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How to build trust

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Trust is foundational to our intimate relationships. When we trust each other we have confidence that our partner will be there for us, that they have our back.

We build trust through small moments in our relationship - the obvious ways in which trust are built are by being honest, not lying, keeping promises and being transparent. But we also build trust by tuning in to our partner, showing our partner that they come first and by listening when our partner is upset - in these ways we convey that we are there for each other, that we have each other's backs. We also rebuild trust (e.g., if there had been a breach through lies or infidelities) through these same small actions again and again, which over time helps us to build back our confidence in our partner (here is an article which talks in more detail about rebuilding trust after infidelity).

Through game theory the Gottman's note that "having a high trust metric means that both partners are doing precisely those behaviour exchanges that maximises the sum of both of their payoffs" - this is about the couple thinking of and prioritising BOTH people's welfare, rather than trying to negotiate the best deal for themselves individually and ignoring the best interests of their partner.

Trust can begin to crumble through lack of attunement to each other over time. Trust deteriorates further when we start comparing our partner to an imaginary other - and think that we can do better - then we start leaning out further from the relationship, and the likelihood of infidelity increases.

In this video Dr John Gottman talks about 'sliding door' moments and how we have a choice in responding to our partner's bids for connection. Being responsive and 'turning towards' each other rather than away, conveys that we are there for each other, that we have each other's back - which is the foundation of trust.

You don't have to be interesting. You have to be interested - Dr John Gottman

In terms of how to do it - how to be interested in your partner - the Gottman's talk about the importance of attunement. The ATTUNE acronym can help us reflect on how to be responsive to each other's bids for connection.


Turning toward



Non-defensive responding


Which of these do you think you can improve from your side? It might be helpful to pick one of these areas to focus on for the next week.

Further resources: In terms of empathy, this video by Brene Brown is helpful, and here is a brief blog on defensiveness and owning your part.

Disclaimer: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as counselling/therapy advice or used as a substitute for such. You should always speak to your own counsellor.



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