Healthy lives for young people
Relationships

Trust and Jealousy

What is trust?

For most people trust is a key element of a close relationship. When people were asked what they liked best about their relationship in the Enduring Love? research project, trust was one of the top 10 answers.

Trust helps us feel secure in relationships but it means different things to different people. Trust can be:

  • Being able to rely on your partner – they will do what they say and they won’t let you down
  • Being honest with your partner and not having any secrets
  • Being faithful and not cheating
  • Having a deep understanding of each other

One couple interviewed as part of the Enduring Love? study described how vital open conversations were in building trust between them:

I mean, even if I felt uncomfortable about talking about it, I would talk about it because I said to Ed, no matter how uncomfortable you feel, or how embarrassing something might be, or how bad you feel, we should always talk about things.” 

Rob, Enduring Love? interviewee

How to build trust

Trust is closely linked to open and honest communication. It’s worth thinking about what ‘trust’ means to you and finding out from your partner what it means to them.

To build trust in a relationship it helps to:

  • be truthful
  • be reliable
  • agree what’s OK and what isn’t in your relationship
  • believe in each other
  • not make promises you can’t keep
  • not blame the other person for feelings that date back to your own previous  experiences or previous relationships

If you’re both clear about what you expect from each other and you behave in keeping with those expectations, trust will grow between you. 

People have different ideas about what’s OK in a relationship. For example, one person might be absolutely fine about their partner staying in regular contact with their ex. For someone else, this could make them feel really insecure and unhappy. The important thing is to communicate your expectations so you agree on what’s OK in your relationship. 

Trust issues

I don’t trust them…
If you don’t trust your partner, think about why this is the case. Is it something they’ve done or is your imagination running ahead of you? For example, if you’re suspicious they may be flirting with someone because they’re spending lots of time online, you need to have an honest conversation about what they’re up to when they’re online. 

It may be you need to agree to both be more open about your online activity and show each other some of your messages or posts. Or it may be you need to agree what level/type of flirting, if any, is OK in your relationship. As with everything in a relationship, communication is everything.

Also consider whether your partner has done things to make you not trust them or whether it was someone else in your life. Bad experiences with other people can make us assume others will behave in the same way – which isn’t necessarily the case. It can be hard to overcome this but a really good start is to be honest about this with your partner so they understand your weak spots and can be sensitive about them but also, so you can work together to build trust between you.

They don’t trust me…
If your partner doesn’t trust you, you need to talk about why they’re feeling this way and get to the bottom of what’s making them feel insecure. Sometimes people find it hard to trust because they’ve been let down in the past and just talking about an issue like this may help.

Also, be honest with yourself. Are you doing things that are contributing to this situation? Read through the list of things above that help build trust and ask yourself if you’re making an effort to be reliable and truthful. If not, why not?

Rebuilding trust after cheating

One of the biggest barriers to trust in a relationship is if one person cheats on the other. Some couples can rebuild their relationship with lots of hard work but others can’t. Read more about cheating, including what counts as cheating for different people and learning to trust again.

If lack of trust is a persistent problem

If lack of trust is a persistent problem then it may be time to consider if your relationship has a future. Maybe one of you is making unreasonable demands on the other, or perhaps one of you has betrayed the other’s trust repeatedly. Or it may simply be that neither of you has done anything drastic but you just can’t seem to communicate with each other in a way that overcomes the issue of trust. Communication came out as a key part – if not the most important part – of relationships in the Enduring Love? study. Without it, trust and jealousy can take over and will prevent you from building a stronger relationship.

What is jealousy?

When someone feels jealous, they can feel as though someone or something is threatening something they value – such as their relationship.
A little bit of jealousy can actually be a good thing as it can remind you of how much someone or something means to you.

But if it gets out of control, it can make you feel angry, anxious and threatened, as well as making you possessive or overly sensitive, which can have a negative effect on your relationship. 

If your partner gets jealous, and can make you feel hurt, anxious or angry that you don’t trust them which can be really draining.

Jealousy issues

I get jealous…

Maybe the threat is be another person – maybe you’re worried your partner fancies someone else or maybe you think someone fancies your partner. Or you could be jealous of your partner’s friends or of the amount of time they spend on a particular activity or hobby.  

Jealousy is a normal emotion experienced by many people in relationships but it’s important not to let it get out of control. 
To overcome jealous feelings, it helps to:

  • talk to your partner – let them know what’s bothering you and ask for their support and reassurance  
  • be rational –  work out if your relationship really is threatened or if you’re feeling insecure for other reasons
  • spend time having fun outside your relationship –  see your friends, have a laugh and do the things you enjoy. If you’ve got lots going on in your own life, you may feel less jealous when your partner does their own thing. Read more about giving each other space.

They get jealous…
If your partner seems jealous, talk to them and try to understand where they’re coming from. It may be they’re feeling a bit needy and need some reassurance from you. 

The tips for building trust (see above) are all useful to protect against jealousy. The more you trust each other and feel secure in your relationship, the less room there is for jealousy. Read more on ways to show someone you love them.

But if jealousy is an ongoing problem, you may need to consider if you want to stay with this person. For example, if your partner: 

  • wants to know where you are and who you’re with all the time
  • is being controlling in other ways
  • accuses you of things which aren’t true
  • doesn’t want you to see certain people
  • sometimes get very angry

These are signs that your partners’ feelings are getting out of hand. Talk to someone you trust about what’s going on. Your partner’s behaviour could be bordering on abusive and if that’s the case, you shouldn’t put up with it. Find out more about abuse and how to get help. 

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