Just about all of us will experience betrayal at some point in our lives.
This may be at the hands of a cheating lover, a friend who shares a secret told to them in confidence, a medical professional who harms instead of heals, or a parent who mistreats or belittles us instead of validating or encouraging us.
Possibly all of the above.
Every time trust is betrayed, there’s a little bit of damage done to us at the very core of our being.
And when trust is broken many times over the years, it can be very, very difficult to ever truly trust a person again, in any form of relationship.
There are a number of different ways that trust issues can manifest, depending on how that particular flavor of trust was broken to begin with.
Below are three of the major signs, and how you can grow past them.
You Spy On People (Because You Don’t Believe Them)
If you’ve been lied to a whole lot by many different people, chances are you don’t have a lot of faith in what people tell you.
If you’re getting to know someone new and they tell you some details about their life, your response might be to do a bit of digging to find out if they’re telling the truth.
Perhaps you check their LinkedIn profile to verify their work/education history, or go through their photos on social media, searching for signs of deceit.
That’s considered pretty normal in this era of online weirdness when it comes to taking care of your own wellbeing.
When things get weird is when you’ve been dating someone for a while, but still feel the need to check on them regularly.
If they say that they’re out with friends, you’ll text their friends to see if that’s actually true.
You may even ask for photographic evidence that they are where they say they are, doing what they say they’re doing.
If this sounds familiar to you, take some time to really think about your actions.
If your roles were reversed, how would you feel about your partner behaving that way toward you?
Would you be upset at their flagrant lack of trust in you when you’d done nothing to earn their suspicion?
Would you feel that they were being disrespectful and controlling?
Yes, you want to avoid getting hurt again, but take care that in doing so, you don’t become the person who hurt you.
You Expect Them To Let You Down
Whether your parents didn’t show up to your ballet recital, your partner didn’t pick up the kids when you had to work late, or your coworkers didn’t pull their weight on a project, you’ve learned that people will let you down, especially when you need them the most.
As such, you tend to take on all kinds of responsibilities yourself: you honestly can’t trust anyone else to do so.
This can result in you constantly feeling depleted and exhausted because you’re shouldering far more than your own responsibilities, solely out of fear that things won’t be taken care of unless you do them yourself.
In addition to tiring you out and possibly leading you to nervous breakdown land, living with the sense that “if you want something done, you have to do it yourself” can end up with you feeling a startling amount of resentment toward those around you.
You may feel like you’re being forced to be superman/superwoman because no one else will step up and take on these tasks.
But, it’s kind of a catch-22 situation, since they can’t step up unless you unclench a little bit and allow them the opportunity to try.
You can start to regain faith in other people if you start small, and try not to have major expectations.
Give people the opportunity to take on little tasks that won’t completely ruin your life if they don’t get done as perfectly as you might have done them.
Get your partner to bathe the kid/s and put them to bed X number of nights a week.
Assign one of your less-important tasks to a subordinate at work, so they’re now responsible for taking care of it.
Often, if we give people small chances to be awesome, and then acknowledge their awesomeness when they do well, they’ll be more eager to take on greater roles in the future… and do those well too.
Like, insisting that it would be pointless to get into a relationship with a person because they’ll just end up leaving you.
Then being horrible to said person all the time to test just how much they’ll put up with if they really and truly like you.
And then it’s “OMG I TOLD YOU THEY’D LEAVE” when they finally reach their breaking point because you’ve pushed them away.
^ Like that.
People tend to create these SFPs as a self-defense mechanism to avoid getting hurt.
They tend to be so afraid of being hurt by those they allow themselves to care about that they purposely create situations in which the very thing they’re afraid of will occur.
This validates their behaviors when they insist upon pushing others away or avoiding any kind of emotional intimacy.
This one takes a certain measure of self-awareness, and the courage to jump the groove so you’re not repeating the same old song over and over again, like an old, broken Blues record with a scratch in it.
If and when you find yourself in the midst of a self-fulfilling prophecy, do something different.
It might be incredibly difficult to do so, to allow space for the unforeseen to occur, but you know what? That unforeseen circumstance might be really wonderful.
You may experience something quite sweet and lovely if you give it a chance to grow, before squashing it just in case it goes bad.
A seedling can just as easily grow into a flower as it can be a thistle, ye know?
Let it grow. See what happens.
Let Things Flow
Trust takes a really long time to build up, can be broken in an instant, and can be almost impossible to repair once shattered.
For people who have had trust broken countless times over, opening one’s heart up to even the possibility of trusting again can be quite terrifying.
One good, healthy way to approach it is to consider that some level of trust breaking is inevitable.
That the other people in our lives are as flawed as we are, and it’s more than likely that they will hurt us at some point.
It may not be intentional – it may just be a momentary poor decision on their part, but if you’re a person with trust issues, that may reinforce your negative beliefs… because you have the unrealistic expectation that those who love you will never hurt you or betray your trust.
Small hurts are inevitable.
They will also heal.
You have undoubtedly suffered some horrible flu at some point, had menstrual issues, and/or exceptionally ghastly gastrointestinal dismay.
At that point, you may have felt that your own body was betraying you, causing you all kinds of distress when you’d done absolutely nothing to earn its wrath.
The dismay passed though, didn’t it?
Did you continue to hate your body for betraying you with such discomfort? Or did you accept that sometimes, things go to hell despite all our best intentions?
If you approach a situation with the idea that you might get hurt, but you will recover from it, you are far less likely to get damaged if and when betrayal occurs.
Even better, if betrayal doesn’t occur, then you’ve benefitted from both the bravery of allowing the situation a chance to breathe, and the realization that there are some really wonderful people out there, and it’s great to allow them “in.”
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.