The Importance of Trust for Intimacy

The Importance of Trust For Intimacy

Rose MacDowell

Trust is a key part of an intimate relationship. Trust is defined as the willingness to accept vulnerability based on positive expectations of another person's intentions or behaviors. In other words, you can depend on them to do what they say they're going to do, follow through on commitments to you, and prioritize their connection with you. 

Let's look closer at what trust is, how to build it, and how it creates a more intimate, fulfilling relationship. 

Why Does Trust Mean?

Trust in an intimate relationship has a few basic elements. These include:

  • Reliability. A reliable partner follows through on promises, calls when they say they'll call, and makes you a priority. But a truly reliable person does more than show up on time. They're also reliable emotionally. That means they're consistent with their responses and emotions. They aren't present one day and withdrawn the next, or reliable only when you're getting along but not during conflict. 
  • Vulnerability. Trust requires the ability to be vulnerable and show who you truly are. You don't have to hide feelings, pretend to be someone you're not, or protect yourself for fear of being hurt or rejected.
  • Transparency. Transparency means being honest with each other. It means that you tell the truth, even when it's difficult. 

How To Save A Relationship Without Trust

A relationship without trust is typically a relationship in trouble. To save a relationship without trust, both partners need to examine underlying issues honestly. 

Trust is more than words; it's an action. In fact, trust is many actions, repeated again and again. Trust takes sustained effort, which is why it may be difficult to find. A trustworthy person proves over time that you matter to them and are important in their life. 

What does trust look like? Here are some examples: 

  • You can count on your partner to follow through, keep promises, and be available often enough to bond and maintain intimacy
  • Your partner is there when you're at your most vulnerable, such as when you're sick, grieving, or need support
  • You have confidence that the other person will be true to their word. This may be as simple as picking up something from the grocery store, or as complex as staying true to marriage vows 
  • You feel safe enough to share personal information, including your family history, flaws, and mistakes
  • You know that the other person will respect your boundaries. Your boundaries might be emotional, sexual, financial, or related to everyday life, such as chores and sharing responsibilities  
  • You believe that the other person cares about you
  • You feel confident that your partner will abide by the rules you both agree to, whether that be monogamy or non-monogamy, a certain amount of contact, sex, having children, or where to live
  • You make sure that your partner feels valued. Few people will continue to be trustworthy if they can't trust a partner in return  
  • You accept that mistakes happen, but believe in your partner's good intentions 

How To Deal With Trust Issues and Insecurity

Trust issues and insecurity rarely exist in a vacuum. That does not mean that your partner caused the issues, necessarily, but may be tapping into them with certain behaviors. 

What are signs of trust issues? You may feel unloved at times, or worried that your partner will cheat or is cheating on you. The time your partner spends on social media and the attention they give other people might bother you. You may not like that your partner watches porn.

Trust issues can show up in the fear of being vulnerable with your partner, or lack of sexual desire. You may feel angry, needier than usual, or worried about the relationship ending. 

If you have trust issues in your relationship, how can you overcome them? 

  • Get to know yourself. Feelings of insecurity and fear are often rooted in past experiences. Were you hurt or betrayed by former partners? Did your parents model a relationship filled with conflict or lack of trust? Fear of abandonment is often at the heart of insecurity, and can impact romantic relationships, friendships, even relationships you have at work.
  • Take stock of your mental health. Low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety can contribute to trust issues or a general feeling of insecurity.
  • Look at your past relationships. Do you often feel a lack of trust in relationships? Are you able to see patterns from one partner to the next? You may have a tendency to choose partners who make you feel insecure because it was a familiar feeling growing up. By contrast, you may choose partners who are insecure with you, making you feel unfairly accused, confined, or controlled.  
  • Talk to your partner. Bring up your feelings to your partner. Without being accusatory or placing blame on them, mention that trust is an issue for you in your relationship. Describe in a calm way what concerns you, and ask if they'd be willing to help you solve the issue together. A positive, caring response from your partner could go a long way in alleviating some of your concerns, while a defensive or dismissive reaction could be cause for concern.  

When it comes to trust issues, remember -- insecurity and problems with trust aren't necessarily a reflection of your partner's behavior, but may be. A partner who doesn't call or text as often as you'd like, who dismisses your needs and concerns, or who seems disengaged may not be as emotionally invested in the relationship as you are.  

Gut responses are often good ways to gauge whether you can trust a partner. Do your instincts tell you something isn't quite right? You may have picked up on a subtle change in your partner's behavior, a warning sign that your partner doesn't share your commitment, or isn't a good emotional fit for you. 

If trust issues persist, try talking to a mental health professional either alone or as a couple. It can be difficult to understand what drives your feelings and how to change your responses. A trained therapist can help you understand which issues are yours, which are your partner's, and which you share.