What Does Trust Mean in a Relationship?

Keeping private information private is a way to demonstrate trustworthiness.
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You’ll often hear that trust is the foundation of any strong relationship. But unlike communication or cuddling, trust isn't easy to define. Trust may involve believing your boyfriend won’t forget your birthday or knowing your girlfriend won’t cheat on you if another guy makes a move. A Wright State University article titled "Building and Repairing Trust" states that trust is one of those unusual qualities that is time-dependent -- meaning the longer you know someone, and the more trustworthiness has been demonstrated, the easier it becomes to trust that person.

1 Taking Responsibility

Taking responsibility for your actions and words is paramount in demonstrating trustworthiness, according to the University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center’s article “Building a Healthy Relationship from the Start.” Also, building your own trustworthiness outside of your relationship can positively impact your romantic life. For example, if you promised your sister you’d go bowling on the same night you were planning to go to a concert with a buddy, you can demonstrate trustworthiness by being honest with both parties instead of blaming outside circumstances for your conflict. Taking responsibility for your actions, and mistakes, will start to come naturally the more you do it, which will have a positive effect on your relationships.

2 Honestly Speaking

Imagine this: Your boyfriend has seen you lie to your parents about when you’ll be home, lie to your teachers about doing homework and send your friends text messages saying you’re home when you’re really out. If you’re constantly lying to others, even using “harmless” white lies, how can your boyfriend be sure you won’t lie to him? Stop and examine your impulses to lie. You may realize that telling the truth is actually easier in the long run. Plus, the more you tell the truth, the more likely your boyfriend will be to believe you when you promise you didn’t visit your ex last weekend.

3 Shared Relationship Goals

Without open communication, it’s hard to know exactly what your sweetheart wants out of your relationship -- and any misunderstandings can lead to serious trust issues down the line. For example, if your girlfriend believes it’s normal and healthy to date many people at once but you’re strictly monogamous, you may lose trust in her when you catch her kissing another guy. However, just one serious conversation about relationship goals and values can help you avoid this type of misunderstanding. Get on the same page with your date; that way, when there is an issue, you can determine if it’s an actual transgression of trust or simply a misunderstanding.

4 Why Trust Is Important

When you’re in a healthy, trustworthy relationship, you are free to be your own person -- to go where you want, dress how you feel comfortable dressing and befriend anyone who interests you, all under the premise that you and your honey are on the same page about what your relationship means. When trust isn’t present, a boyfriend may try to control what his girlfriend wears, or a girlfriend may routinely check her boyfriend’s phone and email. This kind of paranoia and control does nothing to strengthen either party. In fact, it often breaks down the relationship because both parties will start to see only the negative aspects of one another, creating suspicions even when nothing untrustworthy is going on.

Low began writing professionally in 2005. She writes primarily about parenting, personal finance, health, beauty and fashion. Low holds a Bachelor of Arts in writing.