Everyone knows trust is essential for a successful relationship, but not everyone knows how to build trust. In fact, many marriages end due to emotional distance rather than huge betrayals like an affair. This distance grows slowly over time during the small encounters you have with your partner every day.

The good news is this can be prevented if you know how to spot opportunities for building trust. Each interaction you have with your partner is an opportunity to either open the door to emotional trust, or to close it off. When you respond with interest to your partner’s bids for attention or affection, you are building trust.

In order to begin building trust, follow these three steps.

Step One: Recognize When Your Partner Is Making a Bid

A bid for attention can be minor:

  • asking you to bring a glass of water
  • asking you to check the time
  • asking for help with children
  • asking about your day
  • asking you to share in some good news
  • asking for a hug

These moments may seem insignificant at the time, but they offer a chance to provide emotional support to your partner by responding with love and attention. Doing so lets them know you are someone they can count on.

Dr. John Gottman refers to these opportunities as “sliding door moments” in his book “What Makes Love Last?”1. Sliding door moments are all the little interactions you have with your partner each day.

Step Two: Turn Towards Your Partner

Once your partner makes a bid for attention, turn toward them by actively engaging in a validating and respectful manner.

For example, your partner may say to you, “What do you say we get some ice cream tonight?”

In this scenario, turning away from your partner might look like:

  • Not engaging: “Do whatever you want.”
  • Not listening: “I don’t know. Can you hand me the remote?”
  • Not acknowledging: “Did you talk to your mom about babysitting this weekend?”

On the other hand, turning towards your partner could look like:

  • “That sounds great. Let’s get going.”
  • “I don’t really feel like ice cream, but I’d be happy to come along.”
  • “No thanks, but maybe we could go for a walk?”
  • “That’s a good idea, but I’m really busy right now. Can we do it another time?”

Turning towards your partner doesn’t mean saying yes to all their requests. It does mean you respond with love and interest. Let your partner know you are listening and engaged. Every time you do this, you tell your partner “I am here for you. I love you. You can trust me.”

Step Three: Initiate Bids

Initiating bids of attention gives you more opportunities to practice turning towards your partner. It also displays interest in your partner. This shows they can trust you to care for them.

For example, you might try one of the following:

  • Ask your partner about their day
  • Hold your partner’s hand while you watch a movie
  • Ask how you can help your partner relax after a long day
  • Ask your partner to try a new activity with you

Creating these moments doesn’t have to be complicated.

Trust Builds a Little at a Time

If you can respond to your partner’s small requests, he or she will trust you with larger ones. When you know your partner will respond to most of your bids with love and sensitivity, you are more likely to risk making more important bids for connection or support.

Keep in mind making a mistake now and then will not destroy your relationship. Because the bid is minor, it will be easy to repair. The important idea to remember is to build a culture of consistency so a failed bid is an anomaly rather than the norm.

1Gottman, John Mordechai., and Nan Silver. “Turning Towards Each Other.” What Makes Love Last?: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012. 101. Print.