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10 Signs You Have Trust Issues and How to Begin Healing

Trust issues may be your number one obstacle to connection, warmth, and intimacy. This post assumes you’re experiencing trust issues left over from past relationships, but don’t have rational evidence that your current relationship partner is untrustworthy.

When you’re experiencing trust issues in a relationship, you cannot extend yourself, or make yourself vulnerable, which is essential to lasting success, according to experts. Here we’ll offer some unmistakable signs and symptoms of trust issues and point toward their resolution.

But before we get into the 10 signs of trust issues, let’s get the bad news out of the way.

The bad news about trust issues….

Overcoming your trust issues in relationships is probably going to be difficult. If you have real trust issues, you’ve been hurt in the past. Your lack of trust is held in place by fear of being betrayed, humiliated, taken advantage of or otherwise manipulated all over again. The perceived risk may be overwhelming.

Author and poet Nikki Knight wrote in A Year of Tears: Learning To Trust And Accept Love Again:

The aching, hurt, and humiliation of the past have become so familiar – the feelings, although heavy and burdensome, are hard to let go because I’m not sure I know how to feel anything else. Just cold and numb.

Trust issues are based on real-life experience, some of it probably originating in childhood, although this isn’t always the case. Some adults legitimately experience horrific betrayal and pain at the hands of others. Trust issues show up as a natural defense mechanism.

Why is it so difficult to let go of trust issues?

One surprising reason stands above all. Prejudice.

Not in a racial sense. Legitimately obtained trust issues color your thinking, however, causing you to anticipate negative consequences should you let down your guard. The prejudice (pre-judging) here is an ongoing suspicion that people are going to hurt you in some way.

Joshua Coleman, Ph.D. at Berkely.Edu discusses hypervigilance in one of his pieces on trust and betrayal. Coleman suggests being hypervigilant after a betrayal is evolutionarily intended to keep us from haplessly wandering into another betrayal. The downside of such hypervigilance is that it keeps you isolated from others.

You look for the signs. You play movies in your head of how someone is going to take advantage of you. You predict betrayal. The fear and anticipation of pain keep the trust issues alive, giving them newfound relevance.

Unfortunately, trust issues inevitably turn into self-sabotage. For example, when you don’t trust, you don’t connect with others. Missing out on chances to get to know people, to network, form friendships, and intimate relationships can only be called self-deprivation.

Lack of self-confidence, missed opportunities, loneliness, and even social anxiety are the results of this kind of self-sabotage, which is maintained by painful trust issues that will not relent. You’ve got your reasons for self-sabotage in the form of very real trust issues. However, it is self-sabotage nonetheless.

Overcoming trust issues requires seeing things differently

Seeing trust issues, not as a self-protective, but as self-sabotaging is one way to motivate yourself to work through them. This isn’t necessarily easy or obvious. The pain you’ve experienced is real and must be validated. And there does exist the possibility of being hurt again. Worse, if you’re already anticipating a breach of trust, then you’re also likely to be hypersensitive to apparent breaches, even when they don’t exist or aren’t intended.

You’re in an emotional double bind. Damned if you do trust, damned if you don’t. Understanding the various signs of trust issues is a starting point for resolution. Below are 10.

10 Signs of Trust Issues in Relationships

1. You predict how people will betray you without evidence of betrayal

If you’re with someone who has a track record of misdeeds, a lack of trust is appropriate. You should proceed fully aware of his or her potential to be devious. However, many of us have trust issues with people who never shown any sign of untrustworthiness.

Still, we anticipate the breach. Why? Trust issues from past experience are being cast into the perceived future, contaminating the present relationship.

2. You trust people you have no business trusting

It’s counterintuitive, but it happens all the time. When you have trust issues, you may often place your trust in those who are most likely to take advantage of you. Your trust issues at this point have become an emotional self-fulfilling prophecy, as if you were unconsciously confirming how untrustworthy people are.

3. You trust people too quickly

It may be due to the self-fulfilling prophecy, but this one may also come from failing to understand how trust works. Trust is earned. As an adult, you’re best off starting with an open mind and extending trust to people as they build a track record with you.

If you’re not experienced with creating trusted relationships, you may extend trust blindly.

4. Sharing is not caring

With flaring trust issues, sharing isn’t caring. It may feel more like emotional masochism. It takes trust to open up and share your thoughts and feelings. Trust issues predict that other people will use your inward feelings against you at some point, so it’s best to be guarded.

5. Your relationships are shallow, even if you aren’t

You may be a deep thinking and feeling person, but your relationships that are marred by trust issues will be shallow. You’ll be ‘protecting’ your inner, truer self and not openly sharing, so your relationships will be based on lighter, less threatening communication about external things.

6. Emotional commitment? Uh—no!

Trust issues dictate that you live in a world of anticipated loss. Your relationships don’t feel solid or grounded. At some level, you believe betrayal is inevitable. This makes it difficult to commit emotionally. You do not want to become attached to something you already ‘know’ you are going to lose.

7. Genuine mistakes are seen as awful breaches of trust

People are imperfect, we all know that. If you have trust issues, however, you may not be able to tolerate others’ imperfection when you see their mistakes though the prejudice of trust issues.

• If she’s running late, she’s hiding something from you.
• When he speaks loudly, he secretly hates you.
• If she can’t talk right now, she is rejecting you.
• When he won’t let you scan through his phone, he has a secret lover.
• If she doesn’t want to have sex tonight, she is not into you anymore.

8. Others may see you as self-righteous, impossible to please, or unforgiving

Your trust issues don’t just affect you. They dictate how you respond to others. When you find it hard to trust, and follow some of the signs mentioned above, others will find you difficult. For example, when your girlfriend who is running late arrives to find you suspicious, she’s probably not going to be inspired to console you. More likely, she will expect you to apologize for being so suspicious.

If when your friend can’t talk right now, you respond with accusations, he is not going to feel encouraged to talk to you anytime soon. One author put it this way…

Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way, but often is.

9. You feel lonely, isolated, and like an outcast

When you cannot trust people enough to share your true self, no one is going to know or witness your true self. Without being known to others, you’ll feel lonely and perhaps like you don’t belong.

There are reasons you learned not to trust. Most likely, those reasons have everything to do with one or two specific people in your past. However, the mind naturally generalizes lessons learned. Without realizing it, you now have trust issues with most people. Unless you have a few people who know you – whom you really do trust – it’s hard to feel like you belong.

You may even feel like a total fake – an impostor – who fears being discovered as an illegitimate person.

10. Despair

All of this may lead to depression and despair. Since it is impossible to be socially adjusted without trusting others to some degree, and when it is painful to consider trusting anyone, you may feel trapped in a world in which you don’t feel like you belong.

Despair and depression are the likely results of this double bind.

Letting Go of Trust Issues So You Can Live and Love More Fully

Working through trust issues can feel like walking on broken glass. You just know you’re going to bleed.

This will take more courage than you’ve given yourself the luxury of exercising in a while. And it will be worth the effort, and the blood, if you persist.

I won’t sugar coat it because I’ve been there. The above signs of trust issues didn’t come through academic research.

They came from my own memory. I’ve been there.

Learning to trust someone with your mind and heart in spite of a mountain of trust issues is the accomplishment of a lifetime. And it’s an emotionally demanding process.

You’ll probably need a trust partner to help you.

Letting go, regardless, requires one thing above all: Taking the risk of being hurt.

The process looks something like this:

1. Be willing to risk the pain of learning to trust.
2. Find a trust partner (a therapist or coach can work, if they understand trust issues).
3. Learn how trust works (how it is earned and how to extend it).
3. Take emotional risks with your trust partner.
4. Confront your trust prejudice, suspicions, fears and painful feelings around trust as you take calculated risks.
5. Learn from the process, rinse and repeat until you can consciously trust and know how to extend trust well.

The Elephant in the Room

The elusive obvious is that if you trust people, even when you do it well, you are inevitably going to be let down. People aren’t perfect. They make their choices and that doesn’t always work in your favor. Some people are not empathetic at all in their decisions. You’ll get hurt from time to time.

This is life.

They key here is not to avoid emotional pain, but to learn to hurt well. Since no one is exempt from pain, you should aspire to endure it, to process it thoroughly and learn the right lessons, not those ‘lessons’ that come from fear and avoidance. This means feeling things fully. It means shedding tears of grief and loss. You can feel vulnerable and afraid and yet press on with faith that there are people in this world who are indeed worthy of your trust.

Truly trustworthy people may be few and far between, actually. The good news is you only need a couple of people in your life that you know and feel you can trust deeply.

What to do next:

To learn how self-sabotage works, watch this free and enlightening video.

To learn more about learning to trust again, check out Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships.

For a list of the highest rated books on trust in relationships, .

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10 Signs You Have Trust Issues and How to Begin Healing

Get over your trust issues and why it’s all in your head

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I cannot tell you how many times I sat across from a twenty-something and listened to him or her talk about how they had such a hard time trusting people in their relationships.

This is so not surprising, especially coming from Millennials, a generation that is characterized by many things, with one being their overarching lack of trust.

But what is a relationship without trust? No relationship at all, I say.

Trust is such a key component in relationships. And even if it is hard for you to trust another, or you’ve had your trust broken before, you’ve got to give it another go and try to move past your trust issues.

So here’s hoping this post can help you to gain a richer understanding of what trust is, where it comes from and how to build it safely.

Sometimes a little knowledge can go a long way to empower you to take a step that feels risky.

WHAT IS TRUST?

Ok, so trust is defined as the feeling of confidence you have in someone that comes from your belief or opinion of him or her.

Think about it this way. You have a picture in your head of everyone you know. If you pick one person you know well and think about him or her, you can probably imagine what they are doing right this moment. That, my friends is your trust-picture!

This picture is dynamic, changing all the time.

And, this is key, you tend to interact more with the picture in your head than with the person in reality.

Have you ever snapped at someone for something and then learned that they really didn’t mean it like you interpreted it? Or assumed the worst, just to find out you were wrong?

Well, these snaps and assumptions come out of that picture in your head of that person. It’s likely you assumed something for a reason. Even though that doesn’t make it right, it’s probably based on some history or opinion you have of them!

This is the trust picture at work. Your opinion, confidence and expectations of someone all stem from this picture.

WHERE DOES TRUST COME FROM?

So we’ve defined trust and talked about the trust-picture. But where does this trust-picture come from?

When you are first getting to know someone, you pull from three mental “databases” to form your trust in them. These three databases are: ideals, stereotypes, and associations.

So, a quick rundown.

Ideals are qualities and traits that we hold in high esteem. Things we really value in a person. For example, tall, kind, humble, dark hair, generous, funny etc.

Stereotypes are generalizations that exist among your particular social group or culture. These may be related to someone’s background, their job, what kind of car they drive, a way that they dress, on and on. For better or for worse, stereotypes exist and are shortcuts that help us categorize people and experiences.

Associations are like stereotypes, but come from your personal experiences. An example of a negative association occurred when my husband and I were thinking of names for our kids, and some names were automatically vetoed because we knew someone that, ummm we didn’t like with that name. All your significant experiences fill this database with a range of negative to positive associations that you will use to fill in the gaps of what you think of someone you are just getting to know.

So, there you have it. When you really don’t know someone very well, your trust develops based on your limited interactions with him or her but also from these three databases. These three databases “fill-in-the-blanks” of what you don’t know.

Here in lies a potential risk. Accelerated development of trust can create a false sense of knowing someone and ultimately going too far in other areas of your relationship, when in reality, you don’t know them at all but you’ve just filled in the gaps from these three databases!

HOW TO BUILD TRUST SAFELY

You may be reading this and wondering, “what about me? I am so scared to trust anyone?!”

Not to worry, here’s what you need to know. There are two things you must do when it comes to developing trust safely: 1) pay attention to qualities of trustworthiness in a partner and 2) give a little bit at a time.

What does trustworthy look like?

We say there are 8 qualities of a trustworthy partner. These qualities are: maturity, adaptable, responsible, relationship skills, inner confidence, anger management, gracious and emotionally stable. So pay attention to these qualities.

How to give a little bit at a time.

In order to build trust, you’ve got to be careful not to get ahead of yourself but also you’ve got to careful not to be stingy on trust either.

Here are 4 steps to safely investing trust.

1) Participate in putting some trusting in the relationship.

Trust is definitely earned. But unless you put a little trust in someone you will never see if they come through for you. So make a small investment of trust, something you can handle.

2) Anticipate the best while watching for the worst.

So don’t be paranoid, but also don’t be too naïve.

A healthy skepticism is what I like to call it. After you’ve invested a little trust, see what they do with it.

3) Cooperate with building a mutual reliability.

This basically is highlighting that relationships are mutual and trust requires that both people get involved, and do meaningful things for each other.

So if you’ve invested a little. Watched what they do with it. Wait to invest more until there is some sort of reciprocation on their part.

4) Keep testing the trustworthiness of your partner.

This is not to say you should be judgmental or anything, but rather that you should give some serious thought to how your dating partner treated you and the trust you invested.

Do they confirm your trust picture over time? Did they take care of your trust or did they break it?

Look for a balance in the give and take of trust and also the patterns of what your partner does with the trust you give them.

So there you have it folks, your guide to finally getting over your trust issues.

and our new online course: Head Meets Heart here!

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We invent many ways to protect ourselves from pain. Unfortunately, this can block us from the good stuff, too… unless we learn to overcome trust issues.

Are you heartbroken? Have you been cheated on? Abused, hurt, or lied to? Unfortunately, life is full of experiences that can lead a person to believe that it’s not safe to trust anyone. There is a list a mile long of all of the trust destroying experiences that one can have. The problem is, if you want to fall in love and find a healthy relationship, it’s going to take some trust. Actually, a lot of trust.

How do you put your faith in someone when you believe you can’t trust anyone?

First, know the depth of the wound.


As a therapist, I’ve worked with trust issues in one form or another for years. The first key to overcoming this problem is to identify the origin of the wound that caused the trust issues. I’ve heard about every kind of accident, trauma, and jerk behavior you can imagine.

Despite the endless array of details around how someone develops a fear of trusting others, I’ve found that essentially, there are two different types of trust issues.

The first type typically consists of general trust issues that build over time for most people. You know the kind… you’ve been lied to by a friend, or cheated on by a lover, or you’ve been witness to other human beings in their not-so-finest-moments. This type of trust issue can definitely create fear and a lack of trust in others, but it’s workable.

The other kind of trust issue comes from the deeper wounds that create significant reasons to fear others. Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or any kind of traumatic experience can lead to a significant lack of trust in people, or in life in general. These kinds of experiences can indeed rock your world, and make it difficult to find the faith in anyone. The brain can become wired to react in fear and distrust with any reminder of the pain or trauma. Even if you want to trust someone, you may find that you keep people at a distance as a protective measure, or you may even seem to have the opposite reaction and trust everyone, even when it may not be wise to do so. While this type of trust issue is workable, it usually requires professional intervention with mental health therapy.

So if you don’t think your trust issues come from trauma, there are a few things to consider to help you open your heart and move forward in your life.

Rewrite your story.

Every moment of pain or joy in our lives is defined by the story we create about an experience. You have the power to reframe your story about anything that has hurt you, and any of the circumstances surrounding it.

If you’re feeling angry, hurt, or betrayed, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and feel like a victim. It’s easy to build a wall of distrust and believe that everyone else will hurt you too. This only serves to intensify your pain, and keep you in a disempowered state.

Instead of feeling angry or victimized by someone’s actions, try to find the silver lining in the experience. There is a gift in every situation, even the worst ones, if you look for it. The heart is a muscle. It only becomes stronger with use—so open up, take a risk, and get comfortable with vulnerability.

Embrace vulnerability.

Compare trust, or the resistance to trusting, with holding your breath. It takes a lot of energy to hold it in and remain closed; but when you finally let go, and take that breath, you find yourself gasping, and then relieved to do what you’re meant to do… breathe. Trust is no different.

We were born to love, not to fear. It is our innate human capacity to love and to trust others, even as a matter of basic survival. We are not born fearing and distrusting others. It is only the experiences that we have throughout our lives that teach us to fear. Sometimes, those experiences are vital to our survival. We learn about what causes physical pain, or what’s dangerous. We learn the basics, like don’t get burned by fire. Don’t walk in front of a car. Don’t walk down a dark alley alone. There’s fear for our basic survival, and then there is fear that’s created from the stories in our minds.

Know the difference, and then choose to distrust the stories that keep you fearful and limited. Your mind and your heart will be richer with the exhilaration of taking a risk and finding that it was worth it.

Heal the wounded heart.

If you’ve experienced the second type of trust issue because of trauma or abuse, please know it is important to seek help. Despite your experience, there are people in the world who will not hurt you.

Your brain and your heart may need some extra care in releasing the pain and healing the wounds. The best way to do this is to find a therapist who can help you heal. Sometimes taking the step to talk to a therapist requires an enormous amount of trust in and of itself. However, I hope you can find comfort in the fact that I have seen many people learn to trust again, despite unthinkable pain and despair in their lives. It is possible. You just have to take that first step.

Know that it is possible to trust again. Remember: as a human being, you were born to trust, not to fear. It is your birthright. We just get lost along the way. The key is to find your way back. Identify the wound, apply the right medicine, and your heart will learn to open again and again. Trust me.

About the Author:

Chelli Pumphrey

Chelli Pumphrey, MA, LPC is a love & dating coach and a Licensed Professional Counselor from Denver, CO. More importantly, she’s a human being who strives to live an authentic life, by being real, raw, and unafraid to express her truth. She is devoted to helping others live and love passionately by gaining the confidence to be authentic in their own lives. She works with clients through her relationship coaching practice and as a therapist and founder of Trilogy Holistic Mental Health, where she offers retreats, dating and relationship coaching and therapy. If you’re looking to boost your dating confidence, self-esteem, and become a dating warrior, you can visit Chelli at AuthenticDate.com, Trilogy Holistic Mental Health, follow on Instagram, Twitter, or like her on Facebook.

Tips to Help You Overcome Trust Issues

Whether your current partner has done you wrong in the past or you’re still simmering on something an ex-lover did years ago that severely betrayed your trust. Learning to fully trust again takes some serious time and patience. Trust comes naturally and almost effortlessly for some — there are many who claim they trust unless they are given a reason not to. But once they’re left heartbroken by an untrustworthy action, it can be tough for them to move forward.

If you have a difficult time putting your trust in those you’re close to, there’s good news — there are steps you can take to overcome these issues once and for all.

1. Stay present

Staying present is vital in overcoming your trust issues. | iStock.com

This simple idea is one that’s easy to forget, but staying present with your friends, family, and partner can help alleviate some of your anxieties that are causing your trust issues. If your partner has cheated on you in the past and you’ve discussed it, sorted out the issues as well as you could, and then vowed to move forward so they can improve and learn from their mistakes, then stop living in the past. It’s difficult to forget when someone has done something to hurt you, but when it comes to building trust, you have to allow yourself space from the anxieties of the past.

2. Learn to forgive

Forgiveness is key to trusting again. | iStock.com/peterotoole

If you’re still harboring resentment for an ex over their wrongdoings and you’re allowing this resentment to seep into your current relationships, then this can lead to having some serious trust issues. Anger is understandable in the moment when someone we know and love wrongs us, but a lack of forgiveness and letting go can lead to trust issues with others later down the line. To fully let go of this resentment and open up to trusting others, you have to learn to forgive.

3. Don’t repeat the same mistakes

Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over in your relationships and expect different results. | iStock.com

Breaking up with your significant other after they have wronged you once may seem a little harsh, but when there are repeat offenses and you keep finding yourself unable to trust, then it may be time to cut ties. If you keep giving your boyfriend or girlfriend the chance to redeem themselves and they prove time and time again that they cannot be trusted, cut your losses now and don’t look back. If you stick around people who have consistently done you wrong (no matter how many times they have told you they would correct their mistakes), you’ll never fully trust them, and this lack of trust will seep into relationships later on that actually are good and beneficial.

4. Know what you want

Knowing what you want can help alleviate anxiety and allow you to trust more. | iStock.com/GeorgeRudy

Others will let you down unless they know what your expectations are, and more importantly, others will let you down unless you know what your expectations are. Lifehack explains you need to put yourself first for a little while to discover what you want, and don’t regret being selfish during this time. It’s time to figure out what makes you happy in your relationships and what really ticks you off. The clearer you are with your wants and needs, the more you’ll be able to trust.

5. Let go of fear

Don’t fear vulnerability — learn to embrace it. | iStock.com

Most of us have felt betrayal before, so it can be difficult to let our walls down and be vulnerable to those around us. But, in order to learn to trust, you have to let go of this fear of hurting. Understand how opening yourself up to hurt also means you’ll be opening yourself up to love, affection, and joy. There are times in life when you will experience hurt at the hands of your loved ones, but understanding this and knowing you’ll get through it instead of fearing it is going to allow you to overcome your trust issues.

Trust Issues

Trust is the act of placing confidence in someone or something else. It is a fundamental human experience. Trust is necessary for society to function. It can play a large role in happiness. Without it, fear rules. Trust is not an either/or proposition, but a matter of degree. Some life experiences can impact a person’s ability to trust others.

  • Do I Have Trust Issues? Common Signs
  • Where Do Trust Issues Come From?
  • Trauma and Trust Issues
  • What Are Trust Issues Associated With?

Do I Have Trust Issues? Common Signs

Everyone has uncertainty about whom to trust and how much. It is not always clear when trust is appropriate. People make choices about whom and how much to trust every day. We are more willing to trust at some times than others. That is a good thing. A total lack of mistrust would be a serious problem. But judgments about when and whom to trust help keep us safe and alive.

Signs a person may be excessively mistrustful include:

  • Lack of intimacy or friendships
  • Mistrust that interferes with a relationship
  • Dramatic and stormy relationships
  • Suspicion or anxiety about friends and family
  • Terror during physical intimacy
  • Belief that others are deceptive or malevolent without evidence

Sometimes mistrust plays a dominant role in a person’s life. Past disappointment or betrayal may be at the root of the issue. Mistrust is a valid response to feeling betrayed or abandoned. But pervasive feelings of mistrust can negatively impact a person’s life. This can result in anxiety, anger, or self-doubt. Fortunately, people can relearn trust. Working with a therapist can aid this process.

Where Do Trust Issues Come From?

Trust issues often come from early life experiences and interactions. These experiences often take place in childhood. Some people do not get enough care and acceptance as children. Others are abused, violated, or mistreated. These things may lead to difficulty trusting as an adult.

Social rejection in one’s teens may shape their ability to trust. Some teens are bullied or treated as outcasts by peers. This can influence later relationships. Being betrayed or belittled by others impacts self-esteem. Self-esteem also plays a large role in a person’s capacity to trust. People with low self-esteem may be less likely to trust others. Those with higher self-esteem may be more self-assured.

Trauma and Trust Issues

Traumatic life events may also cause issues with trust and safety for adults. These life events could include:

  • Accident
  • Illness
  • Theft or damage to personal property
  • Loss of loved one
  • Being cheated on or left for another person

Being physically violated or attacked can also impact a person’s trust in others. This happens in many cases of rape or assault. Veterans of military combat may also have difficulty with trust. This is often due to stresses of wartime violence.

Posttraumatic stress (PTSD) comes from exposure to severe or perceived danger. It can lead people to experience great difficulty with trust. People may experience and re-experience the trauma in their minds. Anxiety often accompanies this trauma. People with PTSD can go to great lengths to create a feeling of safety. They may isolate themselves from others or become overly dependent.

What Are Trust Issues Associated With?

Under the medical model, trust issues can be linked with:

  • Depression
  • Adjustment disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Attachment issues
  • Posttraumatic stress
  • Schizophrenia

People diagnosed with schizophrenia and related conditions may experience paranoia. This is the unfounded but rigid belief that others are trying to harm oneself. Schizophrenia may also cause delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs, often with themes of mistrust. Hallucinations are usually imagined voices that may be critical or malevolent. This condition is today thought to be best treated with a combination of medications and intensive therapy.

If you experience trust issues, you are not alone. People who seek help for trust issues are often able to regain a sense of trust in others. This may improve their relationships and overall sense of well-being.

Reference:

Do You Trust Your Partner?

Trust is one of the cornerstones of any relationship—without it, two people cannot be comfortable with each other and the relationship will lack stability.

At its most basic, trust lets us feel secure because we believe our partner has our back and will be loyal through thick and thin. It also allows us to display our thoughts and feelings openly and honestly, because we regard our partner as supportive and don’t worry that they will judge, ridicule, or reject us. Trust goes hand in hand with commitment; it’s only after you feel that you can trust someone that you are able to truly commit to that person.

Trust builds slowly as we learn about our partner and they become predictable to us. Predictability is important because having an idea of what will happen makes us feel in control of our lives. As we observe how our partner thinks and acts in a given situation, we develop a sense as to how they will most likely think and act in future situations. If they appear to be consistent and to have our best interests at heart, we can believe they will continue to do so in the future; thus, we can trust them.

There is an element of faith operating with trust, because we can never truly know what our partner might do or say before the fact. Having faith in your partner—meaning you believe they will do right by you before they do it—is considered to be a strong indicator of a trusting relationship.

The sense of security and predictability that comes with trust makes us feel good about our partner and believe our relationship has long-term potential. These positive thoughts help to keep our emotions on an even keel. When emotions are under control, they don’t get the better of us. Thus, we’re able to discuss problems openly and with little (or no) hostility, and have an easier time coming to solutions. We’re also able to keep conflicts in perspective and not use any single event to judge the overall quality of our relationship. Additionally, it’s easier to forgive most indiscretions because we don’t believe our partner would intentionally hurt us.

As slow as trust is to build, it can dissolve just as quickly—sometimes, from a single indiscretion. If that event is extreme, such as infidelity, trust can be very difficult to re-establish; that will, in most cases, undermine other aspects of a marriage.

One of the main casualties is often communication. Because we can’t be sure of our partner’s motives or have an idea of what they’re thinking, we can have trouble talking to them openly and honestly. It’s not possible to work through issues if you can’t believe what your partner is saying.

This often means we avoid discussing problems altogether, especially because they’ve often become so emotionally charged that we can only react with anger and hostility. We might also feel we have to be very careful in choosing our words, because we can’t be sure how our partner might react to what we say. Under such conditions, it’s not surprising that couples with trust issues argue much more frequently, that their disagreements have a more negative tone, and that they’re rarely able to come to resolutions.

Partners who don’t trust can’t feel secure; thus, their relationship will cycle through frequent emotional highs and lows because a mistrusting partner spends much of their time scrutinizing their relationship and trying to understand their partner’s motives. When the other’s words or actions seem trustworthy or positive, the questioning partner feels happy and has hope for the relationship. But when some untrustworthy or negative event happens, it serves as evidence that the relationship has problems.

Furthermore, when we don’t trust our partner, we’re prone to exaggerate their negative behavior and discount their positive behavior. Because the positives have much less weight than the negatives, we’re much more likely to constantly question the worth of the relationship.

While a breakdown in trust is sometimes a result of actual indiscretions by one or both spouses, that’s not always the case. Some people, for various reasons, have trouble trusting anyone; these individuals may not trust their partner regardless of whether or not that person is, in fact, trustworthy.

People with trust issues often employ certain patterns of thinking and acting that make all types of relationships difficult for them. They tend to be critical of others, interpret situations in a cynical or negative light, and are less willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. Interestingly, low-trust people are themselves more prone to lie and cheat than are trusting people. It’s possible they justify such behavior because they believe others are doing the same thing to them.

Low-trust people bring to their marriages the same problems that are found among couples in which one partner truly cannot be trusted. They have trouble communicating, constantly question their partner’s motives, and allow their feelings of mistrust to cloud their overall perceptions of their partner and their relationship.

Furthermore, because they tend to be highly critical, they will likely look upon what their partners say and do with much less tolerance than would a trusting person. They might also regard their partner’s questionable words and deeds as personally threatening; this tendency can cause them to overreact to minor indiscretions. As a consequence, small problems can have a bigger impact than they normally would (or should).

Someone who is married to a low-trust person will likely find their relationship to be exasperating. They might feel constant pressure to make sure they come across as honest and trustworthy. Such scrutiny may mean they have to spend more effort than should be necessary justifying themselves. They might also think there’s a “Kafkaesque” quality to their relationship: They feel punished or criticized for no reason, yet guilty and powerless to fix a problem that really doesn’t exist.

Along with feeling frustrated—and possibly resentful—they’re likely to feel insecure about themselves and their relationship. As a result, they’re likely to find it difficult to stay personally connected to their partner.

Unfortunately, there’s not much advice to be offered if your partner truly can’t be trusted. You can try to discuss the issue, but that’s not likely to lead to a meaningful solution. If they’re really untrustworthy, how can you believe their promise not to be?

The hard truth is that a relationship without trust cannot flourish over the long term. It’s extremely difficult to disregard or de-emphasize such a flaw in your partner; its very existence will leave you feeling insecure about your relationship. That, in turn, makes it hard to feel emotionally connected.

However, if your mistrust is more perceived than real, or is based upon very minor transgressions that should be overlooked, then the issue comes down to your perspective—and that’s something that can be fixed.

If you believe all or most people are untrustworthy or dishonest, or you often feel suspicious about other people’s motives, then you might want to consider that your inability to trust your partner stems from a broader personal problem. Individual therapy can be very effective in developing strategies that will help you cope with mistrust.

Keep in mind that learning to trust is certainly worth the effort. Not only will it improve a marriage, but it will help you in other relationships and can improve your overall psychological well-being.

Learn more in our book, Making Marriage Work.

Trust

Trust is a super important part of a healthy relationship, but it’s something that many people struggle with, for a lot of different reasons.

What does trust mean? Trusting someone means that you think they are reliable, you have confidence in them and you feel safe with them physically and emotionally. Trust is something that two people in a relationship can build together when they decide to trust each other. You can’t demand or prove trust; trusting someone is a choice that you make.

How Do I Build Mutual Trust in a Relationship?

Building trust within a healthy relationship happens gradually. How do you know if you should trust someone? This can be a hard question to answer, especially at the beginning of a relationship, but your own instincts about another person and the way they behave over time are two important things to consider when making that decision.

Of course, in a healthy relationship it’s important for both partners to trust and be trusted, to open up and be vulnerable with each other. Trust can’t be built if only one partner is willing to do this and the other isn’t. Building trust requires mutual commitment. So, as your relationship progresses, ask yourself:

Is My Partner There for Me (and Am I There for Them)?

We’re not just talking about being there physically, but emotionally, too. Does your partner listen to you and support you? Are they sensitive to your problems, worries and fears? Do they show compassion and genuinely care about you? A person who is trustworthy is able to demonstrate consideration and care of others. This also means that they trust you to know what’s best for yourself. A partner who tells you they know best, or that you don’t know how you really feel, isn’t showing that they trust you.

It’s also important to keep in mind that in a healthy relationship, you can trust that no matter what comes up your partner won’t react in a way that threatens your safety or harms you. Everyone deserves to be in a relationship with someone who can resolve conflicts in a healthy, respectful way.

Is My Partner Consistent (and Am I Consistent with Them)?

Each person in a relationship demonstrates their trustworthiness through consistency in their actions. The first behaviors you look at might be relatively small, like showing up for dates at agreed-upon times. Keeping private information just between the two of you and always respecting boundaries are other clues someone is dependable. Again, learning these things in a relationship happens gradually, as you both show that you are consistent with your actions not just occasionally, but all the time.

Does My Partner Say What They Mean and Do What They Say (and Do I Do the Same)?

Another way a person shows they are trustworthy is when their words and behavior match up. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “That person is all talk.” It generally means that someone’s words and actions don’t really correspond; they say one thing and do another. For example, if someone says they love you, and then they act abusively toward you, their words and actions don’t match. When you love someone, you do not abuse them.

Many people who contact loveisrespect are in relationships where one partner is constantly checking in, asking where the other partner is at all times, and/or trying to control who their partner spends time with. These behaviors aren’t healthy or signs of trust; again, trust is a choice you make. You can trust someone whether they’re right next to you or a long distance away. When there is trust, a person doesn’t feel a need to monitor or control their partner. They don’t need their partner to “prove” their love and faithfulness. It’s a lack of trust that makes those behaviors feel necessary. If you trust someone, you trust them regardless of who they spend time with or where they go. You trust that, even if someone else wanted to hurt your relationship, your partner wouldn’t let that happen.

My Trust Was Broken in the Past. How Can I Trust Again?

If you’ve been burned in the past, it’s understandable that you might have a hard time trusting other people. It can help to remind yourself that your new partner is NOT your old partner (or your friend, family member, or whoever broke your trust before), and making assumptions about them based on the actions of a completely different person isn’t really fair. Even if you’ve been hurt before, that’s not an excuse for checking up on your new partner or demanding that they prove their trustworthiness to you. As we’ve said, trust is a choice, and building on that trust within a relationship takes time. When we begin a relationship with someone, we’re making the choice to trust them. If you feel that you aren’t able to trust anyone else right now, you might not be ready to be in a relationship.

It’s worth noting that being able to trust yourself is an important component in trusting others. Being hurt by someone in the past may have affected your ability to trust yourself and your own instincts. Just remember that the person who broke your trust in the past made that choice; you can’t take responsibility for someone else’s actions or decisions. If you’re struggling with this, taking time to work through it, maybe with a counselor or therapist, could be very helpful in regaining trust in yourself and your ability to trust others.

Are you dealing with trust issues? Our advocates are here to help. Call, chat or text with an advocate today!

Trust problems in a relationship

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