Unable to trust and unaware of the origin of the problem

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

About a year ago I re-entered into a serious relationship with an ex-boyfriend. He is essentially my only ‘real’ ex. We were together through both of our college careers and were only apart for one year before we got back together. For the most part I think we have a very healthy and positive relationship. We are kind and supportive to each other. We communicate about everything and of course we care for each other a great deal. In all the time we’ve been together neither of us has ever cheated on the other, but for some reason I find myself constantly paranoid that he will. I’m sure this is a common problem, but as I looked through similar questions that had already been asked, it seemed that most of the inquisitors had obvious past issues that would give them inevitable trust issues; a father who left, a spouse who had cheated in the past, etc. I, however, do not have a sorted past whatsoever. I have to two loving supportive parents who are still together, I was never abused as a child, I’ve had my share of heartbreak but it all came before college and nothing was too traumatic.

The bottom line is, I think that I am in a wonderful relationship, and I would really like to move past these irrational trust issues but it is very difficult to do since I cannot imagine where they come from. I’m even more worried because part of the reason we broke up the first time was because I could not seem to trust him.

My only thought is that maybe, subconsciously, I am not ready to be in a serious relationship, or I don’t feel that I should be in this one, of the complete opposite – and I am just scared? Do those sound like crazy and unfounded suspicions? Is this unfounded distrust a common problem? Are there some steps I can take to fix it? Help.

A: This is an important question you have presented. I believe you are correct that your concerns are different because of your background. Let’s look at the possibilities.

Your last paragraph is a good place to start. Intimacy issues can emerge from many sources. They are natural and can be expected once a relationship moves to a new, deeper level of intimacy. What you are describing in that paragraph is something typically called a projection. This happens when we “project” on to others that which we may be harboring. Fearing your partner may not want to be in the relationship may be an indication you have concerns about being intimate. If this is the case, this is a very natural defense and process.

The ultimate goal in intimacy is to be seen by your partner for who you are. My encouragement is to deepen your relationship by talking to your boyfriend about your concerns. The conversation alone may allow you to enhance your intimacy by allowing both of you to be present for each other — and to hold and care for each other’s fears. If this suggestion seems too risky I encourage you to find a couples counselor to allow the discussion to take place in a safe atmosphere. The find help tab can locate someone in your area.

Thank you for bringing the question to us.

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

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Mar 2011

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2011). Unable to trust and unaware of the origin of the problem. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/03/03/unable-to-trust-and-unaware-of-the-origin-of-the-problem/