Lack of Trust in Relationships


We have been together for 4 years now. Most of the times everything is great but the times where he is traveling for work or busy for days, thoughts of him being with another woman fill my head. He reassures me that he is committed to me but even after all this time together, I'm unable to get rid of these doubts. After all he DID have a PAST. I just don't know how to find sanity.

Of the many factors that can complicate a relationship, lack of trust is one of the hardest ones to deal with.

Trust serves a foundation to build a feeling of safety and security in the relationship. We usually attribute lack of trust to our partner's actions but if we look at trust, the fragile vein of a relationship, we can boil it down to two reasons:


Infidelity - When a partner breaches trust through cheating. According to Trustify, infidelity takes place in over 33% of relationships and partners who cheat have 350% chances of repeating which makes it difficult to place trust in the relationship again.

Dishonesty - According to John Townsend, a psychologist, Be it hiding something significant or lying, dishonesty of any magnitude leads to doubts, insecurities, anxiety and fear in a relationship that shakes the foundation of trust between the partners.

INTERNAL - Often there might be mistrust in the relationship not because of our partner but due to our childhood or past experiences which shape our beliefs about ourselves, others and their intentions.

Fear of abandonment - An internal fear of being abandoned leads to difficulties in developing secure bonds and trust in relationships. This may develop when one has undergone the following childhood experiences:

  1. Loss of a parent
  2. Divorce
  3. Parental neglect
  4. Physical or sexual abuse

Attachment styles- Our childhood experiences with our parents or primary caregivers have an influence in the way we interact and relate with our romantic partners and friends in our adult life.

Anxious-preoccupied attachment- In this form of attachment the individual requires constant validation, reassurance and love in order to feel secure. Such individuals become clingy if they feel that their partner is not giving them the importance and support that they desire in order to feel safe in the relationship. According to research by Dr. Philip Shaver and Dr. Cindy Hazan 20% of people have anxious attachment styles.

Fearful-avoidant attachment- This style of attachment includes fear of getting emotionally close and vulnerable but at the same time there is a desire for emotional connection and intimacy. They tend to be unpredictable in their moods. They want to get close to their partners and at the same time have a fear of abandonment.

Past of the partner- "Ever since my fiancee revealed to me about her past relationship, my view of OUR relationship has taken a 360 degree turn. They were together for 7 years and were physically intimate. I keep imagining how close and intimate they might have been. I have asked her multiple questions about their relationship but still the doubt that whether she is completely over him haunts me". This is called Retroactive Jealousy.

Retroactive jealousy is defined as a resentment towards one's partner's past romantic or sexual experiences. It leads to anger, distrust and constant comparison with the previous partner. It is caused due to insecurity and fear that our partner might still prefer or have feelings for their previous partner.

Self Esteem- The lack of trust in a relationship could also stem from insecurity that we have developed within ourselves. When we are insecure about ourselves, we have a higher tendency to develop mistrust in a relationship as there is a constant worry that our partner might leave us. The underlying thoughts are "I don't look good enough/I am not good enough" and thus our partner may find someone better or stop loving or taking interest in us.

How a Counselor can Help:

  • Developing insight into deep rooted reasons for lack of trust
  • Allowing expression of feelings of hurt, betrayal, anger or resentment from past emotional wounds
  • Helping in gaining an understanding personality factors that create mistrust
  • Breaking cycles of negative/unhealthy thought patterns
  • Fostering open channels of communication to express themselves to their partner
  • Exploring ways to acquire feelings of safety
  • Working on developing a healthy sense of self

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