WHY TRUST ISSUES ARE SO HARD TO OVERCOME + HOW YOU CAN DO IT, ANYWAY

Although some level of trust is an important part of any relationship, it’s especially important in a romantic relationship. One of the most valued qualities in romantic relationships is trust that a partner has your best interest at heart, and having this trust in a partner is predictive of positive relational and individual outcomes [1][2]. However, when you take away the trust in a relationship, it’s more likely to result in negative relationship outcomes, including jealousy, suspicion, and eventually, the end of the relationship [3]. Overcoming trust issues can be difficult, but understanding their origins and working through them may be the best way to move forward in a relationship.

trust issues

Everyone may be uncertain about whom they should trust, when they shouldn’t trust, and how much they should trust. However, relationship anxiety and excessive distrust that’s pervasive in a relationship often result in self-doubt, anger, and anxiety. Some of the indicators you may have trust issues include:

  • Constant worry that people close to you cannot be relied on
  • Chronic fear of being rejected (Read: How to Deal With Rejection)
  • Constantly monitoring your romantic partner’s behavior for any indication that they will leave the relationship for a better alternative [4].
  • Lack of friendships or intimacy because of mistrust –  find out how to overcome intimacy issues
  • Multiple stormy and dramatic relationships at once or in a row
  • Believing that other individuals are malevolent or deceptive, even without any evidence
  • Anxious and suspicious thoughts about family members and friends
  • Anticipating betrayal of trust without any evidence of betrayal
  • Viewing mistakes as a big breach of trust
  • Feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Catastrophizing the future of the relationship [5].

WHY DO YOU HAVE TRUST ISSUES?

Trust issues are often a result of interactions and experiences that took place in the early years of life. Individuals who did not receive the acceptance, nurturing and affection they needed may have a tough time trusting in adulthood. People who were mistreated, violated, or abused as children may be fearful of strangers, lose their ability to trust, and may have serious self-esteem problems, and for many children who have been abused, long-term trust issues become a problem [6].

Childhood and adolescent experiences of social rejection may also result in trust issues later in life. Experiencing bullying, teasing, or being treated as an outcast by peers in the teenage years may influence future relationships. Being belittled or betrayed by peers, particularly in adolescence can negatively impact self-esteem, which affects an individual’s capacity to trust others. Some studies have shown that young people who face peer rejection deal with anger, sadness, and ultimately, lower self-esteem, making it more difficult to trust people in the future [7].

Your relationship with your parents determines your attachment style. 

Traumatic childhood events, such as losing a loved one, accidents, theft of personal property, or significant illness may result in problems trusting others and difficulty feeling secure and safe. If someone physically or violently attacks you, including an assault or a rape, this may result in a dramatic impact on your ability to trust others. These types of traumatic experiences have the ability to deeply disrupt an individual’s trust in others, and people often put up barriers as a method of self-preservation to avoid being vulnerable to trauma in the future [8].

Trauma survivors with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often struggle with issues of communication, intimacy, and trust in relationships. PTSD can affect survivors of sexual assault as well as military personnel who have been in combat. While many individuals who have PTSD are eventually able to overcome it and achieve closeness and trust in a relationship, approximately 5-10% of individuals with PTSD may have long-lasting problems in relationships [9]

In some cases, trust issues may be the result of the failure of a previous relationship. An “attachment injury,” is a wound that happens when a partner fails to respond to or meet the needs of the other partner in a critical time of need [10] It may be a trauma, critical incident, or a complete rupture in a romantic relationship. Whether the incident involves cheating (discover your options after you’ve been cheated on), psychological abuse, or neglect of the relationship, these types of injuries can result in distrust, particularly within a new romantic relationship.

WHAT ARE THE MAJOR TRUST ISSUES?

There are many types of trust issues that could jeopardize a relationship before it even begins. A few major trust issues include:

UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

Unrealistic expectations, or the belief that your partner must meet all of your needs perfectly, is almost a sure-fire way to self-sabotage a relationship. If you set the bar too high, the other person is likely to fall short. This perceived breach of trust can lead to relationship fallout [11] If you have unrealistic expectations, when the other person falls short you may view it as a breach of trust, which results in relationship fallout. Some researchers even believe that it’s the influence of Hollywood films, particularly romantic comedies, that drive unrealistic expectations in romantic relationships [12]

DYSFUNCTIONAL SELF-PROTECTION

In some cases, distrust shows itself through dysfunctional self-protection, which involves hurting others first because individuals fear getting hurt themselves. Self-protecting or self-sabotaging behavior instigates new problems and unsettles a relationship as a means of protecting oneself [13] You may have so little trust in others that you consciously or unconsciously sabotage the relationship before your partner can let you down or hurt you.

LOW PROPENSITY TO TRUST

Another trust issue is simply having a low propensity to trust, which can be caused by many different factors, including early childhood experiences and role models, culture, personality, values, and beliefs, and emotional maturity [14] The combination of all these factors influence how much and how quickly you trust other people.

JEALOUSY

Jealousy is another type of trust issue that is a very complex combination of emotions, behaviors, thoughts resulting from a perceived threat to the relationship. Cognitive jealousy involves irrational or rational suspicions, worries, and thoughts concerning infidelity of a partner. Behavioral jealousy may involve using protective or detective measures like looking at a partner’s emails, riffling through their belongings, or checking their text messages. In many cases, jealousy may be present even if there is no actual cause for it [15] The fear of betrayal is what drives jealousy, which has the power to result in negative relationship outcomes.

LOW SELF-ESTEEM

Low self-esteem may also become a trust issue because it leaves individuals feeling like they are not worthy of love. These feelings may lead to expectations of hurt or betrayal. Individuals with low self-esteem may also feel inferior to their romantic partner, which may make them question whether their partner finds intrinsic value in them [16]

WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO LET GO OF TRUST ISSUES?

Surprisingly, one of the biggest reasons it’s tough to let go of your trust issues is prejudice. Trust issues can color your thinking, especially if you developed them from legitimate problems. You begin pre-judging others, expecting them to hurt you. It’s easy to go into a mindset of hypervigilance to avoid further hurt and pain if someone betrays you. While hypervigilance can protect you from another betrayal, it has a downside – it could potentially isolate you from others.[17]

Hypervigilance and pre-judging leave you constantly looking for signs that someone will betray you. You may play scenarios in your head of how someone might hurt you. Your psychological attachment to negative trust issues results in you predicting betrayal, and the constant anticipation and fear of pain keep your trust issues going, constantly giving them new life [18]. Eventually, the trust issues may turn into self-sabotage. If you don’t trust other people, you don’t connect with them, resulting in self-deprivation of meaningful relationships.

TIPS FOR LETTING GO OF TRUST ISSUES

Emotional wounds from your past can wreak havoc on your present relationships if you don’t learn to let them go. While you may want to protect yourself from being hurt again, your protective actions may encourage more pain. While it may take hard work, working through your trust issues can lead to longer and healthier relationships. Try using the following tips to work through your trust issues so you can enjoy a healthy, happy relationship.

  1. Re-examine Expectations – If people are constantly letting you down, you may need to re-examine your own expectations. You may have unrealistic and unhealthy expectations of others. Remember, people are not perfect, and you may be asking too much of them. Re-examining your expectations so you can shift from an unrealistic self-centric worldview to one that is more balanced [19].
  2. Question What’s Really Keeping You From Trusting – While other people can be disloyal or even cruel, sometimes you need to dig deeper to figure out what’s really keeping you from trusting. There’s a good chance your trust issues are coming from your tendency to cling to past hurts. You may blame others for your lack of trust, but underneath your anger, you may have a deep fear of your capacity to love and being vulnerable to others. When you lack love and trust for yourself, it’s easy to blame others for your trust issues. You may need to build self-trust first before you can trust others [20].
  3. Focus on Healing – Once you figure out what’s keeping you from trusting, start focusing on self-healing. Have you taken time to grieve the pain from the past so you can overcome your trust issues? Do you need to say, learn, or do something to let previous hurts go so you can trust again? Are you willing to let the past go so you can heal and trust again? Do you need help with this process? Take time to heal and work on yourself so you can let those trust issues go for good [17].

DEALING WITH A PARTNER WHO HAS TRUST ISSUES

Since trust is one of the major tenants of a healthy, romantic relationship, it can be difficult to deal with a partner who has significant trust issues [21]. However, while trust issues complicate the matter, it is possible to work through these issues and have a healthy relationship. You may long to be the person who teaches your partner they can love again, but you have to realize that you cannot fix your partner – they must fix themselves.

However, you can be a positive support for your partner by doing the following:

  • Offer Support, Not a Fix – It’s impossible for you to fix your partner’s trust issues. Instead of trying to fix your partner, offer a good support system. Consider encouraging your partner to see a good therapist who can help your partner use techniques to build trust, differentiating between the negative things from the past and the good things you have together [22].
  • Earn Trust by Being Trustworthy – You have to earn trust, especially if your partner has trust issues. While you can’t fix your partner, you can work on earning trust by being trustworthy. Be reliable, honest, kind, and dependable. It’s the little things that help you build trust and show how much you care to a partner who has been hurt before [23].
  • Be Patient with Your Partner – Trust issues don’t go away overnight. If your partner needs time to trust you, be patient. Forcing your partner or rushing them will only dismantle the little trust you have built together.
  • Don’t Take Abuse – It’s fine for a partner to have trust issues, and it may take time for your partner to fully trust you. However, there’s a big difference between trust issues and abuse. If your partner constantly accuses you of cheating, monitors your phone calls, controls who you can’t hang out with, or shows extreme jealousy of your friends, this is abuse [24]. Never take abuse, no matter how much you love your partner.

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