How to Resolve Trust Issues in a Relationship

Updated on June 18, 2019
akirchner profile image

Audrey is a medical transcriptionist and freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics, including grief and loss, pet care, and more.

There are many aspects of our everyday interaction with people closest to us that can go haywire.

We can all develop interpersonal relationship issues around things like sex, money, or fighting about who does more than the other.

We can have conflict issues with a friend because we don't see eye to eye or they've wounded us in some way.

We can have issues with our partner or spouse who doesn't seem to take the relationship quite as seriously as we do or put enough effort into making it work.

However, perhaps one of the biggest issues for many relationships and the cause of their demise is the result of a problem with trust. In fact, some of the situations mentioned above can be the result of trust issues within the relationship.

Relationship problems come in all sizes and shapes but in order to have a good relationship, it can't exist without trust.


The Source of the Issue

So where do trust problems come from? Most of us aren't even aware that we have trust issues, if we do, until something dramatic happens as in the end of a relationship. When things go wrong, then we start examining the whys and what fors, but until then, most of us go blindly on as we're used to doing.

Consider this important idea—in every relationship, people bring to the table what they have in their repertoire—or as the video below terms it, "background." It's as unconscious as breathing and it's as much a part of each and every person as the organ beating in their chest giving them life.

No one thinks about why they react the way they do until something bad happens—like trying to get through a breakup.

The YouTube video below illustrates quite simply how people bring their background with them into each and every relationship whether they mean to or not. Call it your family of origin or where you came from, but all of your trust issues stem from how you grew up and the experiences that you had. Then lump in all that happened since you grew up and you begin to see the picture forming.

Let's say that someone grew up in a chaotic household where there was a lot of violence and lack of personal boundaries. Let's add to that some scenes that perhaps a child should not have been privy too or some inappropriate ways to deal with anger or stress. Let's call this fictional character Person A.

On the other hand, let's think of someone who grew up in an environment where nothing was ever said in an angry manner and relationships always seemed solid. There was never a raised voice or an argument witnessed, never a problem and a cloudless sky...until the mother suddenly died of cancer because she never told anyone she was sick and the world was never the same again. Let's call this fictional character Person B.

As you can probably imagine, both of these situations could and would most definitely generate trust issues for either person. Consciously or subconsciously, somewhere along the way, there is going to be some expectation in the back of the person's mind that "the other shoe is going to drop" and their world is going to be tilted off its axis.

Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

Everyone on the planet has triggers. Some are so minor that we don't even know they exist. Other people have severe triggers that can temporarily put them into a deer in the headlights situation where they overreact. The extreme of this spectrum is PTSD.

The most important factor if you got down to the bottom of trust problems is whether both parties actually trust themselves. That's right—it's not really about trusting (completely) the other person. It's about trusting themselves and their reaction to something the other person does or says. Or how they will handle themselves in any given situation.

People who do not trust themselves or have good self esteem or self confidence automatically set themselves up for trust problems. They consistently pick people who will hurt them and who will disappoint them because they expect it. Trusting the wrong people has become a habit and they continually seek out the same kind of person over and over who will in fact break their trust again, reinforcing the idea that they knew it - they couldn't trust anyone.

So how do you build trust? In yourself and in a relationship?

Trusting relationships or healthy relationships must have:

  • Knowledge of yourself.
  • Trust in yourself to do the right thing and make good choices.
  • Belief in yourself (different from knowing yourself).
  • Understanding that you can survive on your own and that another person does not define who you are.
  • Being proud of your accomplishments.
  • The ability to face your demons. If you don't do this, you will bring trust issues to every relationship.
  • Not allowing people to know all about you until you are sure that you can trust them.
  • Self-protection with the ability to give yourself without reservation.

That may sound like a tall order but self-image and what you think of you is at the root of building trust with another person. It has been said that if you do not love yourself, you can't love anyone else.

If you find yourself in a spot where you don't meet the above criteria, counseling or self-analysis can help you reach that goal.

"I do not trust people who don't love themselves and yet tell me, 'I love you.' There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt."

— Maya Angelou

How to Resolve Trust Issues in Any Relationship

  • Be honest. Talk things over and be clear on your feelings.

  • Listen to the other person's feelings.
  • Put the past behind, live in the present.
  • Focus on what you want to do today, not a year from now.
  • Trust takes time. Work at it in baby steps.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat.

How to Trust

Whether you're just starting out in any kind of relationship, be it lover, friend, family or workplace, and you notice that one or both of you are having conflicts that just might be based on underlying trust issues, it can be fixed. It's never too late to resolve trust problems.

Or you could be in a long term relationship and maybe have had problems for years but are just starting to ask yourself "is this a good relationship?" Remember it's never too late to change.

Resolving relationship issues or trust problems is easier to do if you examine the root of the problem.

Some great questions to explore:

  • Is the trust issue yours?
  • Are you projecting past trust issues onto this person or are the relationship trust issues real? (As in your boyfriend is repeatedly cheating on you with other women or you are having the same kind of issues with friend after friend)
  • Is the trust issue the other person's?
  • Is there some kind of imagined wrong doing on the part of the other person about what you supposedly are doing when you aren't doing it?
  • Is the trust issue the other person's but you are actually causing it because you are abusing the other person's trust? (As in you claim that you are not seeing other people but you are in fact seeing other people)
  • Are you holding back part of yourself because you can't seem to let go and really deep down trust anyone?
  • Are you afraid that if you were the "real" you, the other person would walk away?

What Does Trust Mean?

Relationship trust in any kind of relationship means that you can trust on a basic level that the person you are in the relationship with will not purposefully betray you. They might still make mistakes or not be "perfect" but they will meet the criteria you have set for your own self preservation of what you can and cannot tolerate.

Let's say you have a trust issue with lies. That said, if your son, your husband, your friend, or your coworker repeatedly tells you lies and expects you to continue the relationship, you can do the following things:

  • Have a non-emotional, non-blaming talk with the person explaining how you feel when he or she repeatedly lies to you and ask if there is a way that this can change.
  • Try in the course of your interaction to discover why the person is repeatedly lying—as in this is their trust issue not really yours.
  • Set boundaries. Your self-esteem requires that you not be lied to.
  • Try to cooperatively figure out ways that these lies can be eliminated. Can you handle the truth if the other person tells it to you?
  • Pinpoint triggers for lies on the other person's part.
  • Pinpoint the trigger for you—the result or how you feel because of the lies.
  • Brainstorm ideas on how to turn this into a healthy relationship and eliminate these trust issues.
  • Seek the help of a professional counselor if the pattern continues.
  • If all else fails and trust is violated repeatedly, it's time to walk away.

What Is a Healthy Relationship?

A good relationship or a healthy relationship is one based on relationship trust. That is to say that two people know that they can trust the other person implicitly. That does not mean that either person is perfect and will not screw up from time to time or hurt the other person. That simply means that both parties have managed to hone out a relationship of trust or dependable behavior with each other.

Before we trust anyone, we should make sure that they are "trustworthy." That means that we should always start out small and see if our trust is correctly placed. That may sound hard to do but it really isn't. Especially in a relationship as large as a marriage or a life partner, we should proceed with caution if we want to consider more than a disposable relationship.

Trust means something different to every person and it changes in every situation. There is nothing wrong with having criteria that must be met in order for someone to be "trust worthy." Ernest Hemingway said it well when he said, "The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

Start out small and work at building trust. Again, whether you're in a long term relationship or you're on the cusp of a new relationship, a good relationship can only be built on honesty and trust. Be honest with yourself and with each other. This is the best way to start a trusting relationship. It's also the way to repair a relationship that has skidded off the tracks in terms of trust. Figure out why you do what you do. You will not only have an answer but you will also discover a repair plan.

The only way to repair broken trust is to get to the bottom of the issue, solve the relationship problems by building trust again, and then move forward. Don't dwell on past issues but instead look to the future and a good relationship.

But keep in mind that not all relationships are salvageable. As the old saying goes, it takes two to tango, and when a relationship is over, it's important to sidestep the blame game and know when to move on.

Let's go back to our two fictional characters.

Looking at the major trust issues that these two people have, you would not expect that they would be able to sustain a meaningful relationship nor a long term one.

Person A brought a background of mistrust and low self esteem to the table with a liberal dose of fear of abandonment. Lack of trust in people would be putting it mildly.

Person B learned early on that life was not what it appeared to be and developed issues around abandonment but also about false security. Emotional distancing became a good defense against being hurt.

Life is full of surprises. These two people actually met and fell in love. Both had tremendous trust issues and went through some tumultuous times. But they were both able to lay out their weak points and allow themselves to be vulnerable. Sometimes that's what it takes - to let someone you think is trustable to see who you really are.

They spent a lot of time growing and learning to pay close attention to each other's backgrounds and triggers. Their life was not perfect but they managed somehow to hone out almost 40 years of marriage. They also became best friends.

If you think about it, almost everything we do in life is about trust. Our children trust us to catch them when they fall and to care for them. Our dogs trust us to feed them and praise them when they do well. Our spouses trust us to be faithful. Our parents trust us to honor them and grow up to be responsible adults. Our friends trust us to be there for them in times of need.

Trust is the vital ingredient in all relationships. Best put - "To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved." - George MacDonald

Questions & Answers

  • She disappoints me, but I still love her. When she tells me something, I feel like she is lying to me. What can I do?

    The only thing you can do is to try and get some counseling and figure it out. If you cannot trust someone completely, you will always have conflicts. I don't think that is worth the anguish. It will wear out a relationship over time, no matter how hard you try.

  • I had trust issues with my partner because of his past constant lies and flirting and he keeps on denying. Now he's changed but I'm still afraid to trust him again. What should I do?

    Some people flirt and like being attractive to other people. The lies are a bit more difficult to handle. I always recommend counseling simply because it has been my experience that when people have cheated or have serious issues between them, without that professional additional counseling, the issues tend to come up over and over again. They never really go away. I watched that happen with my mother and stepfather for decades as well as with my sister and brother-in-law. I think that truly counseling is the way to patching up differences and assuring that we are really "letting it go." That can be true of anything though. Sometimes our heart doesn't want to let go of what our head tells us to. Also trying to live today without looking back at tomorrow is always the best policy - though it's the hardest thing I have found in the world actually to do!

  • I had a guy in my life who I wasn't sure about so I kept seeing other guys behind his back as I was afraid to tell him out of fear. He found out and was mad of course, but still wants me in his life, but I'm afraid he will never truly commit because he's afraid of me cheating again. I broke his trust more then once. Can that be fixed and how?

    That's a tough one and one not easily solved. I would say that you both have issues trusting someone and the only way to work through that is with honest, open therapy. Sometimes someone else who is impartial can help you figure out why you do not trust other people. There is usually some reason for it in our past experiences. Until we face those and learn to work those out, we really can't be as "good" as we might be at these trust issues and circumstances. We repeatedly fall back into old patterns unless we try and fix the old patterns and establish new ones. It is fixable - I believe that things are always fixable - but the most important thing is the will to fix those things that are standing in your way - and to commit to the time required to fixing those things. If we think things are an easy fix or a once-and-done situation, we are probably going to not get to the plateau we want - true trust in a relationship.

  • I am in this relationship with a guy who I really love, and he really loves me too. He tried to make a relationship with someone else work for two years and failed. However, they had a sexual relationship. Now, they are in a band together and see each other most of the time. He said that he's over her, and she's over him, but I'm having trust issues when they are together. How do I overcome this?

    That is a tough one. It all boils down to self-confidence and trusting yourself to make the right decisions. I would suggest speaking with a counselor about it because I am not really qualified to give in-depth advice. I would think that you would need to go slow, build trust again over time, and be able to believe that your fellow would be loyal to you. If you do not have complete trust, you don't have much, and the issues will continue to play out between you. Couples counseling would also be the best idea of all. When both parties feel that they understand each other and can meet on common ground, that is the ultimate measure of success in any relationship.

  • For a while there, my girlfriend thought I was flirting with other girls. It wasn’t like that at all though. I never liked the girl. But a lot of my mannerisms and the things I did assisted in helping her not to trust me. She doesn’t think I’m loyal now but she says she’s not ready to move on. What can I do to help her move on?

    I would just take it one day at a time - that sounds trite and I don't mean it to be. Sometimes you just have to grow into things and let time heal wounds - allow ourselves to grow. Trust takes a long, long time to build and if you have had mistrust at any point, it can take even longer. If someone is worth it though, you will realize a good payoff from the caring!


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    • profile image


      6 months ago

      I always have problem in my relationship because any guy i meet they always don't trust me even when am right. Pls what will i do to get over it.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      19 months ago from Washington

      Thanks for your comments - relationships are so very hard at times. I think in my own case, the best thing I could do for myself is heal myself and that seemed to open the door for personal growth. If you feel confident in yourself and about yourself, everything seems to fall into place more easily.

    • profile image


      19 months ago

      Surprisingly a lot of what you said relates to me in many possible ways. I just needed somebody's validation and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart this precious piece of writing.

    • profile image

      Zev Sommer 

      2 years ago

      Well that came at the perfect time. After a 20 year marriage that ended up in domestic violence, on the part of my ex wife, and 2 years after the divorce I am in a serious relationship that seems like it will eventually end in marriage. Now I find my self fighting old demons and feeling vulnerable for no reason except for the divorce.

      Putting my self in a vulnerable situation has caused me to doubt everything. Your article has helped, but I will have to read it every day.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Your article was very helpful. I am fairly sure I am person A and my wife is person B. This has been an issue that we have been dealing with for 10 years now. This has pointed out some things that I was not realizing before. Thanks

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      6 years ago from Washington

      Thanks for the kind comment, Esther~

    • Esther  Strong profile image

      Esther Strong 

      6 years ago from UK

      A most interesting and very insightful read.

    • mykhushi profile image


      8 years ago from Karnataka

      @akirchner : i would like to thank you for giving such a wonderful free context frame of a relationship.... I m reli feeling good after reading ur article... coz today i fought wid some one who is more imp than myself.. I guess i found the way to resolve in a smoother way... thank you so much...!!!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thank you Sharilee - I do speak from the voice of experience there as I finally realized after many decades that I myself had some trust issues. Once I figured that out and learned how to trust ME and move on in many ways, things became crystal clear~

      Thanks so much for your nice comment and especially for stopping in! Audrey

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Akirchner, you have done a good job at covering this topic. I especially liked what you said about it really being about trusting ourselves, to react the right way with the other person. That is a very good insight, and it makes sense. I really enjoyed this hub. Voted up and more.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks Ajayshah~

    • ajayshah2005 profile image


      8 years ago from Mid Asia

      Great Hub in solving the relationship problems and also well written. Shared.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Truer words were never spoken, BJ - definitely trust is hard to do and is like a free fall for many people. Funny thing is most of the time we don't even realize that we have trust issues. Just by expecting certain things to continually happen, we prove that we do or by our reluctance to engage with people, we say a mouthful - silently.

      Developing trust doesn't make a relationship perfect but it certainly clears away a lot of the debris and lets you get a healthy start at understanding each other and I agree - only honesty and listening truly glues it together.

      Thanks for the great advice and for stopping by~

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      The subject of trust and what it entails especially in a relationship is a serious one, Audrey, and you did a most credible, intelligent job of covering the subject.

      All of us are the results of our upbringing and background and change is difficult. The first step is understanding. What is the real problem and how can it be resolved? Don't criticize; don't blame the other person. Listen, really listen and try to reach mutual agreement on the issues.

      Your rules and suggestions make sense and this is a most valuable hub on trust. Promise. Trust me!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Ah Crewman - I don't know how I sensed something like that but I kinda did. My auntie was an agoraphobe as well so I know about that. I'm one when it comes to planes~~ And I have a couple of severe performance anxiety issues I'm still working on - it is funny where we pick up our triggers but really not so hard to figure out if you look at it closely.

      Bob grew up like Beaver as well - I always say that and it is just so different than the way I was raised...but somehow you do learn to muddle through. I guess the important thing is to always remember that old saying about never judge someone until you've walked a mile in their mocassins or something like that. Bob and I have managed to rub along nicely for many decades though in the beginning I sure had my doubts we would endure~

      Good for you and Monique too - it's a cruel world out there in many ways or at least a frightening one - I'm always grateful that I have someone to step along beside me who makes my days lighter and easier. Communication is definitely what saves the day~

    • Crewman6 profile image


      8 years ago

      You always write exceedingly well, Audrey; but this sets the bar a whole level higher. I had the true 'Leave it to Beaver' childhood. Thought everybody was nice, and good. A bit of real-world experience taught me otherwise, and I'm still working through understanding some of that.

      Monique, on the other hand, is an agoraphobe of the most intense level. She's been housebound for more than half her life. Between the two of us, sometimes our triggers collide. The surest way to 'keep the faith' is to communicate. We always talk through our feelings.

      What an important hub. This means a lot. Thanks Audrey!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks for stopping by and the great comment, Om - I know that from personal experience, it is harder sometimes to solve our own issues than trying to "fix" everyone else~~~ But in the long run, the time that we spend resolving our own issues sometimes miraculously helps issues across the board. Or is it a coincidence? I don't think so~ Love that quote as well - what great imagery she created to express a really profound statement.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      8 years ago

      I think you made many excellent points here, Audrey. I agree we need to look into the trust issue objectively and see if it is actually caused by the other person or ourselves. I also like that quote by Maya Angelou a lot. How true. :)

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks, Helena for stopping in and the feedback~

    • Helena Ricketts profile image

      Helena Ricketts 

      8 years ago from Indiana

      What a great way to tackle a tough subject. Voted up and useful!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks, Kristy - I think being so old makes just about anything personal~ ha ha - been there and done that~ Thanks for stopping by.

    • kissayer profile image

      Kristy Sayer 

      8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      First of all, hi-5 to you for writing this! It's issues like these that are tough to write about because they're so personal, but you did an excellent job!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks for the great comment, Heather. I know what you mean and that is definitely the "key" to success I think in every relationship we encounter. Thanks so much for stopping in.

    • Heather63 profile image

      Heather Adams 

      8 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Wow - you covered an important subject well. It is so true that we bring some or our past into our present relationships. Taking the time and energy to know ourselves demands a lot of work, but it is the best investment we can make. It certainly was for me.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks for the read, Cristale~

    • Cristale profile image

      Cristale Adams 

      8 years ago from New York

      I like this! It did help me to feel encouraged and inspired about myself. Thanks for the great knowledge.


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