Trust is one of the most crucial, if not the most important factor in building and maintaining a healthy relationship. For a wide variety of reasons, including cheating, deceit as well as past family of origin issues, many South Asians experience less than optimal trust levels in their relationship.
If being disappointed or hurt feels familiar to one or both partners, they will naturally try to protect themselves from future disappointment. This will inevitably translate to less trust in the relationship. These couples often have less physical and emotional intimacy. One or both of them begin to feel like they can’t speak their mind or ask things of each other. They get into fights often and find themselves feeling alone and isolated in their relationship.
Here are some tips on how to improve trust in a relationship:
- Engage in genuine positive acts of care. We tend to trust people who are treat us kindly. Both partners should do at least three nice gestures for each other each day. They can be grand gestures such as buying each other flowers or a cooking a favorite meal. Or they can be smaller actions such as giving a hug after long, stressful day. The key is that the gestures should be genuine. If you don’t feel genuinely loving or happy, that is a signal that something larger must be addressed in your relationship.
- Fight fair. All couples have arguments but the sign of a healthy relationship is to fight while still showing respect for each other. When your partner feels like despite being angry with them you can still respect them, they are much more likely to trust you and your intentions.
- Tell the truth. Except for the occasional surprise for each other, spouses should be completely honest with each other. People can tell when someone is being deceitful and if your partner already has issues with trust from previous relationships or from their childhood, if they sense you are not being truthful they are likely to lose trust in you too.
- Set clear boundaries outside of your marriage. When a partner becomes jealous, it is a sign that trust is not established in the marriage and both partners are not on the same page with regards to extra-marital relationships. Talk specifically about what you both are comfortable with regarding friendships outside of the marriage. Once the boundaries are agreed upon, be sure to follow through and not cross the agreed upon lines.
- Don’t hold your partner accountable for others’ mistakes. Difficulties with trust can come from negative experiences in childhood, unsuccessful past relationships as well as other life events. While your partner may do something unintentionally that reminds you of a breach of trust from your past, remind yourself that your partner is a different person who may have just made a mistake. Holding your spouse accountable for others’ wrongdoings will not only diminish trust in your relationship on both sides but your spouse will be less likely to give you the benefit of the doubt when you make a mistake.
- Be reliable. If you agreed to get groceries for the week, make sure that you follow through with it. Any promise, big or small, should have follow through. If you are not sure if you can deliver, do not promise you can do it. Instead, offer a compromise. For example, “I can’t get a week’s worth of groceries since I will be getting off of work late. But I can pick up enough for dinner tonight, will that be ok?” This will show your partner that you are not just rejecting what they are asking for but instead are offering a more practical solution so that you don’t break a promise later.
- Express your needs clearly. Communication styles common to South Asians are often laced with passive aggressiveness, which is an unclear expression of needs and wants. This leaves your partner confused about what you actually need from them and also sends a message that what you say cannot be trusted since you are probably feeling something different than what you are saying. Be open, clear and specific about what you need. Give your partner a chance to make you happy.
MySahana, meaning my “patience” or “fortitude” in Sanskrit, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading awareness about mental health issues as they pertain to the South Asian community. By providing culturally-sensitive and relevant information, we aim to correct misinformation, remove stigma and begin a dialogue about mental health and healthy living. We believe it is from these dialogues that South Asians will feel more comfortable seeking services and making the necessary changes to live a healthier life. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.mysahana.org, follow us @MySahana on Twitter and connect with us on Facebook.
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