Importance of Trust in Healthy & Relationships

How trust in relationships affects your long term happiness

Everyone knows at least one person they do not consider trustworthy. If you cannot trust an individual in even one area, the repercussions are many. Let’s say you know an individual who regularly cheats on their spouse. This behavior will, most assuredly, taint your entire relationship with that person. If they will cheat on their spouse, you might well conclude that the person will easily lie to you.

Perhaps you have an employee who consistently promises to meet deadlines, but, for the most part, fails to do so. These examples illustrate how trust in relationships needs to be nurtured and maintained.

While it’s true that everyone can make mistakes, an isolated incident will not ultimately destroy a friendship, business relationship or marriage in the case of generally healthy and established trust in relationships.

When you first meet a person, you probably tend to give that person the benefit of the doubt, expecting that they will treat you in an ethical and trustworthy manner. However, the proof is in the pudding, as the relationship becomes established.

Trusting people may easily be taken advantage of by people who are inherently undeserving of trust. When a trusting person realizes that another is not bound by ethics, the trust in relationships with that individual is damaged, sometimes irrevocably.

On the other hand, there are people who approach every relationship with mistrust. Such people require that, upon establishing any type of relationship, the other person must first prove themselves honorable before any trust is conferred.

For example, consider the case of an employer, who has been burned by untrustworthy or unethical employees too many times. This employer, upon hiring a replacement, might appear to be gruff and demanding, watching your every move with suspicion.

Here, your best bet is to work on establishing trust in relationship to your boss. If you conduct yourself ethically and honestly, to the best of your ability, sooner or later you will win his trust. If you fail to do this, you might well be looking for a new job.

Being truthful is key to establishing trust in relationships of any type.

If you give your word to do something, you must follow through. Again, there is always the odd situation that can crop up in anyone’s life. Your mother ended up in the hospital and you must take time to attend to her needs, unable to fulfill a promised obligation. Everyone understands that such things happen. It’s the person whose grandmother has died three times in the last year that loses credibility.

In spousal relationships, jealousy can be a major cause for a lack of trust in relationships. Some people simply are possessed of a jealous nature, seeing suspicious behavior where it’s not warranted. This case is another story altogether.

On the other hand, if your behavior or actions warrant suspicion, as might be the case of a partner who flirts shamelessly in your presence, any previously established trust in the relationship might well go down the drain.

“Life has no remote so get up and change it yourself.” ~Roseann Pallante Feaser 

In the end, trust in relationships is a two way street. Both parties must behave ethically and deal truthfully. In every case, trust is built, earned and maintained. This simple element of trust between people affects your entire life. Take care to make it happen.

Mind Power Master

A willingness to be vulnerable is a significant feature of lasting relationships — ones in which partners are allies, not foes.

The need to form a mutually protective alliance is innate, according to psychoanalyst John Bowlby. This need persists throughout life; the search to be both cared for and caregiver underlies falling in love.

Long-lasting couples manage to keep this vulnerability alive. Each person’s awareness of the importance of partnership underlies his or her attentiveness to the other. This “protective love” focuses on the partnership and the ability to put the other first. As parents, they instinctively soothe their children’s tears, and in the same way, they are responsive to each other.

Such deep caring comes easily at a relationship’s beginning. Lust and novelty keep us attentively glued to each other when we fall in love. It’s in the next phase, when routines and irritations set in, that protective love is tested. Deep connectedness — feeling our partner’s triumphs and setbacks as our own — is a hallmark of the early stages of love. We are careful with our words and behavior and take care not to wound the other.

Remaining this attuned to a partner takes energy and commitment. Barriers may still stand in the way, though:

  • Busyness. Our busy lives mean we have to make an effort to take the time to talk and catch up. Such moments are essential for keeping empathetically tuned in to one’s partner. You need to motivate yourself to go out together, just the two of you, to focus on each other after a long day at work. This is the choice that long-lasting couples make. In a successful partnership, “I” develops into “we,”, and “independence” into “interdependence.”
  • Fear of dependence on another. Growing up means becoming strong and standing on our own two feet, which implies independence. We can be reluctant to admit we miss our partner when they’re not there. But obeying a rigid script of independent adulthood doesn’t allow a close relationship to grow. We can take note of our need for our partner, our disappointment and loneliness when they are away, and give ourselves permission to miss them.

Prolonged stress tests protective love.  Taking the long view — using memories of past happiness as insurance for the future — can help. Recalling our original commitment and promises to each other can help love endure the inevitable rough patches.

When John Bowlby’s attachment theory was extended to adult romantic relationships, psychologists found that partners in relationships classed as “secure” tend to show low anxiety and avoidance. In other words, they are relaxed about opening up to each other. Research suggests these partnerships allow people to cope better with stress, including the stress of having a child.

Securely attached people tend to have positive views of their relationships, often reporting a great deal of satisfaction in their relationships. They feel comfortable both with intimacy and with independence, seeking to balance the two.

When they do feel anxious, they try to reduce their anxiety by seeking physical or psychological closeness to their partner. During difficult situations they seek support, comfort, and assistance from their partner. A secure partner then responds positively, reaffirming a sense of normality and reducing anxiety. This expression of love puts into practice the key elements of a secure partnership: consistency, attunement to the other, and availability when needed.

Thinking about the concept of attachment in your relationship can add new meaning and help you develop a deeper, lasting bond. We all need someone we can rely on in order to maintain a sense of wellbeing. Knowing your partner is encouraging and rooting for you frees you to concentrate elsewhere. Secure and supported, you are able to produce, enjoy and be open to new experiences.


Bowlby, John.  Attachment. 1983: Basic Books.

Overview of attachment theory

Hazan C. and Shaver P. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 52, pp. 511-24.

Mikulincer M. and Florian V. (1995). Appraisal of and Coping with a Real-Life Stressful Situation: The Contribution of Attachment Styles. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 21, pp. 406-14.

Simpson J.A., Rholes W.S., and Nelligan J.S. (1992). Support seeking and support giving within couples in an anxiety provoking situation: The role of attachment styles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 62, pp. 434-46.

Sable, Pat. Attachment and Adult Psychotherapy.  2001: Jason Aronson.

Executives Must Acknowledge the Importance of Trust   Author: Stephen Dent

Trust Building Is Not a Passive Activity

Stephen M. Dent, founding partner of the consulting firm Partnership Continuum, Inc., is an award-winning organizational consultant working with such clients as USWEST, Inc. Northwest Airlines, AT&T, GE Capital Services, the U.S. Postal Service, NASA, Bank of America and Exult.  He lives in Minneapolis MN.

e-mail or phone (1) 612 375 0323


Sometimes when I’m talking to executives about trust, I get the feeling I’m talking to a brick wall. Many executives give lip service to the importance of trust, but fail to see a connection between their own behavior and the amount of trust people have in their organization.

The inability of corporate executives to build trust has a more far-reaching impact than just on their immediate employees. The stock market slide of 2002 was, to a large degree, due to the lack of investor confidence in accounting and financial reporting practices. Investors didn’t “trust the numbers” being produced by CFOs, whom they felt were misrepresenting the economic health of their companies.

But not “trusting the numbers” really means not trusting the people behind the numbers. This mistrust of business leaders translates directly to investor reluctance, which then denies businesses access to the capital they need to grow, which then hurts their employees and the overall economy. It’s a vicious cycle in which everyone loses.

Trust Building Is Not a Passive Activity

There is a direct correlation between how employees view their company and how customers and stockholders view it. Once leadership has lost the confidence of their employees, that negative energy has a measurable impact on the messages employees — and especially front-line employees — deliver to customers, the community at large, and stockholders.

Executives must take an active role in leading the discussion about trust in their organizations. This is not something to be left to Human Resources or Public Relations. And it has to be more than platitudes on a wall.

Trust is a large word that encompasses many emotions and has many definitions. Leaders first have to know what their employees mean when they talk about trust. Are they referring to the executive’s ability to manage the business, or their ability to be candid about the state of the company? While related, these questions stem from two very different aspects of trust.

Task and Relational Elements of Trust

Like the Partnership Continuum Partnering Model™, building trust has two components: task and relationship.

The task component of trust is about believing that others will do what is expected of them. When we question whether someone can complete a project on time or has the skills to reach a goal, this reveals concerns about the task component of trust.

We have identified five competencies that help to build task-related trust. They are: commitment to agreements; competency in skills; consistency in output; making contributions; and the willingness to collaborate on projects.

The relational component of trust is about believing that others want a safe and supportive relationship with you. When we don’t believe someone will be candid with us or show compassion towards us, this reveals a weakness in the relational component of trust.

The five elements of trust for the relational component are: commitment to the partnership; the ability to be candid; a willingness to communicate; showing compassion; and demonstrating personal credibility and integrity.

Understanding the aforementioned components of trust will help you create a foundation for discussing what trust means to your organization.

Establishing a First Line of Defense

Defining trust is always the first step. Once you’ve defined what trust means to your organization, you can go about establishing a first line of defense against mistrust.

First, identify specific behaviors that either support or diminish trust in the company. For example, in the task area of trust you might determine that completing projects on time is a trust-building behavior. While this seems obvious, many people do not make the connection that delivering projects late destroys trust between people. In fact, in some businesses, project deadlines are falsely inflated to compensate for late deliverables. This is not only costly, but can also hurt your business’s reputation.

In the relationship area of trust, you might find that candid communication is vital. For example, you might discover that you build trust every time you don’t put spin on bad news. People typically see through spin anyway, which puts a double hit on your credibility. Just look at how comedians make their careers out of spoofing politicians. No one wants to be seen as a joke.

Make Trust an Important Organizational Measurement

The good news is that you can measure trust just like you measure product quality or customer service excellence. There is an old saying: People do what they are measured to do. It’s true! If you don’t measure trust, you risk sending the message that trust is not important to you.

Trust is simple to measure — just ask. An anonymous survey will reveal whether trust is being built or destroyed in your organization. Communicate the survey results to your organization and track them regularly. When you see the amount of trust backsliding, ask why. Also check yourself to make sure you really want to hear the truth. This might be a good time to review your Ability to Self-Disclose and Feedback skills, the first of the Six Partnering Attributes™.

When done properly, a trust indicator can let you know in advance if something is weakening trust in your business. The sooner you know, the quicker you can address it.

This is a small investment in maintaining morale, keeping information lines open and maintaining your good reputation. You’ll see the benefits in employee productivity, customer satisfaction, and yes, stockholder confidence. How much is that worth to you?


Copyright 2003 by Stephen M. Dent. All rights reserved.

Partnership Continuum, Inc.


2 thoughts on “Importance of Trust in Healthy & Relationships

  1. I have to agree with the work relationships; it’s hard to trust people when everyone seems like they’re trying to get an edge up on everyone else. I go through that all the time at my office where one employee seems like a nice, friendly, trustworthy person and then they go and tries to get you into trouble. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to connecting more:))

    1. Thanks for writing. I included trust in business because what a person does in their personal life IS certainly reflective of business dealings too. People have to trust their gut when it tells them someone is untrustworthy. People will say, “I get a bad vibe from that person” and they don’t know why. That shouldn’t be ignored. Highly intuitive people and empaths are most likely to pick up on that and see through things. On another note, if you’ve had a personal experience with any health topic in the news or in my blog —please feel free to share and I will incorporate it . Thanks again. MD


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s