You’ve probably heard the old adage: Trust is built in drops and lost in buckets.
Building trust is a difficult and time-consuming process. But trust is also extremely fragile. In an instant, all your efforts can go up in smoke, like a beautiful sandcastle crushed by a large wave breaking on the shore.
Although trust has been studied for decades, scientists have struggled to come up with a comprehensive definition. The truth is we still don’t know as much as we’d like about the cognitive structure of trust. However, from a psychological perspective, we know that relationships can never truly flourish without a degree of trust.
Maybe you’ve been hurt and betrayed more times than you can count. Perhaps you’ve seen too many of your beautiful sandcastles turn to dust over the years. If you have trust issues, chances are that you quickly jump to conclusions as you anticipate the worst outcome for each possibility.
You can think of trust issues as a coping mechanism. The one thing people with low trust levels have in common is that they’ve all been let down before. With that in mind, we can confidently posit that irrational fear is what causes trust issues.
If you don’t trust your partner, chances are that you’re afraid they might cheat on you with someone else. If you don’t trust your closest friend, you may fear they’ll use your weaknesses to humiliate or hurt you. If you don’t trust your boss, it might be because you’re afraid of their ulterior motives.
For individuals with trust issues, something valuable to them is always on the line. Their fear and insecurities take over, making them feel like they need to constantly test others. In their mind, everyone is unreliable, deceptive, and untrustworthy by default—a dangerous perspective that can easily tear relationships apart.
Put yourself in your partner’s/friend’s shoes, though: your suspicious feelings assume that they are actually likely to do what you fear the most, even if that’s not close to the truth. The worst is already assumed, and that’s what can hurt the most.
The key to alleviating problems of trust is patience.
By learning how to work through trust issues over time, you, too, can build—and rebuild—trust. Once you’ve mastered the art of turning the “trust switch” on, you’ll immediately experience new intimate connections with the people closest to you. You’ll liberate yourself from your own negative thinking, and your relationships will feel so much more real and genuine as a result.
Learning how to deal with trust issues is really just a matter of doing away with fear and fully embracing all your emotions. This may not make too much sense right now, but we’ll explain how it all works in a few moments. First, we need to take a deep dive into the heart of the problem, as we learn to spot the signs that point toward underlying trust issues.
To fix your trust issues, the first step is to identify them.
It’s not always easy to tell whether your trust issues come from rational observations or irrational fear. If you suspect that you suspect others a bit too much, look out for these 7 signs of lack of trust:
We live in a ruthless world dominated by betrayal and dishonesty. But there’s also plenty of love and understanding for those who give and seek trust. Your suspicions aren’t always unfounded, but learning how to deal with trust issues can be profoundly rewarding. It won’t be easy, but with less fear and an open perspective, you can find the strength to trust without fear.
No, having trust issues is certainly not a disorder. Although people with underlying conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression, PTSD) are more likely to have trust issues, anyone can show signs of suspicious and jealous behavior.
After all, jealousy and suspicion are built into our DNA. Joshua Coleman explains how we take advantage of hypervigilance to learn from our past experiences and survive despite repeated betrayal. You can’t—and shouldn’t—blindly trust everyone.
But if you spend hours playing imaginary movies in your head and going over terrible scenarios of how people are about to betray you, the problem probably lies with you—not them. The signs are there; you just need to open your eyes and see them.
That being said, if you suffer from a persistent fear of getting hurt by a romantic partner, you may have philophobia. Philophobia has Greek origins and comprises two words: “phileo,” which means to love, and the common root “phobia,” which means fear (literally, fear of love). People with philophobia can get nauseous or lightheaded just by talking—or even hearing—about love and relationships.
If you find it hard to make emotional connections with people in general, you could describe your condition as pistanthrophobia. From the Greek words human (anthropos), faith (piste), and fear (phobos), pistanthrophobia roughly translates to “fear of trusting people.”
As with most irrational phobias, both philophobia and pistanthrophobia are not classified as disorders since their symptoms are only triggered in specific situations. A mental health professional can easily help with the diagnosis but bear in mind that both of these phobias are still heavily under-researched.
Lack of trust can ruin relationships. Putting confidence in your partner is probably the single most important prerequisite for a lasting, loving relationship. Of course, you can’t learn how to get over trust issues overnight. But if you want to be truly happy with someone, you need to let go of your prejudiced, subconscious worries.
Dating someone with trust issues is never easy. Here’s what you can do to overcome common trust issues in your relationship:
Trust issues in relationships should be addressed as soon as possible. If all else fails, therapy is always an option. A professional couples’ counselor can help explain exactly how distrust affects your relationship and help you come up with solutions to your problems. If you’ve never thought of trying it, give it a go - it might be more powerful than you think.
Building trust at work isn’t that different from building trust in a romantic relationship. If you want to be seen as a reliable colleague that others can depend on, you need to:
Learning how to overcome trust issues and facing your fear of loss, failure, and disappointment is nothing short of challenging. But is it really worth it, and how can you trust the right people?
The short answer is: there’s no way to know. You can either:
The first choice is the better one, of course. It’s risky, but it gives people around you the benefit of the doubt. Pain and betrayal are inevitable in some parts of life, but if you instead decide never to trust again, you won’t get a chance to form strong and meaningful bonds with anyone.
When it comes to relationships, fear is never a good counselor. With little to no evidence, it’s always better to assume people are honest and reliable rather than evil and deceitful. Work on your trust issues as often as you can, and don’t give in to cynicism.
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