Trust in Relationships is Built and Broken in Everyday Conversation

Talking with your partner can bring you closer together. See how you may be missing moments you can connect.

Intimate conversation is about sharing closeness and solidifying emotional bonds.

Intimate conversation is about sharing closeness and solidifying emotional bonds.

Trust in relationships

Honesty is essential in a relationship, but the fear of consequences may prohibit an individual from trusting their partner to listen and fully support. When you are anxious about their reception, it’s terrifying to consider revealing your deepest feelings, hopes, or dreams.

Your internal wiring prevents you from opening your heart to those you fear will hurt you emotionally, let you down, or leave you. This is an adaptive trait. It’s healthy. You need to protect yourself.

“What Makes Love Last” discusses listening to these feelings and discerning how trust functions (or malfunctions) in relationships. Trust begins in emotional attunement. Emotional attunement is often rooted in the ways you speak to each other. Essentially, trust is built and broken in our everyday conversations.

Non-stop superficial conversation is toxic to any intimate relationship. Psychologist Jean Piaget called this the “collective monologue” and it’s present in everyday conversations. For example, consider the following conversation between two partners at the end of a long workday:

A. “Augh, I can’t believe how much I have to do these days. I can’t believe how many projects my boss handed off to me today.”

B. “Oh, you think you have problems? My students were in rare form today. They’re all having technical problems, or they’re not paying attention during the lesson. I call on them, and they’re off in ‘la la land.’”

A. “At least you don’t have a terrible boss. He doesn’t even get it. I keep having to work overtime!”

B. “The principal is breathing down my neck to improve student performance, but how can I do that when they’re learning from home?”

A. “That’s it. I’m quitting my job.”

B. “WHAT? What are you talking about?!”

They are talking past each other. Think back to your recent conversations. Sound familiar?

When you are in a stressed-out state while trying to communicate with your partner, you risk unintentionally sending the wrong messages to each other. Damaging messages can look like “I don’t care much about you/your feelings” or “I’m too tired/stressed to treat our relationship as a two-way street.” These days, it’s important to reconsider what an intimate conversation looks like. Many partners are laboring under some serious misconceptions, which may explain why intimate conversations so commonly provoke anxiety.

Intimate conversation is not about constant headlong plunges into sensitive subjects and conflict discussions; in fact, overzealous plunging has the potential to tear relationships apart. Intimate conversation is about Sliding Door Moments, sharing closeness, and solidifying your emotional bonds with loved ones.

For more on intimate conversation, check out “What Makes Love Last?“.

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Ellie Lisitsa is a former staff writer at The Gottman Institute and editor for The Gottman Relationship Blog.