couples therapist to build trust in relationships

Need Help Building Trust in Relationships?

Whether you’re struggling to trust your partner or your partner is the one with trust issues, therapy can help. 

At Couples Learn we offer individual and couples therapy for relationship issues and use a variety of couples therapy techniques to improve communication, improve conflict resolution and (of course) build trust.

Contact us to learn more about online couples therapy and book a free consultation today.