Trust is the Key Ingredient
Without getting into a long list of “do’s or don’ts”; with no trust in relationships it is highly unlikely that any persons involved in a couplehood would be able to establish intimacy. Trust is the most important aspect of relationship building and can be defined as “creating a secure and safe emotional place for a partner”. Any couple not actively working on creating a safe space for emotions may in fact be doing exactly the opposite and unsafe emotional space may suggest an abusive relationship. Trust can certainly be cultivated, and it is one of the things in a relationship which should always be nurtured. Trust takes a lot of hard work and a very long time to establish but can be destroyed in the blink of an eye.
It is important to note here, that if you feel you may be in an abusive relationship you must seek help – this is vital. Abuse may be as easily defined as one member of the couple being “afraid” to communicate opinions or feelings.
Communication – Learn How to Listen
Without communication there is very little hope for intimacy in couplehood. Communication does not suggest only the ability of saying what you think or feel; more importantly it means learning how to listen. Learning how to listen is a skill and one of the hardest skills to develop. Mirroring is useful in this respect and it helps both parties to understand clearly what it is the other wants. For example waiting until your partner is finished speaking completely – without interruption, then, reiterate what they have said in the same emotional tone, like so… “let me just ensure that I understand…” and repeat what you have understood from the conversation.
Although mirroring appears contrived it actually works really well to improve communication skills. If you don’t really hear what your partner is trying to say, this breaks down trust as they believe their needs are not being met. One of the most dynamic ways of establishing and building trust is by meeting one another’s needs, and needs are often not expressed due to feeling ashamed for having these in the first place or for fear of rejection. Being able to assert any needs clearly means that trust has more than likely been established.
Great relationships don’t just happen, when people say they take a lot of hard work, they are certainly not being trite or cliché. Trust is the glue which holds it together and intimacy is one of the benefits of this trust. We naturally trust partners who are nice, are positive, give us pleasure and have good problem solving skills. Both partners require all of these qualities and more for a great relationship to happen.
On Fighting in Brief
Also remember that fighting is part of any good couplehood; what makes the difference is the rules of engagement and learning how to fight fair. Trust is destroyed in an unfair fight; so, it is never the place to dump old garage, resort to putdowns or name calling, bring up unresolved issues or involve another person or family member. Draw up the rules of engagement before you have your first fight.
Dr. Wendy M. O’Connor is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Professional Life Coach, Media Consultant, loving wife & parent of an amazing teenager.