Floating Heart Press

Trust in Adult Relationships

Trust is a big, big part of most successful relationships. Although there is a significant difference between how trust is shown in a relationship with our children and with adults, trust is big in both.

As adults, we share many more two-way exchanges within our relationships. They are expected and anticipated to be equal or somewhat equivalent which is usually not quite the same for our children. As an adult relationship grows, it generally becomes more complicated. Each exchange requires both parties to be more open and become more trusting. As adult relationships merge together each of the two parties will have preset, individual patterns, values, emotions, and behaviors that we discover as we become more familiar with the other person. We begin drawing lines of trust. And if we are fortunate, we engage in discussions in these areas of trust and strive for clarification, calibration, and closer connection.

Most relationships, however, have great difficulty ascertaining just how much and in what areas we can truly trust the other person. This may change in either direction as the bond grows closer! I believe that trust ultimately becomes the single most important facet of a deeply meaningful relationship with anybody…and especially with our kids.

The Importance of Rebalancing

I am aware of some twenty-plus year relationships that have dissolved due to a surprise awareness with regard to some critical lack of trust that was either previously assumed or expected and is no longer there. These long-term and important relationships are constantly rebalancing themselves on the basis of defining the levels of trust and then learning how to build on that perceived trust.

We often build trust in most adult relationships by creating an equitable exchange based on shared values and the continuous learning and understanding of what is important to the other person. This is a lot of work, and many mistakes are made because of a lack of clear and specific communication. This can lead to situations where we begin to discover areas that we find that we don’t trust. We incorporate those into the relationship, and then unfortunately accept them as givens. This is usually not healthy direction. Typically, increased familiarity tends to set some perceived limits on trust. We begin to negotiate our levels of trust by what we can and cannot tolerate. All too often, however, these are not adequately open discussions.  We begin making assumptions because trust is, by its nature, emotionally challenging and it tends to highlight areas of potential conflict. Most relationships work hard to avoid conflict as they grow closer in order to minimize the possibility of separation due to a growing sense of a lack of trust.

Trust in many relationships is an area that can be continuously threatened by the smallest of behaviors and actions. Subtle but significant misconceptions arise more and more frequently, and active distrust can begin to monopolize the relationship. It is always surprising to me how much distrust an adult relationship can tolerate and still function relatively well. Eventually though, enough lack of trust will tear away the initial fabric of our connection, and we will likely be forced to deal with it if we actually want the relationship to continue. This will require an open and potentially difficult discussion where each party clearly expresses what areas of trust in their relationships are absolutely critical and what areas each can live without. This “awakening” is typically catalyzed by an event that threatens the status of the relationship rather than a slow fester. If the relationship is desired, then both parties will be compelled to address it through genuine emotional communication…most often with some professional therapeutic help. If it is an important and significant connection, then it would be worth it. I know of several partners who have successfully balanced their relationship in this manner.

It’s all a matter of trust.


In Parts Two and Three coming up next month, we’ll expand on this topic by exploring how we create and build trust with our kids – both as young children and as teens.


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