If you’ve experienced trust issues in your relationship, you know all too well how tough they can be. Feelings of betrayal and sadness add a lot of weight to a loving partnership — but the good news is, you can work through them together and grow stronger as a result. If you’re dating someone with trust issues, remember that it isn’t necessarily your fault and that the best thing you can do is support them through their feelings. Their concerns might actually have nothing to do with you or your relationship, according to an expert.
Trust issues show up in many different ways — anything from jealousy over the people you’re spending time with to full-blown fights about what you did the night before. According to therapist Liz Higgins, LMFT at Millennial Life Counseling, you can often spot the signs that your partner is struggling to trust you. “You may know your partner has trust issues If they can’t seem to give you the necessary space and freedom that an interdependent relationship requires,” she says. “They may seem distant, have difficulty connecting to you sexually or in other intimate ways, and they may seem angry or frustrated.” Perhaps you’ve caught them snooping through your phone or obsessing over how much (or little) time you spend with them. Regardless, it’s not fun for either of you, and it can cause pain on both ends if it goes unaddressed for too long.
A lack of trust can also cause serious damage to your relationship. Often, you'll start to notice "a disconnect in the relationship — less communication, less positivity, and an overall feeling of stress and ambiguity," Higgins warns. You might find yourselves talking less or arguing more. If you catch your partner looking through your texting history, "this quickly becomes an issue of control and creates a more conflicted relationship," Higgins says. Wherever the trust issues stem from, you'll likely notice that they make your partnership feel distant and strained.
Before you say something to your SO about your concerns, remember to approach the conversation with an open mind and heart. Higgins emphasizes that it’s best not to jump to conclusions about why your partner is struggling. “Don’t immediately blame yourself if your partner has trust issues; it actually might have less to do with you than you think,” she advises. Trust issues can come from bad experiences in past relationships, childhood trauma, or painful memories with someone’s parents. Your partner might have had these feelings long before you came into his or her life. Don’t ever assume that you’re the root of the problem.
Instead, approach your partner in an open and non-judgmental way. Tell them you’re worried to see them unhappy, and you want to make sure your relationship is in a good place. “The important thing here is to get to the bottom of it, and, if you’re both willing to take the steps to get there, that is possible,” Higgins assures. “It is often out of trust issues and hurts that some couples are able to create an even stronger and more emotionally intimate partnership.” If you breach the subject with care, your partner will see how much you want to help them heal.
Moving forward, make sure you check in with one another regularly about whether your needs are being met. “Prioritize time and space to check in with each other frequently” about boundaries, Higgins suggests. “This doesn’t have to be a tense conversation, but more of a, 'Hey, how are we doing with playing on the same team here? Are we both feeling respected and that our boundaries are being upheld?'" Neither you or your partner is a mind reader, so the only way you can discover how they feel is to talk openly about it.
“Whatever signals you experience from your partner, the best thing to do is call it out and address it rather than let it stew and grow,” Higgins says. No one will benefit if you both are unwilling to say anything. Know that the tough conversations will be worth it in the long run, and work together to come to a place of openness and mutual understanding.