It probably comes as no surprise that one of the most important characteristics of true intimacy in any great relationship is trust. We need to trust that our partner will keep our deepest darkest secrets, will always be there for us when we need someone to listen to our problems, will help us pick up the pieces when our world comes crashing down, and will not intentionally screw us over or hurt our feelings.
"As partners develop increased trust in one another, they are likely to become increasingly dependent on one another--that is, they are likely to become increasingly satisfied, increasingly willing to forgo alternatives, and increasingly willing to invest in the relationship" (Rusbult et al., 2001, p. 107). When individuals trust their partners, they feel safe, secure, and content.
So, what affects trust in relationships? Susan Boon (1994) identified four key issues that impact the development of trust, which include dependability, responsiveness, faith, and conflict resolution.
- Dependable partners are always there for each other when one or both of them are in need. Whether partners are happy or sad, healthy or sick, or rich or poor (sound familiar), dependable partners will be there for each other through thick and thin.
- Individuals should also be responsive and sensitive to their partners' needs. Responsive partners are willing to sacrifice their own needs for the needs of their partners. Additionally, responsive partners are willing to help their partners achieve their goals, even if that sometimes means that their own goals have to be put on hold.
- Faithfulness is also important. Faithful partners are in it for the long haul. Not only are faithful partners not going to leave or cheat on each other, but they are also not consumed by the fear that their mates will leave them or that their mates are cheating on them. Furthermore, faithful partners are not jealous of the relationships their mates have with friends of the opposite-sex or of the same-sex.
- Lastly, couples need to be able to resolve conflicts effectively, which involves being collaborative and constructive. "If partners tend to withdraw from potential conflicts, constantly give in to preserve the peace, of force their goals on each other, trust weakens" (p. 98).
These four characteristics combine to enhance feelings of trust in relationships. So, if you want to work on building or maintaining trust with your mate, you need to be there for your partner whenever he or she needs you, have faith in your relationship and in your mate, be responsive to your partner's needs, and be willing to work towards actually resolving conflict. And, always remember that trust is key to a healthy relationship.
- Boon, S. D. (1994). Dispelling doubt and uncertainty: Trust in romantic relationships. In S. Duck (Eds.), Dynamics of relationships (pp. 86-111). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Rusbult, C. E., Olson, N., Davis, J. L., & Hannen, P. A. (2001). Commitment and relationship maintenance mechanisms. In J. Harvey & A. Wenzel (Eds.), Close romantic relationships: Maintenance and enhancement. (pp. 87-113). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
To learn more about trust in relationships, see the following resources: