Trust in relationships

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Trust is the glue that keeps relationships together. Without it, relationships are not real. At first glance – there is something there, but if you poke it with your finger – the structure falls apart like a house of cards. Trust is the foundation of any relationship that cannot be replaced with anything else. Sometimes, people may try to do it: they try to control, to impose demands, to offer “golden handcuffs”, money, promises, or sex. And when nothing works, they get disappointed: “How come? I am doing so much, why is it not working? What else can I do?”

But there is something that they can do. They can decide and open up to another person while having absolutely no guarantees. Because nobody can guarantee that everything will work out – there is always a risk. Accepting this fact is the first step towards change.

Trust may be absent from relationships for many reasons:

1. A previous traumatic experience.

Heather was friends with Ruth since the first grade: they studied together, had dinners after school, gossiped about boys. Ruth was the most popular girl at school. She dated many boys and used to tell Heather all the details. Heather, on the other hand, was very shy and quiet. She had been attracted to one boy for a long time, and finally, in high school, he asked her out. They started seeing each other. Heather could barely contain her happiness and was telling Ruth about her dates with Andy. Then, Heather fell sick and ended up staying in a hospital for a whole month. From time to time Ruth and Andy would drop by to catch up. When she returned home, she learned that Ruth and Andy started dating. Ruth really wanted to get the only guy who wasn’t “hers”. She betrayed her friend. To her, this was a challenge… For Andy’s birthday, Ruth gave him the present that Heather discussed with her. She was certain that he would like it. Andy posted a photo with this present on Facebook and Heather realized that she can no longer trust anybody…

Probably, all of us had a difficult experience with losing trust. However, some of us got hurt more. A poisonous oil spill of “you can’t trust anyone” covered the person’s entire social circle… If a person was betrayed, they will be looking for weaknesses and faults in other people that may predict betrayal.

2. Cheating

Yes, this is also a traumatic experience. Often, people who were cheated on can’t believe that other types of relationships are possible.

Victoria had been seeing Duane for a long time. They worked together. At first, they didn’t think it was serious because both had been married for a long time. But Victoria got pregnant. They both left their spouses and started a new family. It wasn’t easy, but with time everything settled down. However, Victoria realized that she didn’t know how to relax and enjoy life. Yes, her loved one is with her, their baby is adorable and healthy, but she is always waiting for something bad to happen. She is checking Duane’s phone, eavesdropping on his conversations, throwing tantrums if he wants to attend a work party without her… In the conversation with a psychologist, Victoria admitted that she is afraid that Duane would cheat on her. She “remembers very well how their relationship started”… 

3. “I am simply scared”, “You are out of my league”, “Everyone lies!”

Omar can be jealous to the extreme. He always suspects that his wife is committing all kinds of crimes. If she is late by 15 minutes from work – “Where were you? You must be seeing someone”. She gets a phone call from a new number – “She is cheating!” She has a conversation with a colleague – “A man? How long has this been going on?” Omar is certain that his wife is cheating on him, that his colleague is out there to get credit for his work, that his dentist is recommending an unnecessary expensive procedure, and his brother is out there to get his share of the inheritance.  Omar can’t let his guard down.

Some people simply cannot trust anyone. This option is not available to them due to their internal reasons. Therefore, to change this they need to work on their beliefs in this area. They need to work on their neurosis that grows like a malignant tumor in a cancer patient.

4. “All people are like that!”

Kegan is cheating on his wife. He has always been like this – in all his relationships. If you ask him – he will confidently declare that everyone is cheating. How else could it be? He has never had a different experience in his life…

If a person is a pathological liar and cheater – it is unlikely that they will be able to objectively evaluate others. If our world view is a mirror – it reflects our own projections. Kind people see kind people everywhere, those who are selfish – also see selfish people.

So, what can you do to return trust in your life? The first step, as we mentioned earlier, is to stop looking for guarantees. Stop thinking that they were not offered only to you, unlike other people. All of us, literally all – are in the same boat. Nobody has any guarantees. Is it scary? Of course. Could it happen that you will get misled, hurt, or betrayed? Yes, it could. But this is the essence of life.

People who have problems with trust wear a thick armor. Yes, in the armor, it is not comfortable to eat, sleep, and communicate. But you can be assured that nobody will hurt you or cause you pain – you are protected by iron. But… the thing is that through this armor you will not be able to feel other things, like caresses, tenderness, or love. So, what do we have as a result? Like one poet said –

“After paying for joy and love with pain, we get so scared that we put a condom on our soul”.

This doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it?

It is important to understand what exactly is preventing you from trusting other people. What specific fear? Your experience? Your neurosis? Something that you inherited from your emotionally unavailable parents? Once you know the root cause, you can find an antivenom. Sometimes, you can only do it with the help of a psychologist.

Overall, trust in relationships is not an end result, but a process. This process can be challenging and difficult. But the most important thing is to understand that the root cause is not your partner, but yourself.

Tabitha asked her psychologist: “Please help me to make him stop cheating!”. Her husband was sitting next to her and guiltily saying: “Yes, please do. I tried everything and I can’t stop”.

No, my friends, this is not how it works. Everyone is responsible only for themselves. No psychologist can snap their fingers and “make” your partner faithful if your partner doesn’t want it.

Trust… Here is one more important consideration. Ask yourself – do you really want your partner to stay with you only because you are tracking their calls and text messages, sniffing their clothing, and checking their emails? Would you be happy? Maybe trust brings its benefits only when the door is open and… nobody is leaving?

The next step is to start trusting another person. At least one other person – it could be your friend or psychologist. It is very important to experience trust at least a little bit. Later, you will be able to apply this experience to other people.

Try to trust your partner, accepting all the risks that come with it. Yes, it is scary, but… Perhaps, the potential benefits are worth it?

You can practice trusting while… dancing. Seriously, this is a great option! It is impossible to dance with someone without trusting them. They are leading you and you are following – there is no other way.

Amanda and Hugh started taking dancing lessons to understand their relationship. On the second day, when Hugh made a mistake while leading, Amanda started correcting him. But the teacher said – “Don’t! If your partner is making mistakes – stay with him. Continue making mistakes together.” This was a key moment in their relationship. Amanda was able to relax and started allowing Hugh to make mistakes and correct them. It was a good reflection of what was going on in their relationship in general.

Do not allow your neurosis, suspicions, or jealousy to win. Work on them.

In the next article, we will consider how you can practice trust and make its boundaries more flexible and stretchable.