Trust issues may be your number one obstacle to connection, warmth, and intimacy. This post assumes you’re experiencing trust issues left over from past relationships, but don’t have rational evidence that your current relationship partner is untrustworthy.
When you’re experiencing trust issues in a relationship, you cannot extend yourself, or make yourself vulnerable, which is essential to lasting success, according to experts. Here we’ll offer some unmistakable signs and symptoms of trust issues and point toward their resolution.
But before we get into the 10 signs of trust issues, let’s get the bad news out of the way.
The bad news about trust issues….
Overcoming your trust issues in relationships is probably going to be difficult. If you have real trust issues, you’ve been hurt in the past. Your lack of trust is held in place by fear of being betrayed, humiliated, taken advantage of or otherwise manipulated all over again. The perceived risk may be overwhelming.
Author and poet Nikki Knight wrote in A Year of Tears: Learning To Trust And Accept Love Again:
The aching, hurt, and humiliation of the past have become so familiar – the feelings, although heavy and burdensome, are hard to let go because I’m not sure I know how to feel anything else. Just cold and numb.
Trust issues are based on real-life experience, some of it probably originating in childhood, although this isn’t always the case. Some adults legitimately experience horrific betrayal and pain at the hands of others. Trust issues show up as a natural defense mechanism.
Why is it so difficult to let go of trust issues?
One surprising reason stands above all. Prejudice.
Not in a racial sense. Legitimately obtained trust issues color your thinking, however, causing you to anticipate negative consequences should you let down your guard. The prejudice (pre-judging) here is an ongoing suspicion that people are going to hurt you in some way.
Joshua Coleman, Ph.D. at Berkely.Edu discusses hypervigilance in one of his pieces on trust and betrayal. Coleman suggests being hypervigilant after a betrayal is evolutionarily intended to keep us from haplessly wandering into another betrayal. The downside of such hypervigilance is that it keeps you isolated from others.
You look for the signs. You play movies in your head of how someone is going to take advantage of you. You predict betrayal. The fear and anticipation of pain keep the trust issues alive, giving them newfound relevance.
Unfortunately, trust issues inevitably turn into self-sabotage. For example, when you don’t trust, you don’t connect with others. Missing out on chances to get to know people, to network, form friendships, and intimate relationships can only be called self-deprivation.
Lack of self-confidence, missed opportunities, loneliness, and even social anxiety are the results of this kind of self-sabotage, which is maintained by painful trust issues that will not relent. You’ve got your reasons for self-sabotage in the form of very real trust issues. However, it is self-sabotage nonetheless.
Overcoming trust issues requires seeing things differently
Seeing trust issues, not as a self-protective, but as self-sabotaging is one way to motivate yourself to work through them. This isn’t necessarily easy or obvious. The pain you’ve experienced is real and must be validated. And there does exist the possibility of being hurt again. Worse, if you’re already anticipating a breach of trust, then you’re also likely to be hypersensitive to apparent breaches, even when they don’t exist or aren’t intended.
You’re in an emotional double bind. Damned if you do trust, damned if you don’t. Understanding the various signs of trust issues is a starting point for resolution. Below are 10.
10 Signs of Trust Issues in Relationships
1. You predict how people will betray you without evidence of betrayal
If you’re with someone who has a track record of misdeeds, a lack of trust is appropriate. You should proceed fully aware of his or her potential to be devious. However, many of us have trust issues with people who never shown any sign of untrustworthiness.
Still, we anticipate the breach. Why? Trust issues from past experience are being cast into the perceived future, contaminating the present relationship.
2. You trust people you have no business trusting
It’s counterintuitive, but it happens all the time. When you have trust issues, you may often place your trust in those who are most likely to take advantage of you. Your trust issues at this point have become an emotional self-fulfilling prophecy, as if you were unconsciously confirming how untrustworthy people are.
3. You trust people too quickly
It may be due to the self-fulfilling prophecy, but this one may also come from failing to understand how trust works. Trust is earned. As an adult, you’re best off starting with an open mind and extending trust to people as they build a track record with you.
If you’re not experienced with creating trusted relationships, you may extend trust blindly.
4. Sharing is not caring
With flaring trust issues, sharing isn’t caring. It may feel more like emotional masochism. It takes trust to open up and share your thoughts and feelings. Trust issues predict that other people will use your inward feelings against you at some point, so it’s best to be guarded.
5. Your relationships are shallow, even if you aren’t
You may be a deep thinking and feeling person, but your relationships that are marred by trust issues will be shallow. You’ll be ‘protecting’ your inner, truer self and not openly sharing, so your relationships will be based on lighter, less threatening communication about external things.
6. Emotional commitment? Uh—no!
Trust issues dictate that you live in a world of anticipated loss. Your relationships don’t feel solid or grounded. At some level, you believe betrayal is inevitable. This makes it difficult to commit emotionally. You do not want to become attached to something you already ‘know’ you are going to lose.
7. Genuine mistakes are seen as awful breaches of trust
People are imperfect, we all know that. If you have trust issues, however, you may not be able to tolerate others’ imperfection when you see their mistakes though the prejudice of trust issues.
• If she’s running late, she’s hiding something from you.
• When he speaks loudly, he secretly hates you.
• If she can’t talk right now, she is rejecting you.
• When he won’t let you scan through his phone, he has a secret lover.
• If she doesn’t want to have sex tonight, she is not into you anymore.
8. Others may see you as self-righteous, impossible to please, or unforgiving
Your trust issues don’t just affect you. They dictate how you respond to others. When you find it hard to trust, and follow some of the signs mentioned above, others will find you difficult. For example, when your girlfriend who is running late arrives to find you suspicious, she’s probably not going to be inspired to console you. More likely, she will expect you to apologize for being so suspicious.
If when your friend can’t talk right now, you respond with accusations, he is not going to feel encouraged to talk to you anytime soon. One author put it this way…
Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way, but often is.
9. You feel lonely, isolated, and like an outcast
When you cannot trust people enough to share your true self, no one is going to know or witness your true self. Without being known to others, you’ll feel lonely and perhaps like you don’t belong.
There are reasons you learned not to trust. Most likely, those reasons have everything to do with one or two specific people in your past. However, the mind naturally generalizes lessons learned. Without realizing it, you now have trust issues with most people. Unless you have a few people who know you – whom you really do trust – it’s hard to feel like you belong.
You may even feel like a total fake – an impostor – who fears being discovered as an illegitimate person.
All of this may lead to depression and despair. Since it is impossible to be socially adjusted without trusting others to some degree, and when it is painful to consider trusting anyone, you may feel trapped in a world in which you don’t feel like you belong.
Despair and depression are the likely results of this double bind.
Letting Go of Trust Issues So You Can Live and Love More Fully
This will take more courage than you’ve given yourself the luxury of exercising in a while. And it will be worth the effort, and the blood, if you persist.
I won’t sugar coat it because I’ve been there. The above signs of trust issues didn’t come through academic research.
They came from my own memory. I’ve been there.
Learning to trust someone with your mind and heart in spite of a mountain of trust issues is the accomplishment of a lifetime. And it’s an emotionally demanding process.
You’ll probably need a trust partner to help you.
Letting go, regardless, requires one thing above all: Taking the risk of being hurt.
The process looks something like this:
1. Be willing to risk the pain of learning to trust.
2. Find a trust partner (a therapist or coach can work, if they understand trust issues).
3. Learn how trust works (how it is earned and how to extend it).
3. Take emotional risks with your trust partner.
4. Confront your trust prejudice, suspicions, fears and painful feelings around trust as you take calculated risks.
5. Learn from the process, rinse and repeat until you can consciously trust and know how to extend trust well.
The Elephant in the Room
The elusive obvious is that if you trust people, even when you do it well, you are inevitably going to be let down. People aren’t perfect. They make their choices and that doesn’t always work in your favor. Some people are not empathetic at all in their decisions. You’ll get hurt from time to time.
This is life.
They key here is not to avoid emotional pain, but to learn to hurt well. Since no one is exempt from pain, you should aspire to endure it, to process it thoroughly and learn the right lessons, not those ‘lessons’ that come from fear and avoidance. This means feeling things fully. It means shedding tears of grief and loss. You can feel vulnerable and afraid and yet press on with faith that there are people in this world who are indeed worthy of your trust.
Truly trustworthy people may be few and far between, actually. The good news is you only need a couple of people in your life that you know and feel you can trust deeply.
What to do next:
To learn how self-sabotage works, watch this free and enlightening video.
To learn more about learning to trust again, check out Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships.
For a list of the highest rated books on trust in relationships, click here.
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