If you've ever felt a twinge of distrust for someone, but couldn't quite figure out why, it's possible that you've tried to figure out whether you're experiencing trust issues or a more deeply-rooted gut feeling. Differentiating what trust issues mean, versus what your intuition may be trying to tell you when you get into a relationship, can be quite confusing. Therapists, however, know some tricks to help.
Trust issues can be incredibly powerful because trust itself is foundational to romantic relationships. "Trust is a necessary component in maintaining any interpersonal relationship," therapist Adina Mahalli, MSW, tells Bustle. "Without it, there is no foundation. The problem is that your past experiences play a role in shaping who you are. This makes it easy to mistake trust issues as your ‘gut feeling’, when really, it’s just your emotions from past experiences sounding the alarms." Exploring your assumptions and knee-jerk reactions when getting to know someone new can help you distinguish these emotions.
If you do end up recognizing that you may be experiencing trust issues in a relationship, you can find ways to deal with these problems through self-reflection, open communication in your relationship, or the support of a trusted mental health professional. Having difficulties with trust is not a character flaw, and you deserve to be able to feel comfortable with your intuition in relationships.
Here are seven ways to differentiate between trust issues and going with your gut in relationships, according to therapists.
Whether You're Intuitive Or Empathetic
If you tend to be someone who considers themselves particularly empathetic, sensitive, or intuitive, then the chances that your gut feeling is something you should trust are pretty high.
"Listening to your gut can be really positive if you’re an intuitive and empathetic person," Ziskind says. "If you have intuitive qualities, listening to your gut will allow you to read body language, energy, and live in tune with your emotions." If you are intuitive, it may be especially worth the effort to not carry on assumptions from your last partner, so that you can stay in tune with your gut for whatever comes next.
Whether You Have Dealt With Childhood Trauma
Working through childhood trauma can be a lifetime pursuit. Unfortunately, trust issues in relationships are one of many obstacles that can come up from unresolved trauma.
"As a child, if you learned the world was not trustworthy, this will make you less trustworthy of other adults now when you’re dating,," Ziskind says. "Notice if you have trust issues based on your childhood issues. Seeking counseling can help you overcome these trust issues and connect with your gut." Healing from trauma may seem intimidating, but learning to trust is a wonderful thing.
Whether You Feel A Strong Sense Of Clarity
If you're not sure whether you're experiencing a trustworthy gut feeling, or something more complicated, then you may want to ask yourself whether you're feeling urgency, or clarity.
"When your gut feeling is at play, you feel a certain kind of clarity within your relationship," Mahalli says. "Trust issues are more urgent in their nature because your mind goes into a fight-or-flight response due to the fear. If you’re reacting with urgency rather than real clarity in your relationship, you might be giving your trust issues too much control." If you feel this overwhelming pressure in relationships, then you may want to seek professional support.
Whether You Can Sense Alarm Bells
Your inner-voice will likely always be talking you through your relationships. If your inner-voice is bullying you in any way, however, you may be experiencing trust issues, rather than a gut feeling.
"You can often differentiate your gut feeling from your trust issues in relationships by the sound of your inner-voice," Mahalli says. "Intuition is more of a whisper, while fear will scream from the rooftops. If you hear alarm bells going off in every direction, your trust issues might be taking center stage." Quieting these alarm bells through mindfulness or therapy can help you listen to your intuition a bit better.
Whether You Are Paying Attention To Red Flags
If you can sense obvious signs of trouble in your relationship, then you're likely in the clear going with your gut.
"Don’t ignore the red flags you notice in your relationship," relationship therapist and dating coach Irina Baechle, LCSW, tells Bustle. "Talk with your partner openly about your trust issues, and ask them to be honest with you. Listen to your gut, observe your partner’s behavior and let trust build gradually over time." Having open discussions with your partner, and staying honest with yourself, can help you maintain a sense of clarity in your relationship.
Whether You're Constantly Worried
Being constantly worried about the state of your relationship is likely a feeling fueled by distrust. Even if you feel like your gut is telling you to be suspicious, therapists note that this emotional reaction itself can be dangerous.
"If our thoughts center around suspiciousness and thinking the worst of others, then we likely have trust issues," licensed marriage and family therapist Rev. Connie L. Habash, MA, tells Bustle. "It’s hard to see our relationships clearly when we’re always looking at them through a negative filter." If you're worried that these thoughts may be turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy, then therapy may help.
There are definitely times when it's worth it to be suspicious in relationships. There are, however, more likely many more times when difficult feelings and fears are causing suspicion, not genuine evidence. "Listen to your gut, but then reality check it with facts," Rev. Habash says. "[...] Give the other person or situation time to reveal whether they are worthy of your trust or not. And give yourself time and seek professional help if you realize that your negative thoughts are getting in the way of building healthy, trusting relationships.” Many people have to learn to trust their gut; it's OK that it doesn't come naturally for everyone.
Editor's Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.