Build a bridge of Trust for couples

Problems with Trust - Image by Morguefile
Problems with Trust - Image by Morguefile
Intimacy between romantic partners cannot exist without trust. Trust needs these three things to exist: safety, honesty, and respect.
Simply put, intimacy and trust go together. In order to be intimate (physically, emotionally or spiritually), individuals have to let their guard down and be authentic and genuine, and allow their partner to do the same. This requires a sense of emotional safety on both sides, and a belief that one's partner will not betray or intentionally hurt the other; these are the core elements of trust.

How Can Couples Build a Bridge of Trust?

Trust is built on a foundation of emotional safety. The world can be a chaotic and scary place, yet the environment of a marriage should be safe. Abuse of any kind – emotional, verbal, sexual or physical – should not be tolerated under any circumstance.
Assuming there is no abuse in a relationship, but trust is still a sticky issue for one reason or another, following are seven areas couples can focus on to help create a sense of comfort, peace and safety for themselves and their partners.

Continuously Work on Communication Skills, Especially Listening

In a disagreement, many people spend their time thinking about what they are going to say, rather than listening closely to understand the perspective of their partner. Or, they get caught up in the intense emotions of the moment, which usually disables their ability to hear what the other is saying.

Take Responsibility for Your Own Needs

It's important for couples to remember that their partner cannot read their mind. Wants, needs, perspectives and ideas need to be expressed in a clear and specific mind. Individuals need to ask for exactly what they need. Instead of saying, "Why can't you be more considerate?" one should give specific ways to be more considerate. For example, "Would you mind taking your shoes off before you come in the house?" or "I would really appreciate it if you would call me if you are going to be late." This type of communication helps to increase the feeling of comfort and safety for both partners; each knows what is expected, and each can ask for his or her own needs to be met in the same way.

Make Each Other Feel Good

People are drawn to those who are a source of pleasure, and tend to withdraw from those who are a source of pain. Trust grows much more easily when couples work to please each other. This idea is based on the fact that no one – not a therapist, a friend or a clergy-person – has the power to change another human being. However, everyone has the power to change themselves. The couples that experience more success tend to be the ones who focus on their own issues and shortcomings, and work to become the best partner possible. Those who are caught in a cycle of finger-pointing and blame only make their partner feel like a failure. She then pulls away, and the negative cycle worsens.

Resolve Issues

"Never go to bed angry" is an old relationship rule that makes a lot of sense. Unresolved issues sit and fester like an untreated, infected wound. They then turn into resentments, which seriously damage the environment of safety in a relationship and erode the trust that's been established between partners.

Fight Fair

Healthy fights really are not fights at all. They are conversations about a disagreement. The word "fight" implies verbal or physical attacks, which are never productive and are considered abusive. "Fighting" also implies that there is a winner and a loser, when in actuality the outcome should be positive for both. Guidelines for handling conflict should be negotiated and agreed upon by both partners, and should include: no name calling, start sentences with the word "I" and not the word "you," and take a time out if emotions get heated or out of control.

Get Help Early On

Couples often wait until the situation is nearly intolerable before they seek help from a therapist. It's far better for couples to get help before the situation becomes extremely heated and emotional, and before much emotional damage has been done by continual bickering or standoffs.

Continue to Invest Time in the Relationship

A loving relationship built on trust is one of the best gifts life has to offer. Some people seem to believe that after a couple has been together for a long period of time, the partners can put less effort into the relationship. Nothing could be further from the truth! For as long as they are together, couples need to treat each other as they would treat anything that they cherish. Day-to-day choices should reflect love and respect for one's partner. This will help to create an environment rich in trust, safety and intimacy – the relational "brass ring" in today's hectic world.