Do you trust your long distance partner? Do they trust you?
Perhaps you’ve answered “no” to one or both of those questions, but you’re not really sure why.
Or, maybe you’re new to the LDR thing and you’re just not sure how trust is supposed to work when there are miles and miles between you.
If so, you might be surprised to know that the distance may not matter all that much. Why? Because trust is not really about keeping tabs on each other.
- Being reliable – you should be your partner’s “rock” and they should be yours
- Being consistent with your love and communication (don’t blow hot and cold)
- Making each other feel safe enough to open up
Many discussions of trust in LDRs tend to revolve around “cheating” and how to avoid it. I will touch on that (and my #1 tip for building trust in that area), but trust goes a lot deeper than this. It requires emotional maturity and practice to cultivate, but the good news is that anyone can learn.
Here are 10 effective ways to build trust together as a long distance couple.
1. Only make promises you can keep
Unrealistic promises often come from the best of intentions. For instance, if you’re a people-pleaser, you might be tempted to commit to something you know your S.O. wants, even against your better judgement. But in the long term, you’ll come across as much more reliable and trustworthy if you only make promises when you can be sure you can follow through.
If you worry that your partner will be disappointed, explain the reason for your decisions. For instance, maybe they want you to visit at a certain time, but you can’t take the time off work. Telling them why will let them know that it’s not a lack of commitment or affection on your part.
This works the other way around as well. We all want reassurance and it’s tempting to push for it when it isn’t forthcoming. But don’t pressure your partner to make promises they can’t keep, either. Not only is it less likely that they can follow through, it’s also not very fulfilling to hear a promise that you know didn’t come from the heart.
2. Be honest with each other
This might seem like an extremely obvious “tip”, but honesty is a deeper concept than it first appears. You may not be lying to your partner about anything big, but if you’re being passive-aggressive and/or expecting them to guess how you feel rather than being straightforward, that’s not really being open and honest with your partner.
When in doubt, tell them how you feel and ask how they feel, especially if you think they might have something on their mind.
But how can you encourage your partner to share their feelings, if they’re not used to it? A good way is to let them know, by your actions, that it’s safe to open up. That brings me to the next point, which is…
3. Don't betray other people's trust
If you’re always gossiping about your friends (or exes) behind their backs, think about how that comes across to your partner. How likely are they to trust you with their own secrets, insecurities and feelings if it’s clear that you’re careless with other people’s?
Being mindful of this is a great way to let your partner know that you respect others’ boundaries and privacy – including theirs.
4. Involve your partner in key decisions
One of the best ways to make your partner feel valued and respected is to involve them in important decisions which will affect both of you.
Depending on the situation, that could mean making joint decisions, or it could just mean making them aware of what’s going on in your life and acknowledging the impact it will have on the two of you.
A good example of a joint decision might be asking them when they feel comfortable meeting your family for the first time. You might think it would be super convenient to get everyone together the next time they visit, but that’s a big deal for some people – so check in with your partner before making promises on behalf of the two of you.
An example of a decision that you might make on your own could be (for instance) if you’re offered a big project at work that will make you a lot busier than usual for a while. That’s a choice for you to make independently, but it’s likely your S.O. would appreciate knowing in advance so that they can understand why you might have to miss a few date nights.
5. Be consistent
It’s very hard to feel secure, valued and loved in a LDR when your partner blows hot and cold. Often, we do this without thinking: life just gets in the way, we get distracted by work / family / studies and then all of a sudden – whoops! – it’s been three days since we texted our partner and they’re feeling neglected…
If that’s you, it’s time to get organised. Write things down and set reminders if it helps. A little consistency goes a long, long way.
6. Admit your mistakes
Admitting your mistakes shows that you know how to reflect on your own behaviour and to learn from it when things go wrong. It also makes your partner more likely to do the same.
Mistakes don’t have to be huge transgressions. I’m talking about small things, like:
- If you’ve been insensitive about something that’s important to your partner
- If you’ve missed an important event with no explanation (for example, you lost track of time at work and missed a date night)
- If you made a decision for both of you, without asking your partner first (see point 4!)
Your partner should do the same for you. Together, this is a great way to practice forgiveness and seeing things from each others’ perspective.
7. Create a safe space for disagreements
Being able to keep a cool head and talk through disagreements in a mature way is a key way to build trust.
Check out the post below for some tips on how to handle disagreements and how to rebuild trust if you’ve had a recent argument.
8. Be respectful and non-judgemental towards everybody
This is related to point 3 above (about not betraying others’ trust) but is slightly different. I’m talking about being empathetic and treating everyone with respect – even if you’re frustrated with a situation.
For instance, if you’re at a restaurant or in a shop and you’re not getting great service, respond calmly, explain what you would like to happen and don’t be rude to the servers or staff.
This is basic politeness, but what does it have to do with trust? It shows that you don’t look down on people and that you respect their feelings – which is vital if you want your partner to open up.
9. Agree on what "cheating" means to you
It’s astonishing how many people never have this conversation with their partner, but it’s one of the first talks you should have as soon as things start getting serious.
Does kissing count as cheating? Does messaging models on Instagram count as cheating? Does flirting count as cheating? Do you even want to be exclusive, or do you want an open relationship?
There are no right and wrong answers to these questions. These are things for you and your partner to decide. If you never talk about it, you’re likely to feel insecure because there won’t be any clear ground rules – so don’t skip this step!
10. Recognise when a lack of trust is toxic
A little bit of jealousy (such as feeling a bit annoyed if someone flirts with your partner) may be normal for most people and is probably nothing to get seriously worried about. But a lot of jealousy is a danger sign.
If your partner is demanding to track your location or go through your phone, that’s not reasonable. If they want to dictate who you’re speaking to and what you’re doing, every minute of the day, that’s not okay either. These things are controlling and even abusive.
I’m not a qualified expert here, so do seek help from a professional if this is an issue in your relationship. Relate has some advice (written by a qualified counsellor) to dealing with feelings of jealousy, and lots of resources for people who feel like they might be in a controlling relationship.
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