When we talk about making a relationship strong, we often talk about "building." Building strong communication; building intimacy, building trust. But while intimacy and communication can be built from scratch, building trust is more complicated, because it doesn’t feel like a fresh start with every new relationship. Unfortunately, we tend to carry trust issues from one relationship into the next. If we’ve been hurt, betrayed, or just left uneasy in past relationships, it’s totally natural to want to avoid that happening again.
Sometimes, that just means it can take a while to build trust—that’s completely understandable. You may want to move more slowly in your relationship, you may want to take your time getting to know each other or not rush right into opening up. But, sometimes, the trust issues can run deeper and can keep rearing their ugly heads in your relationship—even long after trust seems to be established. You think the relationship is strong, but there’s a niggling that comes up again and again. Knowing that trust issues are at play is so important, because it’s the first step towards dealing with them and protecting your relationship.
Here’s are the signs that old trust issues are haunting your relationship.
1. You Doubt Your Partner and They’re Pulling Back
Sometimes, people give us a reason to be suspicious or doubt them—not calling, being evasive, disappearing for long periods of time, inconsistency—but sometimes there isn’t a good reason. Or, at the very least, there doesn’t seem to be a good reason. If you know, logically, that your partner has given you no reason to doubt them but, emotionally, you find yourself being suspicious or on guard, that’s often a trust issue at play.
But you don’t want to let that push your partner away—it can be hard for them if they feel judged or being watched when they’ve done nothing to warrant it. They may start to pull away, get resentful, or act out. Let your partner know that you’re struggling, you know that they haven't given you a reason to feel this way, and that it’s something you’re working on.
2. You Constantly Think the Relationship Is Going to End
If you find yourself with a cavalier attitude towards relationship—not so much a fear of moving forward, but a “Who cares? It’s all going to end anyway.” feeling—that can be a trust issue at play. If you don't believe that relationships will ever really work out, why would you spend too much time investing or worrying about this one? You may notice your partner gets frustrated that you seem apathetic or ambivalent toward the relationship and that they feel like your heart’s not really into it. If you look closer, it may be that there’s a trust issue underneath.
3. You Often Lie or Are Loose With the Truth
One unexpected sign that there’s a trust issue at play could be that you don’t always act very trustworthy. If someone has been hurt or betrayed a lot in the past they can, sometimes even unconsciously, go to extreme lengths to protect themselves. That can manifest as a jaded relationship with the truth. If you find yourself fibbing to your partner—or just straight-up lying—and you’re not sure why you’re doing it, it’s going to effect your relationship sooner or later. Try a little self-interrogation and look back on what might be driving you to hold back from your partner and not trust them with the truth.
4. You’re Resisting Next Steps
It’s totally normal to want to take it slow in a new relationship, but sometimes trust issues can keep you from wanting to make any steps—putting them off so long that your partner struggles to believe you really want to be in the relationship at all. If you find that you can’t bring yourself to commit, for instance, to moving in, or getting engaged, you may want to think deeply about what’s holding you back. Often, the trust issues will keep you feel uneasy or and having mental blocks about moving forward.
5. You Don't Like How Needy You Are
We all go through times in our relationship when we feel a little needier with our partner and that's totally normal. But if you find yourself being consistently needy and getting frustrated with yourself, that could be a trust issue at play. You're looking for reassurance, and no matter what your partner does, it never feels like enough—because it's actually an old wound that hasn't healed, rather than anything happening in your current relationship.
There are a lot of different ways that old trust issues can affect current relationships. Once you realize your trust issues are flaring up, the next question is what to do about them. The first thing to do is talk to your partner and let them know you're struggling, which can help mitigate the impact of the trust issues. Then, be honest with yourself about where they stem from. If you think that you can handle them yourself and with your partner, then put some energy towards unpacking these issues.
If you keep struggling, don’t be afraid to see a therapist—either on your own or as a couple—to help you work through them. Identifying them is the first step, so now you can focus on healing.