One of my clients once asked me what it means to trust another human being. She wanted to know how she should react when a spouse or significant other is dishonest, inconsiderate, or having an affair. She wondered if it is possible to rebuild trust in someone who greatly disappoints us.

What does trusting someone signify? Trust, in a practical sense, means that you place confidence in someone to be honest with you. You expect them to be faithful to you and to keep promises, vows, and confidences. Above all you assume they will not abandon you. Here are some factors to consider about trust.

Trusting another person requires a realistic perspective about people and an expectation of failure. Trust needs to be combined with a willingness to forgive and grows best in an environment of acceptance and love.

There’s no magic machine, you don’t put in a quarter and out drops a can of trust — trust grows over time. People are complex, broken beings; therefore, previous hurts, fears or losses can impede their determination to trust and/or be truthful in a relationship. But, people have the capacity and the ability to change and to grow in trust and truthfulness.

Adjust your expectations

People are human, frail, and prone to wrongdoing. Therefore, you need a realistic type of trust when you choose to trust someone. Trust grows in relationships over time because, as you spend time together with someone, you build knowledge, understanding, and authenticity. You gain insight into another person’s character, needs, motivations, and fears.

Unconditional love is patient and kind

It develops trust because the more you express this kind of love towards someone, he or she will generally sense your acceptance. They feel more comfortable being vulnerable and honest about their feelings. Unconditional love actually builds self-esteem in others and alleviates their fears of rejection. People learn that they can be authentic with you about their feelings, opinions, and failures. The result is a growing trust in the other person ― not because that person is becoming perfect but because that person is growing in honesty.

Fear-based love is conditional, creating an atmosphere of distrust, dishonesty and instability.

Unconditional love is not self-seeking. It does not keep a record of wrongs. When love is not patient or enduring but instead becomes unforgiving and always disappointed or looking for something to go wrong, it generates fear and looks for imperfections in the other person.

You can have a limited trust in people as you grow to know them and they see you really care about them — but the fact is that people will let us down. That is reality. Obviously, when someone has broken their vows and been unfaithful, or has lied or been dishonest in the relationship, they need to change. You can make some requests for change and take the risk of starting over again. If that person is not sincere about changing and continues to lie or betray you, then you need to consider whether to end the relationship.

Get counseling and pastoral guidance. You can find a counselor or go to the nearest mental health center. If you are suicidal please contact 911 (in the USA & Canada) or go to a hospital emergency room.

Take a look at yourself as well

You will never be perfect and therefore, you will probably disappoint your loved one as well. You can promise to never say something hurtful or never tell a lie or never exaggerate or always keep your promises or (you name it) but, since you are human, you will also make mistakes and disappoint the other person. Every human relationship will suffer hurt. Thus, we all need to become better forgivers and confessors. That ability to reconcile and a spirit of humility will prove the depth of your love and commitment.

For more on the struggle to forgive and to trust, read Why is it So Hard to Forgive? The components of love, forgiveness, and commitment are as necessary to trust in a relationship as is honesty. Forgiveness gives you the chance to start over and trust another fallible human being again. Love helps to nourish trust. Commitment and honesty provide accountability to one another.

Live out these three virtues and you will see trust begin to grow in your relationship.

This article was written by: Lynette Hoy, NCC, LCPC

Photo Credit: Hernan Pinera