"Do you trust me?"

We’ve all done it: closed our eyes and fell backward into (hopefully) open, outstretched arms. This exercise is usually initiated by someone yelling trust fall”. The unsuspecting friend or partner must quickly get ready to catch or be deemed untrustworthy. We may fancy ourselves too mature for this little game, but how often do we surprise important people in our lives with secret trust exercises that inform how we will choose to engage with them in the future? 

While we can’t help but assess the people around us through the lens of our own safety, when trying to build mutual trust in a relationship, it’s not helpful for these little tests” to always be secret, pop quizzes. Sometimes we don’t know how important a certain behavior is to our partner and, if we did, to go with the metaphor, we would study harder for the test or make sure to set an alarm so we wouldn’t miss it. 

Building trust is so much more than privately assessing someone by your own standards of trustworthiness. It’s a shared exercise requiring communication and vulnerability from both parties. 

Trust can be built or teared down over time without a conscious effort, but if you’re looking to identify some activities or exercises that will actively build trust, some of which you may do already, here are some ideas:

  1. Uninterrupted time of physical contact. No phones, no distractions. As you cuddle, focus on how safe and connected you feel. 

  2. Ask your partner to do something for you and start small. This will build your confidence that your partner will be there for you in bigger things. 

  3. Complete a shared task where you have to rely on each other for the outcome. This could be putting together furniture or planting a garden. 

  4. Try a new activity together that will allow you to grow individually and as a couple. This will help you grow in confidence that you are both willing to open your minds and grow as people and partners. 

Another way to build trust is by simply asking your partner, Do you trust me?” If you sit in that question long enough, you might be surprised by what it brings up. You may assume you trust each other, but there could be one little area you haven’t yet entrusted to your partner. Or maybe the underlying reason of an irritation you have is really a lack of trust. Having this conversation is a trust building exercise in itself. 

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