Intimate love — 01 August 2005
Trust is invaluable in an intimate relationship

Trust is an essential ingredient of intimacy. It is proportionally related to the depth of comfort and connection between intimate lovers. The greater the trust, the deeper the love grows. At the same time, this highly desired emotion might be hard to obtain, sustain and recover if it is lost.

Trust allows people to become emotionally and physically vulnerable in love. Believing that the partner is accepting, kind and loving, affords partners the security to let go and be themselves. Without trust it is unsafe to be intimate.

Trust is manifested in many areas, among them are: Psychological trust is the confidence in the partner’s positive regard, love and protectiveness. Physical trust presumes sexual fidelity and entails respect of the mate’s body, physical wishes, limitations and the sincere desire to please him/her. Emotional trust involves feeling respected and supported with one’s emotions, their meaning, expression and significance. Financial trust honors the mutual understanding between the mates regarding sharing, spending and allocation of funds. Intellectual trust is the valuing of one’s ideas, opinions and attitudes, even when the partner disagrees.

Trust also covers the areas of accountability, honesty, reliability, and decency toward the mate. When partners share trust, they are secure in being accepted as they are, know that they will be treated
with a deep positive regard and that their best interests will always be foremost in the partner’s mind and actions.

Because so much of our identity is derived from and reinforced by the behavior of our love mates, we tend to be hyper-vigilant in detecting any variations that may become threatening to us. Some people are reticent to trust for fear of being let down or having been previously betrayed.

The vigilance for preserving our primary importance to the partner calls to question actions that appear to be even slightly disloyal. Here are some examples of statements in quotes and their interpretation of lost trust in brackets: “You spend three hours a week with your parents, and none with me” (I mistrust your desire to be with me). Or, “You talk to your friend about our sex life” (I mistrust your commitment to our privacy”). Or, “You don’t take any of my ideas seriously.” (I fear that you mistrust my wisdom). Or, “Were you attracted to the waitperson?” (I fear that you are not sexually focused on me). Or, “You don’t touch me the same way you used to, are you having an affair?” (Can I trust your fidelity?) Or “I don’t trust you with the credit card.” (You may be fiscally untrustworthy) Or, “ I confided in you and you and you told my secret.” (I can no longer trust you with my private emotions).

These statements are propelled by fear of lost significance of insecure people. The more unhappy individuals are with themselves, the more likely they are to mistrust their partner’s devotion.

The mistrusting partners seek repeated reassurance to contradict their own diminished self-regard. For the trustworthy partner this neediness may feel quite burdensome. This mate is incredulous about the accusations, assumptions and innuendos about his/her behavior or intentions. It is sometimes impossible to refute an accusation of mal-intention. The accused partner often feels minimized, disrespected, attacked and shamed.

When one person has indeed violated the partner’s trust, the betrayed mate is often profoundly wounded. He/she questions one’s own worth as well as doubts the partner’s character. Lost trust is hard to rebuild. Once a betrayal occurred the possibility of recurrence is further feared. The trust, loyalty and confidence, which have been the foundation of the relationship, can no longer be taken for granted. Betrayal causes an emotional earthquake for both mates which requires time and tools to restore the stability and security to their union.

If you are accused of being an untrustworthy partner:

• Respect your mate’s concern and check with yourself to see whether the assumptions bear any truth.
• If the accusation is of merit, admit your part and suggest a repair idea. For example: “I did act in a flirtatious way with the serviceperson, I guess I miss more playfulness between us. I apologize for it and want to talk to you about how we can get closer”.
• If the mistrust is unwarranted. Provide reassurance to your partner without becoming defensive. For example: “I know you are concerned about money. I do too, and am very conscious about my spending.” Or, “ I spend time with my parents out of love and obligation. Above all – I love spending time with you. Let’s plan it better.” Or, “I understand your concern about my divulging information about our intimate life. I hold it too sacred to share with others.”
• If you have been disloyal: apologize, promise to never repeat the action, reassure your mate of his/her worth and increase your expressions of appreciation and love.

If you feel mistrusting of your partner’s loyalty:

• First check with yourself to see whether these are your own feelings ascribed to your mate. For example: “Are you having an affair?’ may be asked by a mate who is thinking of being unfaithful.
• If you find yourself assigning behaviors or intentions that are your own, do not accuse your mate, but rather ask him/her for help. For example: Rather than “ You never trust any of my ideas.” Say, “I am concerned that some of my ideas have not been helpful to you, can you help guide me in offering better suggestions?”
• Maintain a good sense of self worth by doing whatever re-affirms your value. Being insecure may lead to mistrust of partner.
• When your partner denies the accusations, permit yourself to trust him/her. If the trust is unwarranted, it will be discovered soon enough. If your partner is sincere, you both will be enriched by mutual trust and confidence in each other.

Trust can be rebuilt, repaired, restored and intensified by willing and motivated partners.

July 31, 2005

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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