Why Emotional Trust is Harder to Gain (and More Important) than Physical Trust

Vanessa Bennett
6 min readMar 29, 2018

The idea of trust brings up strong reactions and opinions in many people. We all have ideas about trust; what it means, how important it is, how it can be gained, how it can be lost. Most of these ideas have grown out of our childhood and familial experiences, and then been molded and sprinkled with the seasonings of relationships along our journey.

If your earliest experience of trust with a primary caretaker was one of them not being there when you needed them, of them pulling away their love and support when you showed your truest self and not who they “wanted” or “expected” you to be, of not having clear boundaries, or of them not respecting your autonomy, then you might experience yourself in relationships struggling with your idea of healthy separateness, or struggling with expressing your point of view, wants, or needs in a healthy way. Because you were shown that expressing individuality, a personal need or a desire was not appreciated or validated you learned to conform to however best you might receive love. You began to believe you had to act or speak a certain way to receive love, and that others should do the same to get your love (and trust) in return. Most of this is unconscious, we walk around repeating patterns from childhood because that’s what feels normal. But what feels normal isn’t necessarily healthy.

There are two buckets of trust within a romantic partnership. There is what I like to call monogamous or physical trust: Will my partner be faithful (if monogamy is your thing)? Will they be there physically, and not walk out?

And there is intimate or emotional trust: Can I trust my partner with my heart, my soul, my secrets, my shame? Will they check out/shut down if things get too hard? Are they emotionally reliable and consistent?

I have been in relationships where physical trust exists and not emotional, so I know you can have one, and not the other.

Monogamous trust is black or white. You either trust they will be faithful or you don’t. There is no grey area. If you “kind of” trust someone then you don’t trust them and this needs to be examined. Is that lack of trust based on something they have done or said in the past? Or, is it based on your stuff, carried over…

Vanessa Bennett

Psychotherapist, Mindfulness + Codependency Coach. Cohost of the Cheaper Than Therapy Podcast. IG:vanessasbennett