The Truth about Trust Issues

3:11 PM

The first few seconds after I officially became my Boy's girlfriend (a magical process involving a Skype call, a jumbled, "Well, are we dating or not?" and a big grin on his part), I panicked.

Hyperventilation is not exactly the start of a fairy tale romance.

I don't recall fluttery butterflies dancing around in sappy, girlish delight -- just enslaved birds thudding desperately against my rib cage and dying by the thousands from brain damage. This was all a mistake. Who let me into the world of relationships? I don't want to be in this world, anyway. This isn't going to work out. Worst decision of my life. Not even a sister talk on the trampoline under the stars and mosquitoes calmed my raging fear.

Fortunately, being the enlightened college student that I was, I recalled that the girl who started dating her match-made-in-heaven described her first emotion about the relationship as "terrifying." Also, I knew countless girls who broke up a few days after going Facebook official. Coincidence? I think not. These rough few days were rocky and terrifying, but I would conquer!

Well, I didn't. Not that I went around shaking and sick over my life decisions quite as much as the first two weeks. It took me months to overcome fear, to stop interpreting his every dull look, decline to Skype, or wandering imagination as the Beginning of the End, to quiet the chattering doubts that ruined every sweet moment. In other words, to trust him. 

Three things I want you to get out of this post: (1) Trust issues matter. They make or break relationships. If you don't struggle with them, chances are your best friend might. Plus, trust issues crop up in any relationship, not just romantic. So pay attention. (2) I struggled with trust issues most of my life. I can relate. And most importantly, (3) trust issues can be overcome. Not simply brushed under a rug or locked in a metal cage, but destroyed to the point where your relationship never seemed affected by it at all.

How do I know this? How can I so confidently offer you hope? For one thing, I overcame them, and if I, the quivering mess of unrestrained emotions, can overcome trust issues, so can you. Beyond that, trust makes up an integral part of love, and God commands us to love. Which means, that He provides the necessary support and ability to follow through on His commands. You've got God on your side. Fear nothing.

What is distrust? What's going on in your head and your heart that causes you to doubt your love's love? I don't mean the triggers of distrust -- being dumped multiple times, first time in a relationship, heart broken, never had close friendships, insecurities about your worth, beauty, and desirability. Those are circumstances. They push you to give a reaction. Many people experience insane loss of love or intense hurt yet respond with grace and joy.

Chronic distrust that prohibits loving and being loved by a trustworthy person (as opposed to a person out to destroy you) stems from a habit of mind -- a habit that consistently responds to unknowns, problems, and doubts with the most negative thought possible. In other words, distrust arises from believing the worst about people.

The situation often goes like this: "I'm so afraid he'll leave me. No, no, he hasn't hurt me in the past. He hasn't given any indication that the future looks bleak for us. Yes, of course he loves me. He loves me better than anyone ever has ever. That's why I'm so scared I'll lose him."

Then, without realizing it, the girl in question starts putting impossible expectations on him. He wants to go to bed early instead of Skyping me? Automatic foul. He smiled and -- laughed when talking to that other girl? The horror! He didn't text me when he normally does? Oh, he must hate me. She measures his affection arbitrarily, testing his love in ways that set up the boyfriend for defeat. This either leads to crushing insecurity on the girl's end or testy confrontations where the boy feels likes he loses every single time no matter what he does: "Do you not want me to talk to other girls?" "No. Talk to them and be comfortable with them so people don't think I'm a controlling girlfriend." "Why the big deal about my conversation with that girl, then?" "You just looked so happy with her." "So you want me to talk to girls but not look happy?" "Well...."

Boys are marvelous creatures when it comes to bearing with the illogic of their girlfriends...sometimes. Even so, they're human and feel keenly the hurt of being shoved away, doubted, and criticized over every little detail. Your insecurity affects his security. And it's unloving to make him feel like he can never measure up or make you happy if all you ever talk about is how scared you are that he'll leave you.

Just for emphasis: it's unloving not to think well of your boyfriend.

Think of the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13: "Love...rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." This whole concept of love gives a standard by which to measure your love:

Do you focus on truthful things regarding the status of your relationship and your boyfriend's character? Do you remain calm and strong when problems crop up in the relationship? Do you give him the benefit of the doubt and believe the best about him? Do you look hopefully upon your future, whether as a couple or brother and sister in Christ? Do you endure when he sins against you or hurts you (for he will eventually, being a sinner like you)?

This transformed my understanding of trust. The biggest problem for me was that I felt like I had no solid ground to rest my trust on. After all, a boyfriend's only human. There's no way either of us can guarantee that things will go peachy for the rest of happily ever after. He's bound to disappoint and hurt at least once in our relationship. How could I put my trust in such an uncertain, unknown thing as my boyfriend's affection for me?

Notice that nowhere in Scripture does God command us to trust people. Trust is, in a sense, deserved and built up. It can be lost, it can be gained, it can be strengthened. It rises and falls with the trustworthiness and integrity of the person in whom you put trust. However, what I've seen passed off as "trust issues" are actually love issues. The attitude that constantly doubts a trustworthy person who attempts to love you is an unloving, selfish attitude.

I mean, I don't know how else to put it. Looking back on my own "trust issues," I see a self-absorbed girl desperate for love. She gained attention by pointing out her boyfriend's faults and acting like she was stabbed in the heart. His imperfections crushed her. Despite the fact that he treated her like a princess, never murmured about her sins, quickly, gently, and gladly forgave her, and forgot all about altercations, she never returned the favor. She doubted, complained, cried, and remembered every fault. When there was the slightest, tiniest thing wrong about him, she dwelt on that and predicted utter doom for their relationship, totally ignoring the 99.99999% about him that should have earned her undying respect and trust. (Believe me, girls, you want a boyfriend like mine. I've never met a man who loves better than he.)

A real trust issue is whether the person in question deserves your trust or not -- if he's a scalawag who purposefully hurts you or controls you. That's a different situation altogether, one I hope you never experience.

So love issues. How to overcome them? Because the insecurity's real, the fear's real. Well, remember the definition of distrust (now properly understood as a failure to love): it's a habit of the mind that consistently thinks the worst of an otherwise trustworthy person. The solution to this love issue is to retrain your mind to consistently think the best of an otherwise trustworthy person.

What does that look like? Easier than you think -- conceptually. It's hard to do in practice. Example:

Negative thought pattern: "He's smiling and laughing with the girl over there. He must not really love me. Maybe he's tired of me because I'm always crying over insecurity issues, and he wants a girl who makes him smile and laugh. He probably wants to break up with me. The next time I share my feelings with him, he's going to throw in the towel, and my heart will be broken again -- just like with my ex."

Loving thought pattern: "It's ridiculous for me to be jealous or insecure that he talks to other girls. Why, just five minutes ago I was joking around with my pal Bob. That's just what friends do. I'm being selfish and hypocritical for getting upset about his platonic friendship. It's not true that he doesn't love me: he shows his love to me by patiently listening to me, not getting upset with me, and hey, he even took me out to that cute coffee shop yesterday morning. Maybe he is tired of me crying over insecurity issues, but really, can I blame him? Emotional girls are frustrating to deal with. Besides, he never shows that he's tired of me, so it's unjust of me to think that of him. Plus, the real issue is that I need to express my emotions in healthier ways so that I'm not a drama queen all the time. I'll work on that. No, he probably doesn't want to break up with me. He's never even hinted at that. Thus, it's unloving for me to accuse him. It's wrong to compare him to my ex because they're not the same person. I'm not giving him a chance to be himself; I'm unfairly scrutinizing him in light of my past hurts. Also, even if he does break my heart, that's not the end of the world -- my confidence is in Christ, who loves me and who I can trust without reserve."

See the difference? If you repeat this exercise over and over again -- either piecing it out in your head or writing it down -- you'll retrain your mind to think more positively and lovingly. You'll have more explanations for your boyfriend's behavior than "he hates me." With positive, loving thoughts, you'll be less likely to set up your boyfriend for defeat.

The bottom line: give yourself a solid ground of truth in which to put your trust. Don't make out your boyfriend to be perfect, but do acknowledge his strengths. Don't dwell on "maybes" or "probablys" or "what ifs" -- stick to facts. Always.

Most importantly, give yourself hope that transcends your relationship -- confidence that God works all things to your good, confidence that your identity and future rests in Christ, not in your current relationship, confidence that God loves you and will never leave you. When all else fails, put your trust in that.

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7 impressions

  1. I like how you differentiate between "trust issues" and "love issues". This post reminded me of a funny story from when my husband and I had been dating about three months. I was gloriously happy and everything was going great. We were both working at the same college library and spending almost all our free time together. Then one day after work my guy said something like, "Ok, well, I'll see you later tonight." and walked off. I was crushed. I went home by myself thinking about how it was nice while it lasted but clearly he was now bored with me and it was only a matter of time until he broke up with me. Later he told me I looked really sad when we parted. The fact that my feelings were so readable was even more embarrassing because - he needed time away from me to go shopping for my birthday present!

    Adele

    P.S. Great new look for your blog! This is clearly a young woman's blog now and not a little girl's anymore.

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  2. So good to hear from you, Adele! Oh, my goodness, that anecdote sounds exactly like my boy and me. Silly girls. ;) And thank you -- that's exactly what I was hoping the new look conveyed. I'm not a little girl anymore hanging out in the big house. I've grown up and changed and have a different sphere and a different focus. :)

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  3. DANG. i seriously am in love with the new name & blog design, bailes. i remember a few months ago when you were talking about this need for change -- and this is PERFECT. for real. :)

    i'm the polar opposite when it comes to trust issues; i trust people way too easily. sure, i have those insecurities ("maybe she really doesn't want to be my friend, etc.), but for the most part, my problem is letting people in way to quickly, and that's how i get hurt.

    I LOVE YOU PRECIOUS. can't wait to skype again soon. xo. <3

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  4. an excellent post and so true...love your posts on this as it echos many things I'm learning in my relationship. (and love the new look!) blessings!

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  5. Just what I needed!!!! I felt like I was reading what my more wordy and articulate self would have written! Thank you so much for just putting it out there the way it truly is!!! You need faith, hope, and charity in a relationship! But remember, charity (the love of God) is the greatest! May I allow the Lord to love through me so I won't continue to allow the selfishness of distrust to steal my joy and peace!

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  6. I stumbled across this blog post when I searched for "trust issues" and it was just what I needed. I was skeptical that a young girl could offer any insight for a woman who has been married for nearly twenty years, but you show a level of understanding that those with a lifetime of behavioral therapy experience have either failed to grasp or communicate effectively. Thank you for opening my mind to the truth behind trust issues. When I read it, I recognized my behavior.

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  7. Oh holy wow. I'm so so thankful Alexxus mentioned this blog to me. I do this with everyonnne. Boys, friends, my dad especially..

    I expect perfection and believe the worst about everyone. I set people and myself up for failure because I think perfection is attainable.

    Good heavens. I think I'm going to reread this and really process it. You definitely got a new follower! xo

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