Do you feel anxious or find yourself constantly on edge thinking about your partner being unfaithful to you? Are you constantly looking for ways to control your partner’s behavior and who they associate with to “stop” them from cheating? Do you find you have a hard time trusting your partner even if they haven’t given you a reason not to? Chances are, you have trust issues. And if you do, you’re definitely not alone.
In order to learn more about trust issues, we spoke to licensed relationship therapist Eboni Harris who defines trust issues as “difficulty trusting a person due to past betrayal, manipulation, or abandonment.” And while trust issues most frequently come up in relation to romantic partners, trust issues can show up in familial, platonic, and professional relationships as well. She adds, “Trust issues are also not always about infidelity. It can also be concerns around being left for someone else, being disrespected, or someone getting what you desire/'deserve' from your partner.”
Read on to learn more about what causes trust issues, how to deal with them, and how to navigate relationships with a partner who has trust issues.
Examples of Trust Issues
Indications of trust issues can differ based on personal experiences, Harris says. She adds that one example can be, “checking the phone of a significant other every time there is an opportunity even though you haven’t had a reason to suspect anything."
Signs of Trust Issues in Relationships
Signs also include:
- “Suspecting your partner of foul play every time they are not physically in your presence even though nothing has ever happened to lead to the suspicion;
- “Attempting to control your partner's behaviors, relationships with others, and how they spend their free time;
- “Anxiety when your partner does not immediately respond to a text message or a phone call;
- “Resonating with statements/phrases like: ‘Don’t trust anyone,’ ‘People are inherently bad,’ ‘Trust is earned,’ ‘You can’t fully trust anyone,’ ‘People are selfish and only look out for themselves,’ etc.”
Causes of Trust Issues
Trust issues are usually an amalgamation of trauma. Eventually, those experiences act as evidence to the person with trust issues that people can indeed not be trusted. It is oftentimes not just the event that causes the trust issues but instead the damage done in the wake of the trauma. Harris explains, “How traumatic events are processed or addressed after the event tends to have lasting effects. If you address a traumatic event with your partner or parent and they don’t believe you, gaslight you, or put no effort into helping you understand it, you start to question your own gut or reality of events.”
Without the opportunity to process or gain clarity and understanding about what you’ve experienced, you are left without the ability to trust yourself. “If you can’t trust your own gut or sensibilities, it can be impossible to trust others,” Harris concludes.
Trust Issues In Healthy Relationships
While “trust issues in a healthy relationship” can seem like an oxymoron, a healthy relationship can thrive even with trust issues present. It’s all a matter of self-awareness. Harris explains, “If the person with trust issues understands the source of their issues and how it shows up in relationships, they can put some processing time between feeling an emotion and the emotional reaction. This allows space to not put the weight of the trust issues on your partner and understand that the severity of the emotions you feel are not fully caused by your partner.”
The partner without the trust issues also must possess a level of self-awareness in the partnership as well as a sense of understanding. Possessing those traits will help the other person to navigate emotional reactions without taking them personally. “It is important to validate the emotional experiences of your partner while not taking responsibility for their emotions.”
Harris also says it’s important for the partner to remember their role. It’s one of support, not one of fixing. “If you are the partner of someone with trust issues, it is important to stay in the role of supporter. You are not meant to fix someone else’s issues. The best thing you can be is honest, consistent, and transparent but that may not stop the emotional reactions or what may feel like irrational concerns.”
It should be noted though that having trust issues oftentimes results in unhealthy relationships due to the fact that people struggling with them tend to face challenges in building and maintaining healthy, long-term relationships. “It is the role of the person with trust issues to do their work to overcome the insecurities and not project them onto their partner.”
How To Deal With Trust Issues
“Addressing trust issues starts with identifying the source(s) of the trust issues,” shares Harris. “What are the traumatic experiences you have from childhood and/or previous relationships? Remember you are looking for experiences that created feelings of betrayal, manipulation, or abandonment even if it wasn’t directed toward you. You may also look at burdens/beliefs that may have been passed down from previous generations.”
Harris then suggests that a person seeking to do inner work on their issues with trust should learn healthy coping skills to better manage emotional reactions and soothe anxieties around trust. She continues, “This is an important step because as you start working on previous traumas, a lot of unhealed wounds will be uncovered and you want to know how to care for the wounds until they are healed.”
The last step, Harris advises, is to heal those traumatic experiences you previously had. Take your time and be consistent. For this step, consider working with a reputable mental health professional to act as your guide through your healing process.
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