Jack: So, where are you going tonight?
Jill: Out with the girls.
Jack: Can I come?
Jill: No one else's partners are coming. I think it would be weird to have you come out on "girl's night."
Jack: Oh. So, where are you all going?
Jill: This new nightclub downtown. It's opening night, so there will be a lot of great drink specials. It's going to be packed.
Jack: Why would you go there? None of you are single. And are you planning on wearing that? You'll have guys hanging all over you! You're not going to cheat on me are you?
Jill: What the hell Jack? Don't you trust me?!
Have you ever felt like Jack? How about like Jill? The issue of trust can cause serious conflict in romantic relationships. Although researchers have named trust as an extremely valuable component of any successful relationship, many individuals continue to have difficulty trusting their partners.
Many of you may be thinking: I wouldn't have been upset if my significant other wanted to go out with his or her friends to a nightclub! What if your mate said that he or she was going to a strip club or to a party at an ex-partner's house? Would your feelings of trust change?
The truth is, many of us argue about trust to varying degrees in our relationships. Whether you're fighting about how you can't depend on your partner or about your mate's unpredictable behavior, almost everyone has felt some level of mistrust at some point.
You can find out how much you really trust your partner by taking the survey below. You can also have your partner take the survey. If the two of you have differing feelings of trust, opening the lines of communication about it now (when you're not fighting about it) instead of later (when you are fighting about it) may be beneficial to your relationship.
The Trust Scale
Get out a piece of paper. Number that piece of paper from 1 to 18. Rate each of the following statements based on the degree to which you agree or disagree with it, using the following scale:
1 = strongly disagree
2 = moderately disagree
3 = mildly disagree
4 = neutral
5 = mildly agree
6 = moderately agree
7 = strongly agree
1. I know how my partner is going to act. My partner can always be counted on to act as I expect.
2. I have found that my partner is a thoroughly dependable person, especially when it comes to things that are important.
3. My partner's behavior tends to be quite variable. I can't always be sure what my partner will surprise me with next.
4. Though times may change and the future is uncertain, I have faith that my partner will always be ready and willing to offer me strength, come what may.
5. Based on my past experience, I cannot, with complete confidence, rely on my partner to keep promises made to me.
6. It is sometimes difficult for me to be absolutely certain that my partner will always continue to care for me; the future holds too many uncertainties and too many things can change in our relationship as time goes on.
7. My partner is a very honest person, and even if my partner were to make unbelievable statements, people should feel confident that what they are hearing is the truth.
8. My partner is not very predictable. People can't always be certain how my partner is going to act from one day to another.
9. My partner has proven to be a faithful person. No matter who my partner was married to or dating, she or he would never be unfaithful, even if there were absolutely no chance of being caught.
10. I am never concerned that unpredictable conflicts and serious tensions may damage our relationship because I know we can weather any storm.
11. I am very familiar with the patterns of behavior my partner has established, and he or she will behave in certain ways.
12. If I have never faced a particular issue with my partner before, I occasionally worry that he or she won't take my feelings into account.
13. Even in familiar circumstances, I am not totally certain my partner will act the same way twice.
14. I feel completely secure in facing unknown new situations because I know my partner will never let me down.
15. My partner is not necessarily someone others always consider reliable. I can think of some times when my partner could not be counted on.
16. I occasionally find myself feeling uncomfortable with the emotional investment I have made in our relationship because I find it hard to completely set aside my doubts about what lies ahead.
17. My partner has not always proven to be trustworthy in the past, and there are times when I am hesitant to let my partner engage in activities that make me feel vulnerable.
18. My partner behaves in a consistent manner.
MORE INSTRUCTIONS: Now, add up the score for each of the 18 items. But wait! First, "reverse code" nine of the eighteen items. Basically, this means that if you put 1, you should make it a 7. So,
- 1 = 7 & 7 = 1
- 2 = 6 & 6 = 2
- 3 = 5 & 5 = 3
- 4 = 4
Researchers John Rempel and John Holmes, who created this scale, believe that trust is comprised of three components. First, there's predictability, which involves our abilities to anticipate what our partners will do. While unpredictable partners can be adventurous, we usually take comfort in knowing that our mates will be considerate of us and others, pay the bills, or be on time to an event. Being able to trust our mates in this manner is important. I think it's important to note here that it's better to be able to predict positive behaviors over negative ones. This aspect of trust really develops from the confidence that we have about our partners making positive contributions to our relationships. The second component, according to Rempel & Holmes (1986), involves being able to depend on our partners when it really counts. When we experience dependability with our partners, we are able to be vulnerable around them because we can depend on them to understand, comfort, and help us when needed. The third element of trust, faith, involves the ability to put aside uncertainties you may have about your mate. Individuals with high faith in their relationships have security in knowing that they can and are planning a future with their partners. All of these components combined creates an overall feeling of trust.
Research has shown that trust generally develops from the experiences that we have with our significant others. However, some individuals are more inclined to be more or less trusting than others, regardless of their experiences. Rempel and Holmes offer a couple of suggestions for individuals who may be more prone to not trusting their mates:
- Guard against over-interpretting negative behavior.
- Be both sensitive and appreciative of your partner's positive behavior.
Untrusting people are likely to ignore ten instances of positive behavior, and instead, focus on one instance of negative behavior. Be aware of your partner's positive behavior and you may come to realize that you trust your partner more that you once thought.
- Rempel, J. K., & Holmes, J. G. (1986). How do I trust thee? Psychology Today (February 1996): 28-34.
Other resources about trust: