Building Trust: The Foundation of Relationships
We can all agree that trust is an essential building block for the foundation of any relationship. Interestingly enough, regardless of what wonderful things we say about being honest—“it’s the best policy” or “the truth shall set you free”—researchers have discovered that we’re not so great at it.
Studies have shown that people tell lies in one in five of their interactions. These lies aren’t only to strangers, coworkers, or customers; couples regularly deceive each other as well. The same research
showed that dating couples lie to each other about a third of the time, while married couples do so about 1 in 10 times. While fewer of the little white lies are told to loved ones, they remain pretty high in the workplace. On a personal level, 64% of our serious lies (deep betrayals of trust) involve our closest personal relationships with our partners. It makes sense that trust and betrayal are the most important issues between partners.
The big question remains: How can we trust more when we continue to lie to the people closest to us in so many ways? Honesty is the key to a healthy relationship not simply because it helps us avoid destructive losses of trust, but it also allows us to live in reality and to share reality with another. Yes, we all have our own unique perceptions, but by sharing our perceptions, we get to know each other for who we really are.
What can we do to be more honest and promote an atmosphere of honesty? How can we create a consistent course of truth telling with the people we love most? Here are some suggestions that may help guide your path to a more open and honest relationship.
Knowing yourself and your intentions is a great starting point. Try to understand what you really think and feel about the world around you. Often in life we are influenced by standards imposed on us by society, more so by the culture within our family. You may feel it’s time to get married because everyone your age is settling down. Or you may be denying yourself the opportunity to get close to someone because your parents never got along.
If those harmful influences on your personality don’t reflect who you really are and what you really want, take a moment to align yourself with YOU and away from those standards imposed on you. If you’re constantly telling yourself not to take a chance or be vulnerable, question where those thoughts come from, then take action toward what you really desire.
Actions speak louder than words, so it’s important to make your actions match your words.
Saying “I love you” does not replace true acts of love to show your feelings. There are times you may begin to feel distant from your partner or lose interest. You begin making excuses for pulling away or still talk about being in love but not engage in behaviors that are loving toward your partner.
Avoiding this dishonest way of relating is important and acting with integrity to make your actions match your words is not only healthy for you but for your relationship too. Act in a way toward your partner that others would observe as loving. Spend real quality time with your partner where you slow down and make true contact. Show your feelings through body language, not just in words. Sighing or eye rolling at every move your partner makes while saying “I love you,” is not a true expression of your feelings and your words do not match your actions.
Your reactions must be sincere. Everything you feel in a relationship will not always be warm and fuzzy. Therefore, being honest with someone you love doesn’t mean you have to be hurtful. During the course of sharing a life with someone, you will notice some of their negative tendencies and defenses that sway your feelings of closeness and attraction. If you aren’t open with your partner about your feelings and observations, you will actually begin distorting and exaggerating their flaws.
Instead of being reactive and attacking angrily, make an attempt to be proactive with a more vulnerable approach with your partner, exposing your thoughts and feelings. Honest, direct statements will feel uncomfortable, but when they come from being vulnerable and open, it will actually lead to more closeness and intimacy.
Be open to feedback and hear, not just listen, what your partner has to say. Just as honest direct communication is to be given to your partner, you must be open to receiving the same in return. Always be willing to listen to your partner and to see things from their point of view. What are they trying to tell you? How are they experiencing you? How are they feeling toward you? Instead of arguing over little details, you should look for the small piece of truth in what your partner is saying. It’s important not to be defensive, reactive, or punishing in response to feedback. If you become victimized or unglued when hearing your partner’s criticism, then you’re encouraging your partner to sugarcoat or even deceive you in the future. The best case scenario is to have a partner who feels comfortable enough to open up, providing an honest relationship in which both people can mature and develop.
We act and see things differently so you must accept your partner as a separate person. Regardless of how connected you may feel to someone else, you will always be two separate people. If your partner doesn’t see things the same way you do, it’s OK. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re lying. It just means you are two separate people observing the world from different perspectives. The more accepting you are of your partner’s reality, the more accepting you will be that you won’t agree on everything. Being honest means you can know and accept each other for who you really are, not who you want each other to be. With that acceptance, you can support each other for the things that make you individuals, make you light up, and give life meaning.
The willingness to give and take and be truthful, even when it’s uncomfortable, helps build and maintain trust in each other and the relationship. An open dialogue, regardless of how difficult it may feel, really will set you free. Accept that you are two individuals choosing to be together despite your differences. Most importantly, when this choice is made, you can rest assured that it’s because you really love each other and not just because you are drawn to some fantasy.