So many things cause a lack of trust in a relationship. Infidelity, abandonment issues, paranoia, lying, addiction . . . the list could go on. Learning how to build trust in a relationship differs, depending on the lens that a person is looking through.
The fact is that learning how to build trust in a relationship starts with the individual. Each person’s experiences shape the way they look at trust and relationships. We learn from heartache. Look at yourself and the lens through which you view life. Do you find that you are often too trusting at the beginning, but end up getting hurt? Do you not trust anyone who has left you feeling “safe,” but lonely? Do you come from a family where there was infidelity or divorce?
Whatever your experience, if you are reading this, chances are that trust is important to you and the relationship you are in.
How to Build Trust in a Relationship
While there is not a fix-all solution, here are some overall sound truths that can help with the goal of learning how to build trust in a relationship.
Try to understand the other person’s perspective. Without judgment, ask them what they would like to see change in your relationship. Then, listen to them open-mindedly. This does not mean you have to do everything that they say, but prayerfully consider it and try not to respond immediately so that when you do answer it is thoughtful. Do they desire a weekly check-in? Is it showing up on time for things? Is it a sharing of passwords and devices?
Whatever it is that the two of you decide, when you say you are going to do something, follow through to the best of your ability. Trust is often broken through unkept promises, so do not make promises that you cannot fulfill. Saying I will never do certain things again might be unrealistic, even if at the moment you want to believe it is true.
Another option is to state that you are going to work hard, stay accountable, and get support in times of weakness. Change takes time, so there is nothing wrong with managing expectations of yourself.
Work on yourself and be trustworthy
If you find yourself doing “good” only when others are watching, look at your intentions. People crave genuineness and authenticity, which are two key ingredients to building trust. If someone does not trust you, ask yourself if they should. Do your internet browsing and daily choices align with someone that you would trust?
If you are working on self-improvement, it will not be comfortable. For many of us, growth is painful and forces us to look at ourselves. But it is so worth it. Even if you do not mend the relationship or build the trust you desire, there is still gain when you are focused on yourself. Other people will see it, but most importantly, God will see it, whether that is going to individual therapy, Bible study, lifestyle change, or cutting things off.
Matthew 5:30 tells us, “And if your right-hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” I am not advising anyone to cut off their limbs, but is there something that you could lose in your life in order to improve it?
Remember that no one is perfect. We can 100% of the time rely on Jesus and our relationship with him being perfect. People let us down because they are not perfect. If you are the one who is not trusting of the other person, this is a great takeaway for you as well. Work on your own hurts, hang-ups, and habits and give the person you care about to God.
The one quality that I believe permeates all relationships that want to gain trust is patience. I see this scenario often when it comes to betrayal or addiction: When an addicted person has worked hard on themselves and sees the difference in their behaviors, they often want the people that have been encouraging them to get help to see that change too and they want to be trusted.
This makes sense but is not always realistic. Just like the loss of trust often takes time, so does building it up. It may take even longer because the pieces have been taken apart time and time again.
Thankfully, Jesus loves and forgives us for each mistake. Our slates are wiped clean and He sees all the icky stuff deep down in our hearts and loves us anyway.
Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. When someone says they forgive us, it does not mean that they will forget all we have done to hurt them. It may mean that they need boundaries that we do not like. Respecting and keeping boundaries is a slow but reliable way to build up trust.
Don’t get walked on
In the process of gaining trust, it is important that you also have boundaries. Taking the blame for things that are not your fault or taking some abuse yourself is not the way to gain trust and will often leave you feeling worthless and frustrated. Know where to draw the line.
Be careful in the way you communicate boundaries, being demanding or saying things like, “I deserve this,” will most likely put you in the opposite direction of what you want. Get some support for this, write down a script that lay out the boundaries and practice with a trusted friend.
Check the messages that you are hearing from pop culture and compare them to Scripture. Be careful of who or what you allow to speak into your relationship. Are they in the kind of relationship that you aspire to? What credentials do they have to speak into your life? The enemy comes to steal kills and destroy and can be disguised as advice with innocent intentions from a friend or Cosmo article. Relationships take hard work
“Follow your heart” is a common saying that many of us have heard from childhood, and yet the Bible warns us of this very thing. Jeremiah 17:9 declares firmly, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it?”
Following something that we don’t understand and something that changes all the time will only bring confusion. “Following your heart” often leads us to follow sinful desires or reactionary emotions.
Instead, seek wisdom from those who know your relationship, have someone in your life that is older and wiser that can keep your heart in check. Be in the Scripture daily so that it is written in your heart and God can grant you wisdom.
Christian Counseling for Relationship Issues
Seeking counseling as a couple or as an individual can help to get a better perspective on the needs of the relationship. Having an outside party available might help to create positive boundaries and assist in the development of trust and connection.
If you need further assistance learning how to build trust in a relationship, feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors in the counselor directory to schedule an appointment.
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