I see many couples in my therapy practice and one of the major themes is trust. Sometimes one partner has done something, which causes the other to lose trust. But just as often insecurity or jealousy is the culprit. We tend to view trust as an easy concept, either I trust you or I don’t, right? In reality though trust is like a complicated dance between two people. For trust to be genuine and exist in relationships there must be a combination of two required elements: trustworthiness and trustfulness.
Trustworthiness is defined as; “… a moral value considered to be a virtue, someone in whom you can place your trust and rest assured that the trust shall not be betrayed : worthy of confidence : dependable". Whether we recognize it or not trustworthiness is an important trait most of us look for in a person’s character before we allow ourselves to develop a closer relationship with them.
Definitions for trustfulness include; “full of trust; free of distrust, suspicion, or the like; a tendency or readiness to trust others; the trait of believing in the honesty and reliability of others". Trustfulness and trustworthiness however go hand in hand. It does not matter how trustworthy a person is if their partner is not trustful. This can be especially impactful for those who cheat or have experienced the pain of infidelity.
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While trust is one of the most important qualities required in successful relationships, it can be difficult to attain. You see, trust is not one of those things we can simply take from each other but rather is something we must freely give. Trust is strong and fragile at the same time. When we trust someone with our lives, or our heart, or our money then the bond we feel for them is strong. So strong in fact that it can often be hard to describe. Words and phrases like a deep sense of closeness, my best friend, safe and secure, and connection come to mind. However when our trust has been breached or broken then we feel vulnerable, betrayed, hurt, and disconnected. This is when trust becomes fragile and we often find it very hard to reinvest our trust again.
So pay attention the next time you find yourself feeling some level of distrust with your partner. Take a moment and ask yourself these two important questions; 1) Am I a trustful person? 2) Is my partner trustworthy? It is important to remember that we usually make our determination about trust in others based on whether or not we are trustful and trustworthy ourselves.