Trust is the most essential element for building a successful relationship. But how do couples build trust? It’s not like marriage comes with a blueprint.

Here are the top 5 ways that create, grow and build trust in relationships:

1) Make your partner your top priority.

So often in our practice we hear:

  • His job is more important than his marriage. He stays late at work. I have a hot meal cooked and by the time he gets home, it’s cold.
  • She spends more time texting her friends at night than talking to me. She is addicted to that phone. She never puts it down – as if it’s her lover.
  • Ever since the kids came along, our marriage changed. First priority: the kids; second: her parents; third: her job. I’m last on the list.

When you make your relationship or marriage your first priority we hear:

  • I know if I needed him, he’d drop everything and be there.
  • After we put the kids to bed, we make time to connect and share what happened that day.
  • If I had to choose between going out with the girls or spending the evening with my husband, I’d choose him.

When you put each other and your relationship first, it says, “I will be there for you when you need me. You can count on me. We are a team.”

2) Do what you say you’re going to do.

We often hear:

  • I’ve asked him to finish cleaning out the garage so many times I stopped counting. He promises he’ll do it, but never does.
  • She said she’d cut back on how much wine she drinks at night, but she hasn’t. How can I believe her?
  • He was supposed to plan dates for us, but that was two months ago, and nothing’s happened.

When you do what you say you’re going to do we hear:

  • He said he’d make more effort to connect. Three times this week he asked if we could go for a walk. I felt closer to him.
  • She said she’d make more of an effort to have sex and it happened. We both enjoyed it.
  • He said he would plan a vacation for us and we’re going away in two weeks to a Bed and Breakfast. I can’t wait.

When you follow through on your promises and you keep your word, the message is, “You can trust me. When I say it, I mean it.”

3) Tell the truth.

We hear:

  • I didn’t want to tell her because I thought it would hurt her.
  • I didn’t think she’d find out anyway, so why make waves?
  • I lied because I wanted to avoid conflict. I knew he would be mad at me.

When you tell the truth we hear:

  • I spent more money than we agreed upon, but I had to own up to it and face the consequences.
  • Even though I knew he’d be upset, I couldn’t keep it a secret. It would’ve been like having an elephant in the room.
  • Lying would be impossible because she reads me so well; she would know something wasn’t right. And I owed her the truth even though it was hard to admit I screwed up.

Telling the truth, especially when it’s about something that might upset your partner initially, builds trust in the end. It means, “I’m not perfect, but when I do something wrong, I’ll tell you. I’ll own my mistakes and deal with the consequences. That’s more important than me taking the easy way out.”

4) Persevere through the tough times.

When couples give up, we hear:

  • Relationships shouldn’t be so much work.
  • I don’t think my feelings of being “in love” can ever come back.
  • She can’t change.

When couples persevere through the tough times we hear:

  • We had a rough patch in our marriage, but we kept trying to work it out. We knew if we stuck in there, we would get back on track.
  • Of course our feelings aren’t the same as they were 20 years ago, but it’s worth working on it. There’s a lot at stake – our family.
  • I wouldn’t feel good about myself if I walked away without giving it my best shot. I’m willing to do whatever it takes.

Persevering through tough times means not giving up when the going gets tough, not being a fair weather partner. It means, “I trust that you will hang in there and go through the difficulties with me; that the marriage and our family is worth the hard work and struggle.”

5) Allow yourself to be vulnerable.

We often hear:

  • I don’t want to get into the conflict. It’s too painful.
  • If I open up to him, I’ll just get hurt again. I don’t want to cry in front of him. It makes me feel weak.
  • Since she cheated on me, I am afraid to trust her again. I don’t think trust can be rebuilt.

When you allow yourself to be vulnerable we hear:

  • Teach us what to do when we argue and get stuck in conflict.
  • I’m going to risk opening up because if I don’t, I know what the outcome will be. We’ll break up.
  • It’s scary to let her in again, but I’m willing to try.

Being vulnerable, allowing yourself to move beyond anger to the deeper feelings of sadness, pain and fear, is the only way to build deep connection and trust. Without it couples will never be close. They may skim across the surface of love, but they will never dive deep and find the greatest connection.

Building a foundation of trust in a relationship is one of the most difficult tasks in a marriage. When you make your relationship your top priority, you often sacrifice for the team. It’s never again all about you.

To do what you say you’re going to do, you must be mindful of your partner and relationship. You have to put forth effort and be aware of your partner’s needs, especially when they don’t align with yours. You put them first.

To tell the truth, you have to deal with conflict; acknowledge things you did that you’re embarrassed about, or ashamed of. You have to own up and take responsibility for your actions.

To persevere through the tough times, you have to stretch yourself, build your emotional muscles and sometimes bear the weight of hurt or disappointment, and find hope when it’s difficult.

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable might be the hardest task of all. Facing and feeling our softer emotions – sadness, pain and fear – is not for the faint of heart.

But who ever said the best relationships were easy?

The best proof of love is trust.
– Dr. Joyce Brothers

If you are in a relationship that hurts and feel disconnected, have difficulties communicating, and/or are experiencing a crisis, Bob and I can help. Call us at 410-363-2825 or email

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