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I Have a Hard Time Trusting in a Relationship – What Should I Do?

by Kavita Hatten – MS, LPC, NCC, Ileana Hinojosa – MLA, LMFT, Brooke Campbell – MA, LCAT, Jackie Krol – LCSW, Neesha Lenzini – MS, Amy Sherman – M.A., LMHC, Karen Koenig – LCSW, M.Ed., Sally LeBoy – MFT

I Have a Hard Time Trusting in a Relationship

“No relationship can survive without trust, honesty, and communication, no matter how close you are.”

~ J. Sterling

J. Sterling No Relationship Can Survive Without Trust, Honesty and Communication Quote
Kavita Hatten

When I dig deep with my clients, the issue of trust is at the core of most of their difficulties. Whether they are suffering from a broken heart, been betrayed, or lost a close friendship, trusting again can be the biggest hurdle to overcome.

Trust is a basic universal need. 

In developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, he states that trust begins at infancy – birth to about 18 months.

How a child is cared for and whether their physical and emotional needs are met determine if they can trust others (strangers) in the outside world. 

Since trust develops at such an early age, adults who have not had their childhood developmental needs met will very likely have trust issues. These individuals may have difficulty trusting in relationships, have work/peer issues and have difficulty trusting themselves.

But, even if you are someone who had a relatively healthy childhood, you can still have trust issues. 

Unless you live in a vacuum, you can’t go through life without “injuries” to your “trust.” Life is full of experiences and with that comes happiness but also losses and hurts.

Think of trust like its own entity – “a being,” that all things develop and grow from. With this “gift” we are confident, knowing and open. Without it we are closed off, doubtful and fearful.

If you haven’t healed from trust issues, it will likely impact your relationships. 

Whether it’s unresolved childhood issues or adult relationship losses, there are ways to trust again.

#1. Have hope 

Set an intention that trust is something that you want in your life. Believing is the first step to change. Visualize how your life can change if you can trust. Ask yourself,” How will I feel, think or behave differently if I can trust again?”

#2. Letting go of old beliefs 

Your core beliefs about yourself and others develop from childhood experiences. Some of these beliefs are helpful in your adult life, while others are not.

Some examples of negative core beliefs are: ” No one can be trusted,” “If I’ve been hurt before, it will always happen,” or “I can’t trust myself.”

Identifying your negative core beliefs (that are creating roadblocks to happiness) is essential to developing trust. 

Challenge your beliefs and ask yourself if it’s true. Modify your beliefs to something that is more helpful in leading a fulfilling life.

#3. Trying new things 

One way of developing trust is trying new things. Whether it’s joining a Meet-Up group, going to church or a spiritual workshop, or joining a gym, these are all settings where you can meet others with similar interests and practice being social.

Learning to trust again in a relationship begins with being comfortable around others. 

People are people. When you can talk, share and be yourself, your confidence will improve. It will help when you have the opportunity to meet someone special.

#4. Trusting yourself 

You can’t begin to trust in a relationship until you trust yourself. Often my clients are struggling emotionally and in their relationships because they don’t trust themselves.

A common theme is they are looking “outside” themselves for reassurance and love. The problem here is that they are looking in the wrong place. Trust is within, in you – first and foremost.

If you don’t trust yourself, begin by making small decisions that you feel good about. 

Soon you will realize that the bigger decisions aren’t as difficult as you once thought. This is because they came from a place of trusting yourself.

#5. Be vulnerable 

Deal with your past. Recognize when you are viewing a trust issue from your “adult self” versus your “child.” When you can identify if this is an old issue, you can begin to have a different perspective about how to handle a recent trust issue.

Allow yourself to open up in your relationships about where your trust issues stem from. 

Go back to childhood hurts, if you feel it stems from there. When you can open up about what hurts you, you immediately stop allowing it to have emotional control over you.

#6. Pay attention to lessons 

Emotional and spiritual lessons keep repeating themselves until we learn from them. This is true for all of us.

You may find that the same thing keeps happening. You are feeling that you’re being taking of advantage of or been betrayed. See this as an opportunity for growth. A lesson to be learned.

Ask yourself: 

  • How is this similar to what happened before?
  • How am I feeling?
  • What choices did I make that led me to feel the same way again?
  • How can I take better care of myself so I protect my heart in the future?

Instead of being a “victim to love,” recognize that you have choices on how you approach relationships. 

Remember that trust is precious. It has to be cared and nurtured for just like that baby. When you put your heart into the world, know that it is wrapped in your love and acceptance, and be confident that you will bring only trusting people into your life.

Kavita A. Hatten, MS, LPC, NCC- www.phoenixcounseling.net

Ileana Hinojosa

Trust takes work

Each relationship is different despite the similarities that men might have. It is important to give the man you are with a chance to show you that you can trust him. This takes time and patience on your part. 

You will need to do your own internal work in order to address your issues around trust. 

It is important not to transfer your anxiety to your partner about trust. You can push him away quickly with constant accusations that he is cheating when he isn’t.

There are certain things that you want to see from him when you first start dating. 

Transparency is important when you first start dating but there are limits. He doesn’t need to hear from you 20 times a day and he doesn’t need to check in with you everywhere he goes. Be mindful of your triggers and work through them before accusing him of something you have no proof of him doing.

Is it you or him?

If you are anxious because he hasn’t called and your mind just thinks the worst, pause before you act. Learn to walk through your anxiety and ask yourself some basic questions. 

  • Where are these thoughts coming from? 
  • Did he do something? 
  • Do you have concrete evidence or are you just assuming he did something? 
  • What is your worst fear? 

If he is cheating, then you have the choice to walk away before you go any further with the relationship.

If you are suspicious and his behavior is triggering you, evaluate the source of your concern. 

  • Is he really being evasive or is his need for privacy valid and reasonable? 
  • Are you triggering him by asking him invasive questions or demanding an answer about something that he is doing when you are not there yet as a couple?

What are the reasons you struggle with trust?

Have you been hurt in the past and desperate to avoid that kind of pain again? Be mindful not to impose you will on him and push him away with unreasonable expectations.  It is not his job to validate you to the point of exhaustion. He can only reassure you so much and the rest is up to you.

Tell him how you feel and that you have issues with trust. 

Don’t expose yourself to the point that you give him so much power over you that he can make or break your day. Let me explain. If he is manipulative and toxic, he could easily use your insecurities to control you emotionally. If he triggers you intentionally and he keeps you in emotional chaos, he might be toxic.

If he is triggering you, explore what it is that is triggering you. 

If you are aware of your trust issues and can learn to sit in your discomfort when you are triggered, you can avoid making yourself vulnerable in the first place. 

In other words if you learn to validate yourself and work through your issue, you engage him from a grounded place. Be mindful that you do not give him the power to determine how you feel by what he does or does not do.

Learn to internally validate

If you let him be the one to validate your feelings of self-worth and he is toxic, look out. This is a recipe for disaster. 

If you can sit through your discomfort and work through your insecurities, you will be much more confident regardless of what he does. 

And if he is toxic, you will be able to see the behavior for what it is and have the strength to walk away rather than get sucked into an emotional rollercoaster.

Pause before you say or do something you will regret. Don’t call and leave 10 messages telling him off for not calling you when he got home. 

Learn the concept of delayed gratification and work on waiting to know all the information before making an assumption or coming to a conclusion. 

Learn ways to self soothe when you are triggered so that you don’t act impulsively. Think before your speak and be mindful that you don’t come off as desperate or controlling.

Learn to self-soothe

Develop and an inner dialogue regarding your insecurities. Change your internal script by focusing on the positive rather than the negative. Challenge yourself and your automatic thoughts. Slow down, breathe and go for a walk without your phone. 

Journal your thoughts. Call a friend and talk it out. Wait 24 hours to send that text or email after you have had some time to think it through. 

Take a personal asset inventory and remind yourself of all the good qualities you have and what you bring to the relationship.

Everyone needs validation. It is how you get it that determines the health of your relationship. It will become tiresome for him to constantly validate you and prove himself to you. 

Developing trust is the foundation of a relationship. 

If you struggle to trust him and this is a pattern in your life, seek help from a therapist to work through your trust issues. If you find yourself spinning and thinking the worst about every guy you date, you need some work.

Being able to trust your partner is critical in having a healthy relationship. Look for ways to strengthen your relationship and talk things out with your partner. Invite him to a session with your therapist to talk about some of these issues so that he is aware of how you are feeling. 

If he is respectful and mindful of earning your trust, time will tell. 

If he is dismissive of your worries, you might want to move on. Finding someone you trust to talk to is a good first step in working through your trust issues.

Ileana Hinojosa, MLA, LMFT – www.themindfullife.net

Brooke Campbell

The topic of trust has emerged recently in most of my work with women.  

When a theme like trust arises to the surface to be explored and spoken about, inevitably our minds think of the opposite.  We tend to think of how we distrust others.  We think of times people have betrayed us and let us down.

Brene Brown breaks down this topic in her talk on Oprah’s Super Soul Sessions. She shares that trust is built in small sliding door moments.

We tend to trust others others who have repeatedly over time supported us.  We trust others who are reliable and dependable.

Dr. Brene Brown refers to the components of trust using the acronym B.R.A.V.I.N.G.

  • To trust ourselves and others we must set clear and healthy Boundaries.
  • We must be Reliable with ourselves and others.
  • We need to practice holding ourselves and others Accountable.
  • We must be the emotional Vault for others and not reveal other people’s truths which they tell us in confidence.
  • We must practice acting with Integrity.
  • We need to relate to one another with Non-Judgment.
  • Lastly, when others behave in ways that may cause us not to trust them, we can be Generous in our assumptions about their actions. This means giving people the benefit of the doubt. 

In a relationship, it is imperative to trust ourselves and our partners based on these BRAVING components.

If there is a breakdown, for example in someone’s ability to rely on their partner, or for their partner to hold themselves accountable, or to behave with non-judgement, these are the areas to work through.

If our partners are not willing to acknowledge these areas they may need to improve in their lives to build the trust within their relationship, this might be an indicator that this person is not worthy of your trust.

It is always important to trust yourself and your instincts and be BRAVE and to act accordingly.

Following these benchmarks are important for ourselves to establish trust within in order to show up in our own lives with bravery and courage.

Brooke Campbell, MA, LCAT – www.creativekinections.com

Jackie Krol

Trusting yourself means you trust that you are making good, healthy decisions that benefit you and would never cause you harm. 

If you trusted a man who ended up hurting you or betraying you, you might feel that you betrayed yourself with your inability to determine if others are trustworthy.

Or maybe your trust issues stem from abandonment, neglect or betrayal either within relationships with romantic partners, friendships or even with family members. These issues could even possibly stem from your childhood and be hidden in your subconscious mind. 

Here are some things you can do to help yourself learn how to trust yourself and ultimately, trust the man you are dating:

1. Seek Therapy – a therapist will help you figure out the root cause of your mistrust and help you increase your self-esteem so that you can confidently make decisions about trusting men. Therapy will help you heal old scars from your past that have cast doubt on your decision making.

2. Read Self Help Books – especially books on trust issues, self esteem and relationships. 

3. Talk to your partner – Be upfront and vulnerable with him. It does not feel good to be mistrusted if you are not doing anything wrong. So if your man is not deserving of your mistrust, then he deserves to know why you do not trust him. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable.

Of course, it is extra scary to be vulnerable for someone with trust issues because you may feel that there is a risk associated with being vulnerable but the reward is greater than the risk. 

Beautiful and wonderful things can happen. You will be pleasantly surprised that when you share personal stories with others, they will feel more comfortable sharing their stories with you. 

4. Journal – write about the things that trigger your mistrust of your partner. Writing is a great tool that can help with self analysis. It will help with reality testing.

Mistrust is associated with anxiety. Anxiety can cloud our judgement of others and make things seem worse than they really are. Anxiety is a huge exaggerator. 

Writing helps to organize your thoughts, fears and concerns and ultimately, it allows you to reality test your fears associated with your mistrust.

Jackie Krol, LCSW – www.psychotherapistjackie.com

Neesha Lenzini

Often in relationships we bring all of our baggage from previous relationship front and center in our new one.

This more often than not results in us not trusting our new partner for no apparent reason and absolutely not based off of something they have done to deserve the mistrust. This can ultimately end our relationships before they have even had the chance to begin and flourish.

So how do we overcome this and allow ourselves the opportunity to trust others.

There are actually several things we can do to work on this situation. 

First be a fact checker. 

I do not mean be a detective and look to see if what is being told to you is the facts. Instead I mean look at the facts about this person and about this relationship. Have they truly done anything to lose your trust? 

If not look at them and the relationship for exactly what it is and has been. If it has been an honest healthy relationship then take it and them as such.

Then secondly, remind yourself of these facts.

If the person and the relationship have been honest and trustworthy and you have seen that in review, trust this and think about it honestly. One of the best ways we have to change our views and habits is by creating new ones.

Reminding ourselves that we trust this person and this relationship because it is different and not needing our distrust starts to create new views for us and feelings of comfort and trust.

Thirdly, stop reliving and comparing to the past.

If we want to be truly present in this relationship then we need to stop living it through the past ones. Stop looking for similarities or reasons to not trust this new individual. They have done nothing to deserve paying for others faults. We do not want to be judged off of others neither do they.

Take this relationship as new and clean and each action positive or negative belongs to only this relationship. Take it for what it truly is and do not look for ways from the past for it to mean something different.

If you can truly fact check, remind yourself of those facts and live in the present not the past, you will find that you start to trust and build new comfort in your relationship.

This will not likely happen overnight but if you continue to apply these steps and work to build new habits you will start to see the changes. The feeling of trust and comfort in a relationship is worth more than its weight in gold so giving it a try will not hurt.

Neesha Lenzini, MS – www.relationshipsinneed.com

Amy Sherman

First and foremost, it is important to do the inner work to get to a place of confidence and purpose with who you are

Explore what caused you to feel mistrust in your relationships.  

  • Was it a childhood issue, a boyfriend’s deceit or a friend’s betrayal?  
  • Can you move past the emotional charge or are you so stuck that it’s keeping you from having a healthy relationship that grows?

These questions need to be answered so you can radiate the essence of a proud, beautiful person who will attract a smart, relationship-minded individual looking for someone just like you!

If you allow your emotions (fears, anger, suspicions) to rule your dating and relationship decisions, you’ll never be happy with who you’re with and what they have to offer.  

You will always find something wrong and then sabotage what could be a good relationship.  

Here are some things to help you gain trust again:

1. Start by being a person people trust.

The easiest way to sabotage yourself is by being deceitful and disloyal to friends who once trusted and depended on you. You didn’t like it; neither would they.

2. Look at the triggers that are setting you off.  

Can they be avoided (like alcohol, certain songs, restaurants) or are there expressions, looks, or other body language cues that remind you of the past and then make you insecure?  

Your awareness can lessen the impact these triggers have on you because acknowledgment of a situation is the first step to change it.

3. Communicate with your partner

Let him know your insecurities and with his support and understanding, he will help you trust him and let go of the past baggage you are carrying around.

4. Regaining trust with another person can be difficult if the trust was broken.  

But if you are starting a new relationship, it is necessary and healthy to give your partner the trust he deserves. You are determined to start trusting people again, so, with awareness, forgiveness and kindness towards yourself, you can be that person again.

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com

Karen Koenig

We all have issues with trust.

For some people, they’re minor and don’t get in the way of having healthy romantic relationships. For others, they’re a huge roadblock. Learning how to trust is a process that’s based on specific skills and mindsets and everyone can get better at it. 

Here’s how:

#1. Lose the all-or-nothing mindset

When we talk about trust, we’re usually talking about being able to have a relationship in which someone won’t intentionally repeatedly hurt us. Some hurt comes with the territory of being human and seeking or having a mate. We need to be clear about what we mean by trust and be sure we don’t have an all-or-nothing mindset about it, as in this man will never hurt me. Not going to happen.

The most we can expect from a man is that he will share his thoughts and feelings with us so that there are no heartbreaking surprises—like his walking out and never contacting us again. 

It’s reasonable to trust that we won’t suddenly be abandoned or that our guy won’t have an affair, emotional or sexual. It’s not reasonable to expect that he won’t have look at another woman or never hurt our feelings.

#2. Ask yourself if what he says matches what he does

This approach is called trust but verify. Does your guy say he’ll do something and follow through or say he won’t do something and refrain from doing it most of the time? 

If your man is generally true to his word, that’s a good sign. 

If he asks you to trust him and his words don’t match his deeds (no matter how much you wish they would), he’s not trustworthy. 

The problem arises because he’s not just being dishonest with you. He’s being dishonest with himself as well and has no motivation to change because facing the truth about himself makes him too uncomfortable.

One way to handle this observation process is to point out each time his words and deeds don’t match and notice how he responds. 

Does he explain why, lie, get defensive, blame you, or agree that he’s not trustworthy? His response will tell you a great deal about his character.

#3. Notice how trustworthy a man is with others

There’s no better sign that your man isn’t trustworthy than watching him lie, cheat, and manipulate other people. You may think that he’ll never do that to you, but then you’re lying to yourself. Someone who has difficulty being truthful in situations is going to do the same thing to you someday.

#4. Share your feelings when he hurts you

There are two reasons to express your feelings to your guy when he hurts you. The first is to air your grievance and the second is to gauge his reaction. It’s important that you give him a chance to explain why he did whatever he did to hurt you, but it’s also vital to evaluate his response. 

Does he seem sincere? Does he change when you ask him to do things differently? Or does he blow off what you have to say or make you feel (or, worse, say) that you’re too sensitive?

#5. Ask friends about your man’s trustworthiness

Ask friends and family if they think your guy is trustworthy, but only ask this of people who are mentally healthy. If you don’t know many people who are, find a therapist to talk to. 

Seeing your guy through other people’s eyes is helpful. 

They may observe that he’s just a goof who occasionally doesn’t think before he speaks, but seems basically a guy to be trusted. Or they may tell you that they don’t trust him, never have, and wish you wouldn’t either.

#6. Know your own history

Understand your own issues about trust: 

  • Do you trust too easily? 
  • Are you mostly mistrusting, but when you do trust become blind to the truth? 
  • Did you have parents on whom you could rely growing up or does this give you reasons not to trust others who say they love you? 
  • Did you grow up in an environment in which family members trusted each other? 

If there was sexual, emotional or physical abuse or neglect going on, you’ll very likely (for good reason) have difficulty trusting others in intimate relationships. It’s your job to identify and hopefully resolve these issues in order to have a healthier sense of trust in a romantic relationship.

Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. – www.karenrkoenig.com

Sally LeBoy

To some degree everyone has a hard time trusting in a relationship

Think about it.  You are asking yourself to put your faith in somebody whom you don’t really know very well.  Even if you’ve known each other for a couple of years or longer, it’s still a drop in the bucket in the context of a whole lifetime.

Nevertheless, if we don’t find a way to trust, we can’t create healthy, satisfying and committed relationships.  Without trust we will not be able to truly love.

History is what really interferes with the ability to trust

Growing up in a safe secure family creates a bedrock of trust that will get transferred to adult relationships.  Many people aren’t lucky enough to grow up in safe families and will enter into adult relationships with a certain amount of understandable fear. Hurtful past adult relationships will also interfere. It can’t be ignored that our pasts inform our present.  

Before entering into any serious relationship it’s important to work through those past hurts so that you make better choices and feel reasonably optimistic about your ability to choose a trustworthy partner.  

No matter what, there is going to be some element of risk, but you really can reduce the possibility of choosing the wrong partner.  Therapy is probably the best way to do this important work.

To some degree trust is an act of faith.  

However that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be diligent about evaluating a potential partner.  

One of the difficulties in making an accurate evaluation is that intense attraction immediately clouds rational judgment.  

All of the wonderful, pleasurable feelings that go along with desire are the same feelings that make it hard to think.  I honestly think that it’s impossible to override those feelings, and maybe we don’t even want to!  

Intense desire is one of the most pleasurable experiences we have in life.

Shutting it down just seems really sad.  This is why I counsel all of my in love clients to take a relationship slowly.  

With time, the intensity of the feelings wane, making more rational judgment possible. 

There are aspects of character, common interests, an ability to manage conflict that really have to be evaluated in order to not only trust somebody but decide if this partner is indeed potentially a good mate.

Usually if you have a hard time trusting, you probably have some pretty good reasons for that.

Unfortunately those reasons may not have anything to do with your current or prospective partner. It then stands to reason that no amount of managing him (monitoring emails, texts, etc.) will help you feel more trusting of him. 

You are bringing the mistrust with you into a new relationship. You have to work on yourself and learn how to heal or manage the past hurts that are interfering with creating the loving relationship that you want and deserve.

Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com

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