Building Trusting Relationship (part 4 of 4)

Greetings and welcome. In this final focus, I want to continue where I left off (see parts 1-3) considering what ingredients one would choose or not choose in building a healthy relationship. My hope is that you are evaluating your relationships and learning to discern how you are participating in your relationships. I do believe that when you build and have healthy relationships, your life will perform much smoother. But, when you have unhealthy ingredients and difficult relationships, then life and your relationships can be very stressful. For example, let me ask you to consider a final ingredient you should consider avoiding when building a healthy relationship.


In this final unhealthy ingredient, when it comes to building and adding what you want for healthy relationships, do you tend to look over at the person your relating to by interrogating them with ‘Why Questions.’ Do you come up with a list of things you notice about the person and you then become irritated, angry, annoyed and frustrated with this person by attempting to figure them out asking a lot of Why and How Come questions?

Usually, when one spouse, friend or family member shuts down and does not talk, the other person is frustrated and they want to talk. Talk to me, share with me, and tell me how you are doing. Inviting and creating a safe and trusting relationship in which each person feels that they can share what they are thinking and feeling leads to giving and taking in communication. It is normal to talk, communicate, and share your personal thoughts and feelings to people that you are close to as a way to build and connect with one another. To communicate and become honest and vulnerable with who you are does lead to connection.

But when one partner shuts down, their reason for shutting down is probably due to their experience that the other person does not accept them and has criticized them or corrected them. When one person attempts to try to get the other person to talk by trying to interrogate them with a series of why questions, the other person is going to shut down, and the one asking the questions is going to be frustrated. This then sets up the one asking the question to be the pursuer and the one shutting down to be the avoider.

The implications and consequences for this type of communication only results in exhaustion. It is exhausting to constantly feel that someone is out to interrogate you and question you. You feel that you are on trial and the prosecuting attorney has you sitting in the box attempting to interrogate and question why you did this or that. The person hearing these questions feels that they are being judged and constantly sensing they need to justify why they did this or that.

Healthy communication is based upon feeling and experiencing the other person really listening, understanding, giving empathy and care to you. Each person, when they communicate, wants to know that you desire to know them and accept them. When we do this with one another, we then are building trust and safety so that each person feels heard, understood and respected. When trust and respect leaves the relationship then justifying, mistrust and explaining enters the relationship.

Usually, the person who is asking these constant questions is probably feeling that the other person is pulling away from them. They look over and they feel the other person does not want to be with them, so they are attempting to keep the person with them. They don’t want to feel rejected or abandoned, and they don’t want to be left alone. So they try, really hard, to reach out to the other person with interrogation and constant questions with the hope that this strategy with keep the person participating in the relationship. They ask to know and assure that the other person will be there for them. When they sense that someone is pulling away, they then try to pursue by asking questions.

Sure, it could look like someone is controlling you. On the surface, you probably do feel that all these questions and interrogation are a strategy to control you. But deep down, the constant questioning is an attempt to not be left alone, and the one receiving the questions is shutting down because they are feeling that they are being accepted. When someone is asking questions, usually they are anxious fearing that the other person is pulling away. When the other person is receiving why questions, they are getting defensive. When one is anxious and the other is defensive, then there is little trust, and suspiciousness and doubt have entered the relationship.

So, consider how you do relationships. Think and consider how you can eliminate these four unhealthy ingredients I have listed in this four part post. Find a way to get rid of them, stop them, eliminate them, and make the decision that you want to do things differently. Explain to the people in your personal life that you are going to start making some changes with how you relate and ask them to be patient with you as you consider ways in which you will stop doing and participating in these unhealthy relationships.

Phil Kiehl, LMFT, M.Div.
Licensed Therapist

P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what ingredients you would not put into building a healthy relationship. Share your comments and share this article with others. Thanks.