Building trust in close relationships takes time. It’s not something that magically appears in your relationship after you celebrate six months together. Research actually shows that trust is built slowly, in the little moments of your relationship.If you’re in a long distance relationship, here are six, science-backed ways that you can build trust with your partner. Put these communication skills into practice and you can start intentionally building trust today!
1. Be aware of of your partner and their emotions
Long-distance dating makes communication hard. Sure, video chat is great. But it doesn’t beat face-to-face communication.So how can you be aware of your lover’s emotions and experience?Begin by asking open-ended questions in conversation with them. Questions that require a “yes” or “no” aren’t going to help you establish deep trust with each other.
What are the feelings your partner is experiencing about a certain topic?
Put in the relationship work to get to know why your partner enjoys a specific activity. Maybe you’ve known each other for years and think you know everything about each other. But even couples in a long-term relationship can still build awareness of each other and the other person’s experience.
2. Turn towards your partner regularly to build trust
What are some ways that you can turn towards the person you love?
Communicate your desire to get to know your love. When they open up in conversation, turn towards them and ask questions. It can be tempting after a long day apart to ignore your partner’s desire for communication.
But it’s when you ignore your partner’s desire for connection that trust issues start to crop up in your relationship. Avoid this with healthy and regular communication between the two of you.
3. Accept the reality of your partner’s emotions
“Emotions have their own purpose and logic. Your partner cannot select which feelings to have,” Dr. Gottman explains. “Their feelings come up unconsciously. If you can’t get beyond the belief that negative emotions are a waste of time and even dangerous, you will never be able to attune to your partner enough to have true intimacy.”
Maybe you don’t understand why they’re experiencing jealousy. But when you deny the reality of your partner’s emotions and experience, you start to run into problems.
Responding with things like “This isn’t really a big deal,” or “You’re not thinking about this in the right way” can shut down communication. Close couples understand that all emotions are acceptable.
This isn’t to say that all behavior is acceptable. But understanding why your partner feels the way they do is a great way to build trust in your long distance relationship.
4. Understand where your partner is coming from
So we’ve established that you have to accept the reality of your partner’s emotions.But what does it look like practically to communicate that you want to understand your partner?Asking one simple question can help the person you love explain the situation to you: “Is there more to this?”This will give your boyfriend or girlfriend the chance to talk about the complexity of the issue. Their frustration with friends or feelings of jealousy may have a deeper root.
5. Listen and respond non-defensively
When your partner shares their feelings, you may feel a strong impulse to interrupt and prove your point or share your point of view. But jumping into the conversation like that never gives your partner the chance to fully explain themselves.
However, when you respond in a non-defensive way, you’re able to share in those little moments with your partner. Just what does non-defensive listening look like?
Dr. Gottman recommends reminding yourself of the importance of your partner’s emotions while you’re listening to them share. For instance, he recommends thinking: “In a relationship, we do not ignore each other’s pain. I have to understand this hurt.”
If you notice yourself getting defensive while listening, take a break from the conversation. Don’t let your defensiveness hurt your communication as a couple.
This could be as simple as saying “I want to listen to your experience, but I think I’m taking what you’re saying personally. Could we take a break and come back to this in ten minutes? I want to make sure I’m listening clearly.”This explanation communicates your commitment to the hard conversation and your value of the relationship.
6. Foster trust by responding with empathy
When was the last time that someone really listened to what you were saying. Didn’t it feel great?“It may be difficult to empathize with those who are closest to us,” Marshall Rosenberg says in Nonviolent Communication. Because you care about your partner, it can be difficult to express empathy.
So the next time your boyfriend or girlfriend shares their experience or problems, resist the urge to “fix” their emotions. Instead, tap into what Dr. Gottman calls “mind melding.” Think about what the situation looks like from your partner’s perspective.