The first step to building more trust with your partner
I often get asked by my clients how they can learn to trust their partners more?
Trust can be one of the most elusive aspects of intimate relationships. But focussing on your partner’s deeds and thoughts to check how trustworthy they are, can actually do more harm to the trust in your relationship than good.
The first step in rebuilding trust in your relationship is learning to trust yourself more.
For many of us the struggle to trust our partner is an inner one. A remnant of our past experiences. This can make the very act of being intimate with someone a vulnerable act, affecting how much we can open up and trust them.
For others, trust might have been there in the relationship but it has been lost through betrayal or a continual corrosion of respect. NB: in relationships where there is abuse, control or manipulation, there are very good reasons not to trust. Rebuilding trust is not a good idea in these situations. You can get help here.
So, if we do want to learn to trust our partners more, what is the best way to learn to trust again? Let’s first look at what trust is and how we do it.
How do we trust?
As humans, our survival systems are programmed to doubt, fear, and worry. This negative focus is an evolutionary survival tactic that we have inherited from our cavemen ancestors. A tendency that kept them alive to pass on their genes to us.
Simultaneously our attachment system is also at play. This system gives us the instinct to form attachment bonds and has us seeking a sense of safety in connection with another. Safety, not just in that we are physically safe, but in that we are able to be ourselves and respected and loved for who we are.
These 2 instincts are in a constant homeostatic push and pull with each other.
The fear in our survival system has us contracting away and closing off.
The desire for connection and trust in our attachment system has us opening and letting others (our partners) in.
A well-functioning human needs a good balance of both drawing away for safety and opening to connection. Fear and trust.
We want to open to our partners but…..
I’m guessing that you, like me, want to know that your partner is there for you, looking out for you and thinking of your best interests…… But it is not always the reality we create for ourselves.
If you have a hard time trusting, you would know very well that the fear and contraction that your survival system creates for you can be damaging to the sense of connection in your partnership – often creating, through the mistrust behaviour, the very response that you feared and wanted to avoid most.
Behaviour such as:
- Constant checking
- Asking questions to cross check and verify
- Snooping and prying
- Needing constant reassurance
- Having one foot out the door in the relationship
- Holding back your true self
You may try to hide this lack of trust from your partner, but they will feel it and respond to it with their own protective responses. They may become defensive in response to your checking, dismissive of your worries or feel unfairly accused and misunderstood as a result. This can then set you deeper into a sense of disconnection and mistrust. And thus the cycle continues.
When a cycle such as the one above occurs, it may feel like you can’t get out of it. You may fear that if you stop being fearful and vigilant, they might take advantage of that. In other words, you lack the trust to change your behaviour.
Another kind of loop sometimes operates on an internal level. It may be that you feel a lack of trust that who you are is okay enough. This might make you hold back on really sharing yourself, your thoughts, beliefs and your needs with your partner. You could even catch yourself looking for signs that what you have shared was not received with the respect or acceptance that you desired and then you feel yourself closing right back up again. This may have you becoming dismissive, closed off and cold, again creating a loop of mistrust. A loop that has the ability to block you from the deeper levels of connection and intimacy that you may be craving.
For me, my marital trust issues looked like the second, more internal loop. The issues were mine from experiences I had as a young woman, but they were impacting how I could open to trusting my husband (despite him always being incredibly stable).
The problem was that I was focussed on feeling more safe in our connection by controlling him. No matter how loving, caring and respectful he was of me and my needs, my vigilant self always wanted more or to be more accurate, for it to look exactly the way I needed, not the way he showed it.
I was stuck in a trust loop. A loop that did not lead to what I wanted; intimacy and connection, but instead more frustration and less trust.
The way that I managed to escape the loop was to shift the focus.
I moved from focussing on him, to focussing on me.
So instead of the question being “How can I trust him more?”, the question became:
How can I trust myself?
My past experiences that were driving this loop, were experiences that happened in moments when I failed to look after myself. If I had listened to my inner guidance system back then, I would never have got myself in those sticky situations. I would have defended myself, honoured my own needs and looked after my well-being more.
The result of not looking after myself over and over again, was that I lost trust in myself.To feel that I could be more connected with the man I loved, I needed to know that I could trust myself again.
Learning to trust myself meant being there for myself…
- In my emotions
- In my fears
- In listening to my intuition
- In my needs
- In whatever arose
- It meant ME being the one who looked after myself and insisted on the respect with which I was treated.
The more I built the trust back like a slowly growing muscle, the less I had to control my world or my husband.
I trusted me which meant that I was able to:
- know what was right / wrong for me
- communicate my needs and have clearer boundaries
- stand up for my needs
- trust my intuition above all else
- avoid situations that were not trustworthy
Trusting myself made me feel more solid and less vulnerable.
I believe that we start trusting others by trusting ourselves first.
How does this affect my relationship?
When you trust yourself, you know that you are going to be there for yourself no matter what arises. This means that you are not as reliant on your partner for your well-being.
While all healthy relationships require a good dose of inter-dependability, the truth is, it is not your partner’s job to make you whole and happy. Your partner cannot know the intricacies of your needs and desires, or what feels right or wrong for you. When you rely on them to manage this and for you to feel good, you are setting yourself up for disappointment as they are different entities with different life experiences and perspectives. They can’t possibly get it right for you all the time.
When it’s our job look after our needs, it offers us an inner stability that instills a sense of safety. When our inner world feels safe, it means we can open more to our partner because we are more stable, clear, boundaried and less reliant on them for our safety.
We can open more to another when we take responsibility for our own well-being.
If the trust in your relationship has been corroded through betrayal, shifting the focus back to yourself, might feel counter intuitive, but it will still help. Rebuilding the trust in your partner, takes work and focus but starting with yourself is a good first step. It will allow you to find some inner stability, feel less vulnerable, less fuckable-with and more empowered to ask for what you need to feel safe.
How to build the muscle?
Self-trust is something that is built on experience and grows over time like a muscle. Growing trust requires attention, effort and practice. It starts with the simple act of tuning in and being present with yourself.
To start building this muscle, I recommend checking in with yourself regularly. Ask yourself with curiosity, “How are you going honey?” and “What do you need (to feel safe) right now?” And here is the important bit when it comes to building trust, whatever your response is, do not ignore, belittle or deny it. Acknowledge whatever comes up, no matter how insignificant or silly it seems.
Overtime you will find that you have started to build a trusty, safe relationship with yourself.
The trust muscle might even start to become a kind of warm inner glow that you feel in relation to yourself. A glow that softens your nervous system, so that you don’t need to be so fearful and one that allows you to open little by little to your partner.
Trust is, essentially, about you.
Trusting yourself will help you be able to be more intimate with your partner.
For help in building your inner trust muscle check out my free resources. In particular the Inner flame fuel.
Wishing you all the very best
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