During the holidays as part of our intimacy building activities, my husband and I spent some time discussing our differences and how it has impacted our relationship both positively and negatively.

The exercise reminded us of how different we both are, and yet these differences hadn’t driven us apart. Most of our difference had never featured in our conflicts. I remember my husband mentioning that we had a high tolerance for each other.

Even though it is likely that our personality may have also played a role, the primary determinant of our high tolerance is the trust we have for each other and our friendship. We are more likely to forgive or overlook the errors of people we like.

Trust here doesn’t just relate to fidelity; it refers to the belief that one’s partner is there when needed; emotionally, physically, financially, and so on. Couples with high trust see their partners as generally loving and good-willed. Therefore they find it easy to excuse or minimise behaviours that contradict the perception they hold of their partners.

However, when a relationship is troubled (low or no trust), the most common attribution partners have for each other is; ‘my partner is selfish.’ As a result, these couples seem to notice each other’s errors, and they serve as confirmation that their partner is selfish.

Even when the partner does something kind or loving, it is at best seen as a selfish person doing something thoughtful for a change; hence, minimising the good attributes of the partner.

Trust is not just present is some relationships and absent in others, you build it over time.

When partners are dismissive or intolerant of their ‘negative’ emotions and fail to create safety within the relationship for the healthy expression of all emotions, regularly turn down bids for connection, do not respect each other’s boundaries and allow conflicts to linger for too long. They erode their trust.

Couples build trust by;

  • Mastering the act of allowing themselves to share their emotions without judgement or a need to fix the feelings,
  • Make sex a priority in the relationship.
  • Seek intimacy outside the bedroom
  • Repair hurts from conflicts, play and laugh together.
  •  Avoid deliberately stepping on each other’s triggers.

The higher the trust, the more partners are willing to open up and be vulnerable. The older the relationship; the more trust there should be. If you find the opposite happening in your relationship, it is time to begin building trust again.

Nancy Oblete

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