Trust takes years to build, but seconds to destroy. Unless you've spent your life wholly insulated, someone you cared about, whom you thought cared about you in return, did something that hurt you. Now you find yourself having trust issues.
Perhaps you even feel like you can't trust anyone but yourself.
These problems make it extremely difficult to create and build lasting and fulfilling relationships. Your neverending suspicion seems like a great way to avoid getting hurt, but to those around you, it's irrational, even toxic.
People don't like having their integrity questioned all the time, especially when they've done nothing to deserve it. And contrary to popular belief, getting angry and defensive in response to accusations is not evidence of guilt.
But how do you get past this? How do you overcome your trust issues so you can build better, stronger relationships?
What Are Trust Issues in Relationships?
Trust issues are exactly what they sound like: Problems with trust.
Trust is the foundation on which we build relationships. When that doesn’t exist, the relationship might as well be built on quicksand.
Whether you’re having problems trusting others or someone is having problems trusting you, trust issues can destroy relationships from the inside out.
Why You Need to Understand Your Trust Issues
If you’re having trust issues, whether they're with your partner, your best friend, your parents, or someone else, you need to understand why you’re having problems.
Sometimes, the reason is apparent: They betrayed you somehow. Maybe your partner had an affair, or your best friend blurted out your darkest secret.
But what if your trust issues come from something in your past or just plain insecurity? When that’s the case, identifying and addressing the problem is more difficult.
You should know how to recognize trust issues so that you know how to address them before they become too much of a problem to overcome.
6 Signs You Have Trust Issues
How do you know you actually have trust issues? Here are some signs you should look for:
- 1You imagine people are betraying you without evidence
- 2You’re terrified of emotional commitment
- 3You see honest mistakes as horrible transgressions against you
- 4You’re lonely and isolated
- 5You trust too quickly
- 6You trust people you should never trust
These last two sound counterintuitive, right? Well...
Part of having trust issues is a lack of understanding that people need to earn your trust.
Instead, you blindly give it because you never learned how to create genuinely trusting relationships. You never learned the difference between trusting someone and giving them the benefit of the doubt while you build your relationship with each other.
Those who have learned how to have trusting relationships know how to enter those relationships with an open mind.
Trust and open-mindedness are two different things. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt isn't the same as trusting them.
How to Overcome Trust Issues in Your Relationships
So, now you know what trust issues are and how to spot them.
How do you learn to trust someone again? Or perhaps, for the first time?
Recognize the problem
Do you know what caused your trust issues in the first place? Did the person you distrust betray you?
Or do you have trust issues because someone from your past, like your parents or an ex, betrayed your trust?
Did you grow up in a culture where you were taught never to trust anyone but yourself because people are selfish and will always let you down if it benefits them?
Some trust issues are easier to overcome than others. For instance:
Your partner cheated on you, and you want to stay together, but you don’t know how to trust them again. In this case, you already have half the knowledge you need. Now the two of you need to work together to restore your trust in them.
If you don’t trust your current partner because a past partner cheated on you, that’s an issue with which you’ll have a little more difficulty in dealing.
In all cases, you need to know where your trust issues are coming from before you can begin to address them. If you’re having trouble understanding the roots of your trust issues, seeing a therapist who understands trust issues may help you.
A therapist may help you learn to trust people again, too.
Check your facts
Focus on the facts of each specific situation in which there’s distrust. What, exactly, happened? How did it happen? Or did anything actually happen?
You suspect your partner is cheating on you. Take a good look at their behavior. Has something changed that they can't seem to explain?
Maybe they claim they're working a lot of overtime lately, but you don't see it on their paycheck, or you tried calling them at work, and they weren't there even though they said they would be. In this case, your trust issues may be well placed.
But what if their behavior hasn't changed? What if they've always worked a lot of overtime, and their paycheck accurately reflects it, or they're always where they say they are when they say they'll be there?
Now your suspicions may be misplaced. If you don't address the issue within yourself, your doubts will eat your relationship away from the inside like fire eats wood.
So check your facts and try to look at them objectively.
Consider talking to someone, whether it be a close friend or relative, or a therapist, about your suspicions. Ask them how they see it -- perhaps they can see the facts better than you can.
But try to consider the facts before your suspicions. You may find the problem is within you, rather than with them.
Communication, empathy, and patience are key to overcoming trust issues
Above all, you and the person or people with whom you're having problems need to talk. Diminishing communication naturally leads to growing difficulties with trust because it seems like you know less and less about each other. Lack of knowledge breeds fear.
What do you do?
Ask questions, and answer questions as honestly and clearly as possible. Tell each other your secrets. Talk about your daily lives, even if that means telling them about all the reports you didn't finish today because you were too busy looking for the end of the internet.
Discuss your personal priorities. Sometimes, you develop problems trusting someone because you no longer feel like they care. If they've stopped caring about you, what do they care about?
Put yourself in the other person's shoes for a moment, too. How would you feel if they distrusted you for no reason? What would you think if they started making everything but you a priority in their life?
Be patient. Very patient. As we said at the beginning, trust takes years to build. You must be patient with the people around you and with yourself. Keeping the lines of communication as open as possible over time will help you maintain your patience with the process.
When You're the Trust-Breaker
All of this is great, right? Right.
But what do you do when you've violated someone else's trust?
Look at yourself, first of all.
Consider physically looking at yourself in a mirror while asking yourself why you did whatever it is you did. You need to understand yourself to communicate effectively with the person you betrayed and to change your behavior.
The truth is that, even if they end the relationship, you still need to change your thinking and behavior if you're to have healthy relationships with anyone.
You build and regain trust by consistently behaving in a trustworthy manner.
You don't lie, cheat, steal, go behind anyone's back, or otherwise violate their trust. Come home when you say you will. Call when you say you'll call. Make yourself an open book.
Show understanding of their feelings, even if their feelings hurt you, and give them the time and space they say they need. Do what you say and mean what you do.
Behaving in a trustworthy manner means being completely honest, both with yourself and with the other person. It doesn't mean getting better at covering your tracks (and lying to yourself, if you've been doing that, too).
It's never a bad idea to try and make amends. The words, "I'm so sorry," ring hollow if you don't back those words up with actions, but apologies can't hurt.
And if you genuinely want to repair your relationship, starting with a sincere apology is good.
Avoid punishing yourself as much as possible. Chances are, you're angry with yourself, but punishing yourself isn't going to help. And it's not going to help them if you say, "I hate myself. I'm so mad at myself. I'm beating myself up over this."
One, if you're sincere in your efforts, they already know you're mad at yourself. And two, this is a guilt trip. Whether you intend to or not, when you tell them how bad you feel about yourself for hurting them, they will hear, "So I don't need you making me feel even worse."
Don't take the focus off of them and their pain this way, even if it means holding in every I-hate-myself-with-the-fire-of-a-thousand-suns thought you have.
There's no timeline for restoring someone's trust, and it's ridiculously unfair of you to try and impose one. You did the betraying; you caused the pain, so you don't get to say, "When are you going to trust me again? It's been six months already."
It doesn't work like that.
That is one area where giving them space and patience comes in. You broke their trust, so it's up to you to help them do everything they can to rebuild that trust. Even if that sometimes means stepping back, or swallowing your feeling that this is taking too long.
With Time, Patience, and Caring, You Can Resolve Trust Issues and Have Better Relationships
Regardless of what happened, you can learn to trust people, and you can regain someone's trust once you've lost it.
Trust issues are difficult to deal with and even more difficult to resolve. It's easy to simply throw up walls and keep them up rather than let someone in, because who wants to be hurt?
But when you have those issues, you can't build meaningful, healthy relationships with anyone. You end up lonely and isolated, without close friends and family, and without the romantic relationships you may want.
And let's be honest, nobody wants that. Learn to trust. You'll be happier for it in the long run.
Have you found other ways of overcoming your trust issues in relationships? Share them with us in the comment section below.