Learn to trust and detect deceit

by Frieda Friedmann

Knowing who to trust and how to spot deceit is a critical life skill, that is not easy to acquire. In this fifth and last blog in the series of Dr. John Gottman’s on relationships we will explore five measures by which we can assess trustworthiness. Again, this blog is based on Dr. Gottman’s book: “What Makes Love Last – How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal”, co-authored by Nan Silver (2013). The five benchmarks of trustworthiness are: Honesty, Transparency, Accountability, Ethical Actions and Proof of Alliance.

If your mental health is affected by distress in your relationship, consider reaching out to our experts at the Centre for Clinical Psychology – we’re here to support you on your healing journey.

Reciprocity is Key

First of all, beware of self-centred individuals who constantly prioritize their own gains above all. No matter how charming they might be, if they don’t reciprocate your kindness or treat you unfairly, take a moment to consider if they are really worth your trust.

Trust Measures

According to Dr. Gottman’s extensive research, trustworthy people display five detectable characteristics:

  1. Honesty

Avoid trusting people who lie to you. It might be easier to come up with excuses than to face the truth, but it is crucial to objectively assess the situation: Has this person lied to you before? Have you observed them lying to others?

  1. Transparency

Your partner should share information openly with you. Also, your partner should not hide you from their friends, family and colleagues, rather you should feel welcomed to their social circle. Stressors, ambitions and goals should be transparently communicated in a relationship. Dr. Gottman highlights that “When you ask, “Where have you been?” he or she should answer without hesitation.”

  1. Accountability

Does your partner keep their promises? Do you know the details of important transactions? Reconsider trusting someone who remains vague and elusive. “Just trust me” is not an appropriate answer and should evoke your suspicion. As Dr. Gottman says: “Trustworthy people don’t feel the need to tell you what to think!”

  1. Ethical Actions

Does your partner express and exhibit values that align with your own? Is their behaviour fair and just? The recommendation is “if you’re not comfortable with someone’s morals, do not continue the relationship.”

  1.  Proof of Alliance

Your partner should show their support and loyalty to you and have your interests at heart. They shouldn’t be driven by self-interest or form alliances against you (see our other blog 10 Non-Sexual Types of Betrayal).

Using these measures will increase your confidence in knowing who to trust.

Seeking help

If your relationship impacts your mental health take the first step towards healing today and call us at the Centre for Clinical Psychology in Melbourne on 03 9077 0122 to book your appointment. We can help you develop the skills and strategies you need to manage your emotions and improve your mental health. Remember: You’re not alone!


John Mordechai Gottman, & Silver, N. (2013). What makes love last?: how to build trust and avoid betrayal. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.