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February 14, 2020

Your Partner Doesn’t Trust You?

If you and your partner are struggling with trust, it can be upsetting and difficult. When one partner suspects the other partner can’t trust him/her, there are two main situations: “I Didn’t Do Anything!” or “I’m Hiding Something”.

I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING!

If your partner doesn’t trust you and you haven’t given him/her any reason to feel that way, it can make you feel frustrated and exhausted by an uphill battle you didn’t start. If so, consider the following tips:

1. SHARE MORE WITH YOUR PARTNER

Even if you haven’t done something objectively wrong, if your partner doesn’t feel like they can trust you this will degrade the relationship. Sometimes this comes from different levels of comfort with sharing. If you wouldn’t normally talk about issues related to your partner’s suspicions but wouldn’t mind sharing, giving your partner more information might be helpful. For example, if your partner is worried you’re cheating on him/her, sharing more about who you saw during the day or where you went would be helpful. If your partner feels in the loop, he/she is less likely to be caught off guard and feel mistrustful.

2. CONSIDER HIDDEN EMOTIONS AND PAST EXPERIENCES

While what you see (your partner’s hidden emotion) is likely anger or constant questioning, the likely hidden emotion is fear – of you ending the relationship, of being taken advantage of, or of something bad happening. And these hidden emotions are often caused by previous experiences. For example, was your partner cheated on in the past or did he/she grow up in a household where there weren’t any stable relationships? If you haven’t talked about these issues, try using the speaker/listener activity in the Strengthen phase to get your partner to open up. The more you know, the more accepting you’ll likely be of your partner’s behavior.

3. ARE YOU WILLING TO BE TESTED?

This is going to sound like an odd suggestion at first, but hear us out! One of the best ways to earn your partner’s trust is to set up an experiment. For example, you and your partner could agree that he/she could “test” you three times in the next couple of weeks or months. For example, he/she could ask you to prove where you are (or where you’ve been) or show receipts for how you’ve spent money. If you’re actually not doing what your partner is worried about, getting some proof of that can be helpful to your partner. On the other hand, knowing that these tests won’t continue forever (it’s only a few times over a period of not more than a few months) can give you confidence that things will get back to normal eventually.

I’M HIDING SOMETHING

If you are in fact hiding something from your partner, whether it be a credit card charge or an affair, deciding to come clean can be difficult. You may feel caught in the lies that you’ve told and feel that it is too late to come clean to your partner; you might risk losing the relationship. However, the weight, burden, and upkeep of these lies will only continue to grow with time. Consider the following tips:

1. BE TRUTHFUL

The first step to untangling the web of lies is to be honest with your partner. Although it will likely be a difficult conversation, it is also the first step towards rebuilding trust in your relationship.

2. COMMIT TO HONESTY

Although you cannot change how you handled difficult topics in the past, you can commit to being honest in the future. It may be hard at first and you and your partner may need to practice your speaker / listener skills during these conversations; however, you partner will notice your effort and likely appreciate it.

3. SET YOURSELF UP WELL

If particular situations, friends, or events make you more prone to acting in a way that you would lie to your partner about later, consider removing some of those negative influences from your life. While not all can be fully removed, at least limiting your contact can be helpful. Set a plan and let your partner know about it so he/she can know you’re serious about changing your behavior.

4. DON’T PUSH YOUR PARTNER TO FORGIVE

It’s going to be hard for your partner to find out the truth – especially if you’ve been covering it up for a while. You’ve broken your partner’s trust and it will take time for that to heal. Recognize that, even if your partner wants to forgive you, emotional wounds take time to heal just like physical wounds. It would be naive for your partner to trust you again immediately – you’re going to have to earn it back over time.

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Funding for these programs was provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant Number 90FM0063

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