As a psychotherapist and relationship specialist, I hear the word “trust” quite often in therapy sessions. In fact, lack of trust is one of the top causes when relationships start to deteriorate. Trust is a necessary ingredient for happy and successful relationships, romantic and otherwise. Yet the ability to trust others can be elusive for so many of us and without it, happy, healthy, and high-functioning relationships cannot be sustained.
Why Can Some People Trust More Easily Than Others?
Like many therapeutic explanations, childhood plays a key role in the answer to this question. The type of attachment we had to our parents or caregivers in childhood is a precipitating factor in our ability to trust as adults. Our early attachments serve as a model of how we view the world and the people in it. Children who grow up in an environment where the people around them are dependable, caring, and trustworthy will have a greater propensity to trust others in adulthood. Conversely, a child whose mother or caregiver is mercurial, unreliable, and apathetic (and/or neglectful, unkind, or abusive) will more than likely have difficulty with trust as an adult. When we have not processed and healed old wounds from childhood, we struggle with forging and maintaining healthy relationships in adulthood. Our emotional hurts make it hard for us to trust others—feeling unlovable or unworthy of a caring relationship is another example of the “emotional fallout” from unresolved pain. The truth is, a lack of trust in childhood poses a significant threat to our ability to have healthy, trusting relationships in adulthood.
What Does Trust Look Like?
In healthy, successful relationships, trust takes shape in numerous ways. Healthy couples understand the importance of listening to their partner, really listening, conscious listening with empathy. There is great power in being truly heard, understood, and validated without rebuttal or defense. Dependability is vital—always showing up, no matter what, without excuse, is another expression of trust (and love) in relationships. It may not be the sexiest quality a partner brings to the table, but dependability is a rock-solid, necessary trust-builder.
Conflict is inevitable in relationships; even the most stable, loving partners won’t always agree. However, the ability to resolve conflict in healthy, constructive ways is another sign that trust exists within a relationship. The problem is that many couples have not acquired the tools needed for healthy conflict resolution. For example, poor communication can create stress and mistrust, weakening the connection and bond. In this case, the door to other damaging relationship problems has been opened. The ability to successfully work through disagreements is an excellent barometer for trustworthiness in a relationship.
Communication Is the Holy Grail of All Successful Relationships
If “it takes two to tango,” it certainly takes two partners to create healthy communication. In many ways, partners are as enmeshed in each other’s lives as they are in their own. Isn’t this what we sign up for when we begin an intimate relationship? Bottom line—it’s paramount that couples learn how to communicate with each other, and to do this, they must develop the skills. If we want our relationships to have legs, it’s imperative to have exceptional, well-oiled tools, and here is why: When communication between two partners is subpar, they will grow apart over time. When this happens, relationships become vulnerable to problems such as lack of intimacy, frequent arguments, criticizing or belittling, feeling unseen and unheard, infidelity, and loneliness, which all culminate in the loss of interest in the relationship and ultimately, complete disengagement.
So, How Do You Stop the Bleeding?
One word: Therapy. Or perhaps two words: Couples counseling. Whatever you call it, the sooner you and your partner begin working with a therapist, the better. The longer you wait, the more frustration, anger, and resentment will build up, and damaging relationship habits such as arguing, ridiculing, and giving your partner the silent treatment become even more ingrained.
Unfortunately, people tend to look at therapy as a last resort or Hail Mary. Couples counseling is an opportunity to learn skills that enable partners to have and maintain healthy and loving relationships. This is especially valuable when life throws inevitable curveballs at us and our relationships. Couples counseling is sought out by smart, sensible people who understand that there are times in life that you need to ask for professional help. If your house burned down, would you buy supplies at Home Depot and rebuild it yourself? Of course not, you would hire highly trained contractors. The same goes for learning how to communicate—we don’t come out of the womb knowing how to communicate; it is a learned behavior. But what if no one ever taught us how to communicate in a healthy way (or at all)? What if our parents did not model a loving relationship with healthy communication skills? How are we supposed to know what that even looks like? Lack of proficient communication skills is not a character flaw; it is simply a skill that no one ever taught you, and that is not your fault.
Trust and Communication Live in Every Great Love Story
Do you have the kind of loving relationship you always imagined? Is the connection to your partner strong, deep, and alive? Is your method of communicating efficient and productive? If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” you are in good company. “Relationship Communication 101” was not offered in high school.
Everyone is worthy of having fulfilling, satisfying, and trusting relationships. Couples who have this type of partnership are each other’s top priority and they are confident that despite hard times and life challenges, they can overcome anything because they have each other. Trusting relationships give us the freedom to live life authentically and to become the best versions of ourselves. If you want to improve the state of your relationship, ask for help and make it happen. You and your partner are worth it.
Deborah K. Krevalin is a Licensed Therapist, Relationship Expert, and Life Coach who helps individuals and couples manage emotional challenges and relationships difficulties. Deborah offers Couples Intensives— ”fast-track” couples counseling for clients who want to jump-start the healing process. Intensives offer rapid change and can produce the same results as months of traditional couples counseling. Deborah offers in-office and teletherapy appointments.
For more information, please call Deborah’s office: West Hartford Holistic Counseling Center, 17 S. Highland St., West Hartford, CT. 860.258.4171. Deborah can be seen on NBC CT LIVE.