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By Marcia Murphy, MA

We all desire our relationships to be ones where we feel accepted and loved, and when that is not the case, we can feel alone or even unsafe. In order to build healthy relationships, we need to understand what makes someone trustworthy and how to feel secure within these relationships. We can also learn how to be this person for others in our lives, whether this is with family, friends or romantic partners. So how do we build trustworthy relationships? Here are seven steps to building trust:

1. Be Honest

This may be a given, but all healthy relationships must be rooted in honesty. When we are able to be honest about ourselves with those we are connected with, trust will naturally be developed. Honesty also fosters the ability to be vulnerable, which will then strengthen and deepen the relationship. This includes being honest with what we do, how we feel and what we may need from each other. 

2. Respect Boundaries

People in healthy relationships respect the boundaries that are established by the other person. Have you ever felt uncomfortable when another person steps over the line in some way? When we feel that our boundaries are not respected or ignored, this can diminish the trust we have in another. It is important to be open with knowing and establishing what your boundaries are, as well as respecting those others put in place. Boundaries can be related to emotional needs, physical touch, or time spent with another.

3. Foster Open Communication

In building trust in relationships, it is important to be able to communicate with openness. This means to create an environment of healthy dialogue, even when in a disagreement, without fear of verbally or emotionally harmful backlash from the other person. Being allowed the safe space to speak what is on our minds, and giving the other person the same opportunity, is a foundation for deeper trust of each other, as each will feel a sense of safety within the relationship.

4. Be Consistent

We have probably run into those people who are not reliable, which then may cause us to withdraw from them. Consistency is a key piece for building trust with others, even in the small things, as we then will be seen as dependable in the bigger things. When others are consistently there for us, and vice versa, trust increases and the relationship grows stronger. We know that our people will be there for us to celebrate the good and also walk with us through the struggles.

5. Let Go of Expectations

We must be aware of when we are holding onto unrealistic expectations of those who are close to us, as this can cause conflict and resentment, and therefore, erode trust in a relationship. Sometimes we have high expectations of ourselves, and then have this same level of expectation with our loved ones, though they may not hold to the same standards. In healthy relationships, we understand this, and allow each other to be who we are, not expecting ourselves to necessarily have the same values as those who are close to us. As with boundaries, when we respect our differences in values and priorities, we build trust.

6. Show Empathy

Empathy is that ability that creates even more trust in relationships, as we believe the other person truly understands what we are going through. In showing empathy, we put ourselves in each other’s shoes, taking ourselves out of our own perspective into that of our friend or loved one. Empathy fosters vulnerability, which as stated above, builds deeper trust in each other. In this, we are not just listening, we are immersed in fully understanding the other’s experience, even if this is different from our own.

7. Acknowledge Mistakes and Hurt

In all relationships, we can make mistakes which can lead to hurt feelings on either side, and sometimes harm trust between two people. Sometimes we say something insensitive, or do something that inadvertently causes negative feelings, even if not meant to do so. When we are able to humbly admit our mistakes, we can rebuild this broken trust and have the relationship be even stronger than before. On the other hand, if we ignore, deflect, or even blame the other person, we can harm the relationship even further. The more this occurs, the harder it will be to rebuild trust, and then communication, vulnerability and closeness suffers. Although many of us struggle with apologizing and owning our mistakes, when we do so, we find that we feel better about ourselves, and show that we are trustworthy.

Although not a guarantee that all of the relationships in our lives will be healthy, following these guidelines will help us be able to discern who is trustworthy, as well as allow us to be a safe and trustworthy person for others. Understanding that although we cannot control what others do, say or feel, we can control our own reactions. In keeping trust a priority, we ensure that how we engage in our significant relationships, will build the trust and closeness that we all desire.

Next steps to build trust in relationships:

Lime Tree counseling offers help and guidance for anyone struggling with safe and trusting relationships. We provide marriage counseling, trauma therapy and online counseling in Ambler, PA. Reach out to schedule with us today!