Trust is complicated. And it's multi-layered.
Most people trust easily. However, when life happens, and people hurt us, we can develop trust issues.
But when someone has trust issues, what exactly does that mean?
You've Got Some Trust Issues
If you have trust issues, it means that you may be unable to trust people, even innocent people who have not yet done anything to make you question their trustworthiness.
On the other hand:
If you have trust issues, you may find yourself trusting too easily.
No one's trust issues are exactly the same.
And the cause is...
No one is born with trust issues.
We become distrustful because of betrayal and life experiences.
Our natural human instincts rise up to protect us, but sometimes our survival instincts are so powerful that they interfere with our growth and happiness.
The Dangers Of Trust Issues In A Relationship
Although trust issues are our psyche's way of protecting us from danger, often the trust issues themselves put us in danger.
They put us in danger of never finding intimacy, warmth, and connection.
Too often, trust issues stem from past relationships that have nothing to do with the new relationships we're trying to build.
Making ourselves vulnerable is scary. Terrifying, in fact.
We have to learn to make ourselves vulnerable if we want to have lasting happiness and success in relationships.
Why it's hard to let go of trust issues
Our past experiences define who we are, for good and bad.
Berkely professor Joshua Coleman, Ph.D. discussed hypervigilance in an article about trust and betrayal.
He suggests that we develop trust issues after betrayal due to evolutionary precautions.
Unfortunately, hyper-vigilance is not a great discriminating device. It exists primarily to put the individual on global red alert that danger is afoot. It creates a suspicion of future betrayals and tempts us to look for lies elsewhere—in other family members, co-workers, or spiritual leaders.
-- Joshua Coleman, Ph.D. (via Berkeley.edu)
Simply put, hypervigilance keeps us from haplessly meandering into yet another betrayal.
Being cautious is a good thing. However, we need to recognize our evolutionary barriers for what they are.
Evolution is about evolving. We need to evolve to let go of the past and find happiness.
9 Signs You Have Trust Issues
Are you unsure whether or not you have trust issues? Here are some signs that you may.
1. You predict betrayal by people without evidence
One of the biggest problems with trust issues involves you assigning past misdeeds by other people to current relationships.
If the person you currently distrust has betrayed you, distrust is appropriate.
However, if they have not:
Your distrust is misplaced.
2. Your trust-ometer is broken
The other side of the trust issues coin is that you not only distrust people who may be trustworthy, you actually give your trust to people you have no business trusting.
People who are generally untrustworthy have become skilled at deceiving people. In other words, they're really good at identifying vulnerable people.
Here's the deal:
Having trust issues means that your ability to trust is broken all around. It doesn't just apply to not trusting. It also applies to your tendency toward the wrong people.
Your trust-ometer is broken.
3. You trust too quickly
If you have trust issues, you're reluctant to give your trust to some people, while you trust others way too quickly.
Your trust-ometer is broken.
You're navigating life and relationships without a trust compass.
4. You either won't share or you overshare
For people with trust issues, it's very difficult to know when to share and when to keep your secrets close to your chest.
Your trust-ometer is broken.
I know I keep repeating that. It's because it's that important.
Because your trust-ometer is broken, it's hard for you to know when it's safe to share.
As a result:
You may share too quickly with the wrong people and put yourself at risk of betrayal.
On the other hand, you may guard yourself so closely that you don't share even when it would make a positive relationship more intimate.
5. You secretly know your relationship is shallow
If you have trust issues, you may be in a relationship with someone who doesn't realize how shallow the relationship really is.
You know it's shallow. They may not.
They may think they have intimacy with you when in reality, you've actually shared very little of the "real you."
You've been afraid to share yourself with them.
Again, because your trust-ometer is broken, it's difficult for you to know when you can safely share.
The bottom line is:
Shallow, vapid relationships are easier.
6. You have commitment phobia
If you have trust issues, you anticipate loss and betrayal. Therefore, your relationships aren't solid.
To keep yourself emotionally safe, you've kept yourself in a place where you can bail quickly and easily if things get too real.
If you feel yourself becoming attached, you're out of there.
7. You see genuine mistakes as catastrophic breaches of trust
People make mistakes.
Life throws curveballs.
However, if you have trust issues, you tend to see even the smallest breaches as worst case scenarios.
If someone is running late to meet you, or late coming home, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're cheating on you. They may have run into heavy traffic.
If someone doesn't immediately return your text, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're chatting with someone else. Maybe they've gone to the bathroom and left their phone on their desk.
8. Multiple people tell you that you're impossible to please
If one person accuses you of having trust issues, maybe they're misreading you.
However, if multiple people tell you the same thing, you may need to look deeply inward to figure out if you really do have trust issues.
Here's the kicker:
If a romantic interest is accusing you of having trust issues...
Maybe, maybe not.
If your mom and sister and dad and best friend are saying it?
Go digging into your heart and do a thorough self-examination.
9. You're emotionally alone and isolated
If you feel that there's no one in the world who you can share things with, it could be a sign that you have trust issues.
If you don't share your deepest, truest thoughts with someone, it feels like no one in the world knows the real you.
You are emotionally alone.
You may even feel like you're an imposter, a total fake in your own life.
6 Tips For Healing The Wounds Caused By Betrayal And Moving Forward
Are you ready to move forward and try to let go of your trust issues?
1. Be brave enough to risk the pain of trusting someone.
2. Find a partner who can help you learn to trust again (a therapist, coach, or emotionally stable trusted friend, NOT a romantic interest).
3. Start learning to trust by taking some calculated emotional risks with the person you've chosen as your trust partner.
4. As you begin to take emotional risks with your trust partner, confront your trust prejudices, suspicions, and fears as they come up.
5. Fix your broken trust-ometer by learning as much as you can about how the neuroscience of trust works. Start here.
6. Accept that people will let you down. You will occasionally trust a completely reliable person who will disappoint you. This is life.
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret To Love That Lasts
In 2009, Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book that changed how we see love and romantic relationships: "The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts." This revolutionary book has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide and was a #1 New York Times Bestseller for 8 years running.
Here's the best part:
Knowing the five love languages will help you:
Here's a video explaining the five love languages.
Finding your love language
Before you can put the five love languages to work, you need to know which love language applies to you and your partner.
You probably speak a different love language than your partner does. That's OK.
Here are the five love languages and what each one means:
1. Words of affirmation
Simply put, the Words of Affirmation language means reminding people frequently that you love and appreciate them.
Remember the old-fashioned adage:
"Why do I need to tell you that I love you? I married you, didn't I? That means I love you."
That may have been an acceptable old-school response to "do you love me?"
However, in today's society, people expect to have appreciation shown to them. Frankly, it's easier than ever to divorce someone. If your partner's not happy, they will no longer suffer in silence as their grandparents did.
Watch this short scene from Fiddler on the Roof, with Tevye asking Golde "do you love me?"
There's a certain power in affirming your love and appreciation of another person.
Here are some examples of giving your partner words of affirmation:
- "You look beautiful/handsome in that outfit."
- "I really appreciate you always being on time to pick me up."
- "Your help around the house takes such a burden off of me, and I deeply appreciate it."
- "You make me happy every day."
2. Quality time
People who need quality time want your undivided attention.
If your partner's love language is Quality Time, you need to put down your electronic devices.
Turn them off.
"People often think making time means turning up and being there.
But you need to be present.
If you’re always on your phone when talking to your partner, that’s not being with them.
If you start talking, and you’re always denying everything, that is not talking.
Remember, there are two parts of communication, one is talking and the other is listening.
If you’re only there to talk, it’s not going to work.
If the relationship is important, then trying to understand what is important for your partner should be just as important to you."
Learn some active listening techniques. This video explains how to practice active listening."
-Gurpreet Singh, relationship counselor, via Cosmopolitan
Some ways you can give your partner quality time include:
3. Receiving gifts
If your partner's love language is Receiving Gifts, it doesn't mean that they're materialistic.
It means that a small token means a lot to them and affirms that you care enough to put thought into something they might appreciate.
Some important tips for showing your love for your partner whose language is Receiving Gifts:
4. Acts of service
If your partner's language is Acts of Service, they appreciate the things you actively do to show your love for them. This means doing things that you know your partner would like for you to do.
Actions speak louder than words.
Some examples of Acts of Service:
- Cook a meal for them
- Empty the dishwasher
- Take an equal role in childcare responsibilities
- Have the oil changed in the car
- Take them lunch at work occasionally
- Be reliable, do what you say you're going to do
5. Physical touch
People whose love language is Physical Touch aren't necessarily in need of more sex.
They may actually crave non-sexual physical touch.
Some examples of non-sexual physical touch:
The Emotional Bank Account
In every relationship, there are ups and downs, highs and lows.
However, one thing can fix that:
The emotional bank account.
"To make and keep a promise, essentially lets the other person know you can be counted upon. You are dependable. You will come through. There is no ability like dependability."
-Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Watch this short video that explains the emotional bank account.
Here is a longer video of Dr. Covey explaining the emotional bank account.
Dr. Covey shares some examples of deposits into emotional bank accounts:
Best of all:
It's easy to know how to master the emotional bank account.
The 5:1 ratio
The magic formula for maintaining a positive emotional bank account in your relationship is 5:1.
What does this mean?
There must be five positive interactions for every one negative interaction.
This is important:
If you have trust issues, it's especially important for your partner to understand that this ratio is essential. The best thing you can do is watch that video by Dr. Covey.
But there's more:
The 5:1 ratio is for during conflicts.
In everyday life?
The ratio needs to be 20 positive interactions for every one negative interaction.
I know...I know...this seems like a lot.
However, going from Dr. Covey's list, it's easy enough to make deposits. Simply treat your partner as you'd like to be treated.
Need a worksheet to help you and your partner with your relationship bank accounts? Download one here.
7 Tips For Communicating With Your Partner
Communication isn't easy.
Here's the good news:
It gets easier with time.
Here are some tips for opening the door to better communicate with each other.
1. Find a neutral place where both of you feel comfortable
A neutral place where both of you feel comfortable may be:
Don't have difficult conversations in bed. That's not a neutral place.
2. Give each other your full attention
Practice active listening. And definitely turn off all electronic devices. They should be in your purse or pocket.
3. Make eye contact
Even if it's uncomfortable at times, it's important to maintain eye contact.
Eye contact builds trust and sends the message that you're not afraid to face the issues in your relationship.
4. Open with "I" statements, not "you" statementsThis: "I feel uncomfortable when..." Not this: "You make me uncomfortable when..."
5. Invite sharing with open questions
Ask questions that require more than just "yes" or "no."
It takes a bit of finesse and is an adjustment in thinking for most people.
However, it's a simple matter of rephrasing the things you want to say.This: "What is something I can do that would help you trust me more?"
Not this: "Would you trust me more if I came home on time every night?"
6. Don't interrupt
Practice active listening as we discussed in a previous section.
Some things you can say while they're talking:
"What I understand you're saying is..."
"If I understand correctly, you are telling me that..."
7. Offer genuine solutions
It's not enough to simply acknowledge the issues your partner is bringing up. It's an important start, but solutions are necessary.
Some examples of how to phrase solutions:
5 Tips For Rebuilding A Relationship After Betrayal
Is it possible to rebuild after betrayal?
At the same time, there are some tips and guidelines to follow for effectively rebuilding your trust and your relationship.
1. Don't humiliate your partner
While it can be sickly pleasurable in an ugly way to watch them squirm, it's counterproductive.
You're not trying to rebuild so that you can continue to have a negative relationship.
This is the bottom line:
You're rebuilding so that you can have a positive, rewarding relationship.
2. Keep complaints separate from criticism
Your relationship will move to healing more quickly if you can see their betrayal as a mistake rather than a huge character flaw.
If your partner cheated, was it a mistake? Or was it symptomatic of a larger issue?
For example, do you really think your partner has an anti-social personality disorder? Or did they make a horrible mistake?
There's a huge difference between the two.
Assuming that they are genuinely remorseful (and don't actually have a personality disorder), you'll move forward more quickly if you can isolate the mistake from the broader concerns that may not be valid.
3. Turn your accusations into personal requests
To keep your complaints more positive, frame them from the point of view of "I."
For example, this complaint:"You ignore my attempts to talk to you about my trust issues" can be reframed as: "I could move past this more easily if you would listen to my concerns about trust."
You're saying the same thing.
It's just all in the phrasing.
When you accuse and complain, people shut down and retreat, making it impossible for the relationship to move forward.
4. Isolate talking about the betrayal
When we feel betrayed, it's tempting to talk about the betrayal in every interaction with our partner.
It's damaging to both of you.
You can decide when it's a good time to reduce the frequency of talking about the betrayal.
Agree upon a set time to revisit the topic for 10-20 minutes per day. You need to talk it out, but it can't be something you talk about 24/7 if you want to move forward.
5. Make a decision: do you want to be happy or not?
Do you want to be happy? Really, do you?
Can you forgive the person who betrayed you?
If you want to be happy in this relationship, you have to move past a betrayal.
If the relationship is something you value, you're going to have to let it go.
It doesn't mean that your trust issues aren't valid.
Grieve and then let it go.
Or do this:
Get out of the relationship if you can't move forward.
The fact is:
It's not always possible to forgive. Sometimes our trust issues are valid enough that we have to move on and rebuild ourselves, not the relationship.
Either way, this is vitally important:
Make a decision.
Life is too short to remain unhappy.
Moving Forward With Renewed Trust
Making the decision to address your trust issues and move forward is the greatest investment you can ever make in yourself.
Change is hard.
Trust is fragile. Also, trust is complicated.
It's like a jigsaw puzzle in which you have to figure out and fill in the missing pieces.
Moving forward from betrayal and letting go of your trust issues may be one of the bravest things you will ever do. But you're doing it for you, and for no one else. Be happy.
Do you have any tips that have helped in your relationships? Let us know in the comments!