Are you concerned you have trust issues when it comes to relationships? Maybe you feel jealous easily or are always worried that your partner is cheating on you? Perhaps you have trouble believing your partner or are usually skeptical of his or her actions or words? You are far from alone. Many people have some type of trust issues in relationships, and almost everybody feels doubt at some stage. The trick is knowing if your issues are normal or alarming. And if they are serious, do they require attention from a professional?
To help you navigate your trust issues we turned to Tamara Green, a licensed social worker in New York City who specializes in couples counseling. She explained the different types of trust issues as well as indicators of them. She also provided general tips and strategies for overcoming them in your relationship. "Being non-trusting does't automatically mean there's a trust issue," she said. "There are times when a person will feel mistrusting, but for good reason. The key to ask oneself is, 'Are my feelings of mistrust a repeated experience or pattern?' If no, then there's no trust issue, only awareness and discernment." Read on to learn more.
Meet the Expert
Tamara Green is a licensed social worker in New York City who specializes in couples counseling.
Types of Trust Issues
There are different kinds and levels of trust issues, said Green. Here are some of the more common ones.
"Those with this phobia have fear of trusting others, especially in romantic relationships," said Green. "This can include a persistent, irrational, and excessive fear about a person, activity, situation, or object." The key word here is irrational. Many people with this type of phobia don't experience a real threat or danger, but an imagined one. Still, it feels real. "They often use distancing or avoiding behaviors to deal with their extreme fears," she said. "Sometimes their anxiety can be quite severe, even to the point of a panic attack."
"On the other end of the spectrum is the jealous type, the one who doesn't want their partner out of their sight," said Green. "They easily feel threatened and are trigged by others outside of the relationship. This person can be overbearing, smothering, possessive, controlling, or quick to anger."
More Wrong Than Right
"This person's attention is focused mostly on what's wrong with the partner or the situation," said Green. "They can be hyper-critical, list reasons why their partner is not good fit, or why their relationship can't work. Sometimes it's not anything specific, but rather, a general mistrust."
Partner-Picker is Broken
A person with this phobia mistrusts themselves, rather than their partner. It can be damaging to a relationship, because a person with this condition will never be content. "This person has difficulty trusting their own choices," said Green. "It's a grass is greener mentality where they second-guess and wonder if there are better options out there."
Signs You Have Trust Issues
There are certain behaviors you should watch out for that are indicators you or your partner has trust issues.
If you have a tendency to blame or overreact or you are constantly looking for signs of possible betrayal, those are warnings, said Green: "You assume or fear that at some point your partner will hurt or abandon you."
If you have difficulty committing to a partner or you keep your partner at a distance you might also have trust issues. Green said "self sabotaging and relationship-sabotaging behaviors" are worrisome.
People with low-esteem, anxiety, depression, or loneliness can also have trust issues. Another key indicator is if you regularly get in relationships with partners who are mistrustful. Being attracted to people with trust issues might mean you have them yourself.
Causes of Trust Issues
"People with trust issues are not born that way," said Green. "They become mistrusting because they've had a number of experiences that proves in their mind that partners can't be trusted." It doesn't even have to be past romantic relationships that cause harm. For many people their issues stem back to their childhood. Maybe they heard their parents yelling at each other or they witnessed one parent betraying another?
"People who have trust issues are doing their best to avoid hurt, betrayal, and abandonment," said Green. Basically they use defense mechanisms so they won't get hurt the way they did in the past. However, this strategy creates more hurt, because it prevents a person from being part of a loving, healthy relationship. "They aren't necessarily aware that they are creating much of their own relationship problems," said Green.
Overcoming Trust Issues
"It's always an inside job and very important to go within to explore the original source of pain, hurt, or betrayal," said Green. "Self-discovery will help you understand why you have mistrusting behaviors and repeated experiences of mistrustful partners."
Some ways to help yourself including reading self-help books and articles about trust issues. Green also recommends going to online mental health summits, which you can search for on the internet. You can also journal your feelings and get to know yourself and why you feel the way you do.
Having mantras and reminding yourself of your worth can also help. "Create and commit to powerful intentions," said Green. "Repeat to yourself phrases including: I am lovable, I deserve love, I trust that true love is possible, and I am healed."
Communicate with Your Partner
"Regularly talk with your partner," said Green. "Begin to have calm, authentic, and vulnerable conversations with your partner about your feelings. Ask for gentle feedback, that you're open to understanding their perspective on things." It will also help your self-esteem because you will feel proud that you are improving your communication skills and growing closer with someone else.
Know When to Get Help
There are signs that you should seek out professional help, said Green: "Don't do this alone if you have legitimately tried to help yourself and are still having trust issues." If you continuously experience anxiety, low self-esteem, loneliness, or depression or if you are ready to give up on finding love and having a healthy relationship for good, get help!
"Understanding yourself, changing unwanted behaviors, and seeking a healthy relationship can be challenging on your own," said Green. "Find a qualified mental health professional such as a psychotherapist, couples therapist, highly trained love and relationship coach, or psychiatrist."
She also encourages you to screen potential mental health professionals. "Be aware that even though counselors may be well-intentioned, there are a number of them that may be struggling with these same issues," she said. " Make sure you ask your prospective counselor if they have had their own therapy, coaching, or have attended growth courses or had trust issues." You can also ask for examples of how they've helped clients resolve their own trust issues.