It’s easy to fall in love with a man you don’t trust, but it’s hard to live with him.

Real, lasting relationships are built on trust. Trust is foundational because it creates a safe environment for intimacy to grow. If your relationship is going to work you need to be able to trust your partner with your past, your present, and your future. Trust takes time and effort, is easily broken, and hard to restore — but if you’re willing to work at it, the reward is the relationship you’ve always dreamed of.

Revealing your true self

Trust allows you to reveal who you really are. In spite of all the tricks we use to impress someone during the early stages of dating, intimacy is founded on knowing and being known. Your partner has to get to know the real you — what you’re like when you’re tired, angry, frustrated, elated, or talking to your Mom on the phone. He has to love you as you are, not as he hopes you might be. Anything less won’t last.

Knowing that you are loved for who you are lets you relax and let your guard down. It lets you be honest without fear of rejection, and frankly, it feels great. Have you seen or read Bridget Jones’s Diary? There’s one scene where Mark Darcy tells Bridget, “I like you Bridget, just as you are.” She is floored. Why such a strong reaction to a simple comment? Because Mark is telling her that he really sees her and he likes what he sees. He didn’t say he’d like her ten pounds lighter, or a little more sophisticated, or prettier, or better educated. He likes her as she is, unconditionally. She doesn’t have to try and impress him because he’s already impressed.

Honest communication

Trust opens the door to honest communication. You can’t communicate honestly if you’re always second-guessing how your partner will react and rephrasing your thoughts to fit in with his agenda. Communication takes concentration. In her article, “Why Can’t We Communicate?” Geri Forsberg, Ph.D., outlines the five steps to effective communication:

  1. Ask questions. Don’t assume you understand what a person means. Once you ask a few questions, it doesn’t take long to find out what he or she really is saying.
  2. Listen. To become a better communicator, you must be willing to listen (not be formulating your response white they are talking) so you can understand the other person’s perspective.
  3. Observe and be willing to verify the information you receive.
  4. Let people know what you are thinking by sharing it. By disclosing information about yourself, it aids the other person in understanding who you are and how you are understanding them.
  5. Remember that love covers a multitude of sins. If your motives are wanting to understand people and accept them for who they are, then communication will be easier. But if you set out to convince them that your way is the right way, then that’s not communication. And that’s not love.

Fair fights

Once you’ve cleared up your communication, trusting your partner will help you to fight more fairly when disagreements occur. Face it, if you’re involved with a living, breathing human being you are going to fight. Whether the fights tear you apart or actually resolve conflicts and bring you closer together depends on whether or not you fight fair.

What is a fair fight? Most experts agree that fair fighting does the following:

  1. Stays on topic. Now is not the time to bring out a list of past wrongs. Deal with the issue at hand.
  2. Refuses to resort to name calling and insults. Remember that the point of the argument is to solve something, not tear the other person to bits or badger them so they’ll quit and you’ll win. If you don’t respect your partner, or if they feel attacked, they’ll stop listening.
  3. Avoids generalizations and sticks to the facts. “You always” or ” you never” statements do not reflect reality and will only put your partner on the defensive. Stick to what actually happened and how it made you feel.

Building trust

Trust doesn’t just naturally happen between two people, even if they love each other. Don’t rush it. If you truly love your partner and want what’s best for him, you’ll wait. It takes work. Building trust takes time, you need to show your partner that you are trustworthy and that you trust them in return. If your partner has trouble trusting, you can do a lot to create an environment where trust can grow. Listen to your partner, respect him and his opinions, and accept him as he is. Reveal parts of your own history. By showing him that you trust him you will help him to do the same. If you are vulnerable it helps your partner to feel that he is safe to become vulnerable as well.

If you’re in a relationship with someone you feel you can’t trust, don’t ignore it. If you’ve been hurt in the past, trusting someone else can be especially difficult. Your past does affect your ability to trust. If you have trouble trusting anyone, you might want to seek counseling before you run away from what could be a great relationship.

However, if trust hasn’t been a problem for you in the past and your gut is telling you to protect yourself from this guy, take it as a warning. Take a close look at who he is, how he treats others, and how he treats you. Your gut may be giving you good information.

This article was written by: Claire Colvin

Photo Credit: Brandon Warren