Rebuilding trust: signs & solutions for healing relationships

a woman with blue hair is dealing with trust issues

Trust issues can deeply impact relationships, causing fear and anticipation of the worst outcomes. Although the cognitive structure of trust is complex, psychologists agree that relationships cannot flourish without it. If you've been hurt and struggle with trust, learning to manage these issues is crucial for a more meaningful life. By understanding the signs of trust issues and implementing effective strategies, you can rebuild trust, heal emotional wounds, and create stronger, healthier connections with others.

Table of contents
What are trust issues?
What are the signs of trust issues?
How do I overcome my trust issues?
Build trust in your interpersonal relationships
Is having trust issues a disorder?
How do you deal with trust issues in a relationship?
How do you deal with trust issues in the workplace?
Develop trust skills and build your relationship satisfaction

What are trust issues?

Trust issues are a pattern of difficulty in believing others, characterized by fear, suspicion, and anxiety about the potential for betrayal or abandonment. They often stem from past experiences of hurt, disappointment, or trauma in relationships. People with trust issues may struggle to form deep connections, be vulnerable, or rely on others, even in the absence of clear reasons for distrust. Trust issues can manifest in various relationships, including romantic partnerships, friendships, and family dynamics, and can significantly impact mental health and well-being.

You can think of trust issues as a coping mechanism. The one thing people with low trust levels have in common is that they’ve all been let down before. With that in mind, we can confidently posit that irrational fear is what causes issues with trust.

If you don’t trust your partner, chances are that you’re afraid they might cheat on you with someone else. If you don’t trust your closest friend, you may fear they’ll use your weaknesses to humiliate or hurt you. If you don’t trust your boss, it might be because you’re afraid of their ulterior motives.

For individuals with trust issues, something valuable to them is always on the line. Their fear and insecurities take over, making them feel like they need to constantly test others. In their mind, everyone is unreliable, deceptive, and untrustworthy by default—a dangerous perspective that can easily tear relationships apart.

Put yourself in your partner’s/friend’s shoes, though: your suspicious feelings assume that they are actually likely to do what you fear the most, even if that’s not close to the truth. The worst is already assumed, and that’s what can hurt the most.

What are the signs of trust issues?

It’s not always easy to tell whether your trust issues come from rational observations or irrational fear. If you're suspicious of others often, you might experience these 7 signs of a lack of trust:

  • You feel like you know exactly how people will hurt you. It’s perfectly normal not to trust those who’ve been dishonest in the past. However, If you question people who’ve done nothing to earn your distrust and allow past experiences to cloud your judgment, your depressing visions of the future are just unfounded prophecies. In that case, you might be the one sabotaging your present relationships.
  • You dread commitment. How can you emotionally commit to a relationship when you’re anticipating loss, failure, or have a constant fear of abandonment? You dread commitment because deep inside, you’re convinced a betrayal of trust can happen at any time. For you, it’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.
  • You’re overprotective. Caring about the people you love is healthy, but being overprotective is a whole different story. It’s a sign of fear and insecurity that can quickly diminish relationship satisfaction.
  • You isolate yourself from the world. With trust issues come cynicism and self-isolation. You tend to withdraw from life experiences that might be stressful and you don’t really seek new relationships or nurture existing ones.
  • You have a hard time opening up. If you believe that everyone’s out to hurt you, it’d make sense to keep your deepest worries and emotions hidden. Even in your closest relationships, you’re afraid that people won’t understand you or that they may judge you for who you are. Research shows that by hiding your true emotions, you’re likely compromising your emotional well-being.4 And that can have serious consequences in the long run.
  • You start fights. Do you often pick fights with your partner over petty things? Your lack of trust and unwillingness to face the underlying issues can make you moody and irritable.
  • You feel lonely, even when surrounded by people who love you. Trust issues come with large doses of fear, insecurity, and desperation. If you’re good at sweeping your negative emotions under the rug and putting on a happy face, people won’t ever have a chance to know your true self. That can make you feel incredibly lonely, even in a room full of people that really care about you.

How do I overcome my trust issues?

The key to alleviating problems of trust is patience.

By learning how to work through trust issues over time, you, too, can build—and rebuild—trust. Once you’ve mastered the art of turning the 'trust switch' on, you’ll immediately experience new intimate connections with the people closest to you. You’ll liberate yourself from your own negative thinking, and your relationships will feel so much more real and genuine as a result.

First, we need to take a deep dive into the heart of the problem, as we learn to spot the signs that point toward underlying trust issues.

To fix your trust issues, the first step is to identify them.

Build trust in your interpersonal relationships

Becoming a trustworthy person can take time. But it's well worth the effort and is likely to improve your emotional health.

One way to improve trust issues is by getting to know yourself on a deeper level. Whether you're looking to curb emotional jealousy or improve your interactions with colleagues at work, Marlee can help.

Get started by answering questions on what motivates you. Our analysis is more than 90% accurate and based on 20+ years of research. Your results are shown on our visual dashboard so you can see how you rank on traits like power and control, your level of skepticism, or how open-minded and tolerant you are.

F4S assessment shows your traits on a scale

We even help you understand how these traits can be helpful or harmful when not balanced. For example, a high need for power and control is a key trait of leadership and ambition. But if left unchecked, it can lead to unhealthy levels of competition and dominance.

Once you have a better understanding of yourself, you can sign up for a free coaching program. Just set a goal and we'll provide a personalized coaching series. Change takes time, yet 90% of our users report achieving their goals in 4-9 weeks. By taking an honest look at yourself and putting in some time and effort, you can let go of some of those jealous tendencies.

Is having trust issues a disorder?

No, having trust issues is certainly not a disorder. Although people with underlying conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression, PTSD) are more likely to have trust issues, anyone can show suspicious and jealous behavior.

After all, jealousy and suspicion are built into our DNA. Psychologist Joshua Coleman explains how we take advantage of hypervigilance to learn from our past experiences and survive despite repeated betrayals.2 You can’t—and shouldn’t—blindly trust everyone.

But if you spend hours playing imaginary movies in your head and going over terrible scenarios of how people are about to betray you, the problem probably lies with you—not them. This is known as catastrophic thinking. The good news is, with an awareness you can change your thoughts. Support from a therapist or coach can help you build healthy intimate relationships.

That being said, if you suffer from a persistent fear of getting hurt by a romantic partner, you may have philophobia. Philophobia has Greek origins and comprises two words: “phileo,” which means to love, and the common root “phobia,” which means fear (literally, fear of love).3 People with philophobia can get nauseous or lightheaded just by talking—or even hearing—about love and relationships.

If you find it hard to make emotional connections with people in general, you could describe your condition as pistanthrophobia. From the Greek words human (anthropos), faith (piste), and fear (phobos), pistanthrophobia roughly translates to “fear of trusting people.

As with most irrational phobias, both philophobia and pistanthrophobia are not classified as disorders since their symptoms are only triggered in specific situations.

A mental health professional can easily help so that you can build interpersonal trust.

How do you deal with trust issues in a relationship?

A lack of trust can ruin relationships. Putting confidence in your partner is probably the single most important prerequisite for a lasting, loving relationship. Of course, you can’t learn how to get over trust issues overnight. But if you want to be truly happy with someone, you need to let go of your prejudiced, subconscious worries.

Dating someone with trust issues is never easy. Here’s what you can do to overcome unresolved trust issues in your relationship:

  • Stop monitoring their actions. This can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re used to knowing what your partner is doing at all times. Give them some space and show that you choose trust over suspicion. Stop calling them every five minutes, and resist the urge to sneak a peek at their phone when they’re away.
  • Speak up. If you have a reason to feel jealous or suspicious, make sure you communicate it early with your partner. Problems won’t magically disappear; you have to open your communication and be honest about everything—especially the things that aren’t working out as well as you’d like.
  • Recognize that you’ve been hurt in the past. There are some things we like to keep to ourselves. You don’t have to share details about your childhood trauma or past relationships with your current partner if you don’t feel comfortable. However, remember, while you may have experienced pain before, your current partner isn’t to blame for that pain—they weren’t the ones that hurt you. Identify these negative emotions, and assure yourself that the people that caused you pain are no longer around.
  • Don’t keep too many secrets. Your partner deserves to know the real you, genuine and unfiltered. Instead of keeping secrets from your significant other, try to share secrets with them. Honesty brings honesty, and you’ll find that opening up more often will bring you closer together, even if it feels a little daunting at the time.
  • Try to see your relationship through their eyes. Empathy is a sign of high emotional intelligence. Next time you feel like letting your insecurities take control, put yourself in your partner’s shoes. How would you feel if you were constantly monitored and accused of things you’ve never done?

Trust issues in relationships should be addressed as soon as possible. If all else fails, individual therapy is always an option. If both parties want to build mutual trust, a professional couples counselor can help explain exactly how distrust affects your relationship and help you come up with solutions to your problems. If you’ve never tried it, give it a go - it might be more powerful than you think.

How do you deal with trust issues in the workplace?

Building trust at work isn’t that different from building trust in a romantic relationship. If you want to be seen as a reliable colleague that others can depend on, here are some ways to develop basic trust at work:

  • Appreciate your team and be honest with them. Honesty is key to any healthy relationship, but so is appreciation. Remember to acknowledge your team’s hard work and give praise when it’s due.
  • Avoid gossip like the plague. Gossip is a sign of a toxic work environment. Building trust at the expense of others is a recipe for disaster. Even then, those who gossip don’t really trust each other—mainly due to fear of having the same people also talk behind their backs.
  • Be consistent. It’s hard to trust someone when their mood is changing all the time. Just as you’re expected to consistently deliver and perform, you’re also expected to remain calm and keep a cool head even when under a lot of pressure.
  • Pay attention to your body language. Not everyone’s made for stressful work environments, but you can use body language to make people feel more comfortable around you. Make yourself more approachable by maintaining eye contact and turning to face the person you’re interacting with. Don’t cross your arms, hide your face, or put objects between you and the person you're engaging with.
  • Share information. If you learned something useful that could make your coworkers’ lives easier, don’t keep it to yourself—share it with them! If colleagues know that you’re not keeping things secret to gain a competitive advantage, they’re likely to reciprocate when the time comes for them. Everybody wins.

Develop trust skills and build your relationship satisfaction

Everyone is bound to experience dishonesty and various breaches of trust. Don't let mistrust rule your life or your relationship. Learning how to deal with trust issues can be profoundly rewarding. It won’t be easy, but with less fear and an open perspective, you can find the strength to trust without fear.

Start healing your trust issues today

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Show References
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  1. (2017). Available at: https://www.aspeninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Chang.The-Science-of-Trust.pdf
  2. (2008). Available at: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/surviving_betrayal
  3. (2011). Available at: https://www.academia.edu/11197911/Case_Study_About_Personality_Disorder_Philophobia_Fear_of_Love_What_is_Philophobia
  4. (2014). Available at: https://academic.oup.com/scan/article/10/6/801/1732379
  5. (2001). Available at: https://www.cairn-int.info/article-E_RES_108_0125--the-cognitive-and-normative-structure.htm

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