What is Trust?

What is trust, and why is it so important in your committed relationships? I can personally speak from experience when I say that trust is everything in a relationship. I have personally given up on relationships in the past because I didn’t think that the trust was restorable after it had been destroyed. It is difficult to regain trust once it is lost, but if it is important to you to get back to what you once had in your own relationship, then I urge to continue reading.

Before we can move forward on how to regain trust, we must come upon a definition we can agree upon of what trust is. The clinical definition of Trust is understood as “prompting a person to have a confident assumption that their partner is motivated to consider his or her own best interest into account when acting” (Carson & Cupach, 2000). In layman’s terms, that definition boils down to – “trust is about putting the interest of your partner’s needs ahead of your own.” That is why “True Love” is oftentimes considered selfless and ideal in relationships.

There are 3 important factors that trust is comprised of – these factors are consistency, dependability, and faith:

  • Dependability can be best described as an individual being able to predict their respective partner’s actions correctly.
  • Consistency is understood as one partner observing the other as acting in a way that makes his or her promises met.
  • Faith is explained as a sense of confidence in the future of the relationship staying stable.

Of the three, Faith is the most important of these aspects. A small sense of trust and love can still exist with low levels of dependability and consistency. However, all three of these must be achieved to have a complete sense of trust with your partner.

The Effects of Mistrust

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
―Friedrich Nietzsche

The famous German philosopher Nietzche pretty much summed up my past three relationships with women in that quote. Without trust, there can be no relationship. In order for any of us to know how to build and restore trust, we will look at an example of what a lack of trust looks like, and what happens when you don’t trust someone in a relationship.

Jealousy, worrying, and mistrust in a partner can lead to a viscous self-fulfilling prophecy of negative assumptions (Carson & Cupach, 2000). This means that if you assume that your partner will cheat on you, then you will behave in a way that makes it seem like they already have. If you behave in a way where they are guilty before proven innocent, then they will end up doing what you already assumed they have done.

This typically leads to rumination, which is obsessively thinking what can go wrong in a given situation. People who lack of trust in their partner will tend to ruminate when their partner is not with them in close proximity, under their watchful eye. This type of relationship is not desirable because mistrust and jealousy show too much dependence and neediness. Rumination can also be linked to unhappiness and even depression. Constantly ruminating will end up causing less trust within couples.

Once mistrust occurs, a partner may attempt to protect themselves in order to avoid certain arguments and controversies (Holmes, Rempel & Zanna, 1985). This protection is like a shield that does not allow the other person into their own life. Emotional and physical distance is created and the couple starts to grow apart. So is a relationship ruined when trust is out the window? Not if you can re-build it.

How much do you trust your partner?

Use this simple quiz to find out.

Restoration of What Once Was

A common assumption about trust building is that trust is better built over time. The uncertainty reduction theory supplements this thought, and also shows that trust is increased with more positive interactions. The theory states that people will tend to seek out information in order to reduce uncertainty about their partner. This information or self-disclosure could be beneficial or harmful. It is possible that couples could learn information that is undesirable. This is why trust is better built when people see each other more often on a regular basis.

A way to regain trust and eliminate the negative effects rumination is to accept that both partners are somehow at fault for the loss of trust and that both couples must increase intimacy in order to restore what was once lost. As intimacy is increases, so does self-disclosure. If both partners know more about each other, then they will have a better understanding of how their respective partner will act in a given situation. It has been shown that higher levels of self-disclosure are correlated with higher levels of trust (Holmes, Rempel & Zanna 1985).

Both couples must avoid being narcissistic, shameful, angry, and afraid. They must also feel optimistic and empathetic towards their partners (Smith, 2006.) Being empathetic with your partner allows you to put yourself into his or her shoes. When you understand how your partner feels based off of your actions then you can be better at monitoring how you act.

Proximity also plays a vital role in trust and commitment. Relationships tend to work better when both partners see each other more often. It is clear that two people cannot be satisfied in a relationship unless they both trust each other completely and feel confident that they can successfully predict their partner’s actions.

In this article, we’ve learned that Trust consists of three factors: dependability, consistency, and faith – with faith being the most important of the three. Without trust, there is mistrust. Mistrust can lead to jealousy and ruminating on negative thoughts. This rumination can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, pushing a partner into the actions that were worst feared. To rebuild trust that was lost, both partners must agree to not think negative thoughts about each other. Proximity between the partners also helps. Being close together can help them regain the trust that was lost.


Carson, C. Cupach, W. (2000). Fueling the flames of the green-eyed monster: The role of ruminative thought in reaction to romantic jealousy. Western Journal of Communication ,308.

Holmes, J. Rempel, J. Zanna, M. (1985). Trust in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Waterloo, Canada.

Rotter, J. (1980). Interpersonal trust, trustworthiness, and gullibility. American Psychologist. Connecticut University.

Smith, G. (2006). Review of treating infidelity: ‘Therapeutic dilemmas and effective strategies’. Journal of Family Therapy.

Here are two great books below on how to rebuild trust in your relationship:

 The Courage to Trust – by Cynthia L. Wall, LCSW

the courage to trust - a guide to building deep and lasting relationships

The Complete Guide to Restoring Trust in Your Relationship – By Mira Kirshenbaum

i love you but i dont trust you

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