We all know that trust is a fundamental component of every healthy intimate relationship. But what is trust exactly?
In the context of relationships, I define trust as having an underlying belief in the reliability and consistency of someone.
So, for example, if you and your partner have a weekly date night pre-established, and they show up 10-45 minutes late three weeks in a row, it is completely reasonable for you to feel upset because they have started to erode your trust with their lack of consistency.
Conversely, if one of their chores that they do around the house is taking out the garbage on Tuesday nights, and they’ve done it every week for years without fail, then you would likely feel a deep level of trust and comfort around the fact that they do what they say they’re going to do.
Trust is built through consistency and reliability. Are they reliable? Do they do the things they say they’re going to do? Do their words and actions line up? If so, great! If not, no worries! There’s always room for improvement.
No matter what level of trust you and your partner currently have, the following trust exercises for couples will give you each a boost of feeling that much more comfortable with each other.
7 Powerful Trust Exercises For Couples
1. 20 minutes of tenderness
I believe in connecting first, and communicating second. Some of the exercises that are coming up can be a bit challenging for a lot of people, especially in relationships where trust has been broken to any degree.
So before you get into the more challenging exercises that require a lot of courage and vulnerability, it’s always good to begin by physically connecting with each other.
For this exercise, you begin in your own way, you engage with each other in your own way, and you complete the exercise in your own way. Do whatever makes you both feel the most comfortable and cared for.
You can hold each other in your arms, or you can take turns being the ‘big spoon’ partner who envelopes the other. Or maybe you don’t physically engage with each other at all, but you hold sustained eye contact for a few minutes (see point #6).
Be sweet, soft, and loving with each other. Connect first, communicate second. This will set the stage for the depth of the following exercises.
2. Come clean
Inevitably, in any intimate relationship, tiny little micro-transgressions pile up over time if you aren’t doing the work to face them as they come up.
You can either take alternating turns engaging in uninterrupted sharing, or you can freestyle the entire exercise.
Admit past wrongdoings accompanied with sincere apologies. Face it all. The point of this exercise, as the speaker, is to own your stuff.
As the recipient/listener to your partner, make sure that you are truly hearing them. Receiving your partner’s vulnerability with grace and compassion is just as vital to the success of this trust exercise as the sharing itself is.
There’s a brilliant concept in a book called The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks that I think is worthy of mentioning in how it applies to this exercise…
So many people assume that in any argument, there is 100% blame to divvy up between the two parties involved, when in reality there’s actually 200%. There’s your 100%, and your partner’s 100% to be claimed. So it isn’t a matter of who takes on which part of the blame, but more along the lines of “Can we each fully take responsibility for our 100%?”
Because you see, it isn’t ever about blame… it’s about personal responsibility and facing our problems like mature, loving adults.
With that concept in mind, come clean with your partner about whatever needs to be mended for you to feel honest and complete with them again.
3. Share one big scary secret
Our deepest healing is done in our intimate relationships. And, if you and your partner have been together for any length of time, you’ve likely had some amazing, transformative moments where you were able to share a part of yourself with them and they received it well.
Depending on your relationship’s dynamic, it’s likely that there are still some things that you wouldn’t mind sharing with someone that you’ve never had the courage to with anyone else.
Maybe you were bullied when you were a child. Maybe you were sexually assaulted. Maybe you cheated on someone that you cared about deeply.
Any number of things could have happened that you may have wanted to bury for one reason or another. As long as you don’t think that it would harm your partner to hear your truth, see if you can muster up the courage to share one of your big scary secrets with them.
The resulting sense of trust and connection that will come from your brave vulnerability could be one of the most powerful things that happens to you personally, and as a couple, all year.
4. Consistently follow through on the details
If trust is built on reliability and consistency, then one of the highest leverage things you can do to build trust is to be reliable and consistent.
Unfortunately no exercise exists that gives you months or years worth of trust in a minute. So what’s the next best thing?
Ask your partner what things are there that you do that help them feel the safest, most cared for, and most loved, and do those things to the best of your ability, all of the time.
Set a weekly date night and show up on time. Understand which household responsibilities are yours and do them when you’re supposed to. Be honest and transparent with your thoughts and emotions and let your partner into your internal world.
Be reliable, be consistent, and you will be seen/felt/experienced as trustworthy.
5. Ask for forgiveness for self-perceived wrongdoings
There might be some things that you’ve done over the past few weeks/months/years that you still feel guilty about.
Squash old self-perceived transgressions by letting your partner know that you still feel bad about them, and communicate your way to mutual forgiveness.
While it isn’t your partner’s responsibility to make you experience self-forgiveness, your journey towards that place might be a lot easier if you hear how they think about those same things that you do.
For example, maybe you once got so drunk at a dinner party that you embarrassed yourself in a big way (in your mind). Bring this memory up with them, tell them how you feel about it (i.e. “I felt sloppy/like I was embarrassing you/like you resented me”), and tell them how you feel about it today. You might be surprised to realize that not only were they not upset with you in the slightest, but that they found it endearing/amusing/loveable/etc.
Bring out the skeletons from the closet, ask for forgiveness, and forgive yourself in the process.
6. Five minutes of soft eye contact
It’s damn-near impossible to hide when you’re looking directly into your partner’s eyes for five minutes at a time.
This one can sound intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but the results are profound. Set a timer, make sure you’re at eye level with each other, get comfortable, and softly gaze into each other’s eyes.
The overarching benefit that comes from this exercise (aside from emotional connection), is that unexpected emotions often get shaken up and brought to the surface. It’s also like checking the pulse of your relationship. If looking into your partner’s eyes for five minutes is difficult for one or both of you then it might be indicative of the comfort that you both have with true, deep intimacy.
7. The gratitude game
One of the reasons that many people feel a lack of trust in their partners (especially when their partners haven’t necessarily overtly done anything to break their trust) is because they ultimately feel being left, rejected, or abandoned. That’s right… this is classic childhood/primary caregivers stuff bubbling up to the surface. Hooray – we all have issues!
No matter how much work you’ve done on yourself to heal your childhood emotional wounds, there is likely always going to be some natural anxiety in being in a relationship… because your partner always has the power to vote with their feet and leave.
So, to counteract this underlying fear, play the gratitude game!
Take turns reminding each other what you love about each other. You can either set a timer and take turns, each rattling off a list of ten things, or you can alternate thought for thought until you’ve each had enough.
In reassuring your partner that there is a plethora of things that you adore about them, then they’ll presumably have more mental and emotional life preservers to hold on to to battle back against their internal doubt demons.
Trust Building Takes Time
Building trust is a practice… it is a habit… it is a process that takes time.
While it’s true that any and all of the above exercises can help deepen the intimacy and sense of connection in your relationship, trust needs time to take root.
As always, pick your favourite one or two exercises, send this article to your significant other, and tell them that you’d like to try out whichever one you’re the most intrigued by.
Take baby steps towards your increased sense of connection and your relationship will flourish… with time.
Dedicated to your success,
Ps. If you liked this article, you’ll definitely love reading…