Of all the strengths of a rock-solid relationship, trust just might top the list. Judging who is trustworthy and who isn’t can be tough, though—until now.
Trust takes time. It grows like a little seedling into a beautiful flower. Trust is crucial in any relationship, but I have found that there are different levels of trust depending on the type of relationship.
Trusting a coworker or business associate is important, but doesn’t run as deep as someone I’m dating or looking to grow with in a relationship. So how do we determine if someone is trustworthy? It can certainly feel nerve wracking when you’ve been hurt in the past.
Here are some of the tools I’ve acquired over the years to help me navigate new relationships in order to decide if someone is a potential mate, a friend, or I need to stay the hell away.
Take Your Time
This is a doozy for me and has taken years to cultivate. My grandpa used to tell me, “You need to date someone for at least a year. No one can hide their true colors for too long.”
Grandpa was wise and so right!
Relationships take time to build. I found that when I slow things way down and don’t get caught up in the butterflies and high of a new relationship, then I can see who the other person is. I can watch how they behave in the world, in their other relationships, with me—it’s all incredible information. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m tallying and judging their every move. I’m letting the relationship unfold and, through the process, seeing how they authentically show up in the world. It’s the first step in building trust.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
I don’t know about you, but I’ve totally dated the guy who says all the right things, but never actually follows through. Granted, that was sweet little me in my early 20s, but I will never forget it how it made me feel—crappy!!
This too is really good information when you’re embarking on any new relationship. Do they do what they say they are going to do? Do they show up on time? Call when they say they will call? Do their actions and words align? If they don’t, no hard feelings, but you are under no obligation to live your life like that or accept that as OK behavior. Our time on this earth is previous, so we must prioritize the people who will prioritize us.
Beware the “Blame Game”
Look, we’re all human and we all make mistakes, but is the person able to step up and take responsibility for their actions? It isn’t the easiest thing to do sometimes, but it’s the adult thing to do.
I’ve been in this relationship too, so I can speak from experience. This partner might have an amazing ability to take a complaint or issue I bring to the table—in a loving, kind and supportive way, of course—and twist it all around until they have shifted the fault to me. I’m not a psychologist or therapist and don’t know how one develops these skills, but when this happens, don’t walk but run away. These are manipulative tactics that do not create a healthy environment for open communication or growth essential for a relationship.
Little White Lies
Lying is a no-no when building trust. You would think that’s obvious, but it’s amazing how we can to put the blinders on when faced with the excitement and hope of a new relationship. We aren’t always thinking with our rational brains and we can paint those red flags green when we really want something.
If someone lies or even omits the truth or details, this isn’t a good sign. I get that in a new relationship you don’t have to bear your soul, but you shouldn’t need to lie either. Lying tells me that the person is trying to hide things from me. Again, we don’t need to exist as a paranoid person keeping track of every last word, but notice lies. If a person tells you one thing one time and it’s a different story the next, notice. Notice the little discrepancies, don’t dismiss them. Pay attention. Maybe they get a get out of jail free card one time, but if you start noticing a pattern, Ba-Bye.
This is one that has taken me years to feel comfortable with and to actually be able to do. I think younger me was too afraid to not only ask direct questions, but to handle the answers. Now, if I am questioning something, think they have lied or omitted the truth, or just have a funny feeling about things, I ask questions. To ask pointed questions we don’t need to attack or assume they are lying or being deceptive, simply focus on having an open dialogue and work on getting clarity.
This is another incredible (and telling) way to see how a person handles a situation. If the person get defensive and launches into the blame game, that’s a huge red flag. If they’re open to discussing and clarifying things, that’s incredible. These little hiccups and the questions that clarify them can actually build trust by cutting through the confusion and creating an open, safe space for the two of you to bond and connect.
How do you feel when you are with them?
This is HUGE and I left it for last for a reason.
Even if the person passes each of the previous suggestions with flying colors, check in with yourself. Ask yourself, “how do I feel when I’m with them?” We often forget we can check in with our bodies. Do I feel nervous, sick to my stomach, calm, comfortable, safe? What do I actually feel?
Instead of just looking at them and their actions, take the time to go inward. You may really like someone and start seeing them on a regular basis, but if you begin to notice you’re anxious and nervous around them, pay attention to that. Learn to listen to what your body and intuition is telling you and you will confidently sidestep some painful experiences. Listening to the heart, body, soul never steers us in the wrong direction.
I suggest you look at this process through a lens of curiosity. It’s an opportunity to learn about another person while exploring your own thoughts and feelings and intuition. I try to take the time to explore how I feel and see what arises through this process. Is it just old feelings from the past or is there something about this person that sets off my alarm system? It definitely gets easier over time as you practice it and learn to trust yourself.