By Jamie C. Williamson, PhD
Like most actions in a close, intimate relationship, trust follows the “norm of reciprocity”. You will trust your partner, if you sense that your partner trusts you, and visa versa.
What this means is that, if you act overly jealous or suspicious, you will not likely end up in the place of your dreams with a trustworthy partner. Instead, you’ll engender defensive responses from your partner and likely start down the very road you wanted to bypass.
The best way to discover if you can truly trust your romantic partner is to behave in a trustworthy manner, and also demonstrate that you trust your partner, as well.
If you do this, and your partner reciprocates by behaving in a trustworthy manner and by demonstrating trust in you, then you know your relationship is built on a solid foundation of predictability, dependability, and faith – the three building blocks of trust.
But, of course, for this trust norm-of- reciprocity to operate, you have to know how to demonstrate that you are trustworthy, so you can model if for your partner.
To demonstrate that you are trustworthy, you need to be predictable, dependable, and faithful.
Are you predictable? Do you keep your partner guessing about your mood or your feelings? Are you kind one day, insensitive the next? Do you display and withhold affection to get your way or punish your partner?
If you answer “yes” to any of these or similar questions, your partner will be unlikely to trust you completely and to be “all in” when it comes to behaving in a consistently positive manner toward you.
Are you dependable? Do you call when you say you will call? Do you do you part of the household chores when you are getting ready for guests? Do you take care of the kids when your spouse is sick? Do you do your part without being asked or reminded? Do you anticipate your partner’s needs and meet them, without expecting something in return? Are you “there” for your partner?
If you can answer “yes” to these types of questions, then your partner likely thinks of you as dependable. If not, your partner probably wishes you would change. These issues probably create conflict in your relationship and your partner may be thinking of trading you in for a grown up. If you don’t want that to happen, learn to be more dependable so your partner can count on you and build trust in you.
Are you faithful? Do you openly and frequently express how you feel about your partner to your partner and others in your family and social circle? Do you take the time to listen to your partner’s concerns, even when you are involved in your own issues? When out at a party or with others, do you behave in ways that let your partner know you are loyal? Do you avoid doing things that you know would hurt your partner’s feelings?
Or do you just do what feels right to you and expect your partner to just deal with it?
If you answered yes to this last question, then you are probably sending signals that your partner cannot trust you to be continually responsive and caring. You are communicating to your partner that you care more about your own fun, comfort or popularity than you do about your relationship. This will erode your partner’s trust in you and discourage your partner from being trustworthy, as well.
If you are having trust issues in your relationship and want to “work it out”, remember that if you demonstrate that you are predictable, dependable and faithful, you will strengthen the trust your partner has for you and, in turn, encourage your partner to be more trustworthy.
Make this “norm of reciprocity” work for you.
And, let me know if I can help.