I have no faith in others

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I believe that I have issues trusting people. I grew up in a home where my parents hated each other and it was no secret. I never liked my mother who is controlling and selfish. My mother wouldn’t accept anything unless in her mind it was right. My father, for half of my life, was an alcoholic and didn’t come home very often. Although when my father was at home I would spend all of my time with him. At one point in my life my parents separated and my father disappeared without notice or any phone number we could even reach him at. I was devastated. The relationship between my mother and me only got worse. We would constantly get into fights and physical altercations just because I viewed something differently than her. Eventually my father stopped drinking and my parents thought they would give their marriage and our family a second chance. Nothing ever changed; except for the fact my father was sober.

I was rarely allowed to have friends over because of my mothers religion, she believed all outsiders of the church were worldly and a bad association. I was also rarely allowed to go to friend’s houses because of the same reasoning. My two sisters (both older) were too busy worrying about themselves and hope to cope, we didn’t‚t come together and help each other through it, we just tried to pretend that it wasn’t happening. I had no one in my family to turn to and few friends to talk with. When I was a teenager I had major problems with anger, which was the only emotion that I really knew how to express. I learned to keep most of my thoughts and emotions to myself.

My parents divorced when I was 16 and although I was thankful that the fights and screaming were over, the fact that my life felt like it was falling apart even more hurt me inside. The courts filed joint custody but I couldn’t stand to live with my mother, always getting into fights, slapping, pushing, just the overall control, so I decided to live with my father. In my teenage years I fell into drugs to suppress my feelings and emotions. While living with my father I snuck out, did drugs and drank. Of coarse I tried hiding this all, but I think that he knew the whole time and just ignored the problem. My father and I also got into a physical altercation because he called me a nigger lover (me being white and my boyfriend of 2 years at the time being black) I didn’t agree with that so I called him white trash. He lost it and struck me in the face a few times, which cut my eyebrow, open. I was 17 and my father threw me out on the street. I went to live with my friend and paid rent with the part time job that I had. From then on it was back and forth with my father. I would always forgive him because I loved him dearly. One time my father said I’m sorry I hit you but minuets later he told me that I deserved it. Just this past year I was living with my father again and going to college. I had a job, paid for my own things, got good grades, then one day my brother in law threatened me so I turned to my dad for help and immediately he was on his side telling me I was being dramatic and that I needed to leave. Next thing I know I was homeless, once again sleeping on a friends couch. After all of the years of emotional abuse and physical altercations I was tired of being treated that way by my family and now I no longer speak to any of them besides one of my sisters.
I believe that I have grown well from all of this; there is just one thing that haunts me. I have never quite grasped how to trust and how to forgive. I’ve always been the one to slowly go into relationships (whether just friends or partners) and the second they do ANYTHING wrong I no longer speak or associate with them.

I have many friends, VERY few who I share my thoughts with. The major problem I have is with my love relationships.

I have never been ably to fully trust a man with my heart. Not only have I been cheated on by 4 out of the 5 guys I have had serious relationships with, but I also believe this could be rooting from the relationship I had with my father.

I have a new boyfriend now, and he is the best man I have had in my life. I have decided that I do trust him, but at the same time I can’t fight the erg to check his online profile. He is also a friend with a lot of girls and I have expressed that I would like to meet them and it just hasn’t really happened, although he would agree to introduce me to them. We have only been seeing each other for about 4 months and officially dating for 3. When I get on his profile there is never anything out of the ordinary but when I see a post from another girl my heart just sinks. I know in my head that I shouldn’t feel this way, he is allowed to be friends with whomever he chooses, but I still can’t shake the feeling of heartache.

In my mind I create scenarios, and have a belief that I will get hurt. I think to myself that he is going to lie to me, cheat on me, or possibly just leave me with no sign. It keeps me from opening myself up to him. These thoughts actually bring me physical pain and make me very emotional. I have a really good feeling about him, the way he treats me is like no others and he is completely selfless. I just want to put all of my old behaviors behind me and be able to have a carefree relationship.

How do I teach myself to put faith in others?

A: I admire the resilience that emerges from your description of your background. You have identified the root of your mistrust of men by referring to the relationship with your father. You also have a knack, it seems, for choosing men who will betray you as your father did. The combination of your experience with your father and the history with men has indeed created this awareness. Having trust issues in your current relationship makes sense with these life experiences.

But it isn’t simply who you choose that is part of the paradigm. If your experience is to be betrayed and abandoned, then there may be a part of you that will have difficulty accepting closeness because once someone got close there was a betrayal. In other words, the fear of intimacy creates a condition where you are on alert to protect yourself: Whatever protects, inhibits.

I recommend three things to move through this: group therapy, talking honestly to your friends, and opening up about your concerns to your new boyfriend.

Group therapy is specifically designed to correct the dynamics from the family of origin. See who specializes in that in your area under our find help tab at the top of the page. The truth is no one in your family was able to see your needs and help to support you. That is why you are not only guarded with your boyfriend, but also with your friends. The only way to challenge these fears is by testing them out in reality. One thing that group therapy will do is help you see what the original dynamics were and give you a chance to correct them. Your friends and boyfriend are your family of choice; try opening up to them about your concerns. If they are the real deal they will respond in a way that deepens the relationship. If not, find ones that will.

The truth is you have coped with betrayal with a very high degree of resilience. If it happens again you will have the tools to cope again. But the correction comes when we can do with others what we couldn’t do in our family. For you this means finding a way to share your concerns, needs, and desires with those who can respond adequately in a loving way.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Jan 2011

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2011). I have no faith in others. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/01/12/i-have-no-faith-in-others/