Do you usually measure the distance between you and your partner by the inches or the miles?
Now let’s forget about the physical distance between you for a minute, how close do you feel heart-to-heart? You can be miles away from someone and still feel incredibly emotionally close to them—secure in your relationship and how you two feel about each other.
One of the things that makes that possible is trust. Trust plays a key role in how close you both feel in the heart-to-heart sense. But what is trust, and how can you build it in a long distance relationship?
What is Trust?
According to Merriam-Webster, trust is “assured reliance of the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”
In a relationship, trust is crucial. If you do not trust the other person, you will spend your time doubting the relationship or second-guessing your partner or yourself instead of relaxing, enjoying, connecting, and investing in your relationship.
Knowing that the other person has your back and will support you—trusting that they care for you, that they will behave decently, and that they have your best interests at heart—builds a positive climate within a relationship. In relationships where one or both parties don’t have much trust in each other, there will usually be a lot more negative emotions, conflict, suspicion, and tension in the air.
6 Ways to Build Trust in a Long Distance Relationship
So if trust is so necessary to having a healthy relationship, how can you increase the trust you have in each other? And how do you do that over distance?
There are numerous ways you can build trust over distance, including some you’re probably already doing regularly. But thinking through and understanding what these “trust-building-techniques” are, can help motivate you to continue investing in your relationship and enjoying the positive rewards of a trusting connection however far apart you are.
1. Keep a Healthy Level of Conversation Going
Most partners in a long distance relationship expect some form of daily contact or communication if their circumstances allow for it.
This doesn’t have to mean that you spend hours on the phone very day or send 100 text messages. (In fact, sending 100 text messages can make you come across as more annoying and needy than affectionate.) What a healthy level of conversation is will vary across couples. But, in general, it can mean responding when your partner reaches out to you and regularly having conversations about what you’re both doing, thinking, and feeling.
It will help you find your long distance rhythm if you talk together about when (and for how long) you can generally connect. What times of day suit you best to talk? How long do you generally like talking for? How do you like connecting? Is there a day or time during the week you’d like to have a longer “long distance date” conversation?
The more you both understand where each other is coming from in your communication preferences, the better you understand what is realistic and sustainable in your long distance communication. Knowing this will help you trust each other’s intentions more, and feel more secure and peaceful in your relationship.
2. Make each other a priority
It’s great to know each other’s schedules and preferences when it comes to communication. That can make connecting easier. It doesn’t, however, guarantee that it’s always going to be easy and convenient to talk or that you’ll both agree on what a “healthy level of communication” is. In fact, you may have to stretch and compromise to make your partner a priority.
What does this look like? It can mean reliably checking in at times you’ve both agreed are convenient or setting aside for each other specifically. It can mean responding as soon as reasonably possible when your partner reaches out to you. It can mean staying in on a weekend night so that you can have a longer, unhurried Skye date.
In general, making each other a priority in your schedule goes a long way towards building the trust and commitment you both need to sustain a long distance relationship. That trust can also help carry you through bumps in the road—when there are some scheduled or unexpected gaps between messages and calls.
When you’re in a long distance relationship, unexpected delays or interruptions to the routines you might have established can be particularly confusing or upsetting. However, if you have established trust in each other by making each other a priority and staying connected, this will help you feel less insecure and unsettled during these times.
3. Be Open and Honest With Each Other About Feelings
Couples often focus on sharing their best and happy feelings, but partners have to be prepared to support one another during less enjoyable or more stressful times, too.
If you are able to see each other often, you may learn to pick up on early warning signs when moods are shifting. However, just being in close proximity with your significant other doesn’t mean that you’ll both be good at being transparent and honest about your thoughts and feelings. Think about the last time you were in a terrible mood or not feeling well and someone asked you how you were. Did you smile and say “good?”
When you’re in a relationship with someone, you both have to choose to be open and honest even during the rough times.
Alerting your long distance partner to the ups and downs of your day or week not only gives you an outlet you might really need, it helps them learn what to expect if you have a day like that again. It may be awkward to try and put complicated thoughts and feelings into words over the phone or in an email, but it’s a skill worth practicing. When you are open and honest with someone, it encourages them to be open and honest with you and helps them understand and trust you more.
4. Send Special Surprises and Celebrate Milestones
Even though you might live apart, you can do things to remind each other that you care. Most people treasure reminders that someone is thinking of them while they’re away—they can be an incredibly meaningful boost. Sending a small gift or unique card in the mail can provide just what they need to trust they feel loved and cherished that day. (Check our our recommended gifts page here.)
If your partner favors any particular holidays or holds any particular dates special for their own reasons, a message or a gift acknowledging that can help build trust by showing them you remember things that are important to them.
5. Share a Calendar or To-Do List
Can you share your daily calendar with them? Or keep a joint one?
Giving your partner access to your daily calendar and to-do lists helps build trust because you are showing you have nothing to hide. Instead of only telling them about certain aspects of your day, you are putting everything out in the open. Your partner can easily see how many meetings you had or who your lunches were with, and this is important because keeping secrets (or simply omitting information) can cause friction in the future. And if you know the ins and outs of their schedule you can ask them more detailed questions about certain parts of their day.
6. Help Them Know Your Other Friends and Family
When you enter into a new relationship, you start building a connection with the person and (hopefully) other people in their network of relationships. Introducing your partner to those around you will help solidify trust in the relationship and provide additional sources of input. Relationship networks are like spider webs. When your partner gets to know your friends and family they have other “reference points” of people who love and respect you. This helps build their trust in you and anchor them more securely in your life.
What does trust mean to you, and how have you built trust in your long distance relationship?
Ryan is a contributing writer for Verdant Oak Behavioral Health. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling and spending time with his family.
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