Tianna Soto, M.A.


February 24, 2023

Tianna Soto, M.A.

By Tianna Soto, M.A.

mbg Contributor

Tianna Faye Soto, M.A., is a New York City-based journalist, speaker, and educator. She has a master’s degree in clinical and counseling psychology from Columbia University, and her work has been featured in Elite Daily, Her Campus Media, and elsewhere.

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February 24, 2023

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If you’ve ever struggled with trust issues in a relationship, you’re not alone. Trusting your partner can be challenging, especially if you’ve experienced infidelity or betrayal in the past. Maybe your ex cheated, and now you don’t feel confident about your current relationship. Or maybe you feel anxious or fearful that your partner is keeping secrets from you, so you get suspicious and have trouble fully believing their intentions. No matter what your experience has been, learning how to trust your partner can be a vulnerable process.

Whether you’re trying to rebuild after a breach of trust or you simply want to feel safer and more stable with your partner, there are many ways to heal your trust issues and feel more confident in your relationship. Here’s why trust matters, where your trust issues might be stemming from, and how to start building trust with your partner, according to experts.


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Where trust comes from in a relationship.

What exactly does it mean to trust someone in a relationship, and what makes a partner trustworthy?

According to psychologist Deborah Vinall, PsyD, trust is when you have full confidence in your partner that they’re there to support you. “Trust is a secure belief that you are emotionally, physically, and psychologically safe with them,” she tells mbg. “When we trust someone, we believe and expect that their word is true and their intentions are genuine.” Mutual trust, she explains, can often be established and reinforced through time and consistency.

According to Lauren Cook, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist, speaker, and author of Generation Anxiety, trust is also about having a sense of security about the person you’re with. “Trust is the sense of sureness that you feel like you can rely on your partner and they can rely on you,” she tells mbg. “But trust is not necessarily a given in a relationship, and it’s often very much a choice. There’s vulnerability in trust…we are choosing to open ourselves up to someone.”

There are many factors that can impact whether or not someone seems trustworthy. Maybe your significant other has a laid-back, calming presence that makes it easier for you to let your guard down. Or maybe you’ve been in a long-term relationship, and knowing your partner and their family for many years makes things feel more intimate. Your partner may even express their affection for you in meaningful ways that make you trust them more, like elaborate gifts and love letters.

While all of these qualities can contribute to trustworthiness, Cook says solid trust is ultimately built on behaviors more than words. “We’ve had that experience before where people can say all the things to us — whether it’s love bombing or complimenting us — and then [their] behaviors do not match what was said,” she explains. “One of the best ways we can build trust with each other is to behaviorally show each other time and time again, ‘I’m here for you, I support you, I have your back, I’m faithful to you.’ And we get enough evidence over time to see that trust is actually warranted.”

Where trust issues come from.

If the goal is to feel safe and secure with your romantic partner, why do so many people have trust issues? Specific reasons look different for everyone, and every relationship is unique. However, experts generally agree that trust issues can be traced to past experiences where trust was broken in some way.

“A lot of times, people have trust issues because they’ve been hurt by someone — especially by someone who they thought they could trust,” Cook explains. “This is one of the most cognitively upsetting events for people. When someone appears to be trustworthy — or there’s been a history of being trustworthy — then there’s a major rupture, it can make someone very hesitant in their next relationship.” 

This isn’t to say that your romantic relationships are doomed forever if you’re struggling with trust right now — however, experts say it can help to explore where your insecurities are coming from and why they’re emerging right now.

Here are some of the most common reasons you may have trust issues:


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Childhood experiences

“Formative relationships in childhood carry the most weight in shaping our beliefs about whether others are trustworthy,” Vinall tells mbg. What relationships did you witness growing up? Was it easy or difficult to trust others? Did you feel like you could trust your parents, caregivers, loved ones, or even friends at school? Were there any significant moments where trust was broken? While you may not recall memories that far back, there may be a specific experience from your past that impacted your ability to trust others.

Cook agrees that early family experiences can leave a lasting impression. “If we’ve seen a parent be untrustworthy — maybe they left the relationship or had outside relationships — that can really predispose someone to think, ‘All people do this,’” she explains. This isn’t to say that early childhood experiences automatically cause trust issues later in life, but it may be one of the many reasons underlying your insecurities. 

Infidelity or betrayal

Being on the receiving end of lying, cheating, or forms of infidelity can be a recipe for developing trust issues. Maybe you discovered your partner was having an emotional affair, and your entire relationship suddenly feels shaky — or you caught them in a lie about where they were last weekend, and now, you’re unsure if you can trust anything they say. Regardless of the scenario, betrayal hurts and it can be difficult to accept.

If the person who cheated, lied, or betrayed your trust is your current partner, it’s understandable to be on high alert. According to Cook, you may be asking questions like, “Is this person who they say they are? Are they actually going to be there for me and then change their mind?” Trust issues can also emerge after you’ve been ghosted when someone who seems interested suddenly…isn’t anymore. 

Betrayal registers as a trauma with lasting repercussions for future relationships,” Vinall adds. And while it’s totally possible to trust again after being cheated on, the process can take a while. Vinall recommends trauma treatment as a tool for helping you process the experience, find your footing again, and eventually open yourself up to new, healthy relationships when you’re ready.

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Abandonment issues or fear of rejection 

If you deal with trust issues, you may also have abandonment issues — aka the ongoing fear that people, places, or things you’re attached to will eventually leave or reject you. This fear can make it more difficult to trust people around you. No matter how much they say they care, you still believe that they’re going to leave or break up with you. According to licensed counselor Chrystal Dunkers, LPC, abandonment issues, like trust issues, can also stem from childhood experiences and often manifest as intense anxiety and fear of being left behind.

Your unshakeable fear that your partner is going to leave can make it hard to form healthy, trustworthy relationships. And according to Vinall, carrying trust and abandonment issues into a new relationship without attempting to heal first can be detrimental. “When one carries emotional baggage into a relationship with a trustworthy person, the relationship suffers as past wounds are projected as an instinctive position of self-protection,” she says. 

Your attachment style

Your attachment style — aka your specific pattern of behavior in and around relationships — may also be related to your trust issues. Of the four main attachment styles (secure, anxious, avoidant, and fearful-avoidant or disorganized), Vinall says that folks with trust issues are more likely to have an anxious, avoidant, or disorganized pattern and struggle with secure attachment.

Once again, these patterns can usually be traced back to childhood. “If caregivers were inconsistent, volatile, frightening, or unavailable, the child may grow to have an anxious, avoidant, or ambivalent-disorganized attachment style,”Vinall explains. 

If you have an anxious attachment style, you may feel overly insecure about your relationship, feel hungry for validation, or worry about abandonment — all of which can make trust pretty difficult. (On a practical level, this can look like getting very anxious if your partner doesn’t text you back quickly enough). On the other hand, your trust issues may be connected to your avoidant attachment style, which is marked by fear of intimacy. You may have trouble getting close to others because you don’t trust them and, in turn, create distance from your partner (which sometimes indicates emotional unavailability). A disorganized attachment style (a mix of anxious and avoidant) usually means that you oscillate between extreme avoidance and anxiousness in relationships. No matter how close you feel to your partner, these attachment styles can make trusting a partner pretty tough.  


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7 ways to build trust in a relationship:

Once you’ve established that trust is something you struggle with, how do you start building it? Here’s what therapists recommend.


Practice acceptance and self-compassion.

Realizing you have trust issues can bring up insecurity, anxiety, and even embarrassment. You may feel overwhelmed, isolated, and unsure about your future. But remember: You’re not alone in your experience, and it’s incredibly common to struggle with trust. “First, admit that trust is a challenge for you,” Vinall suggests. Then, be kind to yourself and remember that overcoming your fears and uncertainty is entirely possible.


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Reflect on where the trust issues began.

Vinall recommends identifying why your trust issues started in the first place. “Explore the source of this trust deficit,” she says. “Has it arisen in previous relationships, or is it exclusive to the present scenario?”

Recalling moments from childhood, adolescence, or even the recent past may help bring clarity to your situation — and it can also provide affirmation that your feelings are valid. Psychotherapy, journaling, meditation, and other healing practices can help support your reflection process.


Show your inner child some love.

Since many trust issues can stem from childhood experiences, Vinall recommends inner child work as a way of healing past hurt. Whether it’s an inner child meditation, practicing breathwork or mindfulness, or repeating positive affirmations, there are many ways to tend to your inner child.

“Consider journaling or therapy to help heal inner or childhood wounds,” Vinall says. “Keep floating backward in your memory to the origins [of your trust issues] and listen to your younger self’s pain with compassion, providing reassurance that the past is behind and you are in a healthier place now.”


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Consider therapy or counseling.

Unpacking your trust issues can be vulnerable, but having a licensed professional to guide you can help. “Seeking a therapy space can help you discuss past [experiences] that have led to trust issues,” says licensed therapist Wale Okerayi, LMHC, LPC.

Whether you want to meet with a therapist virtually, seek couples therapy with your partner, or perhaps a combination of both, therapy and counseling can be a great way to start healing your trust issues. It may take some time to find the right therapist, so don’t be afraid to schedule a couple of consultations first.


Communicate your thoughts, emotions, and needs.

When you have trust issues, your reaction may be to shut down emotionally or avoid vulnerability at all costs. Or, you may desperately want to chat with your partner about your lack of trust, but bringing it up feels distressing. Although your impulse may be to close yourself off, Cook says that opening up can be powerful.

“With trust, there’s such a key element of vulnerability in it. You could get your heart broken,” she says. “And you can share those fears with your partner…see how they respond to that.”

A lack of communication in relationships can be harmful, so try starting small (i.e., “Can I talk to you about something kind of vulnerable?”) and gradually start inviting your partner into what you’re feeling. 


Focus on a person’s behavior, not only words.

Maybe you’ve done the inner child work, reflected on your past, and even discussed things with your partner — but you’re still having a hard time trusting them. If this sounds familiar, Cook says it may be time to look at your partner’s behaviors to determine if they’re genuinely trustworthy. “It’s so easy for people to say all the right things, and say all the things they’re supposed to say, but what are they behaviorally showing you?” 

Do they say they love you but ghost when you need them most? Do they say they’re not seeing anyone else, but constantly lie about where they’re going and keep things from you? Maybe they shower you with compliments over text but rarely make an effort to spend quality time together, which makes you question the relationship.

If you’re hesitant about trusting your partner, see if their behavior aligns with what they’re saying, and chances are, you’ll feel more confident about whether or not you can continue trusting them.

Although sorting out trust issues can feel dizzying, Vinall says to follow your gut instinct. Chances are, it’s probably trying to tell you something.

“If your struggle with trust has only emerged in your present relationship or you have only become aware of it because your partner accuses you of having ‘trust issues,’ follow your intuition and pay attention to any warning signs that may be signaling that it is not safe to trust,” she says. “When unsure, move slowly.”

How to rebuild trust again after betrayal.

Building trust after a betrayal is a big deal. If your partner cheated, you may be feeling devastated, confused, anxious, depressed, or a combination of everything, and it can be overwhelming to move forward. First, Okerayi suggests carving out intentional time to recognize and honor your emotions. “Take some space and process your feelings,” she says. Over time, she adds, you may feel comfortable discussing your feelings with your partner or seek a couples therapist to help you both process the betrayal.

From there, Cook recommends communicating openly with your partner when you feel ready. “It’s really important to express those fears and doubts you’re having and not hold them inside and build resentment,” she says. It’s also important to figure out if the betrayal was a one-off circumstance or an ongoing pattern, Cook explains.

“Every human makes mistakes in some way or another, whether it’s cheating or saying something hurtful…none of us are perfect,” she says. “If your partner does something one time, messes up and feels horrible about it and tries to correct it, that’s a way better indicator that trust can be rebuilt — rather than someone where this is just a pattern over and over again, and it’s a cycle.” If you do notice an ongoing pattern of lying, cheating, or betrayal, it could be a significant red flag.

That said, it’s important to honor where you’re at emotionally and use that to guide your next steps — whether it’s choosing to rebuild things with your partner, taking some time and space for yourself, or ending the relationship altogether. “If the choice is, ‘I choose to step back from this,’ honor that,” Cook says. “Or if the choice is, ‘I want to lean into this and give this person another opportunity,’ then you can give it your best shot and give that person another chance to show you that they can be different.” 

No matter what path you choose, Vinall says to take the healing journey slowly. “Trust takes time. This is especially true in healing from a breach of trust or betrayal in the form of confirmed lying or cheating,” she says. “There is no way to rush this relational healing process.” She explains that time, openness, and authenticity from your partner can help you gain reassurance that their past behavior isn’t going to continue. And if your partner is truly intent on changing, Vinall says they’ll demonstrate patience, openness, and willingness to face the healing process alongside you — no matter how uncomfortable and vulnerable it may be. 

The bottom line: It’s up to you whether or not you want to rebuild with your partner after betrayal. Trust yourself and listen to your intuition, discern whether or not their behavior is likely to continue, and ask for help or professional support if you need it to help you feel more confident in your decision.


How do you get over trust issues?

To get over trust issues, it’s important to examine what they’re stemming from and why. Is your insecurity rooted in something from the past, or is there a real threat in your current relationship? If so, communicate with your partner about what you’re feeling, hear them out, and make a call about whether you can lean into trust right now. Although it can be hard, remember that trusting someone again can ultimately be a healing experience.

Why is it hard for me to trust my partner?

If you’ve ever dealt with betrayal, rejection, or had someone lie or cheat on you, it can be difficult to trust your current partner — even if they seem very trustworthy. Your past experiences tend to inform how you feel about romantic connections, and if you’ve been hurt previously, it can be challenging to be vulnerable and open up again. 

How can I know I can trust my partner?

If you feel genuinely safe, secure, and confident that your partner has your back, it’s usually a good sign that they’re trustworthy. If you can be your authentic self around them and express your thoughts and emotions openly without them making you feel uncomfortable about it, this can be another telltale sign that you’re in a trustworthy partnership.

The takeaway.

Trust issues may cause you to feel closed-off, insecure, jealous, or fearful that things won’t work out with your current partner. Regardless of your situation, know that you’re not alone — trust issues are very common and can often be traced to past experiences, from as early as childhood to present-day. Trust requires vulnerability, which can feel intimidating at first, but it can feel great to eventually let your guard down and learn to trust someone again.

“Every time we open ourselves up to love and relationships, we are risking getting hurt,” Cook says. “But I’d also remind someone to remember all of the ways a relationship can really benefit them and bring happiness to them. It could actually be a corrective experience to see that you can trust someone.”

Ideally, your partner should make you feel safe, secure, and free from anxiety. Know that trusting again is entirely possible, even if it doesn’t always feel easy. Take a deep breath, lean on your instincts, and know that you deserve a healthy, trustworthy relationship.