Having a healthy relationship is work. It takes good communication, patience, and commitment. When it comes to trust, past relationships are a big part of how we trust in the future. The ability to trust others depends on not only childhood relationships, but also on adult relationships that we have with partners, friends, and peers. As you think about your relationships, have you been hurt in the past? If you have, you may need help to process those betrayals, and to move forward to a better relationship.
Let’s start by talking about how problems in past relationships can haunt a new relationship. I have worked with many patients around this issue. Many of my patients came out of relationships where a partner cheated on them. They started looking at their partner’s phone, and found phone calls from other women or men. Then they looked further and found other evidence, and eventually left, but now have trouble trusting in a new relationship. They are often in fights with their new partner, accusing the new partner of things that they may or may not have done. They go through the persons phone, search for information and create conflict. I have had patients that got so bad, the relationship ended because the partner hadn’t done anything and just got fed up with being accused of things.
Something else that can happen if we lose the ability to really connect with others. When you have been hurt, it’s hard to be vulnerable again and really be in a relationship. These are the people that always seem to have one foot out the door, and don’t seem to really care. This can be a problem if the other person can sense that there is disconnect. In this situation, words don’t seem to matter. They can say what they think you want to hear, but there is nothing behind it. People can generally sense that there is something not there. People have described this situation as feeling cold, or alone in the relationship. These relationships end for many different reasons, but mostly it’s a lack of feeling connected.
So how do you work on trust issues for a healthy relationship? This is one of the hardest things to overcome, especially if you have been hurt in the past. Recovery starts with really understanding what baggage you bring into a relationship, sharing that with a new partner, and having that partner share their baggage with you. This goes back to communication. Understanding where your partner is coming from, and also where you are coming from, helps set up a relationship. You need to be able to talk about situations that come up that remind you of the past and trigger fear. Fear is a killer, and generally brings out all kinds of problem behaviors that can
be cancer to a relationship and erode it quickly, or slow and painful.
Once you understand your baggage, you have to be able to overcome and be vulnerable again, if that’s what you want. Some people say they are done with relationships, and move through life not connecting anymore to save themselves from the pain that comes with being hurt. I don’t think anyone makes it through life without being hurt, whether it’s a bully in school, the death of close relative or friend, or a parent that wasn’t very good at being a parent. You have to decide if it’s worth opening yourself up again to the chance of being hurt. If your answer is yes, moving into a new relationship, and being open and honest about your baggage if important. And it’s just as important to have your new partner share their issues. As you both are vulnerable, you can better understand each other and start building a healthy relationship together. If you partner says that they don’t have any baggage to share, RUN! Everyone has baggage.
As you think about trust and relationships, understand that this is a hard issue to overcome. If you need help, find a therapist in your area. They can help you explore the baggage that you carry with you, and maybe even unpack it and put it away. I don’t think you can ever get rid of all your baggage, but you can manage it. Even if you are not ready for a relationship, working on trust can help you be happy for life.