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How to Build a Relationship When They Have Trust Issues

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How to Build a Relationship When They Have Trust Issues

So I was hoping that you could help me figure out what to do about this girl I’m dating.

We’ve been seeing each other for about three months. We have a really good time together and I like her a lot. 

I feel like things will be going great—like spending all night and all the next day together—and then she’ll just disappear for a while.

She makes “joking” comments about her leaving before I do and stuff like that a lot. I know her ex left her out of nowhere about a year ago, but I don’t know much about her dating history since then.

I think she’s just scared, which is frustrating because I really am interested and would like to see where this goes. I try to tell her this, but I can tell she thinks it’s just a line. I don’t really know how to make her believe me…What do I do? 


We all collect baggage from past relationships and it’s very possible that that’s what’s going on here.

It’s human nature to want to learn from past mistakes and protect yourself from future hurt.

There are, of course, healthy and unhealthy ways to deal with your past.

Some people (so I’m told) are completely rational and react in totally responsible ways. If they got into a relationship too soon, maybe they’ll wait a little longer next time.

Others react by becoming monstrously jealous in future relationships or avoid them all together.

Most of us fall somewhere in between.

I think it’s completely normal and human to have a few irrational insecurities you can ask your partner to take into consideration, but there is a line.

First, some general thoughts on anyone struggling with another person’s trust or insecurity issues, whether it takes the form of clinginess, fear of intimacy, jealousy, or any of the hundreds of other ways it can manifest.

Isolate the problem

Some of the best advice I’ve heard in recent years comes from a book I’m hesitant to name because it actually has a lot of pretty questionable stuff in there…but this, this is gold.

In summary: to foster security in your relationship, direct your efforts (your compliments, your love, your understanding, your consideration) where they need it most.

This sounds obvious, but it’s probably not something you’ve really put into practice.

We tell the people we’re dating what we think is wonderful about them—it all comes from our eyes and experience. Which, ya know, is great, but if you want to make some headway with their insecurities, direct your focus where they need it most.

If she’s deeply insecure about not being a good enough artist, or mother, or sexual partner, or businesswoman, then it doesn’t matter how many times you call her beautiful.

And furthermore, an expression of insecurity might have different sources.

This, writer, could be the reason that she still is skittish or doesn’t believe you when you’ve tried to reassure her in the past—because you’re not getting to the heart of the problem.

You, understandably, are making the assumption that she has abandonment issues because of her ex, so that’s where you’re focusing your reassurance. But maybe she’s worried about you tying her down. Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

But you won’t know how to address it if you don’t know what’s really going on. You gotta talk to her about it.

Make accommodations, but set boundaries

Everyone has different limits and boundaries in relationships. Some people have no problem sharing their FB password because they have nothing to hide; other people think that would be invasion of privacy regardless.

Once you know where the source of the trust issues are coming from, see where you have some wiggle room to make certain accommodations. 

Do you feel comfortable checking in with them a little more than you normally would? Do you feel comfortable being less openly affectionate with your female friends?

Writer, the accommodations you might have to make may take the form of (a lot) of reassurance. It might take the form of (a lot) of patience as your dating relationship creeps along to something more serious. It might take the form of (a lot) of understanding when she freaks out and disappears from time to time.

But again, don’t assume you know what she needs. Ask her what you can do to make her feel more secure, and then figure out if that’s something you’re willing to do.

So where do you draw the line?

Only offer what you can give. Don’t make an arrangement that you aren’t comfortable with.

There is a line though between making reasonable accommodations for some insecurities and trust issues, and all out controlling (or out of control) behavior.

Be wary of the slippery slope. Maybe you understand when she asks you not to hang out with your ex alone. But be careful that that doesn’t turn into her asking you to stop hanging out with any women alone. And then anyone alone.

Consider it a red flag if they’re always demanding more, or if what you’re doing never seems to be enough to make them feel secure.

Sometimes shitty, manipulative behavior can be masked as trust issues.

Final thoughts

Understand that they will backslide. I’ve made this mistake in my own relationships. If you’re doing your best to go out of your way to address their issues, it can be frustrating if it doesn’t seem to be working right away. Allow some real time to let the trust build. Assume that it’s going to be two steps forward and one step back. You’re trying to potentially tear down years of conditioned behavior. That’s going to take time.

But also understand that there is only so much you can do.

You can’t make someone trust you. The weight shouldn’t be completely on your shoulders to accommodate their every insecurity or “fix” them.

Their trust issues or insecurities may be so intense that they are incapable of having a healthy relationship until they do some work on their own.

Good luck out there!


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