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The Four Stages Of Trust — What Level Is Your Relationship?

  • 7 min read

What score would you give your partner?

Person 1 (P1): Do you actually trust me?

Person 2 (P2): No.

P1: … okay… why not?

P2: I don’t really know you yet. But on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 means ‘not at all’ and 10 means ‘fully’, I trust you already… with a ‘3’.

P1: But that’s not much. How do I get you to give me a higher score?

P2: By your intentions. Let’s focus on us and make our ‘plant’ grow. Then my trust will come.

Such was the conversation between me and my former boyfriend on one of our first dates. Does this sound familiar to you?

This boyfriend went on to become my husband and we’ll soon be celebrating our 10th anniversary together. He wasn’t happy with my answer then but he is now. As time has passed, I’d give him a ‘9’. Why only a ‘9’, you might think? I’ll explain.

Trustworthiness is more important for me than being sexy

When I dated men in the past and wanted to get to know them better, I retrospectively noticed there were several points that were important to me then. I liked:

  • how they looked
  • how they thought
  • what they had accomplished
  • when they understood my feelings

When I first met my now husband, I saw fairly quickly that he fulfilled these criteria, but, with time, I realized that I was still looking for more. I talked with him for hours about the sweet and the sours. I felt inspired and stimulated by our conversations and his ideas. Moreover, we connected on a, let’s say spiritual, level. He increased my sense of well-being and understood my feelings on a deeper more meaningful level than anyone before.

Part of this important feature is that I found out that we share the same values, and support each other to grow and achieve our goals. But something else was different with him than with the others. Over time, my level of trust for him increased. I found that being able to trust him was central. It was, in fact, more important to me than finding him sexy.

We’ve all been through our own personal experiences

If and how deeply we trust somebody is subjective. We all feel and think of it differently because we’ve all been through our own personal experiences.

In my case, for example, my father left the family when I was a child. My parents got divorced. I lived with my mother and saw my father only every other week for a few hours. When an important person, a father figure, lets us down, that effect reverberates through all our relationships. This experience in early childhood shook my confidence in men in general and in romantic relationships in particular. Since then, I’ve been careful of when, to whom and how I give my trust. Trusting makes me vulnerable. People have to earn my trust.

So if you meet someone who tells you that they trust you only on a low level, accept it. They must have their reasons, which result from a personal life story. But you could ask the person to define trust more precisely on a scale from 1 to 10, as I did.

One-third of social interactions involves some element of lying

It’s no wonder so many of us have trust issues. Did you know that one-third of social interactions involves some element of lying? Being dishonest is part of our communication. That’s just crazy, isn’t it? Most of the time we lie to impress others. That’s totally ego-driven. Especially, if we meet someone for the first time we want to present ourselves as ‘better’ than we really are.

Trust is central to every relationship

The Four Stages Of Trust — What Level Is Your Relationship; Kristina God; Background photo created by teksomolika

However, famous marriage expert, John Gottman investigated why couples get stuck in ongoing conflict instead of moving on. He found that the most important issue is trust! Trust is Number 1.

The central questions in a romantic relationship are:

  • Can I trust you to be (sexually) faithful?
  • Can I trust you to not cheat on me?
  • Can I trust you to help me?
  • Can I trust you to listen to me when I need you?
  • Can I trust you to be there for me?

As a young mother or if you want to become pregnant it extends to:

  • Can I trust you to work for our family?
  • Can I trust you to be involved with our children?
  • Can I trust you to care?
  • Can I trust you to choose me over your mother and my monster-in-law?

What does ‘trust’ mean?

For me trust in my partner means that:

I believe…

  • he is honest with us
  • he has my interests at heart
  • he upholds his promises and confidences
  • he will stay true to his intentions in the future
  • he is (sexually) faithful

For me, trust is all about intentions. But my partner’s behaviour is out of my control. How can I trust him?

In my opinion, in a relationship, you have to seed your plants of trust from day one and continually water them. One day they will flourish and bloom in bright and wonderful colours.

What level of trust do my partner and I have?

According to Jay Shetty, life and purpose coach and author of ‘Think like a monk’, there are four stages of trust. I’ve combined them with my 1–10 score. In a nutshell they consist of…

  1. Neutral trust (Let’s say that’s a 1–3)— Your partner is charming and cool! These are great positive qualities that make him/her likeable.
  2. Contractual trust (Let’s say that’s a 4–5) — The quid pro quo: I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.
  3. Mutual trust (Let’s say that’s a 6–8)— You’ve faith in the other person that s/he’ll be there for you in the future. Help goes both ways — the root is kindness, goodness and positivity.
  4. Pure trust (Let’s say that’s a 9–10) — No matter what happens, you’ll have one another’s backs. You act like this out of pure goodness and positivity.

Now think about the relationship with your partner (or another person who is important to you) and pick a stage and therefore a score. You can talk with your partner about the level of trust you have with each other. Be aware this practice may make you feel a tad vulnerable at first, especially if you don’t often engage with your partner in this way. Allow yourself the time to feel awkward and clunky in the beginning.

There’s still room to grow our plants and make them more colourful

As I mentioned, I trust my husband with a score of ‘9’ and he feels honoured that I trust him purely. There is still room to grow our plants and make them more colourful and reach ‘10’ in the future.

At the moment, our intentions still match very well just as they have done in the last ten years. But I’m also aware that even couples with the best intentions can change or gradually drift off the same path in the future. That’s why my husband and I will continually ask each other about the score we’re getting. But I want to trust that we will stay great lovers and partners for a lifetime.

Try to be more mindful. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain🥰.



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