Every couple weeks, someone in my therapy office says something like “I just can’t trust him/her at all.” Usually they’re saying that the person has let them down in some way. Sometimes the trust injury is major, like having had an affair, and sometimes it’s something much smaller.
One of the things that makes committed relationships worth the effort is knowing that our partner will be there for us. Our primary relationship should meet our fundamental need for security. Trust is hugely important. It can be almost as important with close friends.
But given that we’re all flawed human beings, it’s inevitable that we’ll let our partner/friend down sometimes. The question is, how often and in what ways? How overt and intentional are the disappointments, the failures to follow through, the avoidance of saying the truth?
So if you’re ever feeling that you “just can’t trust” your partner/friend, think about this list of ways in which he/she might be, or not be, trustworthy. Obviously, some of these are more important than others and would carry more weight in your evaluation of the situation. But hopefully you’ll find that he/she can be relied on in many ways, even though not in all of them.
Do you trust your partner (or friend):
To not be violent, even when angry?
To be sexually/romantically faithful; to not cheat?
To be honest; to not lie?
To be there in a pinch (e.g., if your car breaks down)?
To be there when promised; to keep plans you’ve made?
To remember small promises (e.g., to pick up milk on the way home)?
To hold a job and/or keep things running around the house?
To manage money responsibly; to be honest about spending?
To be kind to the kids?
To be there for you when you’re upset?
To keep your secrets; to not blab about private matters?
To listen to your side of things?
To argue respectfully (without demeaning you, name-calling, or yelling)?
To listen to your perspective (even if he/she doesn’t agree)?
Likely, your partner is trustworthy in most of these areas. (If not, it’s time for some serious thought about whether this relationship makes sense for you.) There may be one area where that trust needs to be repaired. Or you may learn to accept that one or two are likely to be chronic weak areas. Given the overall mix of trustworthiness, can you live with that? The difficult areas may be annoying, even painful—but please don’t say you can’t trust your partner or friend at all.