When do we know it is okay to trust someone? When is our partner someone we can fully embrace in a long-term relationship?
Trusting another is one of the more challenging and intangible relationship dynamics. It creates a great deal of safety when it is there and makes it nearly impossible for two people to open to each other when it isn’t. In some relationships it happens naturally, over time, with a sudden awareness after many months that you are trusting this person in your life. For other relationships it never gets fully embraced. Is trust crucial for a relationship to flourish?
According to John Gottman a leading relationship researcher, it is critical. In his book, The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement For Couples, Gottman describes how their research has created a strong correlation between healthy relationships and trust.
“What we found was that all the couples talked about the importance of “trust.” As we interviewed partners in these focus groups about the emotional fabric of their lives and the stories of their relationships, many told us that the central missing ingredient was the ability to build and maintain trust with each other. Many distressed couples complained that their partners simply couldn’t be counted on to “be there” for them when they needed them most. Over time, they said, the emotional injuries they sustained from a lack of trust built a huge gulf of emotional distance between them, leading to eventual betrayal or the quiet whimper of the demise of love.” (Gottman, 2011).
In my own life, I can see how lack of trust was a critical part of not fully engaging in past relationships. I could feel love and care for someone but in the back of my mind there was some sense that I didn’t really trust them. I wanted to trust them but the level of vulnerability to drop in fully was too scary. I used this to blame them for not being trustworthy. As I look more closely at this I can see how my lack of trust was coming from fear.
When we completely step into a trusting space with someone it really changes the potential of how that relationship will feel. Gottman has this to say about it.
“Happier couples, for whom trust was not missing, described the concept of “trust” as the mysterious quality that somehow created safety, security, and openness for both of them. Trust was that seemingly indefinable condition that made their relationship safe, that made it possible for them to be vulnerable with each other, and that thereby deepened their love beyond the first passionate infatuations and illusions of courtship. As love matured, these couples told us that trust ripened to a sense of mutual nurturance and moral responsibility for building a life together. For them, love and trust were intertwined and grew together into a lasting relationship. Friendship and intimacy blossomed. People accepted each other despite perpetual personality issues.” (Gottman, 2011)
If you are in a relationship, either new or old, I encourage you to ask yourself about the trust you have for your partner. Is trust really there? Is it elusive? Do you know that your partner has your back? It is not something that gets talked about a lot but bringing it more into your conscious process could help you to find ways to strengthen your trust for each other.