Many people who’ve been in a romantic relationship have experienced feeling distrustful of their partners. It could be because your partner has shown themselves to be untrustworthy. But it could also be because you’ve experienced things in your past that have led you to have a hard time trusting other people in general.
If the latter is true, what can you do? Is there a way to heal your ability to trust? Here are 10 tips to follow.
Why do I struggle with trusting my partner?
Before getting into how to build trust with your partner, it’s important to consider why you’re struggling with trust in the first place.
Some common reasons people have a hard time trusting their partner include:
Being betrayed by your partner
Not feeling emotionally safe in the relationship
Past negative experiences in relationships
Childhood abuse or neglect which left you with attachment difficulties
Some mental health conditions that cause an intense fear of abandonment
Having poor self-esteem (leading you to feel you don’t deserve your partner)
Fear of being vulnerable
Not trusting your own judgment
If something has happened in your current relationship that has made it difficult for you to be able to trust your partner, then your partner will also need to put in the work to rebuild trust in the relationship. In other words, are you having a difficult time trusting your partner because they have shown you they’re untrustworthy?
For example, perhaps your partner betrayed you by committing infidelity. Regardless of the changes you make in your own attitude and behavior, your partner may also need to make changes to regain your trust. If they continue to betray you and be unfaithful, then it may be impossible to trust them.
However, if it’s a past experience (whether from a past relationship or your childhood) or a mental health condition that’s led you to struggle with trusting your partner, then the power to change may be in your hands.
For example, people with borderline personality disorder often have an intense fear of abandonment. This condition could cause you to have a hard time trusting that your partner will not leave you, even when they’ve given you no signs they are untrustworthy.
If you’ve experienced a betrayal in a previous relationship, then you could start being mistrustful of all of your future partners, even if they haven’t done anything wrong.
Childhood abuse or neglect may have left you with attachment difficulties. Research shows that people who were victims of abuse as children have more challenging romantic relationships as adults. People with insecure attachment styles are more likely to mistrust their partners.
In these cases, it’s up to you to address the underlying issues and learn how to trust others again. You must take some responsibility for the mistrustful feelings you’re having and work toward healing from them.
If you live with a mental health condition that affects your trust, then treatment may help. For example, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) has been found to be very effective for people who live with borderline personality disorder.
On top of getting treatment, you can work together with your partner to rebuild trust in the relationship.
Trust certainly helps make a relationship ‘whole’ and enables two people to have a foundation of strength that can endure other difficult challenges like health and financial issues. But why is it important to trust again? Can a relationship survive and even thrive without full trust? Dr. Jantz helps us understand how to trust someone again after they have betrayed you.
Trust is one of the most important parts of a healthy and long-lasting relationship. A lack of trust in your relationship can cause many problems, including anxiety, fear, a lack of intimacy, and increased conflict.
Get to the root of the issue
The first step is to figure out what’s going on – where are your distrustful feelings coming from? Did your partner do or say something to cause you to feel emotionally unsafe? Or do these feelings come from your past?
Getting to the root of the issue is essential to building trust. It will help you identify whether the trust has been damaged (and needs to be repaired) in this relationship, or if you still carry the painful effects of past traumas.
Either way, healing needs to happen – but the focus of healing will be different depending on your answer.
Acknowledge your feelings
Another important step is to accept how you’re feeling instead of fighting it. Hating yourself for being unable to trust your partner won’t get you anywhere.
Try saying something like, “I feel very distrustful of my partner right now. I don’t like that I feel this way, but I accept that I do. Things have happened in my past (whether in this relationship or another one) that have made it difficult to trust others, and it’s something I’m working on.”
Communicate your feelings
Once you’ve accepted you’re experiencing a lack of trust and why, it’s important to communicate your feelings with your partner. Holding your feelings in will only make you feel more isolated – and perhaps more distrustful – in your relationship.
The Gottman Method, an evidence-based couples therapy practice, invites couples to build “attunement” with each other through “intimate conversation” .These conversations are an important component of building trust in the relationship.
To have an intimate conversation, learn how to recognize and put words to your feelings. Ask open-ended questions and be curious and accepting of the other person’s answers. If your partner has done something to hurt you, be honest about these things, too.
For example, you might communicate something like, “I know you’re a wonderful person and you’ve said you would never hurt me. But based on my past experiences with people, I can’t help but feel mistrustful of you even when you say that. I hope we can work on this together.”
Learn from mistakes
Whether small ones or big ones, mistakes do happen in every relationship. Every relationship goes through some sort of betrayal, even if they may not be the “big” ones like infidelity.
When you or your partner make a mistake and betray the other, it’s important to learn from these experiences. What happened? What made you feel betrayed?
Healthy relationships are all about learning and growing together. When one of you makes a mistake, it’s an opportunity for you both to learn how to avoid these experiences in the future. As you communicate about these mistakes and learn from them together, you may find your trust in your partner grows.
Prioritize building trust
Trusting your partner may not be a process that will come to you automatically, especially if you’ve been through past experiences which cause you to feel distrustful. It will more likely be an intentional process. Trust builds up over time.
Instead of simply waiting for trust to magically appear in your relationship, prioritize the process. What are you doing each day to increase the level of trust you have in other people and yourself? What decisions are you and your partner making that build trust within the relationship?
Prioritize building trust above all else.
One of the most important parts of learning to trust your partner is to strive to be a trustworthy person yourself. Some people feel tempted to betray or lie to their partner as a form of revenge. This only gets you and your partner caught in a cycle of mistrust.
Instead, be trustworthy. A big part of this includes being honest about how you feel, even if your partner is the person who made you feel this way.
Trust your own judgment
Some people have a difficult time trusting their partner because they don’t trust their own instincts and intuition. You could have doubts about your own ability to choose a safe and loving partner. This could be especially true if you’ve been in abusive situations in the past. These experiences can make you feel like you can no longer trust yourself.
You might have thoughts like, “I didn’t catch the red flags in my previous relationship. What if there are red flags now I’m just not seeing?”
Figure out what it’ll take to regain trust in yourself. This process might require therapy for some people.
Challenge your thoughts
You might be distrusting of your partner even when there’s no logical evidence to support these feelings. In such cases, it might be helpful to try to challenge these irrational thoughts. This technique is commonly taught in cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT.
When you notice a mistrustful thought, examine whether or not it’s rational. For example, maybe your partner told you he needed to work late, and you have the thought, “He’s probably out with someone else.”
Challenge these types of thoughts. For example, you could replace this thought with another thought, like: “He told me he needed to work late, and I’m choosing to trust him.”
It’s not about looking for evidence to check your irrational thought (such as snooping through your partner’s phone). It’s more about examining your own instincts and prioritizing trust in your partner.
Have recovery conversations
The Gottman Method teaches that betrayals often happen as small dents. Eventually, they build up. It’s important that every time a small betrayal happens in the relationship (like an argument), you have an intimate conversation to recover from this betrayal.
Communicate your feelings honestly. Be trustworthy. Let your partner know how you feel, and ask them open-ended questions to explore how they feel. Don’t have these recovery conversations when the flames of the argument are still burning – take some time to cool off if you need it.
Once you start the habit of having recovery conversations, you may find it easier to trust your partner. You will learn that even when your partner hurts you or betrays you, your relationship is strong enough to recover from it.
Heal your mental health
Lastly, as already mentioned, you may need to heal your mental health issues if they’re getting in the way of being able to trust your partner. A mental health treatment program can help you learn how to trust yourself, your partner, and the world around you.
Mental health professionals can guide you to heal from past traumas and betrayals that have led to your current mistrust. They can also equip you with coping skills if you deal with a mental health issue (like borderline personality disorder or anxiety) that causes you to feel distrustful of people.
Residential mental health treatment at The Center • A Place of HOPE
If your mental health is holding you back from developing healthy relationships with trust, then you may need professional treatment to heal completely. Mental health challenges can make it difficult to feel emotionally safe with others. More importantly, they can make it difficult to trust yourself; how can you tell if a thought is part of your intuition or from a mental health issue?
At The Center • A Place of HOPE, our team has decades of experience helping people recover from mental health issues like depression, anxiety, OCD, and trauma. Whatever is holding you back, we can help you address it. Our Whole Person Care method helps you leave our program as the true you, healed from the inside out.
Pioneering Whole Person Care over thirty years ago, Dr. Gregory Jantz is an innovator in the treatment of mental health. He is a best-selling author of over 45 books, and a go-to media authority on behavioral health afflictions, appearing on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN. Dr. Jantz leads a team of world-class, licensed, and...
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