If you imagine your relationship as a house then trust and commitment are the walls keeping everyone warm inside and holding up the roof.
Without them a relationship will not make it because it will not have a home. Trust and commitment give you two things: security and time. And these things allow your relationship to patiently grow.
What exactly are trust and commitment?
Trust is transparency and follow through. It is communicating “I am here for you. You can depend on me, no matter what”. It is continually maintained and built in a relationship through willingness to respond to emotional bids. Emotional bids are when we reach for our partner in any way – asking for help, sharing an interesting story, requesting affection. The best response is “turning towards” which means that you hear that your partner wants to connect and you connect back. The more you do this then the more your partner will trust. Trust is also built through transparency. Transparency means that you freely and honestly share information pertinent to your partner. If you keep “secrets” and your partner finds out then you have created betrayal. Betrayal is the biggest fear in a relationship and causes major injury to trust.
Commitment means working hard everyday to maintain your relationship and offer security and time. When you say to your partner “I am here for you no matter what, forever” then what you are saying it “we have time to make this good. We have time to reach out goals. Trust me. The other shoe won’t drop”. Without commitment it can become hard to fully let your guard down and invest.
“The core of a happy relationship is a deep trust that partners matter to each other and will reliably respond when needed.” – Dr. Sue Johnson
What aren’t they?
Just because you had a wedding or a commitment ceremony does not mean you are fully offering trust and commitment. They are not just words or ceremonies, dresses, or rings. They are much bigger than that. They also are not control. Developing trust and commitment does not mean that you have to limit your access and engagement with the bigger world – stopping hobbies, friendships, etc. does not increase your commitment or your trust.
What are the benefits?
According to research by Dr. John Gottman, couples with a high trust metric have healthier conflict, build stronger friendships, and are more clear and driven in building goals and shared meaning.
This means committed and trusting couples:
- Are able to regulate emotions better during conflict, which leads to connective and forward moving conversations.
- Are willing to give their partner the benefit of the doubt and are less likely to criticize or attach their partner.
- Are willing to recognize the existence of problems that take a long time to sort through and feel secure having the time to do it.
- Are more affectionate because they do not feel vulnerable offering affection and love.
- Are able to tend to each other’s emotional experiences in a loving way.
- Are less likely to enter “primal panic” when the conflict creates the fear of being abandoned and escalates to an out of control scenario.
- Create shared meaning through long term planning of goals they would like to reach together.
- Continue to respond to bids.
Trust and commitment also is responsible for deep healing within partners – childhood let downs, etc. can be safely healed when there is true trust and commitment.
Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the founder of A Better Life Therapy, in Philadelphia, PA. Elizabeth works with couples and individuals (in her office and online) to help them improve their relationships. For more information e-mail Earnshawmft@gmail.com