My best friend and I were recently chatting about what it takes to build trust in healthy relationships. Michele reminded me of a conversation that we had many years ago. We were spending a day together, going to the movies, having lunch, and hanging out. During our time together, she kept getting and answering phone calls. I don’t know how many times or how long she was on the phone, but I do remember finally getting annoyed. When she hung up on the latest call, I said, “Hey, here we are hanging out and spending time together, and you are fielding a lot of phone calls. I have to tell you, I feel pretty unimportant, and I am thinking I want to go home.”

How We Choose to Move Forward

This is a place where any number of reactions might happen. Michele could have gotten angry, defensive, hurt, you name it. I could have been ugly, defensive and over-reactive. What happened next instead deepened our trust and respect for each other.

We had an important, one might say pivotal, conversation. She listened to how I felt. I heard her perspective. Both of us invested in a discussion about our intentions for our friendship. I recall us talking about how we wanted to feel in each others company. We took time to consider what was important to each of us about spending time together. Together our agreements were adjusted, not just about talking on the phone, but how we wanted “to be” together when we were hanging out.
We continued on with our day, along the way, expanding our awareness of our own needs, as well as how we could be better friends. Because, while I wasn’t taking phone calls on that day, I had a habit of multitasking when I was talking to her on the phone. And, apparently, that didn’t feel good to her. We took the opportunity to take ownership of our own feelings and trusted asking for what we needed. Our friendship ended up feeling more honest and trustworthy as a result. Over our 23+ years of friendship, we have become family. And, that wouldn’t have happened without both of us showing up honesly with each other, and working to build a robust relationship.

The building blocks of trust

How you show up in relationships is fundamental to your success in creating an honest and trusting atmosphere. People often talk about epic situations as the things that break trust. I have a different perspective. It’s the multitude of little, seemingly, unimportant moments. All those places when you react badly, break agreements, blame others, and/or don’t take ownership of your behaviors, or for that matter your needs. All these moments are what build a fragile foundation. Relationships with weak foundations are at risk that every strong wind might blow the house down.

Safety is Key to Trust

There is no such thing as intimacy and trust without safety. Safety comes from these building blocks of experiences with each other. Multiply these moments and you begin to create a map of what to expect, how you want to be treated, how you want to treat others, and what it means to really trust another human being. It expands your world.

Michele and I, even in our sisterly disagreements, have stayed and worked through our rough patches. We have created agreements around how we will bring up issues when they are small so that those issues don’t blow up and cause our friendship to fade away. After all, what is a disagreement other than a lack of clarity about what our agreements are? Along the way, we have clarified and adjust our agreements to fit what our relationship needs. We honor each other and our friendship. And, this has been crucial for building the trust between us.

I can’t even begin to imagine my world, or who I might have become, without the experience of being in a relationship with Michele. I know that she has helped to mold me into a much better human being. I also believe that learning about myself, through the lens of her perspective, has given me the opportunity to see myself with more self-awareness. And, this friendship has fundamentally set me up to be a better partner in all my other relationships.

Michele and I being silly. Alaska 2014

Your Turn...

I would LOVE to hear from YOU!

  • What relationships have taught you how to be trustworthy?
  • How do you define healthy relationships?

Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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