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Trust and the Healthy Family

trust of a childOne time I heard a man I knew say to his wife “I don’t trust you. But don’t take it personally; I don’t trust anyone.”

What made his statement particularly bizarre was that this same man expected trust from everyone else—his employees, his business associates, his creditors, and yes, his wife.

The fact is you need people to trust you to order a meal in a restaurant, to have a credit card or a driver’s license or even to be out in public. You can’t get on in life without others trusting you.

But neither can you get on in life without trusting others too. You trust your employer will pay you. You trust the driver of the car arriving at the stop sign will stop and not run into you.

How does trust develop? The fact is you started off in life in a state of trust.

You had an implicit trust in your parents on whom you were totally dependent for nourishment, love and safety. As you grew more independent, you internalized the trust your parents gave you and began to trust yourself. With good parenting and a bit of luck you grew up to trust yourself and to trust others.

The key to trusting others lies in trusting yourself. Can you trust yourself to walk away when you haven’t been treated well, to keep a cool head under pressure, and to seek assistance when you get stuck? If “yes,” then you can trust others easily.

I personally have a rule of thumb about trusting. I assume everyone I come in contact with can be trusted. If 3% of the people I meet are untrustworthy, I’ll be wrong 3% of the time.

The man who said he doesn’t trust anyone, on the other hand, will be wrong 97% of the time. Without radical change in his outlook, he may well end up isolated, lonely and miserable

Trusting everyone doesn’t mean you have to be stupid or gullible. Don’t give return business to someone who has overcharged you. And don’t look for a marriage partner in a bar. Don’t depend on friends for a ride home if they are drinking.

The origins of inability to trust are usually found in childhood. Children who have been abused, betrayed, abandoned or put in danger often have big trust issues as adults.

Difficulty trusting yourself and others can create havoc in relationships. It may lead to an inability to commit, fear of intimacy or promiscuity. Major trust issues can evolve into suspiciousness, jealousy, stalking, spousal assault and even murder.

The inability to trust can lead to terrible parenting and huge conflicts with your children, especially as they move through adolescence. Young people need parents who trust themselves, knowing that they imparted to their children good attitudes and self-care skills. They need their parents to trust that they will survive and learn from their inevitable mistakes.

So if you find yourself having difficulty with trust, recognize it for the serious emotional and spiritual disability that it is and get appropriate help. Trust is a key to a fulfilling life.

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Dr. Neill Neill retired his psychology practice at the end of 2013. He maintains an active coaching practice via telephone or Skype with select clients dealing with alcoholic husbands or ex-husbands. Check out his book, Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman's Survival Guide. http://drneillneill.com

3 comments to Trust and the Healthy Family

  • Nice post. Trust is based however in recovery on risk/reward and is a developed process of restoration when broken by abuse/ abandonment.

  • Kim

    Thank you for this post. It’s just what I was looking for! I have been having major trust issues with my boyfriend and he hasn’t done anything to lead me to question him. I didn’t know what the root cause could be…but you hit the nail on the head in this article. I have come from a broken home and this would explain my issues. I don’t trust myself. THANK YOU.

  • Sandip

    Dear Sir,

    It was almost uncanny reading the first line of your article, since the man you described seemed a clone of me. A major portion of the issues/problems told in the article applies to me, as I suffer from terrible trust deficit in my relationships. I’m presently in a (romantic) relationship, and my partner and I plan to marry in six months, yet our daily lives are tormented by my suspecting her, and consequent outbursts. If you could, please offer some practical, day-to-day strategies/tips that I may apply to enable myself to have trust in others, especially my partner.

    Thank you.

    Best regards,
    Sandip.

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