Trust and relationships go hand in hand — it’s hard to have one without the other. If you’re wondering how much you and your partner trust each other, or you’re struggling to communicate with each other, doing exercises to rebuild trust in one another is one way to see if your relationship is made to last.
Similarly, if you’re in a new relationship, or you’re hoping to build up trust again after an affair, trust-building exercises can help you get to know each other better and understand if there’s a future together.
We hate to be the bearers of bad news but if you thought that love is all you need, you’d be wrong. Research shows that trust matters more than how much you love someone, so we can only truly fall in love with someone if we trust them. But trust has to be earned, and as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.
A great way to explore the faith you and your partner have for each other is by doing trust-building exercises together. But like most things in life, trust doesn’t just appear overnight. Building trust with your partner is a skill that requires time, patience, and constant effort. So, where can you start? Keep reading for 9 great trust exercises for couples to improve your relationship.
Why it builds trust: Any type of body contact releases a hormone called oxytocin — also known as the “bonding hormone” — and helps you to feel bonded with that person.
How to do it: Most of us don’t have time to sit and cuddle our partners for more than five minutes, but it's a great way to bond. Find 15 minutes where you won’t be interrupted, turn your phones off and cuddle up to your partner. Try to be in the moment and think about your other sensations, how their touch makes you feel, and how much the cuddling time makes you feel more connected and safe with them.
Why it builds trust: “To build trust, it’s important for you and your partner to jointly share personal information. This may be confidential information that each of you hasn’t revealed to other people,” relationship counselor Dr. Terri Orbuch told Paired. Aside from building trust, opening up to your partner is a great way to foster emotional intimacy.
How to do it: Dr. Orbuch says that you can start with questions you may not have spoken about yet, giving them the space to be as open as possible. “You can ask your partner questions about their early childhood, what they are most proud of doing in the last year, or what it was like to grow up with a mother or father who was a therapist/engineer/flight attendant. When your partner answers these intimate questions, and you listen with open ears, trust between the two of you grows.”
Why it builds trust: Actions speak louder than words, and although your partner may say they want to build trust with you, this task shows they are putting effort and thought into your relationship. Research by Dr. Jennifer Wieselquist in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that people trust their partner more when they believe their partner has prioritized the relationship over their own self-interest. This task is all about trusting that your partner will meet your expectations.
How to do it: Start with something small, like picking up milk on the way home, or asking them to choose a birthday card for a friend. Once you feel confident ask them to do a bigger task for you, such as buying dinner from the supermarket or helping one of your friends. If they do it in a thoughtful way it shows they care about you and your inner circle — and still care about being part of it.
Why it builds trust: Making time for each other shows you’re actively investing in your relationship, and prioritizing quality time together.
How to do it: Plan a night that works for you both, get a baby/dog sitter, and commit to it every week. Take turns in planning date night ideas by thinking of fun things you both love to do, and use them as a way to bond with each other.
Why it builds trust: “Activities that require teamwork with your partner, such as taking care of a puppy, jointly planting flowers in a garden, or doing a puzzle together, involve you relying or depending on one another to finish the task,” says Dr. Orbuch. It’s the process of executing the outcome together that builds trust and reliance on each other.
How to do it: Decide on your joint task and see how they react to completing it with you. Do they take over and want to complete it without you? Or do they thrive being part of a team with you?
Why it builds trust: Being direct and communicating with your partner, especially with questions around trust, will identify if you have the same core values and expectations when it comes to trust in your relationship.
How to do it: Ask the below questions and discuss their answers together.
“What do trust and commitment mean to you?”
“Is it acceptable to keep secrets from one another? If so what kinds of secrets are okay?”
“What kinds of expectations do you have for sexual and emotional monogamy or fidelity?”
“What expectations do you have regarding money, time shared together, friendships with others, and children/family, in terms of our relationship?”
Why it builds trust: It’s great to have your own interests, but if you try something new or participate in new activities together your relationship is likely to become more satisfying, according to research by Dr. Arthur Aron. Trying something new together allows you to grow together but as individuals. It’s also an opportunity for both of you to step out of your comfort zone!
How to do it: Pick something fun that you’ve both never done before, so you’re both learning as you go. The object is to enjoy yourselves while bonding over a new experience.
Why it builds trust: Eye contact is said to trigger something in our brain called the limbic mirror system. When triggered, it gives us a better understanding of other people's emotions.
How to do it:
Sit down facing your partner, making sure your knees are close.
Decide on a time and set a timer (five minutes is great to start with). Close your eyes and take some deep breaths.
Now open your eyes and look straight into your partner's eyes, without talking. It may feel a little awkward at the beginning but you’ll get used to it.
As you look into their eyes say something nice about them. Then allow them time to say the same to you.
When the time beeps share how you both feel. Did it help you feel a deeper connection, was it tough?