Building Trust in Relationships


What is trust? Is it given or is it earned? Is trust something that one loses and never regains? Trust is a vital part of relationships, so vital it could be viewed as its own entity. What would happen if we viewed trust as a living, breathing, growing thing? Let’s dive in and explore how we can build trust in our relationships.



I’ve heard trust described as a bucket of water. A relationship with trust has a full bucket of water, with each positive action, behavior and commitment continually keeping that bucket full. Having a full bucket creates a sense of peace, satisfaction, and security in the relationship. Have you ever told a “white lie” or didn’t follow through on something you said you would do? Once trust is broken, even in the seemingly small ways, the bucket of water gets tipped over and is only refilled one drop of water at a time. No faucet refill here! Trust will be earned one experience at a time, over time. While one is working to maintain a level of integrity to earn trust, the other will be working on forgiveness and protecting their heart from becoming jaded and bitter.



So how do you fill up your trust bucket? I believe building trust is a simple process. For example, telling your partner you are going to manage cooking dinner each night and then following through. Day after day, week after week dinner is ready and your actions are lining up with your words. Continually following through on your word, develops a pattern of trust for your partner. Internally they are saying, “I heard him say he would do it and I’ve watched him do what he said over and over again. I believe he will do the same thing the next time.“ As you show your partner you are good on your word, you follow through on goals, you keep your promises, you do what you say you are going to do, you continually build their trust in you. In turn, your partner should do the same and then mutual trust is built.



But what about those times when trust has been broken or even worse, repeatedly broken. Instead of trusting my partner is a person of their word, I ‘trust’ that my partner will continue to break my trust. So where do you go from here? At this point, your partner may ask “Can we just start fresh?” as they realize they’ve completely emptied the bucket. With trust, there is no quick and easy ‘reset’ button, it’s going to take a lot of work. Remember drips refill the bucket, not a gushing open faucet. To help start the rebuilding process, here are some things to consider:

  • Make a sincere apology
  • Admit the wrongdoing
  • Discover your motives for deception- is there an underlying problem?
  • Take a hard look at the condition of your own heart. Asking yourself the question, ‘Why am I doing this?’
  • Openly communicate when temptations arise
  • Discover why there’s a lack of follow through
  • Build character and integrity

As you start the process to rebuild trust, continue to evaluate which direction you are headed. Are you following a path of trust and integrity or are you heading down a path where you are repeating the same mistakes. Know that every promise, every appointment, every action, and even every intention communicated is a step in one direction or the other.



I cringe when someone tells me, ‘Just trust me!’. My immediate thought is, ‘No way!’ Inside, I feel panicked, uncertain and guarded. Perhaps there is no inherent danger or hidden agenda, but this demand for trust leaves me feeling uneasy. From my own experience, I have learned that trust can never be demanded. Trust is something that is reciprocated; both parties must mutually trust each other.



So what can be done to build and keep a good trusting relationship? Not to oversimplify, but I believe: 1. Saying what you are going to do, 2. Doing what you said you will do, and 3. Communicating when something changes in either area. These simple steps help build character, integrity and add worth and confidence to any trusting relationship. It is important to recognize we are imperfect people. How we handle mistakes, dropping the ball, and breaking trust matters. Take responsibility, genuinely apologize, sincerely, and clearly, and make amends by accepting you’ve hurt another person and desire to make it right. The more you can own your behavior the sooner the relationship can heal. Trust is a lifelong commitment, it doesn’t happen overnight. It happens all day, every day.

If your relationship has suffered from broken trust and you’re unable to move past the hurt, it may be time to get help. A skilled counselor or coach can help with the rebuilding process. At Married Life, we specialize in helping couples rebuild their relationships. We’d like to help you rebuild yours. Reach out or schedule an appointment, we’re here for you.

To take a deeper dive into building and rebuilding trust, check out the following book recommendation:

What Makes Love Last

Matt Smith, CMHC

Matt Smith, CMHC

Matt is a Certified Mental Health Coach at Married Life with a focus on working with men to develop personally and thrive in relationships. In addition to his work at Married Life, Matt is also a Captain in the United States Army, Reserve Component serving our heroes as Chaplain specializing in relational skills training, crisis intervention counseling, and suicide prevention.


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