Trust is non-negotiable. It's one of the major tenants of any healthy relationship. However, having a partner with trust issues doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy relationship. It just makes things more complicated. Writer Mike Bundrant of PsychCentral pointed out that, "Hanging onto past hurt and expecting more of it becomes a self-sabotaging, self-fulfilling prophecy." So, on the one hand, you want to be the savior that teaches your person to love again. On the other hand, gaining someone's trust when they aren't sure they want to give it is a lot of work. Only you can decide if it's worth it (and it can be worth it).
There are a few things you need to keep in mind before you jump onto the trust-fixer express. Most importantly, you need to know going in that the work of overcoming trust issues is your partner's job, not yours. So the following suggestions are meant for you. You also need to keep in mind that this is a long (potentially life-long) process that will have its ups and downs. You'll need to have your own support system on deck. Here are some additional tips for strengthening your bond when it’s your partner against the world.
1. Be A Supporter, Not A Fixer
You can't fix your partner's trust issues, no matter how much you want to. It's impossible and it's not your job. What you need to focus on instead is being part of a solid support system. Leave the fixing to your partner and a good therapist. Therapy will give your partner techniques to trust in an appropriate way and to differentiate bad things that happened in the past from good things happening now. It will also provide tools and coping strategies for when fears and doubts pop up in your relationship.
2. Be Trustworthy
Trust is earned, and hard-earned in this case. Since you can't fix your partner, this is something you can actively work on that will improve your relationship. Be dependable, be reliable, be honest and be kind. Little things like being on time and calling when you say you'll call may seem small to you, but they may be huge to your partner. Trust isn't just built on big issues, like staying faithful. It's also all the little things you do each day to show you care.
3. Be Patient
Whatever bad things happened to your partner aren't going to going away overnight. And you certainly can't just say "you can trust me" and expect a complete turn-around. Odds are, if you're trying, so is your partner. Setbacks will happen and they'll hurt him or her just as much as they hurt you. Take it slow and build something solid.
4. Provide Loving, Positive Reassurance
Kindness and caring, loving support will demonstrate that you aren't just all talk. It's likely he or she has been mistreated in the past, maybe multiple times, so some sincere love and support will be hard to accept at first, and even harder to get used to as something that occurs on a regular basis. Keep doing it.
5. Don't Tolerate Abuse
There are trust issues and then there's straight-up abuse. It's one thing for your partner to be worried that you'll leave and break his or her heart. It's quite another to monitor your phone calls, tell you who you can't hang out with and constantly accuse you of cheating. If your partner's trust issues lead to she or he trying to have power and control over you, you have a much larger issue on your hands — one that's often best resolved by leaving. You should never put your own overall happiness and safety at risk as you help someone through a difficult period in their lives, no matter how much you love them. Your goal is to get to a place of equal footing, not set yourself up as an emotional babysitter or a doormat.
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