ERP 119: How To Build Trust With Your Partner Part Two [Transcript]

ERP 119: How To Build Trust With Your Partner Part II

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Welcome to The Empowered Relationship Podcast, helping you turn relationship challenges into opportunities and setting you up for relationship success. Your host, Dr. Jessica Higgins, is a licensed psychologist and relationship coach who shares valuable tips, tools and resources for you to dramatically improve your relationship.

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Hi, thank you for joining today’s podcast episode. Today’s episode is 119 – How To Build Trust With Your Partner Part II. If you missed part one, I encourage you to check that out before moving forward in part II, as it will give you the foundation to move forward from in today’s conversation.

If you are new to this show, I just wanna say thank you for checking it out, and if you’ve been listening for a while, I just so appreciate your listenership. To just set the tone for all of us – myself included – that as we move forward in talking about trust with your partner, that the whole goal and the mission of this show is to help us build a quality relationship. In my mind, that includes being able to more fully enjoy the highs, being able to receive that, build our capacity to experience more intimacy, pleasure and joy with our significant other. Also, being confident, skillful and constructive in navigating the challenges, the lows, the places that we might feel triggered, fearful, insecure – that we can meet that, and that we can actually get through it stronger by meeting it. And to build a solid, secure bond over time, feeling the security of that and the health of that. That is really the intention for all of these conversations.

I will bring topics to you based on my training, my experience, my education. I will also interview other experts in the field, getting another voice on the show, and I also will take your questions. If you would like to find out more about how to submit a question, or even learn about how to get on the show and receive live laser coaching, you can check out the Contact page on my website, which is DrJessicaHiggins.com. Click on Contact and you can find those details there.

Today’s topic, How To Build Trust With Your Partner, actually comes from several listeners’ questions in part I. I address two listeners’ questions. To recap, acknowledging how tricky trust can be – it’s fundamental and paramount to our feeling close, connected and safe with one another, yet many of us feel a little confused about what trust is and how to build it, especially if we’re in those beginning phases, or if we’ve gotten comfortable from one another but we haven’t gone deep, we haven’t addressed the deeper fears, worries or insecurities. We are in the shallow end, so to speak, and we’re enjoying the comfort and the pleasurable aspects about relationship that maybe we haven’t fully tested on a deeper level some really meaningful, significant areas in us and in our relationship.

The goal of these two podcasts is to give you a little more to think about, tips and suggestions for what trust is and how to build it with your partner. In last week’s episode (part I) I gave you two tips, two of the five tips that I have to offer you. I’m gonna go through the last three of the tips with you today. I’m also gonna give you some of the anatomy of trust, the components of what trust is, so that will hopefully assist you in this process.

One of the things I was working with was the analogy of a trust fall, and I described that to you. Essentially, it’s an exercise in helping build trust. You can do this with two people, or you can do it with a group of people. One person essentially is willing to fall back into the arms of someone else, and they are to be caught. I talk a lot more about that, so if you want a little more description, I encourage you to check out that first episode, or even just google “trust fall.”

The first two tips that I discussed – one is clarifying agreements… Knowing who is doing what, and what the boundaries are, what you wanna do and what you don’t wanna do, what works for you and what doesn’t work for you; getting clear on expectations, as well as roles. If we’re gonna set ourselves up for success, can we be explicit about how we’re gonna do that? And I give you a lot more information and stories for you to relate to as I describe that.

Number two – creating safety. I talked last week about the importance of reliability. Are you gonna do what you said you were gonna do? Can I depend on you? Can I rely on you? Also, can you rely on me? Am I there for you? I also talked about how most people care and have good intentions. The way we get really tripped up and this gets messy and complicated, and the misunderstandings and the fear – I’m gonna talk a little bit more about that today – that gets complicated… But at the end of the day most of us care, and I talked more about that, as well as the ability and strength in assessing “Can we really do what we set out to do? Do we need to get reinforcement, do we need to get support?”

As I prepare for podcast episodes, I often will reference other materials to support what I’m giving you. I have my own thoughts, my own ideas, again, based on my experience and training and expertise, but I also like referencing other people’s work. I came across a video by Brené Brown titled “The Anatomy Of Trust”, and I loved what she was bringing in the talk. I will put the link on the show notes. If you’d like to have access to the show notes, you can go to DrJessicaHiggins.com, go to Podcast, and you can find today’s episode listed there. This is, again, 119 – How To Build Trust With Your Partner Part II. At the bottom, there will be a section titled “Mentioned”, and you can find all the links and things that I’ve mentioned in this show.

Anatomy of Trust, by Brené Brown – her talk is addressing the components of trust. One of the main reasons why I like  what she’s offering is it’s based in research. How she’s offering it is molded to create an acronym that I think is fitting for her brand, and I think she’s an incredible storyteller, so if you’d like to check out that video, I highly encourage it. But what I would love to do is just summarize some of what she’s referencing that constitutes trust, because it’s this big word that has a lot of weight and a lot of meaning, yet if we were to ask people to get specific about what trust means to them, it would maybe take a while for us to get a consensus around what it actually includes. She’s done some of that work for us.

Again, like I said, she’s weaving many stories into this. Some of what she’s offering is really echoed in what I shared last week and what I’m gonna be sharing with you today… But the distinction between what she’s giving you in her talk and what I’m offering you – I’m talking about the process of how to build trust with your partner, and she’s talking about the components of trust; very related, slightly different.

I do think what she’s giving us – the anatomy of trust – fits in very nicely with this conversation, so that’s why I’m taking the time to spell this out for you a little bit. She’s using the acronym BRAVING. B stands for Boundaries – knowing what works for you and what doesn’t work for you, and that you can actually hold them, and that we know how to be clear with others. That helps instill trust, or that’s a component of trust.

It just reminds me as I’m mentioning this as an example, I’ve told you guys I play a lot of beach volleyball, and there’s a bit of a community. There’s a young man, and he’s in his early 20s. He has a lot of energy, very extroverted and zealous. He is willing and able to talk to anyone, and introduce himself, and he’s very affectionate and expressive. That works for some people, but for other people – they don’t enjoy it. Women particularly have felt some struggle (I’ve heard this) that he will hug without actually asking “Can I give you a hug?” He will just come like a puppy, and wanna pounce, and some women are like “You are in my bubble. Who are you? Back off!” Even if he doesn’t know you, he will come on with that level of energy and strength.
I’m telling you this because recently he held a volleyball tournament. He had had one last year for men, and he was doing it again this year, and he was like “Well, what about the women? I wanna give the women some love here, too.” So he was willing to also host a female/women’s tournament. It didn’t end up happening; he didn’t get a lot of responses, and I was talking to him after the fact and he said “Yeah, 80% of the women did not even reply to me. They totally ignored me, didn’t even give me any reply”, and I was looking at him and I was like “Did I reply to you?” and he was like “Yes, you were one of the 20%.” I actually was gone that weekend so it didn’t end up working out… But nonetheless, none of the women really gave him that much attention or love, they didn’t really wanna go there.

A mutual friend – a pretty good friend of mine – we were talking about it and I was saying that I don’t know that he’s got the best boundaries. But my friend was saying something really important; she said, “Yeah, and I don’t know that other people are very clear with him about their boundaries”, like “Hey, back off, dude!” or “No, thank you… Can you give me a little bit of space?” That’s sometimes socially awkward to say, yet if we don’t, we can end up creating an opinion about someone, that they’re creepy, or that they’re this or they’re that, and we can create a lot of judgment, we can create a lot of distance, but we actually aren’t showing up for what is our boundary. Yes, he is responsible for his boundaries… I was rebutting my friend saying “Yeah, well he also can be a little more aware and sensitive to people’s personal space. He can ask permission, like ‘Can I give you a hug?’ rather than just assuming and getting in somebody’s space.” I think both are relevant, and I know this probably doesn’t fit perfectly into romantic relationship, but it’s still relationship, and this occurs in marriage, it occurs in relationship, in all types and fashions.

If we’re not great about our boundaries, whether or not it’s being clear around “Oh man, I’ve had a really rough time. I would just love to have a little bit of peace and quiet and alone time. I’d love to just sit and reflect and decompress.” Or if it relates to other people, possibly the opposite sex, if you’re heterosexual – in your marriage, how do you handle other people? Is there clarity about boundaries? And that is not about putting parameters on your partner, it’s about your being responsible for your own boundaries, and that helps bolster and build trust.

If I know that my husband is clear about his boundaries with other people, I don’t feel the need to control him or monitor him, because I trust him. I trust his own boundaries. Or if he’s had a hard day, that he can ask for what he needs – I can trust that. This usually takes a length of time – I’m gonna talk about that in a little bit – to develop with someone else. It doesn’t just come automatically.

Okay, so Boundaries – B in BRAVING; this is still Brené Brown’s anatomy of trust. R – Reliability. It’s essentially “Can I rely on you, that you’re gonna do what you said you’re gonna do?” I loved that she used the example of a scale… A scale that you might have in your bathroom to weigh yourself. She talked about the importance of, as a researcher, knowing two things: the validity and the reliability. The validity, which you might be familiar with, is “Is that in fact the correct measurement? Is the scale measuring correctly, is it valid? Is that my true weight?”

The second is reliability – is it consistent time after time after time, over and over again? We wanna be able to rely on that measurement. As a scientist, that’s incredibly important. Similarly, as it relates to trust, if someone’s inconsistent, it’s hard to know what to trust. They’re not as reliable.

Again, with the acronym BRAVING, A stands for Accountability; this is by Brené Brown. This is where we are able to take ownership. If we make a mistake, we’re willing to acknowledge it, we’re willing to own it, apologize and try to make amends. This is so important in relationship. I find over and over again that many times couples are trying to tease out “What’s yours? What’s mine? I reacted to you, it’s your fault”, “No, I reacted to you. It’s your fault!” and there’s this back and forth, endless cycle, downward spiral, that really results to no good outcome. So if we can recognize our part, “Yes, I do feel defensive. I feel defensive because I feel as though you’re judging me, or you don’t feel like it’s good enough, or I don’t feel like it’s good enough for you, and I feel defensive. I wanna protect myself, I wanna defend my integrity here.”

So if there’s the recognition of the defensiveness, being able to raise your hand and saying “I feel defensive. You’re right, maybe I’m coming on a little stronger, or I’m digging my heels in a little deeper. I’m afraid you’re judging me. I’m afraid that you don’t think what I’m doing is okay.” It’s a very different approach than just rebutting and getting defensive and maybe raising your voice. There’s ownership there, and there’s a willingness to be accountable. That helps build trust. It’s huge for relationship.

As I think about it, if I know somebody’s gonna be accountable, I trust them to not just deflect it, divert it, pass it off or put it on me. I can trust that they’re willing to show up, and I can feel them and rely on them and they’ll be honest.

V stands for the Vault. This has to do with confidentiality. She gives a great story here… Essentially, if you’re sharing something in confidence, something that’s meaningful to you, that’s a part of your life, your experiences and you’re sharing it with someone, that they’re not gonna go share it to someone else, that it’s yours to share. She talked about having a friend approach her with gossip, and that even though she was the one getting the juice and the down-low around what was the latest gossip, she felt a lack of trust in her friend, because that was a behavior she wasn’t willing to participate in. Even if it wasn’t her confidence that she was breaking, it was someone else’s, and that reduces the level of trust in this area of being willing to hold confidentiality. Not sharing what’s not yours.

Recently, in the last few months I had a small experience of this with a friend, and I adore her… I was talking to her about — volleyball related again… It was approaching the summer and it was getting hot, and I have an afternoon game that’s scheduled on Sunday, and [unintelligible 00:20:15.24] and I was telling her “Yeah, I don’t know… I might wanna move it down to an earlier time. I’m not sure if I wanna continue to play in the summer”, and I was thinking out loud with her, with the full intention that I was gonna address it with these women that I play with on Sunday afternoon. Well, I didn’t even have a chance to.

This friend of mine actually in passing had mentioned something to her friend, and it had the other woman talk to the other woman, and then the other woman had contacted me and said “So it sounds like you might not be interested in keeping the schedule… If you would let me know what’s going on…?” and I was like — I didn’t even know how this all had happened, and it took me a while to finally figure it out, and I was like, “Oh, she said something.” I was upset with her. I was more taking issue with the fact that — it was really not a big deal, but it was the principle around it, that it was mine; it was mine to address, it was mine to take care of, and maybe she didn’t intentionally wanna get involved, but it happened… And it ended up causing a little bit of tension between my friend and I, and at some point I realized I was putting my values on her. I, given my field in psychology and being a coach, I am so incredibly aware of confidentiality. I’m very good, because it’s my profession, but I’m also good personally; I feel the merit of it, and I really want people to feel that confidentiality with me, being able to trust that I’m not gonna share what’s not mine, that it will be held in confidence.

I was putting this value on her, and I do believe that I prioritize direct communication, honest, open dialogue, and resolving conflict, where for her it appears as though she’s not as comfortable with that. So partly I had to acknowledge “This is my value, and given what I’m learning, I need to calibrate here a little bit.” I either need to ask her, give her an opportunity that if I say something, “Can you be aware that this is mine to take care of?” or “Can you hold this in confidence?” Also, we did our best and I do believe we cleared the air and we got to a level of understanding and I do feel very open-hearted towards her, but I also have some level of caution maybe, or discernment around confidentiality with her. I just think given some of our priorities and our values, we operate a little differently.

I know there’s a lot of people that enjoy talking, and it comes from a good place – you care about people and you talk about what’s going on in other people’s lives… I understand it, I actually appreciate learning about people and what’s going on in their lives if I hadn’t had a chance to catch with them, and I think it’s a very beautiful thing, and it’s also something that — it’s a slippery slope; there’s an edge there. So it’s just important for me to be aware of, but it affects my ability to trust her. I was like “I don’t get this… I know she is super loving, and yet I don’t feel cared about, that she would interject there”, and again, I don’t think that was the intention, but it was the fact.

In relationship, when we talk about honoring someone’s confidence, this is obviously like who you talk to about what goes on in your relationship, and maybe there’s some understanding there… I’m actually gonna be doing a podcast episode very soon about who we talk to about our relationship challenges, and also how we hold our partner, what light we hold them in with family, friends and otherwise. That is important… Because it can often feel like your partner’s throwing you under the bus if they’re talking about you to someone else in an unfavorable way, or bringing attention to a challenge but maybe not balancing it with all the goodness. It’s just getting that one aspect.

How we take care of our partner, honor their confidence has a huge impact on trust. I stands for Integrity; being willing to do what’s right… Right based on your values, right based on what feels true and real, honoring your integrity, having that character to say “I’m gonna stand for what’s true and real for me, even if it’s challenging, inconvenient, scary and difficult.” It’s having that courage over comfort. She talks about practicing your values, not just professing them. I love that, because essentially where we get to build trust is when we see the value being demonstrated by someone. Or if we say something’s important to us but we don’t make it a priority – is that integrity? Is the value really that important, or are we having some difficulty being courageous to put that value as a priority, even when it’s challenging or causes some effort?

Recently, my dearest friend – I’ve known her since I was seven, and she is living abroad at the moment, and she had come back in, she was helping facilitate a workshop in California… It was about three hours away, but I knew that it was a great opportunity to see her, so I went down and spent some time with her, and her daughter was down there as well. I spent a day with them, and we had been on the beach, and yadda-yadda. Well, she was grabbing all her daughter’s stuff, and she happened to grab a few of my items. She let me know later that day when I had already gotten back to Santa Barbara, and it was two items that I use and I like… And I was like, “Oh, no!”, because I know she’s going back and it would be not easy for her to return those to me. But given her busy schedule, she made a point to mail them, FedEx them to me, and I felt very cared about. I felt as though she was putting me as a priority. That’s an expression of care, but that’s also a value of her’s – relationships, the people that really matter to her are of high value, so there’s an integrity there that she was willing to put forth that extra effort, even in a busy schedule, or when it’s inconvenient and takes that extra effort.

On the contrary, when we hear somebody profess something, and then they do something that’s in a contradiction to that, it can cause pause… What’s really true? We have some wonder and maybe even doubt around what’s real for them, what is really important to them?

N stands for Non-judgment. This has to do with “Can I be vulnerable with you? Can I turn to you when I am struggling, or will I be judged by you? Are you a safe place for me to reveal, show my belly? Can I fall apart and ask you for help? Will you be there for me?” This is huge in relationship. I work with couples primarily, and I can tell you that most of my clients – and myself included when I’m in this vulnerable spot, the fear that my partner will judge me/criticize me, or think poorly of me when I reveal what I’m afraid of, what I’m scared of, and my insecurity.

So often when I work with my clients I’m trying to create this safe space, because ironically, if they’re willing to be vulnerable, that’s where they get to be held. I’m gonna talk about this more as I lay out the tips in my “How To Build Trust With Your Partner” process. I am looking at the time and I’m thinking I will be creating a part three to How To Build Trust With Your Partner, so that I can give you the three additional tips in full, in the richness, so I don’t have to rush through it.

Getting back to non-judgment, and the irony that I was just about to talk about, that in relationship when one person is willing to soften, turn towards their partner, be vulnerable, and that their partner can hear them in a non-judgmental way and receive what they’re saying, maybe even be empathetic, that builds trust. Even without the empathy, the non-judgment builds trust. Most people are petrified/terrified of revealing their fear, their insecurity and their worry. So if we can build that trust that our partner is not gonna kick us when we’re down, that if anything, they’re gonna be there for us, that is enormous… That’s enormous confidence.

Last letter in the acronym BRAVING, G. G stands for Generosity. Brené Brown in her video and talk The Anatomy Of Trust talks about how important it is to give someone the benefit of the doubt, to make a generous assumption… Perhaps when you don’t have all the information, giving the person the benefit of the doubt that there’s some reason for it, that there was no bad intention, to not assume the worst and to give space for “I’d like to learn more”, to be curious, or even to just assume something positive and then check it out and clear it with them.

By offering a generous assumption, it actually invests or deposits into the trust bank, because if there’s an initial threat – for some people it could be “I see you talking to someone else and I feel threatened”, or perhaps it’s “There’s money that’s been withdrawn from our account.” There’s some threat but we don’t have all the information – if we approach our partner with the benefit of the doubt, “There’s gotta be a good reason”, that conversation is gonna go very differently than assuming something terrible.

One leads to accusation, that feeling of mistrust, and the person will feel alarmed in response, and feel defensive, and then that usually leads to a negative downward cycle of back and forth reactivity. But if we can begin the conversation with “Hey, I noticed this. I’m suspending judgment” – okay, that would even be the neutral term… Not even giving somebody the benefit of the doubt, but maybe being able to suspend judgment a little bit, maybe for 24 hours, to say “I’m not gonna jump to any conclusions. I’d like to gather more information.” That’s a little more neutral. But over time, if you do have a strong, solid sense of trust and the bank is full of trust, then perhaps you would say “I trust this person, I know they had good reason”, and how beautiful would that feel to feel that in your being… Not just a persona of just going through the motions of that, but in your heart of hearts, in your gut, in your being, trusting your partner.

And on the receiving end, how nice would it be to feel your partner confused about something, and give you an opportunity to clear the air, clear the misunderstanding, or fill in the gap, or if he made a mistake, have the opportunity to talk about what happened, make amends and address it. It’s almost as if there’s an opportunity, an opening to come in with the uncertainty, and to be able to show up and to connect and to feel each other and reveal what’s going on.

Conversely, the approach of going towards your partner with an accusation or a criticism – that’s usually not gonna lead to much positive connection or understanding. It usually leads to feeling as though you and your partner are at odds, are against each other… Where if you give your partner the benefit of the doubt and have that generous assumption or willingness to suspend judgment, that there’s an opportunity to lean in

Let’s revisit the acronym of BRAVING, by Brené Brown, the Anatomy Of Trust. Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-judgment and Generosity. As she describes, these are some of the most important components to building trust in relationship with others. Again, I have five tips that are more or less a process of how to build trust with your partner, and last week’s episode (Part I) I gave you the first two tips, and today we talked about the components of trust – what are we talking about, what’s involved. In next week’s episode I’m gonna give you the three additional tips of how to build trust with your partner.

I have more stories and examples to bring this to life, in hopes of supporting you in how to, again, build trust, whether or not you’re just starting out or you’re feeling the importance of developing more trust with your partner. If you have a question about trust and you would like to reach out to me, e-mail me at jessica@drjessicahiggins.com.

I have enjoyed spending this time with you, I look forward to next week’s podcast episode, and until next time, I hope you take great care.

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