What does it take to feel safe in a relationship? We tend to think that acceptance, softness, and warmth are the elements that make us feel safe, that we are safest when our partner accepts what we say and do with a smile and a hug. We equate anger and disagreement with a lack of safety. But how safe are you really if your partner can’t or won’t give you their honest feedback? How much can you trust someone if they make themselves blind to your issues and the impact on your relationship? What security is there if partners overlook their frustrations and disappointments year after year, allowing resentment to fester and grow? It takes something different to build trust.
To build trust, you have to have honesty.
It is impossible to trust what someone else tells you if you give them the message that you can’t handle the truth. Knowing that you will get the truth, no matter how painful it is to hear, creates a deeper level of trust and safety. There is safety in being held accountable when we violate our own integrity, to hearing it straight from our partners about what they think, how they feel and what they see in our behavior. There is security in seeing your partner make hard choices, hold him- or herself accountable, and put their own integrity first. This demonstration of a solid self with core integrity and strong values is something worthy of trust. These are the same qualities that help you move past emotional gridlock in your relationship.
There are specific ways to demonstrate trustworthiness.
This integrity and trustworthiness is built over time, and it is built through choices and actions. Here are some examples about what it takes to truly earn trust in a relationship:
- Work toward your shared goals and visions, even (especially) when it is hard.
- Be honest even when it might cause you hardship and you might lose something you want.
- Don’t deny or explain away your bad behavior; see it, acknowledge and take responsibility for it. Give your partner the respect of honestly owning your own dark side.
- Allow your partner to read you, to see when the worst in you is driving the boat. Confront yourself, and sit in the heat when your partner confronts you.
- Prioritize living with integrity, keeping your promises, handling your responsibilities.
- Do all of this regardless of how your partner acts; give up the idea that this is “tit for tat.” You are living this way for yourself, not to get something from your partner.