Nearly every survey or interview we conducted at The Eight-Cow Relationship indicated that trust was foundational in any lasting relationship. The Confidant Cow or Trusted Friend Cow came in at number one on nearly every survey. This isn’t a surprise. Countless relationship articles and studies I have encountered emphasize this same point. Despite its preeminence on the list of qualities people expect from a partner, I have found, however, that trust isn’t necessarily what initially draws us together.

People don’t go on dates or to social gatherings to find someone they trust. They are looking for someone appealing. In our Eight-Cow vernacular, they are looking for the Wow Cow. And when they find someone captivating and interesting, a relationship may form if the attraction is mutual. So when does the all-important issue of trust come in?

Trust is a process, not necessarily a state of mind—and the first step is hope. When we first meet Mr. or Ms. Wonderful, our hearts are all aflutter. Not because we trust, it is too early for that—we are excited because we believe he or she is wonderful! However, when we have sufficiently caught our breath, our next emotion is hope. We hope we can trust. We hope we will find more and more nice things about this person, i.e. has a great Cash Cow, Clever Cow, or Cuddle Cow—we continue to hope. We hope that this euphoria will continue. We want to trust this thrill ride won’t crash with a lie or deception.

Slowly, and if all goes well, eventually our hope may become trust. How long does it take? Well . . . can you be trusted? It is hard to accept a trait in someone that we don’t have ourselves. If you want to be able to trust, be trustworthy yourself. Second, take your time. Earning trust is not a quick process. Participate in a wide variety of activities with your special someone and see how honest they are with other people. If you catch them telling a lie to another person, they will probably lie to you. Next, be open about your expectations. Let them know, to you, trust is paramount in a relationship. Most importantly, let them know how you would respond to a lie or pretense.

As mentioned above, most people consider trust the most important component of a relationship. Yet, most data suggest it is one of the last elements to arrive. This lends credence to the advice that one should consider taking a relationship slowly rather than try to quickly race down the aisle. When you trust, vows and commitments have much more meaning. At this critical point, you shouldn’t just hope that your loved one is telling the truth.

I have found that trust is anything but a passive endeavor. It evolves with the activities and interactions you have with the people you love. The daily choices you make as an individual and as a couple can weaken or strengthen the trust you already share. Continually working to build trust helps create the sustainability most people want in a close relationship. Trust becomes the anchor you count on during trying times. Without an anchor, a ship may run aground. Without trust, a relationship usually suffers the same fate.

Ty B. Erickson, MD