How would you define trust within a romantic relationship?
How important is trust within a couple?Trust is possibly the single most important dynamic in a relationship. And, like sharks that need to keep on moving to survive, trust needs to keep on deepening for us to flourish both as individuals and as a couple. And developing complete trust with another human being is - for most of us - one of the hardest emotional challenges we will ever face, if not the absolute hardest. If there is a major hiccup on the way, like infidelity or lying about our age / income / job etc etc it can set the whole relationship back - and sometimes kibosh it forever.
However it is vital for everyone to know that it is entirely NATURAL to have periods of time where one person starts to get a bit scared, a bit challenged by the intimacy, and so they close up a little. If the other partner mirrors them (because they themselves get scared when their lover pulls away) then it can go downhill quick. I call this the Ricochet Effect and BOTH partners need to watch out for it and be responsible to get back on piste if they feel it happening.
It is inevitable that couples will find other people attractive whilst in a relationship, how healthy is it to tell the other when this happens?It all depends how much self-confidence and self-esteem our partner has. A fully self-confident person, who loves themselves, who has not been hurt by abandonment, simply does not get jealous. So then a couple can have a marvelously refreshing honesty where both partners can say they find people attractive and even have fun with it (safe in the knowledge that they are committed to each other). Then it is not a big deal and can be playful and cheeky (although clearly no-one wants their partner telling them 20 times a day how fit someone else is). But if someone has trust issues - from their past of course - then it can really trigger all their green eyed God/ Goddess action. Partners almost always know when their other half is checking someone out (or being checked out). By bringing it to the surface and acknowledging it, it can release the tension.
If one partner really is not committed - deep down - and they are sniffing around other people, then it is no wonder that the more committed partner might get concerned, anxious and become a little over-bearing and 'needy'. Their squiffy responses are still theirs to own, process and let go if - however it is also indicative of the state of the relationship. So this kind of relationship jitters can be a great way of testing just how committed you both are and precipitating a deepening into more trust and commitment; or a moving on to find someone who is more into that (should you want it). So many people waste their life waiting for their partner to get more serious. Yet remember, every day that you are practicing this serious wishful thinking is a day that you are not available for someone who is ready to get deep, get intimate and trust another human being to love them profoundly. People do need time to open up the Hand, Head and Heart - but there is a moment where you can intuit whether they are going through their inner process, dealing with their sh*t, or whether they are stalling, time wasting, treading water waiting for some other idea / ideal that they have. So if you man is checking out chicks, talks about it too much or not enough, then bring it up and see how things unfold.
Now from a man's point of view, if a women gets jealous when a man checks out other woman it is quite challenging for both. Men have a very natural rush of energy when they see attractive women. To deny it by looking another way limits the man from being themselves, which is never ideal. I ask myself - don't women want their men to have good taste in women bearing in mind who they selected to partner with? So why would they want their men to suddenly not be into women, into inner and outer beauty, into life?
Interestingly, people who do not trust themselves to remain true tend to have trust issues with their mate. People who know they are committed and can stay true
What is a sure sigh of lack of trust in a relationship, the biggest warning sign if you will?Jealousy is a biggie. Hiding things is another. Often they go together - one partner perceives the other to be hiding something so they get a bit weird about it. This then makes the other feel 'watched' and so they hide things even more.
Constant criticism of a partner is also a warning signal. So is checking up on them, hassling them, nagging them. You are basically saying "I don't trust you to have good thoughts and do the right things."
What things can encourage a greater trust in a relationship?Talk about what is going on for you. Then talk some more. Talk til you go blue in the face. Even talk when you can't stand the idea of talking. Try a very powerful way of talking called Dialoguing. Share something. Have your partner listen (and not respond). Then you partner mirrors back exactly what you said. Share some more. They mirror more. When you are done, they must validate what you have said (E.g. I can imagine that makes sense for you) but not necessarily agree with it. Then they empathise (I imagine that that feels X for you). Then you swap. This avoids massive arguments and starts to help you both reprogramme your way of relating for creativity.
By sharing yourself openly you inspire you partner to follow suit. Take responsibility for your relationship and the intimacy you really want and lead the way. Lead your partner to openness; guide him to intimacy. Set up super safe sessions where you both have to share something you are embarrassed of, or think the other will be upset about and you both have to 'contain' you reactions (if you have any). Allow each other to see that you can both be honest and open and the other doesn't run away. ANYTHING, no matter how much it might hurt when you first hear it, can be contained. The truth will always out anyway so you might as well do it purposefully, intentionally and use it to deepen your relationship.
The dream is to have an out of the ordinary, truly extraordinary openeness where you can say ANYTHING to each other and know that you are safe in the union of the two of you. This is not easy and should be treated as an aim, a goal, a destination. The fun part is the journey to get there!
How can coulples get through another person making advances when aware of the union?Talk about it. Share when it happens. Ensure you partner feels safe and secure. Reassure them. If they are suspicious or jealous, hide nothing. It will only get things into a pickle. And if they cant handle the truth (assuring you are keeping yourself nice) then it really is something they have to work through.
How can innocent flirtation with other people affect the trust?It's a toughie as everyone's idea of flirtation is different. Ultimately every person has to draw a line for themselves around what is appropriate and what is not. I think innocent flirting is part of life and can be charming and fun. But it is VERY different from 'opening up a window' for something to happen and we know when we have crossed that line. We all know how different it feels between the 'nothing will ever ever happen' vibe so we can play and be playful safely vs. when we actually create the space for something to happen (even just in our head) ... not so cool. Unless you agree to an open relationship of course!
Interview by Lucy Walton