How important is trust in relationships?

Do you really know what trust is? Trust is one of those words that is short and yet can mean so much, it could literally hold your life in balance.

Without trust, it is impossible to create remarkable personal relationships.

Trust is one of the most crucial building blocks of becoming emotionally intimate with someone; it’s absolutely fundamental for a healthy, close relationship. – Andrea Bonior, Ph.D. *

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines trust as the following:


  • A belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.
  • An arrangement in which someone’s property or money is legally held or managed by someone else or by an organization (such as a bank)
  • An organization that results from the creation of a trust

Every relationship is based, to some extent, upon love and trust. When you are in a good relationship, you trust the person explicitly. This level of trust goes as deep as knowing that they will make the right decisions for you if you suddenly get sick or are involved in an accident.

However, relationships can be destroyed and shattered by a lack of trust. If you discover you have been lied to, trust is compromised. If you have made it a habit to shade the truth, to tell “white lies”, trust breaks down.

How to create trust.

Let’s take a look at some concepts of how to create trust.

The role of respect

Destructive patterns in relationships, such as belittling, demeaning, or put down another person demonstrate a lack of respect. Viewing someone else as less than, making them feel diminished and contemptible. For that reason, if you’ve been on the receiving end of such treatment, which is often considered bullying, you know how much damage and pain you have felt.

The most basic level of respect is always the foundation of a healthy personal relationship. Love and respect go hand in hand. Without regard, love is suspect. With respect, love can thrive. The more intimate the personal connection, the higher the need for mutual respect.

The damage of negativity

The unfortunate truth is that human beings tend to allow negativity to fester and grow. Before we know it, we find ourselves treating those closest to us with disdain and disrespect. The person we say we love the most we treat badly. How ironic it is to see a mother lashing out at her child. To see a father belittling his son or a woman expressing cruel criticism of her partner.

Trust is essential in any relationship, even non-romantic ones. But it means a lot more than believing that your partner won’t cheat on you. Feeling trust isn’t nearly as powerful as showing that you trust your partner with your actions.**

Every time you treat someone in a demeaning manner, or in ways that violate basic respect and harmony, the relationship is damaged. Ultimately, over time, the connection breaks little by little.

The damage to the relationship may be irreparable. Trust is compromised. We harm the very heart of relationships and hurt ourselves.

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

One of the fundamental practices is to say what you mean and mean what you say. If you want to improve and build a healthy relationship, stop using euphemisms, half-truths, white lies. Stop saying something you think others may want to hear at the moment.

You must stop promising things that you don’t intend to follow through on, or don’t really represent how you feel deep inside. The habit of chronically telling white lies, or minor lies, tell others that they can’t trust the things we say.

Even as a young child, you probably quickly picked up on things that parents or older siblings said that were not true.

Some children take things quite literally.  They believe everything they are told. But they become disillusioned as time goes on. They realize that they can’t trust what they are told. They can’t buy what their parents are claiming.

Unfortunately, the habit of calming a child with half-truths at the moment eventually backfires. And worse, we often take this terrible habit into other aspects of life and relationships.

Don’t expect your partner to be a mind reader. If you’re upset, it’s important to talk openly about what’s bothering you. Don’t be accusatory. Use “I” statements, like “I feel really ignored and unimportant when you cancel our plans at the last minute.” –  Tiffanie Brown, LCSW

Disagreeing agreeably.

Everyone disagrees sometimes, and that’s totally ok. When you do disagree, and feel upset, practice controlling your reaction and don’t disappear.

Don’t attack, and don’t shut down.

Take some time to cool down, telling your friend or partner that you need time to process your thoughts so you can respond constructively, with respect.

Try to validate your partner’s feelings. You might say something like, “I understand why you feel that way.” Or you could say, “I hear what you’re saying and want to consider your viewpoint seriously.”

Practice being truthful, saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

Be willing to give as well as receive.

Friendship research, by Psychology Today, bears out how essential reciprocity is to build solid relationships. Of course, it is impossible to give back what we receive precisely.

When partners are comfortable in the relationship, they feel that the give and take are on relatively equal levels. They feel balanced.

In a close intimate relationship, the balance may shift at times. When one person needs to lean on the other for a time when it is required. But it is understood that this is a temporary condition. The balance shifts back to the middle, with a healthy respect and giving from both individuals.

This balance is built on trust. A trust that acknowledges that neither person is going to give give give, without the other person ever stepping up to the plate to come through.

Building trust in this way allows everyone to receive and to give, at times giving more than they receive. At other times, receiving more than they are offering.

But what happens if one person does not allow the other person to give? Maybe he or she does not want to accept what is offered?

You deny them part of this balance. You deny the worth of that which is offered, and in turn, damage the relationship of trust.

You can build a comfortable, caring cushion and balance in your relationships by both being willing to give and to receive kindness, compassion, and loving respect.

Be vulnerable, authentic, open.

If you have a surface-level relationship with a co-worker, neighbor, someone at a coffee shop you frequent, years can pass only a casual “good morning.” Chatting about the weather and other inconsequential subjects.

If you never work closely on a project or look over each other’s work to give concrete suggestions, you cannot develop a strong bond.  Only a casual relationship develops over decades of small talk.

When we learn to rely on one another, facing difficulties and problems, we become vulnerable to each other.

In personal relationships, trust is built over time as we choose to be vulnerable.

In the perfect storm of life, we need to feel confident in the support we have from others.

We often feel overwhelmed by the daily challenge of family life.  Amid work-life and elder care, feeling safe, feeling trust gives us balance and poise.

Building trust through emotional vulnerability gives you the ability to open up – even to a potential risk of hurt – showing parts of yourself that may feel embarrassing.  Also opening up to show your fear and worry.

You can gradually build trust through shared experiences and mutual vulnerability.

Take a risk to make positive changes.

Taking a risk to be vulnerable can be a mutual endeavor, not a one-way street.

When two people or more work together toward healing and strength for a difficult journey of life, the power to walk the trip grows exponentially.

Express feelings even when it’s hard to do.

When you can express your feelings in a loving, respectful way, trust, and emotional intimacy grow.

Knowing that your partner, your friend, your loved one will still care about you. You can be assured that they will not demean you or ignore your feelings.

You can build maturity in your relationships to give you the strength to deal with all of the difficulties of life. One way to do that is to talk about your feelings without escalating or attacking. Without closing down.

If you want to deal with your feelings when they arise, please work on constructive ways to discuss those feelings, in collaborative and respectful ways.

Self-compassion, being kind to yourself, brings balance to step back, to feel the intense emotions, and to discuss them calmly.

If you want to build trust that will support you daily, allow others to connect with the real you.


In conclusion, consider what has worked for you in your relationships and what has not. Find a coach, a therapist, a trusted friend, and explore ways to improve and create remarkable personal relationships.

* 7 Ways to Build Trust in a Relationship | Psychology Today.

** 6 Ways to Show Respect in Your Relationship.