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  • Writer's pictureDonna McMillan

Trust – so much more than being faithful.

The value of trust is critical to any healthy relationship. It’s not just a matter of knowing, “Will you be faithful?”


It’s also:


“Will you be there if one of your parents criticises me?”
“Will you be there for me if I’m sick?” “
"Will you always have my back?”
“Will you always act with my best interest in mind?”

John Gottman studied 3000 couples in their labs and in the couples homes, and discovered what the couples that were doing well that stayed together long term, in comparison to the couples who were not doing well who ended up separating. Based on this research he came up with the Sound Relationship House.


The left wall is trust. The walls of a house are what holds things together. And in the Sound Relationship House, trust is part of what holds everything together. Without trust, everything would fall apart and fall to the ground.


Sound Relationship House John Gottman


Trust can be rebuilt in 3 ways:

 

Everyday interactions:


As we go through each day, there are multiple opportunities to connect with our partner, particularly when really need us. For instance, we want to be able to rely on our partner when they say they’ll be on time, they’ll pick the kids up or do the groceries on the weekend. We want them to do what they say they will do, and when they say they’ll do it. Yes we are all human and we slip up at times. But if making mistakes on the same issue becomes a constant, it can break away at the trust. Furthermore, other opportunities can include being there for our partner when they are visibly upset. If we notice our partner seeming down but they don’t reach out for us, we could either continue on with our day, or check in with them. Checking in with them, even if they haven’t asked for it, can enhance the trust.


Being able to sit with difficult emotions:


When we discuss anything that involves difficult emotions, whether it’s external to the relationship or about the relationship, our partner needs to hold the space to cultivate trust. If we want to complain about our boss, discuss the fight we had with our sister or talk about our frustrations about the relationship. It’s important for our partner to be able to listen to these feelings, without taking sides with the other person or without getting defensive about the relationship.


Managing conflict:


During conflict it’s imperative we do this in a healthy way. When your partner criticises, deflects the blame, withdraws from conflict, starts saying things they don’t mean that they later regret, or expresses sarcasm or insults, this can break away at the trust. Whereas if we talk in feelings and needs, accept responsibility where appropriate, can self soothe when needed and have a culture of appreciation within the relationship, this can mitigate the risk of eroding the trust within the relationship.



 

When there has been a significant breach of trust or a betrayal such as an affair, atonement must occur. During atonement, the person who has created the injury needs to express remorse. This includes verbal apologies, making changes in behaviour, being fully transparent and at times verification. Couples need to have open conversations about what this looks like and articulate their needs. This is often an ongoing conversation that continues throughout the healing process. Over time these conversations may become less frequent. However, triggers may arise where the couple may need to revisit the concerns through dialogue. Healing from betrayal is an ongoing process, and whilst it can get better over time, and trust can rebuild, it is not forgotten. There needs to be an ongoing commitment to maintaining the trust. Rebuilding a relationship after betrayal can be a long and arduous process. However Esther Perel posits that relationships can be stronger after a betrayal, “Marriages came out stronger, the crisis of infidelity serving as a springboard to greater intimacy, commitment, and sexuality. Infidelity can destroy a relationship, sustain it, force it to change or create a new one. Every affair redefines a relationship, and every relationship will determine what the legacy of the affair will be”.


Trust in the relationship develops over time, but with certain behaviours, trust can also deteriorate. If we want to show our partner we are trustworthy, we need to focus on being there for our partner as much as we can. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard. Because trust holds everything together and when we have trust, we feel safe and secure. Which is something everyone deserves to feel.



References


Perel, E. (2019) The state of affairs: Rethinking infidelity. London: Yellow Kite.

 

Sound relationship house theory and relationship and marriage education ... (2011) Sound Relationship House Theory and Relationship and Marriage Education. Available at: https://www.johngottman.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Navarra-Gottman-SRH-Theory-Relationship-Marriage-Education.pdf (Accessed: April 19, 2023).

 


 

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