A strong relationship is built on trust, but that trust is also fragile — if you’ve been deceived before, you know how hard it is to regain it. Even if you think you’ve moved on from someone betraying you in the past, you might still struggle with trust issues in less noticeable ways.
An inability to trust prevents you from fully engaging in a relationship; without trust, you’re held back from feeling vulnerable, intimate, and safe with another person. But what can you do about it? I spoke with Whitney Goodman, a licensed psychotherapist and author of Toxic Positivity. Here’s your guide to identifying and overcoming trust issues so that you can let your relationships grow to their full potential.
Why we develop trust issues
Trust issues are a natural result after someone’s trust has been violated, particularly when it was by someone who they felt they should be able to trust. Goodman gives the common example of someone who grew up learning that their parents or caregivers don’t do what they say they will — that person may develop issues trusting others in adulthood. Another example is when people experienced infidelity or gaslighting in their relationships.
Signs of trust issues
Difficulty trusting others manifests in different ways. Goodman lists the following signs that someone has issues trusting others:
- Questioning others constantly
- Feeling like people are lying to you
- Constantly asking for validation or confirmation from others
- Using controlling behaviours, like needing to check someone’s phone or know where they are at all times
Here are some other signs of trust issues that might be less obvious at first:
- Distancing yourself in your relationships, refusing to build the trust in the first place
- Always assuming the worst in others, before they’ve shown any logical sign that they might be untrustworthy
- Sabotaging yourself, e.g. acting out or otherwise ruining relationships (before the other person even gets the chance to betray your trust)
If you recognise these behaviours in yourself or someone you love, here’s how you can go about overcoming those trust issues.
How to overcome your trust issues
Trust builds slowly, and starting an honest, open conversation is the only way to get that building process off the ground. To initiate a conversation about overcoming your trust issues, Goodman recommends bringing it up casually at first and focusing on why it’s so important to you. She provides a sample script to get the discussion started: “I have trouble trusting people because of what I’ve been through. I want you to understand why I do some of these things. Can we talk about it?”
Goodman goes on: “When someone is with another person who does what they say, follows up, and allows for trust to be built, a person can heal. You can also learn to trust yourself and practice trusting yourself.” Trust is the foundation of a safe relationship, and the first step to healing trust issues is with clear communication about making trust-building a priority.
Trust takes practice
If you struggle to trust others, you likely need to work on trusting yourself. Goodman says that the only way to build that kind of self-trust is with practice: “Validating yourself, looking at the facts, and giving yourself time to build that trust” are all important ways to start trusting yourself.
Trust isn’t built all at once, but brick by brick. You have to show up for yourself in small moments, and make promises to yourself that you can keep. Only then will you have the foundation in order to start trusting others again.