By Jessica, a loveisrespect Advocate
Sometimes trust can feel like an elusive concept. Throughout our lives, we receive a lot of incorrect messages about what trust should look like in a romantic relationship. This unfortunately leads to many of us learning unhealthy behaviors that we think help us build trust, when really they do the opposite. But don’t worry! I’m here to tell you some good news…
Trust is Simpler Than You Think
First, let’s get on the same page about what trust means. Trust is built when partners communicate openly and honestly with each other, and their words match their actions. Trusting someone is a choice; a decision. We trust that our partner is being open and honest, and we believe what they say.
It’s THAT simple.
I know it might not feel that way, but it’s true! We can trust someone whether they’re right next to us or far away. When we trust someone, we don’t require any kind of “proof.” Trust isn’t about checking in on someone constantly, or always being around to see and know what they’re doing. Trust isn’t about controlling who someone talks to or what they wear. When there is trust, we don’t feel a need to do that. It’s a lack of trust which makes that feel necessary. When we trust someone, we’re believing that no matter what our partner does, with or without us around, they will honor the boundaries of the relationship that we’ve agreed upon.
If it is that simple, why can trusting someone feel so hard? Well, sometimes a lack of trust comes from an external factor, like a change in a partner’s behavior that leads us to wonder if they’re cheating. Other times it comes from an internal factor, like a personal insecurity or fear, and may not be related to anything our partner has done. Maybe our trust has been broken in the past, or maybe we have an unmet need in this relationship that we’re not addressing head on.
So, what if your partner hasn’t done anything to spur mistrust? What if the lack of trust is due to an internal factor, like a personal insecurity? If that’s the case, then it is important to remember that your partner is not responsible for mitigating your trust issues. It’s totally okay and normal to have insecurities, but it’s not okay to allow these normal feelings to turn into controlling, hurtful, or abusive behaviors in your relationship. Maybe you were hurt in the past, and that’s leading to insecurities now, or maybe you’re just nervous or insecure in many areas of your life and that’s bleeding into your romantic relationship. Whatever the case may be, having feelings like anxiety, jealousy or anger are totally normal, but it’s your responsibility to handle them in healthy ways. Hurting or controlling your partner is not a healthy way to cope with these emotions.
Through reflection, you may decide that these personal issues need to be worked out before you’re ready to be in a relationship. If that’s the case, that’s totally fine! We must first be healthy as an individual before we can contribute to a relationship in a healthy capacity.
If your lack of trust is due to something your partner is doing or has done in the past, it is okay to talk with them in a respectful way about your concerns, and ask them if they are being honest with you and upholding the boundaries of the relationship. If, after you have talked with them, you feel like their answer didn’t help you feel any better about the situation, that likely means that trust isn’t there.
At loveisrespect, we often see this result in people feeling like they have the right to demand to see their partner’s messages, snoop through their phone when they’re not looking, or secretly do some digging on social media to find answers. These behaviors are not ever acceptable, even if you suspect cheating. If you snoop and do find proof that your partner was being unfaithful, that does not change the fact that you behaved in an unhealthy (and possibly abusive) way.
If you talk to your partner about your concerns and cannot accept the answer they share, trust is missing—and that’s the real, underlying issue. If you find that you just cannot trust this person no matter what they say, you always have the right to walk away from the relationship. It’s ok if you don’t want to or are not able to trust this person, but it’s not ok to continue a relationship that is not based in trust, or resort to violating your partner’s privacy because trust is lacking. When people continue in a relationship that has no trust, that often leads to paranoia, trying to control the other person in some way, and/or general unhappiness. Without trust, a healthy relationship is simply not possible.
Trust and Password-Sharing
Sometimes people feel that sharing passwords and giving your partner full and complete access to your technology is a great way to mitigate trust issues. Transparency is healthy right? Well…yes, open and honest communication is healthy in relationships, but not at the sacrifice of healthy boundaries. Individual privacy is still valuable, even when there’s nothing to hide.
There are times when allowing your partner access to your phone makes sense. For example, maybe you’re driving and you want your partner to look something up for you, or your hands are full, but you’re curious what your friend sent you, so you ask your partner to read your texts. But when a partner is requesting or demanding access to your phone because they’re looking for proof that you’re not cheating, that’s an issue. Looking through a partner’s messages for “proof” of trustworthiness is never going to build trust, because that action in and of itself is not trusting. Remember, trust means that we are believing, at face value, that our partner is upholding the boundaries of their relationship with us, no proof required. It is a decision to believe that what they’re saying is true. If you don’t believe them, you don’t trust them, and a healthy relationship cannot exist without trust.
So, should you share passwords in your relationship? That’s for you and your partner to discuss. Are you willing to sacrifice digital privacy in your relationship? Nobody should ever feel pressured or forced to share their passwords if they don’t want to, and everyone should always have the right to as much digital privacy as they want. If you and your partner decide to share passwords and one of you changes their mind, that person has the right to renegotiate that boundary and change their passwords, at any time, for any reason. Remember, most importantly: sharing passwords is not a replacement for trust in a relationship.
What Do I Do If I Don’t Trust My Partner?
If you’re finding that trust is an issue in your relationship, first ask yourself where this mistrust is coming from. Is it an internal or external factor, or a combination of both? Once you know that, you can address your trust issues in the best and healthiest way moving forward. That might mean a conversation with your partner or individual counseling, or it could mean moving on from the relationship if you just feel like your partner is untrustworthy. Whatever the case may be, it is important to remember that it’s never okay to allow a lack of trust to result in unhealthy behaviors that aim to limit or control your partner. A healthy relationship is founded in respect, equality, safety, and support. If you don’t have trust, you can’t have any of those!
If you have questions about trust in your relationship, we’re here to help! Reach out to a loveisrespect advocate 24/7 by calling 1-866-331-9474, chatting at www.loveisrespect.org, or texting LOVEIS to 22522.