7 Signs You Haven't Dealt With Past Trust Issues & It's Affecting Your Relationship
If you're someone who struggles with trust issues from a bad relationship, they can continue to affect you long after the relationship has ended. And it doesn't have to be a romantic relationship, you can have trust issues from dealing with a difficult family, a failed friendship, or any other connection that goes sour.
But how do you know if you have trust issues or just genuine concerns that your partner might be betraying you? Well, a good indicator is how often you feel this way. "There is always a possibility that your partner is cheating, but if you find yourself not trusting anyone you are dating, you are the common denominator," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "The best thing to do in this case is look deep inside of you and try to understand when and where these trust issues come from." If you regularly show signs of unresolved trust issues, it's more likely something in your past than a string of untrustworthy partners. But that's OK — lots of people struggle with trust issues and manage to work through them.
Here are the signs experts say they might not be resolved, because knowing is the first step towards working through your issues.
1. You Clam Up
If you feel like you completely shut down or close up when big issues come up — like talking about the future — you may be struggling with trust issues. "Even if you don't know why you clammed up (again the subconscious can be hard to read), it's a sign that you are protecting yourself from something," Nora Dekeyser, matchmaker and dating coach at Three Day Rule, tells Bustle. "Try to link that to something that hurt you in the past and perhaps relate it to how you're feeling now, triggered. Work on that pain separately, and realize that this pain isn't the same in this new relationship. And, of course, talk to your partner about it — communication can help you both work together to keep triggers from coming up again." Make sure to try to tell your partner what you're going through so they can help you.
2. You Find Yourself Triggered And You Don't Know Why
If you sometimes feel yourself having an emotional swing and feeling vulnerable, but you can't figure out why, it may be old issues coming up. "In this moment, think about any triggers from your past that might be coming up," Dekeyser tells Bustle. "Our brains are very good at tricking us into thinking that we are in control, but we aren't. Our subconscious controls a large majority of our actions without us even realizing it. Meditation, mindfulness, and self-awareness are all tools to help you work through past trust issues so that when the trigger happens, you aren't triggered."
3. You Push Them Away
Many people with trust issues struggle to get close to someone else. "Have you ever pushed someone away that you actually really like?" Dekeyser says to Bustle. "Why did you do that? Because you're afraid of getting hurt like last time. It's a lot easier to be in a relationship at arm's length because then you can't get hurt! But also... then you can't connect with the person either, which in the end will hurt you." If you notice that, despite yourself, you do things that make your partner feel unloved, uncared for, or like you're not interested, it could be your trust issues bubbling to the surface.
If you find that these knee-jerk, distancing mechanisms are messing with your relationship, you may want to look more deeply at the root cause.
4. You Snoop
A classic manifestation of trust issues is snooping on your partner. "Are you constantly feeling like your partner may be cheating on you?" Hartstein says to Bustle "Do you break into their email or read their texts? Are you treating them with a level of suspicion that they probably don’t really deserve? If so, it’s likely that you’ve got past trust issues that are impacting your relationship." Try to give your partner the benefit of the doubt, especially if they've given you no real reason to be suspicious. The instinct to snoop may be more about what's going on in your head than your partner's behavior.
5. You Assume Everything Is A Catastrophe
If you always assume the worst and start to panic, you may be struggling with trust issues. Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and the owner of Exclusive Matchmaking tells Bustle that picking fights over little things, because you always think they're cheating on you, can be a sign of trust issues.
Sometimes, our brains constantly jump to catastrophe — so it's crucial to remember that it's not always the worst-case scenario. Sometimes, they really are just running five minutes late. If every missed call, every receipt you find, every time they seem tired or withdrawn makes you jump to the worst possible conclusion, then there's a good chance that there are trust issues affecting how you're viewing the relationship.
6. You Think Breaches Of Trust Are Inevitable
Some people with trust issues are just waiting for the relationship go wrong, because they think it's the only way that relationships can go. Trombetti tells Bustle that if you start to think that everyone lies or cheats eventually — and that it's just a part of dating — you may have unresolved trust issues to deal with. Sure, most relationships do end — statistically, that's just a fact. But many of them end mutually and some of them do turn into happy, life-long partnerships. If you assume that things are going to go terribly wrong or that people are bound to treat each other badly, it may be time to reevaluate how you look at relationships more generally.
7. You Feel Out Of Control
A major sign of trust issues that you haven't dealt with is when you're aware your behavior is irrational — the snooping, the panicking — but even with that awareness you can't stop it. "You are sick to your stomach that you have this compulsion, but you never saw what happened in the last relationship coming," Trombetti says. So even though you know it's not the right thing to do, you can't stop yourself. It's easy to feel out of control.
8. You Have A Fight-Or-Flight Urge
Another feeling that can come up a lot when you have trust issues is the fight-or-flight feeling. It's not a gut instinct — it's feeling the need to flee as soon as possible. "When your gut feeling is at play, you feel a certain kind of clarity within your relationship," therapist Adina Mahalli, MSW, tells Bustle. "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."
Most people assume that trust issues are all about your partner leaving you, but if your trust issues are really deep you may feel an urge to get out of a relationship in order to protect yourself — to leave before it all goes wrong or before they leave you. If that fight-or-flight feeling is familiar, it can help to try to unpack it a little further.
9. You Always Assume They're Angry With You
For someone with trust issues, every single variation in your partner's behavior can feel like a warning sign. If they have a bad day, if they need some space — it's easy to think that everything is a reflection on your relationship and try to jump into a bigger conversation. But that can do more harm than good. “When a partner is having a bad day regarding something completely unrelated to the relationship, bringing up a major issue is not advisable because frustration tolerance is already low,” Dr. Ildiko Tabori, an LA-based clinical psychologist tells Bustle. Try to accept that, sometimes, they really might just be tired or not in the mood to talk — or that whatever's bothering them isn't about you. Trust means knowing that your relationship is strong, without having to be constantly validated. If you have trouble accepting the daily ups and down, your trust issues may be playing up.
Admitting you have trust issues affecting your relationship can be difficult, but it's nothing to be ashamed of. So many people struggle with them. You just need to recognize the signs, so you can give yourself a chance to heal.
This post was originally published on May 8, 2018. It was updated on June 4, 2019.