There’s a name for someone who trusts people immediately…fool. Real trust grows gradually, over time, as each person risks a little more and doesn’t get burned. This is why the only relationships where anyone can fully rest in trust are long term ones, like marriage. The slow growth of trust is also why, once the trust is broken, it’s even more difficult to recover. This article is about working through these trust issues and coming out the other end with a stronger relationship.
Trust Grows Slowly: Now that I’ve been married over 20 years, and we’ve been through a thing or two, I’ve discovered we’re a lot more relaxed with each other. We’re finally free to be ourselves. Some years early on, life was walking on eggshells, not knowing what to say or do, for fear of hurting each other. I now know a lot of this had to do with trust. We didn’t trust the each other’s words and actions and we didn’t trust each other with our thoughts and feelings. I now know this is normal.
For example, if I jokingly said, “I’m gonna’ slap you.” Marsha (my wife) wouldn’t know it was a joke, even though I had never struck her. Relationships are between two completely different people trying to find common ground. The fact that any relationships last is an absolute miracle of unselfishness, patience and trust. Trust is only gained when one person risks and doesn’t get harmed. It grows as both people increasingly risk and don’t get harmed in the process.
When Someone Violates Trust: When someone violates a trust and harms the other in the process, trust doesn’t just shrink back to the previous level…it goes away, entirely. If someone violates their wedding vows once, even after years of faithful marriage, the marriage is usually over. Just one violation puts every trust issue in your whole relationship in doubt. If you’re the injured party, recovery only comes if you’re willing to risk again, and gradually let your partner try to earn your trust back. That’s hard enough, but it’s rarely that simple. By the time two people are ready to try to recover, there have been several trust violations and retaliations. In these cases, we each need to consciously review the relationship and see if the benefits outweigh the betrayals, before we can begin risking again.
When Trust Issues Are Caused By Outsiders: It’s bad enough that Marsha and I could so easily break our trust, but sometimes outsiders can cause even more trust issues. Shortly after our marriage, it was rumored that I was sleeping with someone I had worked with. It turned out to be true, since the rumor-monger wasn’t aware Marsha and I were married, he thought we were having an affair, driving to and from work together, and all. Under different circumstances, such a rumor could cause serious trust issues. Many a marriage has been broken up by false accusations. I knew one woman who used trust issues to destroy a marriage so she could have the husband…it worked.
In the case of a marriage, even family can be outsiders. We were blessed to have two sets of parents who let us make our own decisions and mistakes. Many In-laws think they know best how the relationships of their kids should be, and that never works. All it does is create more trust issues. There’s a reason the traditional wedding vow says to leave your family and cleave to your spouse. If you continue to cleave to your family, you’ll eventually leave your spouse. If you have parents who constantly undermine or criticize your spouse, tell them to stop it. If they won’t stop, sever all ties with them! That is making a stand to say I love my spouse enough not to allow anyone to get between us. That will build trust!
When Trust Issues Are Irrational: What if someone takes their parent’s side or listens to gossip about their spouse? What if there is absolutely no evidence that your spouse has violated your trust, but you suspect and accuse them, anyway? They’re with you every minute they’re not at work, but still, you have this suspicion you’re being cheated on. Jealousy is a green-eyed monster. Most of the time, jealousy is an anxiety resulting from a low self-esteem. You feel you don’t deserve your partner, so you just know they’re trying to trade you in. Most people just get over the milder forms of this anxiety as their trust in their spouse grows. Some, though, have such a severe anxiety that their distrust actually pushes their spouse away…eventually into the arms of another. A self-fulfilling prophecy! I’ve known two people who did this, leaving one person as the single parent of a couple children.
Trust issues are hardest to overcome when they are the irrational result of anxiety. There’s no way to earn the trust of this person…they’ve rendered themselves incapable of trusting. Remember how trust grows…a person risks something small and if they don’t get burned, is willing to risk more? If you have a trust anxiety, you’re unwilling to risk, therefore unable to grow trust. If you suspect you or a loved one has irrational trust issues, it’s a good idea to see a mental health professional to get a proper diagnosis and help. There are many medicines and treatments available that can help with anxieties.
Well, it isn’t easy! Trust grows slowly and, if broken, heals even more slowly. All relationship trust issues are complex and painful to deal with. With patience, love and forgiveness, though, it’s usually possible to overcome distrust and grow a healthy, long-tern relationship. Just imagine the day you can finally rest in each other’s trust, fully able to be yourselves, knowing you’re just the person the other one wants to be with. I praise God for bringing us to this place and pray He bring you, too.