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  • Writer's pictureKylee Hamblyn

Trust: How Important is Trust in a Relationship & Can it be Rebuilt after Betrayal?




HOW IMPORTANT IS TRUST IN A RELATIONSHIP?

You may have heard the phrase - "you can not have a relationship without trust", and that's absolutely right. At least not a healthy one, because trust impacts on every interaction in our relationship.


On the other side of trust, we have betrayal. To better understand trust, It's important to understand betrayal. Often betrayal is thought of as a one time, big event that shakes a relationship to its core and sometimes that’s exactly what it does look like. On the flip side, betrayal can also be subtle, discrete, and ongoing, gradually eroding the relationship over time.


A person generally experiences betrayal when they discover information has been kept from them. Or when their loved one doesn't show them the support they need when they need it most. The message received is that they cannot totally rely on this person.


Trust allows for each person in the relationship to experience emotional safety. It allows for the creation of deeper connection and also gives each partner the motivation to get through the hard times they will inevitably face. The science has also shown that trust or lack of trust in an intimate relationship also impacts on the physical health of each partner. The distress caused by romantic relationships negatively impacts physical health. In fact, if you are male, it can be a matter of life or death. In a study by Dr. John Gottman, he found that 58% of men who were in a marriage that scored low on trust died over the 20-year period of the study.


‘HOW DO WE BUILD TRUST?’

Trust isn’t something you create with grand gestures, it is built over time, in the little moments of everyday life. In each interaction we have with our partners, we have the opportunity to turn towards them or away from them. Dr. Gottman calls these sliding door moments.


As an example…. Lets say I’ve had a particularly rough day, I come home, my partner is on his phone. He can either put the phone down, genuinely enquire about how I am and show concern for my seemingly low energy or he could continue to look at his phone without much of a ‘Hi babe’.


In that moment, he is either choosing to prioritize me and our relationship or he is choosing to prioritize whatever it is that is happening on that phone. That’s a sliding door moment. One missed opportunity to connect isn’t going to destroy the relationship. Yet over time, if this were a pattern, it would start to erode the trust in our relationship. Because ultimately, the question of ‘Is my partner there for me? Do they care for me and my well-being?’ would be answered with a no.


‘CAN WE REBUILD TRUST AFTER BETRAYAL?’



That depends. What caused the break of trust? What is each partners’ willingness to repair and focus energy on rebuilding trust? It's easy to think the work would only need to be put in by the 'betrayer' but the truth is, both partners need to put the work in to rebuild trust. The partner who has felt betrayed will need to work to forgive, to understand their partner and what was going on for them at the time of the betrayal. The partner who has either conscious or unconsciously betrayed their partner, will need to put energy into repairing. turning towards their partner and showing great empathy to their partners feelings.


In the book “What Makes Love Last?,” Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver describe a method for communicating with your partner. This method builds trust through attunement.


  • Put your feelings into words. It can be difficult to articulate what you feel. There’s no shame in that. Start by communicating that to your partner. Tune into your body and use bodily sensations as cues. Invite them to help you decode your feelings. Be patient with yourself and ask your partner to be patient with you.


  • Ask open-ended questions. Avoid questions that elicit one-word or yes/no responses. Open-ended questions ask for a story and show genuine curiosity on your part.


  • Follow up with statements that deepen the connection. When your partner responds to one of your open-ended questions, reflect back on what you heard. In your own words, paraphrase what they said. Don’t make assumptions, defend yourself, or bring the focus to you.


  • Express compassion and empathy. Don’t tell your partner how they should be feeling. Don’t react defensively. Instead, hold space for their feelings, all of them, and even if they feel uncomfortable to you. This creates a deeper connection and a sense of emotional safety. Your partner now knows they can talk to you about the hard stuff.


Remember, you can build trust every day in the little moments. Turning towards is a great start!


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