Do I Have Trust Issues?

A woman’s husband just got home from work—a couple hours late. She shakes herself out of his embrace and accuses him of sneaking around with another woman. He swears to it that he just had to work late, but she convinces herself otherwise.

Tonight a young boy is meeting his mom’s new boyfriend. He seems okay: nice, polite, smart. But all the boy can focus on is the back of his head. Or more accurately the memory of the back of his father’s head. He wonders when this guy too will walk out the door and never return.

Today she is 18 years. Which means it’s time for her to start getting regular checks for breast cancer. The doctors tell her she looks perfectly healthy, but she says maybe they should check again. They reassure her that she’s okay. As she walks out the door she sees flashes of her mother laying in bed fighting an aggressive cancer—one that wasn’t detected until it was a little too late.

Signs You May Have Trust Issues

Trust issues are characterized by fears of betrayal, abandonment, and manipulation. Many of us have these feelings—whether we have trouble trusting our boyfriends and girlfriends, or our parental figures, or even our doctors. These typically stem from a somewhat traumatic event: in the first scenario, the woman’s husband cheated on her in the past and now she is rightfully paranoid; in the second scenario, the boy’s father left when he was young and never came back—he now doesn’t take any of his mom’s suitors seriously; and in the third scenario, the 18-year-old’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the late stages and died shortly after—the young woman now is very wary of doctors’ expertise and assessments.

Maybe you had a similar or equally traumatic experience, but you’re not sure if it necessarily resulted in trust issues. Here are several signs that you have trust issues:

  • You assume betrayal. You assume someone has betrayed your trust even if you have no rightful reasoning.
  • You await betrayal. You assume someone will betray you in due time, despite how honest they have been in the past.
  • You are overly protective. You are very protective of your loved ones, out of fear that they will become disloyal.
  • You distance yourself from others. You decide it’s best to limit your relationships in order to avoid fears of betrayal or abandonment.
  • You avoid commitment. No matter how much you care for someone, you refuse to commit yourself to him or her.
  • You don’t forgive the smallest mistakes. You make a big deal out of nothing and it’s the end of the world if someone makes the slightest mistake.
  • You are excessively wary of people. Everybody you meet you are extremely cautious and suspicious of.
  • You feel lonely or depressed. Your fears have led you to isolate yourself from others and enter a state of depression.

How to Handle Your Trust Issues

If your trust issues are a major hindrance in your life or you simply want to move on from them, then maybe it’s time to revisit the importance and meaning of trust. Follow these steps toward letting go of your issues with trust:

1. Accept the risk that comes with learning to trust again. None of us are perfect—we let people down. Therefore, placing your trust in someone is undeniably going to lead to being let down at some point or another.

2. Learn how trust works. Trust doesn’t have to be given out freely. It’s okay to wait for people to earn it before deciding you can rely on them.

3. Take emotional risks. You’ve got to just jump in head-first—allow yourself to be vulnerable and risk being let down in order to create healthy relationships again.

4. Face your fears and other negative feelings built around trust. It’s crucial that you admit to yourself why you’re scared and what you’re scared of, so you can attempt to move on.

5. Try and trust again. If you fail and resort back to distrusting tendencies, try again. Trust again. Keep putting yourself out there.

Quotes on Trust

Trust is an essential piece of life. We have to have some degree of it to function properly, to make it anywhere, to have any kind of meaningful relationship. The following quotes illustrate and emphasize this importance:

  • “Trust is earned when actions meet words.” –Chris Butler
  • “Rebuilding trust when it’s been broken is not depending only on the person who has broken it, or how many times they can prove they are honest. It depends on the person who has decided not to trust anymore. If or when they decide to trust again, there is hope reborn.” –Doe Zantamata
  • “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” –Ernest Hemingway
  • “Self-trust is the first secret of success.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” –Stephen R. Covey

Trust is the belief in the reliability, truth and strength of another person. We trust people who have integrity and are honest—those who can be counted on to do what is right. People aren’t always certain of whom to trust, how much to trust and when they shouldn’t trust another person. There are times when people are more willing to put trust in another person than at other times.

Several psychologists reported that in the last decade there has been an exceptional rise in trust issues in couples who seek counseling. Part of this is because of technological advances that make it easier for partners in a relationship to be deceptive, such as hiding text, Facebook and email messages, as well as cell phone contacts. (

So, how do you know if you lack trust? The following are a few signs that suggest you may have an issue with trust.

  • You lack closeness with others because of mistrust.
  • The lack of trust is causing difficulties in your relationship with your partner.
  • You have volatile relationships (either one after the other or all at one time).
  • Your thoughts race with suspicion toward family members and friends.
  • You’re afraid of being physically intimate.
  • You believe other people are dishonest and malicious even though there is no evidence.

How is Trust Developed?

German psychoanalyst Erik Erikson is known for his psychosocial theory of development, which recognizes the effect of external factors, parents and society on personality development spanning from childhood to adulthood. His theory is that people must go through eight integral stages over their lives. The first of his eight stages is “Trust versus Mistrust.” In this first stage, a baby who is raised by parents who meet his needs consistently develops trust by the time he reaches the end of his first year. Basic trust is necessary for the individual’s healthy psychological development throughout his life. Psychoanalyst and pediatrician D.W. Winnicott said that the “predictability” of parents was vital in building trust in their child. Parents who shield children from unpredictability are those who show warmth, affection and sensitivity, as well as give them guidance, direction and control.

Sometimes experiences from childhood can cause a person to have mistrust. If parents don’t live up to their promises and are inconsistent, they create an environment of insecurity and mistrust in a child. In addition, if the child is sexually or physically abused, it can lead to the expectation that he will be betrayed in the future, as well as questioning his own ability to judge the trustworthiness of others.

According to Gregory Bateson, the author of “Steps Toward an Ecology of Mind,” parents who don’t have integrity tend to be dishonest in their communications with the child. The child gets “mixed messages” or “double messages,” because the parents’ actions don’t correlate to their words. As the child grows up, he may learn to distrust his own judgement in social situations, because he’s been confused by the messages from his parents.

When children experience mistrust, it has an impact on them throughout their lives. They try to protect themselves from their confusion and pain in a number of ways, including becoming extra cautious with others and a tendency to view other people harsher. While these defenses are a way to provide the illusion of strength for the person with mistrust, they usually only work to incapacitate his ability to trust other people and enjoy close relationships.

According to Shirley Glass, a relationship expert, intimate relationships are based on honesty and openness. The trust partners have in each other is the glue that binds the relationship, providing a positive emotional connection that’s rooted in affection, love and loyalty.

If a partner in a relationship has an affair, the deception and betrayal of trust can be more damaging than the actual affair. The lying erodes the belief in the other person, and the reality is that the partner has another aspect of his life that he’s kept secret. A person who didn’t develop trust as a child will feel especially vulnerable to the infidelity and deception by somebody he loved, according to Robert Firestone, a psychologist and author.

Trust can also be destroyed because of a partner who is critical, indifferent and disrespectful. In addition, if he lies about abusing substances or is secretive about money, it can destroy all faith in his trustworthiness.

Some people have a critical inner voice that cultivates mistrust. They’re less apt to find a truly fulfilling relationship. The individual will doubt himself and feel inadequate, as well as being doubtful of the other person. When the relationship is a romantic one and a person with trust issues is shown love, he’s likely to feel anxious because the positive view the other person has of him is in contrast with his poor self-image. The inner voice that haunts him says he doesn’t deserve to be loved. Or, he will find flaws in the person who loves him.

How Can a Person Learn to Trust?

  • Do what you say you’re going to do.
  • Communicate honestly and frequently. Poor communication is one of the main reasons that marriages and other relationships disintegrate.
  • Each one of your interactions with another person builds trust, and just one poor decision can ruin the relationship.
  • Honesty is vital, whether your news is good or bad. It’s key to making marriages, friendships and work relationships strong.
  • Show other people in your relationships that you care about them.
  • Always have integrity.
  • Admit to your mistakes, and others will see you as somebody who deserves to be trusted.
  • Don’t make quick decisions. Many times, trust is broken because an individual agrees to something he really didn’t want to agree on in the first place. Make a commitment only when you’re positive that you’ve considered everything that is involved in keeping the commitment. If you don’t think about it in detail, you may not have the time or want to follow through.
  • Friends and family members who have always been there are easy to take for granted. It’s important to find time for those individuals who mean the most. When you have a problem, they’re the people who you can trust to be a support network.

Explore the latest mental wellness tips and discussions, delivered straight to your inbox.

Start a Relationship with An Exceptional Counselor

  • Skilled and caring professional counselors
  • Accepting all major and most insurances
  • High-touch customer service & premium benefits
  • Same- or next-day appointments
  • Ultra-flexible 23.5hr cancellations