Trust begins and ends with emotional communication. Though you may wish this wasn’t so, no corner of the world is free from this rule. Everyone is governed by it in relationships just as bodies are governed by the laws of gravity. Dr. John Gottman’s studies cannot magic-away all of physics. He freely admits to this. Comparing broken trust in a relationship to a shattered mirror, he says: “You can glue it back together, but it will never be the same again.”
Nonetheless, his many years of research on complicated human relationships fill him with hope. Though we’ve all been shattered by trust’s fragility, we are not forever doomed to stand amid shards of glass. His studies have shown that a little bit every day goes a long way. If both partners build habits of turning towards each other in simple everyday moments, they build bridges wrought of affection, fondness, and admiration for each other: these are the bridges of trust.
Think of the exercise below as a list of ideas, of building blocks, and remember that they are not set in stone. Every relationship is different. Whether you’d like to build bridges, carve intricate tunnels, or sail messages in bottles towards each other, the connections you create will bring the two of you closer together. Practice affection and trust will naturally follow.
Things to do for your partner
- Fix coffee, a snack, or a meal for them.
- Wait on your partner when they are ill.
- Compliment your partner, say thank you, and praise their efforts around the house.
- Listen. Listen. Listen.
- Buy a silly gift. Buy something inexpensive. Make it an inside joke.
- Do something kind for your partner’s friends or family.
- Run errands for your partner.
- Call or send an email during the workday. Ask how it’s going.
- Draw a funny picture or write a sweet note. Hide it in your partner’s coat pocket.
Things to do together
- Hold hands
- Take a class together
- Volunteer together
- Talk something delicious
- Wash the dishes: you wash, they dry
- Go camping
- Create artwork together
- Take a shower or a bath together
- Fold laundry
- Take a spontaneous trip to somewhere beautiful
- Plan your future and dream together
This activity comes from the pages of Dr. John Gottman’s “The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening our Marriage, Family, and Friendships.” To learn more about bids, emotional connection, and the many other building blocks of trust, be sure to check it out.