I remember a few summers ago, I visited some friends who lived in Western Michigan. One day, we went out to spend the day at the beach. One of the friends brought their dog, and I was amazed at how well behaved the dog was. The dog could be running down the beach quite a ways away, and my friend could make a quick signal and the dog would sprint back and sit down at his feet. The dog was incredible at fetch—he could retrieve the ball from ANYWHERE.
Trust is Key
I asked my friend how he trained his dog so well. One of the keys was trust. My friend said that when the dog was a small puppy, he would hold the dog up high in the air with one hand. At first, the dog would get scared, yelp, and squirm around. But over time, the dog learned that he wasn’t going to be dropped. My friend had the dog’s best interests at heart. So, after a while, the dog stopped yelping and squirming about. My friend could hold the puppy up high in the air, and the dog would relax just like he was sitting on the ground. The high degree of trust set the stage for a good relationship moving forward.
Trust is Foundational
I thought this was good advice, not only when training your dog, but for human relationships as well. Trust is foundational. At some deep level, for a relationship to flourish, you have to truly believe that your partner has your best interests in mind. This is certainly true in a marriage relationship, but also for a parent-child relationship, co-worker relationship, or a friendship.
Trust is Built Over Time
How do you build a trusting relationship? I don’t think there is a substitute for putting in the time. Trust is built up over time, as you experience trustworthy behavior. I didn’t necessarily trust my wife after our first date—I didn’t really know her enough to have a sense of whether I could rely on her or not. But after a few years of dating and being married, I trust her completely. I’ve been able to see her character and behavior in a wide range of situations over a long period of time. If you want to build a trusting relationship, you have to put in the time.
Trust is Easier to Tear Down than to Build Up
Trust is a lot easier to tear down than it is to build up. For example, a person can ruin several years of trust in one night if they have an affair. When it comes to trust, the bad is stronger than the good. That isn’t to say trust can’t be repaired—it can. But again, the repair of trust involves putting in the time and providing a body of evidence that you can be trustworthy again. It’s not impossible to repair trust, but it’s easier to avoid the behaviors that blow up trust in the first place.
What do you think about trust as the foundation for a good relationship? When you think of your closest relationships, what is your level of trust? What about your relationships that are struggling? What is the level of trust in these relationships?