Build a Triangle of Trust in Your Relationship

In every single moment…

…And in every single relationship, you are either building trust with the important people in your life–or you aren’t.

It’s either a “yes” or a “no”..

There is no “maybe” in building trust.

With everything you say or do–you’re either building trust in big or small ways or you are eroding trust in your most important relationships

Consider this for a moment…

We don’t really think about trust until we or the other person says or does something that catches us by surprise and destroys it.

We don’t really think about building trust until we’re trying to rebuild it with that person.

But the fact is, as we said before–

We are all either building trust or we’re not in every moment.  As the two of us were thinking about this, Otto came up with the idea of the “Triangle of Trust.”

The “Triangle of Trust” is made up of three elements that determine whether we create trust or we tear it down.

In order to get a good visual of what he’s talking about, we’ll take you through a quick activity right now.

If you’re game, here goes…

1. Take out a sheet of paper and draw a large triangle in the center.

On the bottom line of the triangle, at the bottom of your sheet, write these words…

“What I intend and am committed to”

On the angled line of your triangle on the right side, write these words…

“What I say”

On the angled line of your triangle on the left side, write these words…

“What I do”

Okay, you should have your “Triangle of Trust” drawn on your paper, with the appropriate phrase on each line.

2. Now, think of a relationship that is important to you.

Write that person’s name at the top of your page.

3. Think of a typical interaction with this person and answer these questions as you look back on that interaction…

**How did you react to this person?

(Were you open, loving, kind, supportive, honest, secretive, closed, dismissive, ignored him or her?)

**What did you say to this person and how did you say it?

(Were your words respectful, supportive, honest, sarcastic, cold, mean?)

**What was your intention and commitment in this interaction?

(Was it to connect with the other person with love or to prove you were right about something?)

4. Now write any words or phrases from this interaction that build trust on the inside of the triangle and words and phrases that tear trust down outside of it. Stay with your words and phrases from your answer to #3.

5. Look at what you wrote inside your triangle, as well as any words or phrases surrounding it.

At the bottom of your page, write what you would like to do differently the next time to build more trust.
Here’s a practical example to help you out if you’re a little confused about this …

When Olivia did this exercise, she chose an interaction with her husband when they decided what they were going to do on one of their “off” days recently. Because it was a beautiful summer day, she wanted to get the yard work done–trimming bushes, planting flowers, mulching.

In fact, she’d been planning it all week in her mind.

But her husband had different ideas. He wanted to go to the arts festival that was held in their city.

When she asked herself how she reacted to her husband when he said he wanted to go to the festival, she wrote this…

“I was angry that he wanted to skip out on the yard work and I didn’t want to listen to his suggestion.”

When she asked herself what she said and how she said it, she wrote this…

“I told him that I felt like I had all of the responsibility for the outside work getting done and I blamed him for not helping me.”

When she asked herself what her intention and commitment was in this interaction, she wrote this…

“I was committed to getting the yard work done that day, no matter what!”

Next, she looked at what she had written and wrote these words and phrases outside her triangle…

“anger, didn’t listen, blame, yard work done that day no matter what”

She didn’t write anything in the center of her triangle.

In other words, she saw that nothing about that interaction built trust between the two of them.  Of course her husband had his own issues that created mistrust too and he could certainly do this exercise as well–but the point is…

The “Triangle of Trust” helped Olivia see that she could have done things differently to create more trust–and get the work done.

What could she have done to build trust?


As you are reading in this example–sometimes things you don’t normally think of as trust destroyers can have a devastating effect on a relationship.

We’ve got some great ideas about how to create trust when it’s been broken in our book and audio program “Relationship Trust Turnaround.”

Here are a few ways Olivia could have built trust in this situation…

1. She could have asked him earlier in the week for help with the yard work and then made an agreement with him about when they would do it–and maybe the work didn’t have to be done on the particular day that she had in her mind.

2. When she discovered he wanted to go to the festival, she could have opened herself to the possibility that maybe it might be something she’d like to do too.

(In fact, later that evening, she did look at the advertisement for the festival and it did look like something she would have liked.)

3. If going to the festival appealed to her, she could have negotiated with him about how they might do both–the yard work and the festival.

In other words, she could have been open to changing her plans.

4. If she feels like the yard work is always left to her, she could talk with him about how he might share the responsibility or might pick up some other chores around the house.

Olivia’s interaction with her husband may be similar to an interaction that you might have with your loved one.

On the surface, this interaction doesn’t have the look and feel of dissolving trust–but it actually does.  Of course, if your relationship is working at all, at least some of your interactions build trust.

The idea is to create as many trust-building interactions as possible if you want to create more peace, love and more connection.

For more ideas about building trust, especially after an affair, visit

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