Until you recognize the signs of having trust issues, you can’t take the necessary steps toward healing.
And that’s what you need right now.
Because somewhere along the way, someone broke your trust.
A lover, a friend, a spouse.
And the effects of that betrayal or failure don’t just go away.
Fortunately, the more you know, the sooner you can learn how to fix trust issues and build stronger, more connected romantic relationships.
Should I Be in a Relationship If I Have Trust Issues?
The short answer is no — not until you resolve or heal the causes of your lack of trust.
However, you may not be in the position to walk away from your relationship.
Or you may not want to, even though it’s painful.
At the root of your trust issues is the belief that you don’t deserve a relationship where you feel loved unconditionally and worth more than your usefulness.
Perhaps you’ve gotten accustomed to feeling like a supporting actor.
So, you play your role, expecting an end that will reinforce your bit-player identity.
No one likes to walk on eggshells around other people, especially not someone who is supposed to love and care for you.
So at some point, there’s a crunch (accidental or not).
And it’s almost a relief to stop pretending trust was even a possibility. When things come to a head like this, you may decide you want out. Or you want help.
Can Couples Overcome Trust Issues?
Of course, they can.
But you can’t know how to resolve trust issues on your own or without work and commitment from both partners. This work requires meeting regularly with a couple’s therapist to help you address how they impact your relationship.
Fortunately, it’s well worth the effort.
When you build trust in a relationship, you believe the other person will take your feelings, thoughts, and best interests into account when making decisions that affect you.
This level of care and mutual dependability allows for vulnerability — which leads to deeper emotional intimacy as a couple. You both feel safe and secure to be yourselves without fear of rejection, betrayal, or abandonment.
Dealing with Trust Issues in a Relationship
Maybe you’re wondering how to save a relationship without trust. You have a lot invested after all. But relationships with no trust are an uneasy truce. You never feel that deep connection you long for.
Without trust, it’s impossible to build a real and lasting love partnership. You’re stuck in limbo, wondering, “Who will hurt the other first?”
Coping with this tension and trying to “make the relationship work” is no easy task. You may tiptoe around the elephant in the room and hope to cobble together some semblance of a marriage or intimate relationship.
Or sometimes you’ll sabotage your own efforts just to get it over with.
It’s easier to shut the person out if you feel attacked or expect him or her to turn on you or hurt you at any moment.
What Causes Trust Issues in a Relationship?
At this point, you might be wondering, “But what causes my trust issues?”
You may have grown up with a loving family, and you can’t for the life of you understand why you expect people to reject or abandon you. What could lie at the root of your fears?
Or there may be events from childhood or adolescence that contributed to your insecurities.
Here are few possible explanations:
- Negative childhood experiences, family dysfunction, or trauma.
- Social rejection or being bullied as a teen.
- Having low self-esteem and feeling unworthy due to criticism or belittling by adults.
- Being cheated on or abandoned in past relationships.
- Being physically abused or violated in past relationships.
Learning how to trust again in a way that benefits you and your partner involves risk.
We don’t mean the kind of risk where you throw caution to the wind and let your guard down too quickly.
We’re talking about the risk and pain of having to unpack your issues, and still never completely knowing whether or not you’ll get hurt again.
But there are ways to mitigate that risk, and working on these steps is so worth the effort for your future happiness in a relationship and for your self-esteem.
How to Fix Trust Issues in a Relationship: 9 Effective Strategies
Consider the following steps for building trust in a way that honors your needs as well as those of your partner. Remember, you may need the support of a therapist as you work on trust issues in marriage or a committed relationship.
1. Open the lines of communication.
You’ve been hiding your thoughts and feelings for fear of rejection. Take a risk and speak up. Even if someone disagrees with you, the more you respectfully communicate your point of view, the braver you’ll be.
When you begin a new relationship, talk about how much you value trust and find out what the other person feels about it. You can ask questions like:
- What does trust in a relationship mean to you?
- What would feel like a breech of trust?
- How can we make each other feel more secure and trusting in our relationship?
The answers to these questions will reveal so much about the other person and whether are not they are worthy of your trust.
2. Learn how trust is earned and what makes someone trustworthy.
Trusting too quickly is as counter-productive as shutting down and refusing to trust. And if you see yourself as untrustworthy, you’re also more likely to project that onto others.
Learn what it really means to have this quality and see it in others. Trustworthy people are:
- Honest and authentic
- Respectful of themselves and others
- Consistent in what they say and do
- Caring and genuinely interested in other people
- Respectful of your boundaries
- Trusted by many friends, co-workers, and past partners
- Able to speak difficult truths in loving ways
- Guided by their values and integrity
3. Learn to see people as individuals rather than groups.
The more you generalize or make assumptions about people as a group, the easier it is to keep the walls up. Learn to see each as an individual with needs and concerns as valid as your own.
Of course, it will require you to invest time and emotional energy in getting to know someone on a deeper level. And that involves some risk.
But if you don’t give people a chance to reveal their good character, you might miss an opportunity for a wonderful connection.
4. Identify your triggers.
Some situations will set off alarms in your head and get your imagination working overtime on all the ways someone might hurt you. Learn to identify those triggers and interpret them differently.
Your knee-jerk reaction about someone’s words or behavior could be based on your past pain — not on reality. Look at the entirety of a person, and don’t write them off over something you perceive as a trust warning.
5. Start small to regain faith in other people.
Give people small opportunities to show their trustworthiness. Instead of spying on them or assuming the worst, give them the space and encouragement to do right by you.
We are all flawed, and even the best of us will break the trust of others and say or do hurtful things. But that doesn’t mean it will be a consistent pattern.
You can recognize a serial trust abuser by patterns of behavior — not by one-off mistakes.
People make mistakes, even when they’re doing their best to avoid them. Make some allowances for human frailty and don’t expect more of others than you do of yourself.
6. Swap out worst-case scenarios for hopeful ones.
Before you sabotage your relationship to realize a self-fulfilling prophecy, consider more hopeful interpretations of their actions. And talk to them about what you’re feeling.
You don’t want your fears and insecurities to sabotage an otherwise good relationship. Do your best to manage your fears with positive self-talk and reality checks.
Talk to a trusted friend or counselor about your fears and whether or not the behavior of your new friend or lover merits your concerns.
7. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
It’s common to close yourself off after you’ve been hurt or betrayed. You don’t want to show your feelings if you think the other person might run away or treat you poorly.
You think you need to protect yourself in order to prevent further pain. But closing yourself off too much doesn’t afford the chance for the relationship to bloom.
You don’t have to shout, “I love you” after the first date or “Will you be my best friend?” when first introduced to someone.
But over time, reveal more and more about yourself as you recognize the traits of trustworthy people outlined above.
8. Step into their shoes.
If the roles were reversed and your partner spied on you, read your text messages, cyber-stalked you, or kept you at arm’s length, how would you feel? And what might you do about it?
Give this person in your life the benefit of the doubt before you go to extreme measures. Snooping and suspicion are not attractive behaviors.
9. Build your confidence and self-esteem.
Take daily action to build your confidence and get to know yourself better. Pursue your interests, develop your skills, and take more risks. And look for ways to lift up others, too.
The better you feel about yourself and your own worthiness, the better your “trust radar” will be. You’ll more easily recognize people who lack the integrity to merit your trust.
And you’ll be drawn to those who appreciate you and find you interesting, fun, and attractive.
Where will you begin?
Now that you have an idea of how to get over trust issues and if you have them, what actions will you take today to begin healing yourself and building stronger relationships?
This isn’t about blaming others for your trust issues. Yes, other people were likely involved. But just as you need to forgive yourself in order to heal, you also need to forgive those who’ve hurt you.
You don’t have to be involved with them, or with anyone unworthy of your trust.
But don’t let your happiness and growth depend on someone else. Real strength means forgiving as well as taking action to protect yourself and others from toxic people.
Both are essential to learning how to trust again.