Trusting your partner isn’t always easy. Sometimes feelings of distrust can be a useful sign that something isn’t quite right in your relationship. However, if you’re not sure why you are feeling distrust, or notice it’s becoming a pattern in your relationships, it can help to learn why and what you can do about it.
Trust is confidence that you will find what you desire from your partner rather than what you fear. It means feeling comfortable being close to your partner and having a low fear of rejection. It is one of the most important ingredients of a healthy and stable romantic relationship .
Negative emotions and interactions are a normal part of a romantic relationship – in fact it has been found to be essential in a healthy relationship, with the golden ratio being around five positive interactions to every one negative interaction. That said, too much negativity in a relationship can lead to emotional instability, conflict, and ultimately a decision to break up .
There’s no simple answer to what causes distrust but many things can contribute to how we function in adult relationships. Let’s talk about one of them. In the 1980s, a famous psychologist called Bowlby came up with a theory that is still relevant today. This is called attachment theory. Bowlby said that we are born wanting to be close to other people. He said that interactions with people we are close to when we are little can shape our opinion of ourselves, and our adult relationships .
For example, if your mum was going through a hard time when you were a baby and wasn’t able to give you as much attention as you needed, you may feel more distrust towards your partner as an adult. This could be because you have learned to expect that you can’t rely on the people close to you to provide you with what you need. This natural instinct of self-protection may have been helpful when you were little but could be less helpful in your adult relationships.
Learning this may be frustrating and it might seem unfair to be paying the price for something we had no control over. However, research shows that you can learn skills to help know how to address feelings of distrust.
Improving and maintaining trust takes persistence and practice. One way to tackle relational issues is through using Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) techniques. DBT is a well-researched and effective therapy, developed to help people improve their relational skills, and change deeply ingrained habits. Below are three DBT skills you can try today to help improve and maintain trust in your relationship .
When there is a lack of trust in your relationship, it can be upsetting and confusing. Recognising and identifying individual thoughts can help bring some clarity, then we can address them specifically if needed, by using other skills.
It can help to set a timer to help practice this skill. Something like 1-2 minutes. Take a moment to observe your thoughts and feelings. Breathe. When a thought comes up, notice it. Is it a judgement? What is the subject? After identifying the thought, bring your attention back to your breathing and allow your thoughts to keep moving through your mind. Many thoughts may come up in 1-2 minutes or maybe just one or two.
We have lots of thoughts throughout the day. Distrustful thoughts can be distressing, and they may stick around for longer or be more prominent in our minds. If you find yourself thinking a specific distrustful thought, it can be helpful to check out how valid it is. Following a procedure to check the facts can help you do just that.
Sit down with a pen and paper or do this in your head – whichever is most helpful to you. Ask yourself:
After doing this exercise, you may have a better idea of whether or not your emotion is because of something your partner has done, and act accordingly.
If you want to build a more trusting and positive relationship dynamic, it can help to empathise with your partner by using the GIVE skill. GIVE is an acronym.
G – be gentle and respectful in your communication. When you are angry use words to describe how you feel calmly, without raising your voice. Avoid doing things like rolling your eyes or exaggerating to make your point.
I – Show interest in your partner and what they say, face your partner, listen to their point of view, be patient, and don’t interrupt them.
V – Validate your partner’s feelings by offering support and understanding.
E – Use an easy manner. A little humour and light heartedness can help.
After practising these skills for a while, you may find yourself having a clearer idea of what is upsetting you. You may notice that you feel calmer and have fewer negative interactions with your partner. Give them a go and remember that seeing an improvement in your relationship takes persistence and practice.
By Helen Molloy
 Kleinert et al., 2020
 Gottman & Levenson, 1992
 Bowlby 1982
 Linehan, 2015