This week’s relationship question for Frank comes from Erin in Florida:
“I have been dating a wonderful guy for several months now. The problem is this – I have major trust issues. He has not given me any reason not to trust him, but I have been cheated on in past relationships and find it very difficult to trust any man. Any advice as to how I can get over my trust issues? I really like him a lot and fear that I am pushing him away as a result of my insecurities.”
Wow, trust issues. This one hits close to home for me because I don’t trust anybody. I mean anybody. I have had many experiences of my own with cheating and being cheated on; whether it’s a former partner cheating on me, me cheating on a former partner (and finding out after the breakup they were actually cheating on me long before I was cheating on them), being lied to during an entire relationship, you know the drill.
What I’ve learned is that whole game definitely does involve the next person that you’re with. Inevitably, the person you’re with will have to deal with all the problems that came up in your previous relationships.
But, you said two things in your letter to us that really helps me understand your thought process and how to get over it. One is, you have been cheated on in the past and you are afraid of that happening again.
So, I think you should talk to this man and tell him that this is an issue for you, and then find out if he is going to give you access. Not only full access to everything he’s got – Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff – but then if he’s willing to be open and talk about those things as well.
There are going to be moments where you’ll want to know why he’s talking to a girl in a certain way, and you’re going to need to feel comfortable confronting him on that and talking to him about it.
The other thing you mentioned is that you know you are driving him away because of your trust issues. Now, I do that quite frequently in my interpersonal relationships. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with a mate, it can be with a business partner, a peer, or even just a friend.
I have learned to recognize when I am pushing a person away because the trust level is getting lower on my end and I’m becoming afraid that I’m going to get hurt, either financially, emotionally, or spiritually.
Now, when this happens, I’ve learned to sit down and explain to them what’s going on with me, why this is what’s happening, and why I’m doing what I’m doing. I ask them to prove to me that I’m wrong and that my fears are unsolicited. Essentially, I start a dialogue.
It’s very easy, once you know this yourself, to begin the dialogue with people that enter your life so that hopefully you can work with them to build that trust and not push them away. But understand, trust does not happen overnight.
Trust does not happen in a few months. It’s going to take years to build that level of trust up, but each day is going to be better than the one before. So just keep prodding forward, keep pushing forward, and take it one step at a time.
Also weighing in on this question is Jen Gargotto, author of MsMorphosis.com, a self-improvement blog for modern women and author of the e-book, Navigating Dating: A Single Woman’s Guide to Dating Without Losing Herself.
I think Frank’s experiences and advice are dead on. More than anything, I think the thing to recognize is that most people have been hurt and let down, so we’re all afraid. But, for a relationship to work, we have to give parts of ourselves.
We build not only our present, but our foundation and our future around another person. The hardest thing in the world is to know that person is out of your control. They had a past before you, and they’re going to have a future.
Whether it’s the first date or the tenth year wedding anniversary, people are capable of letting us down.
Just like you guys, I’m petrified of being hurt or betrayed once I’ve given my life and fallen in love. I don’t think there’s a sane human being in the world that’s capable of giving so much and not having at least some fear attached to it. But it is up to you how you can cope with that fear.
I, personally, have coped in a few ways:
First of all, I found an amazing partner, and I have learned (after many fights and long nights) to not punish him for the mistakes other men in my past have made. That’s not fair.
I have worked to give him a clean slate, a place where he’s able to earn that trust with the reinforcement of kindness and faith rather than cynicism and resentment. So far, he’s never let me down.
Second, I choose to trust him. You can’t have a loving relationship with someone without trust, because you will sabotage it. Emotionally, verbally, physically – somehow you will manifest what you believe. You will destroy them with accusations, you will destroy your own internal harmony with fear, or you will betray them so that they can’t betray you first.
If you want a healthy, happy, loving relationship you have to make the leap and choose trust. If they end up hurting you, you can cope with it then – but you don’t want to destroy any possibility of happiness over “what if’s.”
Third, like Trigg said, open a dialogue. When my boyfriend is texting a girl he always lets me look over his shoulder without feeling like I’m “crazy.” He lets me ask questions. He asks questions of his own, sometimes. Then, he chooses to trust me back, and I’m equally candid with him.
Building and maintaining trust in a relationship is as ongoing and important as putting gas in a car. It won’t go without it, and it never stops running on it.
I would encourage you to recognize that your fears are founded in a healthy source of self-preservation, but that your mind has the necessary perspective to overcome and cope with those emotions. Without doing that, your relationship is failed from the start.
“To those who have given up on love, I say, ‘Trust life a little bit.’” – Maya Angelou
One of MMA’s most recognized personalities Frank Trigg dishes on love and the male psyche in “Ask Trigg – A Dating and Relationship Blog for Women” featured exclusively on ProMMANow.com. Each week the mixed martial arts fighter, color commentator and MMA spokesman gives advice to female readers based on questions they have submitted. Ladies can send their dating and relationship questions to [email protected]. Follow Frank on Twitter at @FrankTrigg and Jen at @MsMorphosis.