Trust issues in relationships are necessary. Everyone wants to have friends, mates, and family members that they trust. Generally I see four impediments in my practice to having trust issues in relationships. Each one of these factors I have found as contributing to depression in the women clients I see.
1. Your own trust antenna is impaired. You don’t know when or who to trust. This happens often when you have somehow been emotionally physically or sexually abused. This also may be the case if you were raised in a somewhat sheltered family and were never taught to look for signs that people may not be trustworthy. The people you can trust you don’t, and they people you can’t you do!
2. The people you pick are not trustworthy. You continuously pick people to be in your life who do not display signs that they can be trusted, yet you act like they can be. Usually you are surprised when they let you down, or hurt like somehow their behavior was your fault. Feeling this way can feed the kind of thoughts that contribute to depression.
As women we are often conditioned to believe that if people are not happy it is our fault. It is very important in relationships when looking at trust issues to take responsibility for yourself and to insist that others take responsibility. Sometimes women pick losers or untrustworthy people because they are afraid of being alone, or they think they can’t do any better. If you come from a family where you experienced abuse, you may be more likely to pick someone who is untrustworthy.
People have trouble knowing how to trust for many reasons. It may be because you have had a bad experience with a parent for example, a father or mother who abandoned you. It may be because you are looking for the wrong things in a friend ( ie someone who is popular) or a mate ( someone who is attractive) and have not really given any thought to what kind of qualities indicated trustworthiness.
3. You are not trustworthy. Trust issues in relationships can rarely exist if you haven’t cultivated the habits of a trustworthy person. You need to have faith and confidence in who you are and what you are about before you can give to others. Let’s just say you are in a relationship, but you feel ignored. Rather than have a difficult conversation with your mate about your feelings, you decide that you would just feel better if you cheat. I know lots of women who do this.
4. You had a trusting relationship with someone, something happened either that you did or they did, and now you wonder if you can work on trust in the relationship. Sometimes this is because someone very trustworthy made a mistake, sometimes it’s because someone in the relationship is unhealthy or really untrustworthy and could not maintain the guise of a trustworthy person anymore!
Often I see people in therapy who are struggling with the issue of trust issues in relationships. In order to understand the issues we have with trust issues in relationships, it is important not only to look at the relationship you are having issues with, but your own history with trust issues in relationships.
Where We First Learn Trust
First it may be helpful to think about where trust initially comes from. Our first experiences with trust come from………………..drum roll please……….that’s right you guessed it! Our mothers.
Unfortunately, mothers have been blamed for so many things in psychological theory that I wish this weren’t true. But alas, it is. As an infant our first experiences are with our primary caregiver. Not only do we learn through this relationship that the world is trustworthy, but that we are worthy of love.
An infant is crying because it is hungry, wet, or lonely. Suddenly, the mother appears. What’s wrong? How can I fix it? The mother attempts various different strategies to soothe or calm the infant and make the discomfort go away. All in the world is right again. The infant learns: I am loveable, I am worthy, the world takes care of my needs.
Imagine the opposite scenario. An infant is crying but nowhere is the mother to be found. It cries and cries and cries. Eventually if this happens enough times, the infant gives up on the belief that anyone will help, and gives up on themselves. Infants who have their needs persistently neglected to go on to have severe attachment issues.
Just because all goes well during the first few years of life does not mean you are in the clear. Nope! There are many opportunities to learn unhealthy messages about trust issues in relationships. Below are some of the major events that may impact your ability to trust.
Trauma or Loss
A traumatic experience or loss, especially in childhood can severely impact your ability to trust the world, trust others or to trust yourself. Imagine if you lost a sibling or parent to death at an early age how that might impact your ability to feel safe in relationships.
Emotional, Physical, or Sexual Abuse
Experiencing any of these during your development severely impacts your ability to trust to the world, to feel competent and have self esteem, and to make good choices about who you can trust. Often people who come from family environments where they suffered abuse go on to make choices of friends or partners who abuse them in some way. Usually the key here is impaired ability to judge trustworthiness.
Social and Academic Success
Difficulties fitting in with Peers or being successful at school during childhood can impact ones trust issues in relationships later on.
Children can become confused about trust in themselves by something as simple as a learning disability. I remember a client who I worked with who had undiagnosed dyslexia. She felt she was stupid and that everyone else was smart. Despite the fact that she had a wonderful family, and no other major traumas, this severely impacted her self esteem and therefore her ability to choose healthy trust issues in relationships.
Family Stress, High Conflict Divorce Substance Abuse
Growing up in a family environment filled with stress may have a profound impact on your ability to trust others. Clearly this can also be a contributing factor to depression in women.
Poor Dating Experiences
Adolescence is a time when you learn about relationships with the opposite sex. If your first experiences with dating were negative, this can impede your trust issues in relationships.
Which of these issues may be relevant for your problems with trust issues in relationships and contributing to your own depression?