How to build trust in a relationship

There are some key things that you need in order to have a strong, healthy relationship. One fairly important element is the ability to trust your partner. It may seem simple, but oftentimes this is the area where couples struggle the most. The Mix explores how to build trust in a relationship.

A young man is sitting down. He is thinking about trust in a relationship.

What is trust in a relationship?

Sounds like an obvious question, but we promise it’s one that needs to be asked. Figuring out how to build trust in a relationship means your partner is the following:

  • Reliable – They do what they say they’re going to do.
  • Dependable – You know they have your back.
  • Consistent – How they treat you doesn’t change on a daily basis. Only when it’s for a very good reason, e.g. grief or severe exam stress.
  • Durability – You feel safe and secure that the relationship can withstand anything
  • Fidelity – The obvious one here. You trust them not to share bodily fluids (or whatever else counts as cheating in your eyes) with other people.

“Trust is never just one thing,” says Christine Northam from relationship experts Relate. “There’s a series of different factors that go into it which you need to pay attention to. It’s utterly essential to have trust in a loving relationship.”

How do you build trust in a relationship?

Starting to build trust in a relationship can be as simple as doing what you say you’re going to do. Remember, people go into a relationship assuming they can trust you. So as long as you don’t betray that initial trust, you can grow it from there.

How? With the good old healthy relationship essentials: honesty and open communication.

“Trust grows when a couple put in the time and effort to communicate clearly and really listen to what the other person is saying,” says Christine. “It shows you care about them enough to actively engage in improving the relationship.”

If you don’t trust your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner

If you don’t trust your partner but they’ve been nothing but faithful and reliable, you need to think very carefully about why. Were you cheated on in the past? Did anything happen in your childhood with your parents that taught you not to trust?

“If you feel hurt, sad, and betrayed, these are very powerful feelings that need to be discussed,” says Christine, who recommends counselling in this scenario. “You need to try and heal the pain. Otherwise you’ll constantly carry it with you which will get in the way of your relationships.” To help you take that first step, we have more advice about counselling and what it involves here.

If your current partner hasn’t done anything to breach your trust, ask yourself how fair it is to accuse them of being untrustworthy. Especially if you’ve done it before and it led to nothing but hurt feelings. They don’t deserve that. 

Ultimately it’s up to you to fix you – not anybody else. Thing is, you won’t feel security in your relationships until you do.

How to build trust with your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner

How to build trust with your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner? Be patient with them. 

Getting the brunt of the pain that your partner’s exes left behind can feel really shitty – but it’s important to remember that the words they’re saying actually have nothing to do with you. That said, you can work through this together – that is, if both of you are willing to.

Start up a conversation about where their trust issues have stemmed from, and how they’re manifesting in your current relationship. Just taking the time to talk, listen and really understand them can help them feel more secure and begin to build trust. Plus, you can get a better idea of what it is they’re struggling with.

We’d recommend starting with the question – what does trust mean to you? And see what you agree and don’t agree on.

If your partner is being unreasonable

If their lack of trust means they’re making unreasonable demands – like insisting they check your phone, restricting who you can be friends with, and ensuring they know where you are at all times – that’s defo a red flag. You need to think carefully about whether this relationship has a future. Especially if they refuse to get help for the issues causing this behaviour after you’ve explicitly told them how it makes you feel.

“Be honest with yourself and trust your own judgement,” says Christine.” If their trust issues are overwhelming all the good parts of the relationships, realistically is this how you want to spend the rest of your life?

Another important thing to note is that controlling behaviour can also be a sign of relationship abuse.

How to rebuild trust after cheating on your partner

If you really feel like the relationship is worth saving, rebuilding the trust means returning to the bullet points at the top of this article. Start by being reliable, dependable, consistent and durable every day. Don’t rush it, just see how things go week after week. You can also consider going to couples counselling to help you work through any issues in your relationship that you don’t think you’ve overcome yet.

“It takes a lot of hard work, but if you truly want to, you can do it,” says Christine. “You have to really invest in a relationship in order to rebuild the trust. So make sure it’s worth the struggle beforehand.

If you cheated and your partner won’t stop asking about it

Actually this is a totally normal process. They’re naturally going to have lots of questions and will be uncertain about the relationship for a while. So don’t be completely dismissive – we hate to be that person, but you brought this on yourself. 

That being said, do try to set some boundaries, For example, put a daily limit in place so it doesn’t dominate your relationship. Say something like ‘I will answer all your questions, but only for 30 minutes a day’, and do this every day until you no longer need to. 

And make sure you answer the questions honestly! It’s natural to want to spare their feelings. Problem is, if your lies don’t add up you’ll just be breaking the trust further.

The Mix has an article on common relationship problems here.

Still struggling to build trust with your partner?

Next Steps

  • Relate is an affordable relationship and sex counselling service. 0300 100 1234
  • Relate offers advice on the most common relationship problems here.
  • Read articles on a range of relationship topics on The Mix's Relationship Support Page in partnership with Click.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

Tags:

cheating| trust

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 29-Jun-2022