Being able to trust your partner is the bedrock of an amazing relationship but it’s not easy to establish faith in a new partner’s intentions when you’re first getting to know each other. Also, it’s normal to bring baggage from past relationships and to project some of your feelings of mistrust onto your new partner without even being aware of it. For instance, Julia and Rick sought couples’ therapy because they were both in their second marriage and they were struggling with trust issues. Falling in love and getting remarried can be invigorating but can be scary at the same time.
Julia put it like this:
It took a lot for me to believe that Rick really loved me because my first marriage was so dysfunctional and my ex betrayed me by having an affair with someone in our friend group. But over time, with the help of our therapist, we’re building trust and I feel safer with Rick so I’m not walking on eggshells.
When I’ve had a tough day at work and can look forward to spending time with Julia unwinding at the end of the day, it lowers my stress level. I used to feel that we were missing the mark, but lately, we’re more in tune with each other’s day. She’s beginning to have confidence in me and to see that I’m a man of my word.
Couples who are able to achieve secure attachment and stay emotionally connected can risk being vulnerable. In other words, they can express their thoughts, wishes, and feelings honestly and openly. As a result, they enjoy sensuality, passion, and the closeness that goes along with intimacy.
However, it can take time to establish trust in a new relationship because you may have been betrayed in the past and fear being left, abandoned, or taken advantage of. Many people describe this fear of intimacy as waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Happy couples are able to identify whether their trust issues stem from their present relationship or are emotional baggage from past betrayals. If you understand your own history, and strive to understand your partner’s past, you can stop repeating toxic patterns. It’s possible to deal effectively with ghosts from the past by extending trust to each other through words and actions that are consistent with a loving intimate relationship.
A Sense of Secure Connection Is Key to a Successful Intimate Relationship
One of the most prominent authors on the topic of intimate relationships, Dr. Sue Johnson, explains in her landmark book Hold Me Tight that you might fear intimacy and lack connection with your partner when you don’t feel emotionally safe with him or her. And lacking confidence in your partner’s trustworthiness can cause you to feel disconnected and distressed – which can lead to insecure attachment in your relationship.
For example, Julia didn’t feel comfortable being vulnerable with Rick because she didn’t believe he truly loved her. By withholding her thoughts, feelings, and needs from him, she was playing it safe but put her relationship at great risk. As a result, it took Julia a couple of years to feel comfortable opening up to Rick and they lacked a sense of true intimacy.
However, Rick was patient and didn’t give up on Julia. He knew she lacked faith in him, and he believed that if he continued to reassure her through being loving, dependable, and thoughtful, it would pay off.
I didn’t want to be that rebound person since Rick was newly divorced, so I didn’t allow myself to be vulnerable and tell him how I really felt until I felt secure in his love for me.
According to Sue Johnson, by being vulnerable, you can achieve a level of emotional safety with your partner. It’s the primary way to strengthen a bond and keep love alive. Thus, you’ll be able to re-establish a secure emotional attachment and preserve intimacy in your union.
In Hold Me Tight, Johnson uses the concept of “Primal Panic,” coined by neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, to explain why distressed people who are driven by intense fear of loss might resort to demanding behaviors when they to seek reassurance – or a sense of soothing and protection when they seek withdrawal. This is especially true for individuals who have endured infidelity and betrayal.
One way to change this pattern of demand-withdrawal is to focus on your part in the dynamic and stay in the present moment. This will allow you to bond with your mate through emotional closeness, conversation, touch, and sexual intimacy. It’s effective because you aren’t concentrating on your fears of not getting your needs met, and you’re connecting in a positive way with your partner.
Julia put it like this:
When I feel mistrustful, I tell Rick, just hold me, just be there for me. It’s the little things that matter. Like when he comes home and has had an OK day and I say I’ve had a tough one, and he makes dinner. It wipes all my mistrust away and we’re feeling close once again.
In the three years that Julia and Rick have been married, they have become masters at being vulnerable with each other and have established a satisfying sexual and emotional relationship. Instead of focusing on each other’s flaws and looking to blame each other, they spend their energy fostering a deeper connection.
Julia and Rick are learning to give each other the benefit of the doubt and have put an end to the toxic patterns so many couples develop when they’re filled with doubt and have insecure attachment. Fortunately, they’re shedding the baggage from their past relationships and healing together through taking risks, being vulnerable, and focusing on their positive qualities rather than each other’s flaws.
6 Ways to Build Trust and Intimacy with Your New Partner:
(1) Challenge mistrustful thoughts.
Ask yourself: is my lack of trust due to my partner’s actions or my own issues, or both? Be aware of unresolved issues from your past relationships that may be triggering mistrust in the present. For instance, did your parents model a healthy level of intimacy and trust? Are you afraid of intimacy due to your experience with partners who let you down or betrayed you?
(2) Learn to trust yourself.
In other words, trust your intuition and instincts. Have confidence in your own perceptions and pay attention to red flags. Be vulnerable and ask for reassurance if you feel mistrustful. Actions speak louder than words and will tell you whether your partner is dependable and trustworthy.
(3) Don’t assume the worst of your partner.
If he or she lets you down, it may just be a failure in competence – sometimes people simply make a mistake.
(4) Listen to your partner’s side of the story.
Believe that there are honest people in the world. Unless you have a strong reason to mistrust him or her, have faith in your partner.
(5) Tell your partner that you love them daily.
Be bold and declare your love openly. Intimacy is yours for the taking if you learn to express your love generously to your partner. This includes displaying love and affection for him or her in public.
(6) Focus on physical affection.
Holding hands, hugging, and touching can release oxytocin (the bonding hormone) and creates a calming sensation. Physical affection also reduces stress hormones – lowering daily levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increasing a person’s sense of relationship satisfaction.
Emotional intimacy, trust, and vulnerability are essential ingredients that will help you feel securely attached to your partner over time. A new relationship is often exhilarating, intense, and exciting, but what sustains couples is fostering intimacy by being vulnerable and feeling more secure day by day.
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