Relationship Tips

The Gottman Institute Says There Are 5 Components of Trust—and Only 1 Is Honesty

Mary Grace Garis

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Trust feels like an alien idea when your road to romance has been littered with red flags, and yet it’s a key component (if not THE key component) to having a healthy relationship. We want to trust our partners, but that begins with finding someone that seems, well, trustworthy. And if you’re early stages of dating and need a good vetting process, the Gottman Institute recently released the five major components of trust.

“This is a great way of looking at it because it’s easy to translate these into actions,” says clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD. “That will make it easier to tell if someone shares these values.”

So how do you identify someone you can’t trust versus someone who is True Blue? Here are the five components of trust.

 

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Honesty

Ask Yourself: Does this person seem like a liar?

It’s the best policy, although we won’t tell if you tell a white lie about having seen The Big Lebowski on your first date. Generally speaking, though, this is the bottom of the totem of trust. If someone shows up on to a date barely inching towards 5’9” and their profile boasted 6’1”, you’re not inclined to trust them after that, right?

Transparency

Ask Yourself: Is this individual being shady?

You want to be with someone who takes your hand and introduces you into their world. If after five months of dating you’ve only seen the inside of their or—and this concerns me way more—your apartment, that’s a cause for concern. Transparency is all about not keeping things purposefully hidden and leaving room for doubt.

Accountability

Ask Yourself: Does someone’s actions match with their words?

An easy way to pay attention to this is noting whether a person follows through on their promises and obligations. That can be as simple as showing up on time for a date on time or as massive as showing up for your sister’s engagement party (even though, yeah, it’s totally going to be a drag).

And just because nobody’s perfect and you can’t control emergencies or traffic, that extends to a person owning up to their BS if they let you down. If you get a sincere apology followed up by, “Here’s what I’ll do in the future,” this could still be a person worth trusting.

Ethical Actions

Ask Yourself: Is this person literally a good human being?

I’m not trying to open up a big philosophical discussion on morality, we have The Good Place for that. Instead, rely on your common sense and look We don’t need to go full Cancel Culture and hold everyone accountable for the things they’ve Tweeted in 2011, but keep an eye on if this person acts lawfully and respectably on a base level.

Hint: If you find yourself saying things like, “I’m concerned about the dog fighting ring, but he’s really sweet to his mom,” that…isn’t a good person.

Proof of Alliance

Ask yourself: Do they have your back?

Proof of alliance relates to how a person supports you and your dreams, and in these early phases you want to pay attention to the little things. Do they text you “Good luck!” if you have a big presentation you’re super nervous about? If you’re having difficulties with your parents, are they listening thoughtfully? Are there Celebratory Cupcakes whenever something actually works out? Feel Better Cupcakes when things go wrong?

Do not date someone who doesn’t have your best interest in mind and cupcakes in hand.

This all being said, Dr. Daramus’s advice is to look at these as guidelines instead of hard law.

“There might also be times when building trust has to be balanced with boundaries,” says Dr. Daramus. “Transparency shouldn’t have to mean telling someone every private thought that you have, so you might need to figure out as a couple what you’d like to share and what can be kept private. Accountability shouldn’t mean that your partner has to tell you their every move, so you might need to have a talk about how you define it as a couple.”

Basically, learning to trust someone is something that takes a lot of time, and even when you make that investment there are no guarantees. But if you keep the components of trust in mind, it’ll help you suss out if a person is worth building that trust with.

When you graduate from “trusting,” you want to build intimacy…and that requires more than just touching. And if you do trust your partner but feel the need to snoop, here’s why that’s totally normal.

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