Dating and Relationship Advice

Most experts will say that trust is the cornerstone of healthy, long-term relationships. But trust is also something many people struggle with.

Trust has become more and more challenging in the age of social media. Most people have easy access to hundreds of different people at their fingertips. This makes it challenging to trust our partners to stay faithful, and simultaneously makes it very easy to break someone’s trust.

We learn to trust by watching others and through trial-and-error in our own relationships. But many of us had life experiences that have led to trust issues. Whatever your challenges with trust, and wherever they came from, ask yourself if your current plan for trusting others is working for you and your relationships. If not, it seems like it’s time for a change.

Here are three ways you can work on trusting others, even when it feels impossible.

Stop Thinking About Trust in Black and White

Most people think of trust in an all-or-nothing way — you either trust someone or you don’t. But trust is not all-or-nothing. Trust falls on a continuum.

There are varying levels of trust. You trust some people more than you trust others. You also trust different people in different ways. For example, you may have a friend you trust with your life but wouldn’t trust with $10. Or a friend who you love dearly and would trust to have your back in any situation, but wouldn’t trust to keep a secret. Trust comes in a variety of different ways.

If you previously thought you didn’t trust someone at all, re-evaluate. Are there certain things you would trust them with? Is there some trust there? Do the same for someone you think you trust completely. Do you trust them in some areas more than others?

Re-evaluate your relationships when you’re no longer thinking about trust in all-or-nothing terms.

Communicate Your Expectations

Communication is a critical part of trust. A partner cannot understand how to build trust if they don’t know where your trust issues are coming from or what you want.

Openly communicate with your partner about your image of a trusting relationship. What does it look like to you? What do you consider minor violations of trust? Major violations?

Work on problem-solving as a couple. What will you do if one of those violations occurs? How will you move forward if that’s what you both want?

Having an open line of communication helps you stave off issues, while simultaneously preparing for them if they arise. You’ll both likely feel better having clear expectations for trust in the relationship.

Listen to Your Partner

Building trust in relationships relies heavily on reciprocity — give and take. You can’t trust others if you don’t know them, and others can’t trust you if they don’t know you. Some trust is built on shared vulnerability and a willingness to know each other. That includes boundaries, hopes, dreams, and values.

If you have trouble with trust, sharing can seem like the hardest thing in the world — but it’s also necessary in order to learn to trust.

Start small. Share information that you consider to be benign and gauge your partner’s reaction. As you feel safe, add a little more vulnerability. Don’t necessarily share the most vulnerable aspects of you right away, because trust needs to be built and earned. As you disclose more information, you’ll realize you may be able to share more than you thought.

Trust goes both ways, so this also includes a willingness to hear your partner’s vulnerability. Listen and offer validation. In doing so, you build a foundation of trust with each other based on reciprocity and shared goals.

With Time, You Can Learn to Trust

Contrary to popular belief, trust is a skill. Just because you find it hard to trust now, doesn’t mean it’ll be this way forever.

The first step is to understand that trust is a gray area, not black or white. There are many different aspects of trust, and some aspects may be harder than others. Start small by working on the easier aspects of trust. As you build confidence, you can open yourself more. By sharing and being vulnerable, you give your partner(s) the opportunity to show they can be trusted. And by listening to them when they are vulnerable, they are able to trust you too.

Many people develop trust issues due to one big event or an accumulation of small events throughout their lives. These thoughts, beliefs, and habits around trust are deeply ingrained, so it will take repeated practice and effort to change. It may take some trial and error and kindness towards yourself, but learning to trust is a worthy pursuit.

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