The problem with dealing with the majority of trust issues is that they stem from personal insecurity that predates the relationship. Past experiences can mold our character defensively in ways that can confuse our partners, and lead to distancing. In some cases, we may not even be aware that we are pushing our partners away in an effort to remain “in control” or protect ourselves from hurt.
It is this very human desire to remain in control that can ironically cause us to lose that which we strive to protect ourselves from losing. The greater the amount of force we exert in an effort to safeguard that which we love, the greater the propensity our partners will retaliate negatively (feeling suffocated or manipulated, taken for granted or degraded, for instance), because our security comes at our partner’s expense.
Here’s a list of typical behavior that leads to a deterioration of trust if not taken by the horns.
Dealing With Jealousy
Jealousy is often synonymous with lack of trust, but realistically speaking it isn’t always misguided. If your partner has a history of infidelity (whether it’s sexually or emotionally based) then jealousy is both understandable and reasonable considering their history. However, knowing their history and having faith in their ability to correct mistakes is a decision you either fully commit to or decide against. Projecting insecurity will work against the relationship, and probably even catalyze their tendency towards infidelity because jealousy will make the relationship less fulfilling.
Jealousy as the projection of past insecurity, where there is no objective basis for doubting our partners, is another beast entirely. Here it isn’t about deciding for or against an act of faith, it is about addressing a subconscious need.
If you’re dealing with a partner who is unconditionally and unreasonably jealous then a number of steps can be taken to attempt to iron out deep-seated insecurity.
- Improving self esteem is directly correlated to a reduction in jealousy.
- Being direct and honest about how their actions are making you feel (and not whether it’s a right or wrong issue, dropping the judgment makes communication far less imposing for all involved).
- Enforce behavioral patterns that “teach” your partner to respect your boundaries. For instance, if they’re texting you every twenty minutes to know what you’re doing, make a point of answering occasionally, not all the time. There is a chance that they may react heatedly to this kind of opposition, but hopefully it will allow them to consciously detect the obsessive nature of their need.
If nothing seems to work, and you’re adamant about fixing this aspect of the relationship, then psychological or relationship counseling (which I am woefully inadequate to address) is your best bet. Not all partners are willing to accept that they have a problem, and will be fundamentally opposed to even consider the possibility that there’s anything abnormal about their concerns, at which point it’s really up to you to decide whether the relationship is sustainable.
Dealing With Possessiveness
Many trust issues share characteristics because the root causes are similar, which is why jealousy and possessiveness have so much in common. Jealousy is often an extension of possessiveness.
Once again the demon that needs to be exorcised is that of attempting to control the relationship. One way to handle a possessive partner is by attempting to convey how overbearing their actions are, but not solely by having a chit-chat (which doesn’t always work), but by actively asserting your right to live life according to your own personal wants and needs. Because regardless of how a possessive partner may feel, you do have needs that need to be fulfilled.
This doesn’t mean doing the exact opposite of what our possessive partner wants (just to get the point across), it just means making the amount of compromise you are willing to stomach more reasonable.
If your partner objects in strong terms to you sleeping at a long-lost, and now avowedly platonic ex’s house, it doesn’t necessarily make them possessive. And pulling the trust cord too tightly may understandably lead to injecting even more resentment, and an even greater amount of possessiveness (because now they may well have a logical reason to distrust you). Making a show of indulging in your needs must be carried out respectfully, or the entire shebang will backfire.
For the rest, curing over-possessiveness is similar to jealousy, where managing self-esteem and direct communication becomes of paramount importance.
Dealing With A Clingy Partner
Feeling suffocated is a typical relationship breaker. The problem with clingy partners, with this in mind, is that they don’t see how their pattern of behavior feeds their failures. The vicious cycle is as follows:
-> Are broken up with for whatever reason.
-> Find someone new and become clingy in an attempt not to lose them. Are broken up with again because of how suffocating they are.
-> Find someone new and become doubly clingy because they are doubly scared….
-> Rinse and repeat.
The key here is breaking this pattern by showing our partner, in practical terms, how it is the architect of their romantic failures.
However, we are not ultimately responsible for the denial our partners may be rooted in, and we should not feel guilty should our efforts fail. All we can do is try to illustrate how their actions are projecting insecurity onto us, and consequently compromising the relationship. As sad as it is, not everyone is willing and able to take responsibility for their actions in a relationship, and there comes a point where holding onto hope risks dragging us down into the depths of insecurity along with them. Knowing that yet another rejection may well harm them is unfortunate, but so is allowing an insecure partner to dismantle our own resolve and well-being.
Once again, the same rules with handling jealousy apply here. The erection of boundaries (and enforcing them), managing self-esteem and good, old-fashioned communication.
Dealing With A Partner Who Continuously Seeks Validation
It is all too easy to forget about what makes us tick as individuals when we become embroiled in co-dependence. I’m sure we’ve all felt at some point that we seem to judges ourselves not from our own perspective, but from the lens of our partners’ judgment. To some extent it is part-and-parcel of emotional co-habitation.
Most people naturally have a system of internal checks and balances that will sound an introspective alarm if they detect that this kind of dependence exists (and they will consequently attempt to re-establish balance by re-acquainting themselves with their individuality). Some, however, are too far along the path of seeking external validation to have an individualistic reference point at all. There is simply no self left to relate with.
Unlike the other points in this article, it is not our partner’s actions that arouse suspicion and fear, it is the reaction to ours. However, for all intents and purposes the outcome is identical, because the root cause — once again — is the insecurity seeded by low self-esteem.
The battle here becomes one of re-acquainting our partner with their personal goals and standards of fulfillment, which may be vastly difference from our own. But how do we do that?
- Redefine time spent alone more productively (take up new hobbies, be more socially active).
- Increase the amount of “me” time, but provide a communication structure that makes sure that they don’t feel a new wave of insecurity because they equate more time apart as a sign of more emotional distance.
Rebuilding a sense of self is imperative not only for our partner’s long-term well-being, but for the relationship itself. But like all things relationships, trust issues can arise from scenarios where the sense of self we’re dealing with is grossly inflated, rather than lacking.
Caring Too Much Versus Arrogance
Most of the points that I’ve made so far are reflective of a person who may be jeopardizing the relationship, but are doing so unintentionally as a result of over-analyzing a little too much the variables involved. It would be remiss of me to not mention that there are people out there who resort to manipulation in an effort to achieve the same end. But rather than wallow in their own doubts, they achieve this by making you insecure instead. How magnanimous of them!
At the end of the day over confidence is under confidence. I don’t mean to sound cryptic, but I really do mean to say that an inflated sense of self is a product of insecurity as well. So in the end, when we think our partners are equipped with an emotional set of figurative steel armor, it usually ends up being made out of paper once it’s tested instead.
If you are constantly made to feel guilty or inadequate, chances are your knight in shining armor is actually very scared of what you might achieve if you regained a measure of self-worth. The only way to feel in control then, for them, is to bring you down low enough that you look up to them. But what happens if we peak through their veneer of arrogance? The house of cards crumbles just as quickly as it was built and they will abandon any pretense of being in control, because — let’s face it –they never were.