The Spiral of Trust

Fear kept private builds on itself, but share your fears and watch trust grow.

The Spiral of Trust


photo courtesy of Branislava Živić

filed under Advice

We always say how important trust is in relationships, and that’s true. But let’s take a closer look at what we mean by trust.

Trust is believing that someone can be counted on. That they are who they say they are, and they’re doing what they say they’re doing. Trust in your partner is believing she will do what she said. Trust in yourself is believing you will do what you said.

Since trust is a belief, we should note that it’s also a total fiction. You made this belief up, and only you care whether it exists or not. There is no such objective thing as “trust.” It’s a human fabrication with individualized application.  

But since it’s a fiction that we all completely believe, let’s play with it for a bit.

First, why isn’t there perfect trust? Because there isn’t perfect transparency. Why isn’t there transparency? Because of fear. If you’re hiding something it’s because you believe there’s a danger in exposing it. So you cover it up or sanitize or obscure it and hope no one notices. Things feel safer this way. I know all about this—I do it all the time and so do you.

Perhaps the fear is well founded, and it is in fact best not to be perfectly honest. Or perhaps that belief is built on yet another fear of some kind that also doesn’t want to be exposed, and so on; it’s turtles all the way down as they say. Regardless, it’s the fear—at whatever level—that ultimately limits trust.

The prescription, as always, is to root out the fear relentlessly. What is the fear at action here? From where does it derive? What’s below that fear? Dig deep and share the process with your partner. Exposing your process is incredibly relieving, and happily, it builds trust.

Trust, in turn, engenders reciprocal trust, which causes yet more trust, and you begin to build a perpetual trust machine.

The experience of having trust in a relationship is one of great lightness and ease. It’s not so much that trust itself makes one happy. What’s more enlivening is the absence of the anxiety and strategy that accompany mistrust. Not having to deal with constant doubt and worry frees you up to do what you really care about, to live and to love.  

Go on then: Share some fears with your partner. What are you waiting for?

Erik Newton is the founder of Together.


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