9 Small Habits That Can Diminish Trust In Your Relationship
Without even realizing it, you and your partner might have a few habits that can create distrust in your relationship. These aren't big problems that ruin things over night, but the types of tiny mistakes and letdowns that chip away, and damage your relationship over time.
"The breaking of trust can sometimes be dramatic, like the revelation of an affair," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "However, in most cases, trust declines gradually due to a series of little events." And as a result, can be tougher to spot.
If you or your partner are doing things to break down trust, you might notice that you both feel suspicious, or insecure, or more argumentative than usual — all sure signs it's time to stop these bad habits, and make an effort to undo any damage they've caused.
"The best place to start when building trust is [with] honest communication," Bennett says. "You have to share your feelings without reservation. And, you have to accept your partner’s honest feedback." It can take a while, and it may even be necessary for you both to go to couples therapy, in order to learn how to be honest with each other once again.
But it can also help to eliminate small everyday habits that destroy trust in you relationship, such as the ones listed below, as a way of keeping your connection healthy.
1. Talking About Your Partner Behind Their Back
It's healthy to have a friend or family member serve as a sounding board, or a sympathetic ear, if you're going through tough times with your partner. But don't get into the habit of constantly venting, or talking about your partner behind their back.
"It’s one thing to get support from a friend," Bennett says. "It’s problematic when you start airing all of your partner’s struggles to others constantly."
Not only will it get back to them, one way or another, but when it does it will really damage their sense of trust. It's much healthier to vent to a therapist instead, or go directly to your partner if something is bothering you.
2. Leaving Arguments Unresolved
If you need to walk away from an argument and take a breather, definitely do so. There's no need to continue a disagreement, if it seems like it's going south.
What you don't want to do, though, is leave each other hanging. "Unresolved conflict leads to resentment, fear, and a lack of trust," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle.
Instead, choose a time and place where you can continue talking, and make it clear it's all about taking time to cool off. That way neither of you will be left feeling like your thoughts don't matter.
3. Jumping To Conclusions
Sometimes we jump to conclusions and end up being totally right. But others times, assuming the worst only ends up eroding trust in a relationship, and creating problems that aren't even there.
Let's say, for example, your partner keeps hiding their phone. It can be easy to assume they're talking to someone behind your back, or even cheating. "[And] before long you are arguing about this mystery person," coach and therapist Christopher Delaney, tells Bustle.
But what if that wasn't the case at all, and you've been arguing for no reason? What if they were texting their mom? Or reading an embarrassing article? Or scheduling a surprise dinner date?
Point is, being in a relationship means trusting each other and assuming all is well. And communicating if you really are feeling insecure. "If something is on your mind don't let it fester away," Delaney says. "Be open with your partner, talk, chat, communicate."
4. Closely Following Exes On Social Media
It's fine to be friends with an ex, as long as your partner is 100 percent aware — and OK — with it. But if you're liking every photo an ex posts, or texting with them into the night, it can bring bad vibes into your relationship.
"If you [follow] the social media of an ex or a crush regularly, you’re showing your partner that you still have some attachment to that person," Bennett says. "Establishing full trust means letting go of romantic attachment from past relationships."
5. Keeping Emotions Bottled Up
It might seem great to have the type of relationship where you never, ever argue. But this habit can actually do your relationship more harm than good.
As Dr. Klapow says, "It destroys the intimate bond between the two of you." And can even send a message that the relationship doesn't matter.
It's much better to find time to share concerns, talk about difficult topics, and even argue at times — as long as you do it in a healthy way.
Whether it's taking a quick peek at a text, reading an email, or going through a coat pocket, snooping is never the way to go when you want more information about your partner.
"People are generally curious and tend to find ways to uncover the unknown," Samantha Morrison, health and wellness expert for Glacier Wellness, tells Bustle. "However harmless as this may seem, it can destroy all trust in a relationship."
If your partner hasn't told you something, or seems to be keeping a secret — as long as it isn't impacting your relationship — it's better to let it be. "It's incredibly important to respect your partner's boundaries and understand that they are either not hiding anything, or they will show you when they are ready," Morrison says.
7. Ignoring Each Other
If it seems like you're ignoring each other, it can definitely start to impact your sense of trust.
"Missing an opportunity for gentle touch, embracing your partner, letting them know you love them in an intimate, non-sexual manner strengthens the emotional and physical bonds," Dr. Klapow says. So don't let these little moments of intimacy slide.
8. Telling Little White Lies
Telling little white lies, such as fibbing about where you went after work, or how you spent money in a joint account, can quickly spiral out of control, Dr. Klapow says.
Sure, it may not seem like a big deal at first. But these lies can send a message that your word isn't good. And, can even open the door to bigger lies down the road.
"The easier it is to lie, the easier it will be to manage a much larger betrayal," Dr. Klapow says. So when in doubt, always go with the truth — even over seemingly insignificant things.
9. Not Showing Up When You Say You Will
"Being unreliable [or] saying you’re going to do something and not following through with it," can erode trust over time, licensed marriage and family therapist, Heidi McBain, MA, tells Bustle. "If you are consistently not doing what you say you’re going to do, this shows that your word cannot be trusted."
Of course, it's fine to cancel plans with an explanation, or to back out of a date if something comes up. Turning it into a habit, though, shows that your partner isn't a priority, and that their time doesn't matter. And that's not cool.
To keep trust alive and well, you and your partner should avoid developing these little habits. They might not cause overnight damage, but allowing them to become an ongoing thing can lead to a lack of trust, and cause unnecessary problems in your relationship.
It's much easier to avoid them in the first place, than it is to undo the problems they've caused months or years down the line.