It’s my first relationship, how can I overcome my trust issues?

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rrahrow1 asks:

We’re both 18, she is my first girlfriend, and we’ve been together for 9 months. During our relationship she would lie all the time, mostly over stupid stuff such as about her family, and her life, etc. I would always catch her on them and call her out, and she would apologize. I recently caught her up in a big lie and I couldn’t take anymore, broke up with her. She begged me to come back and swore she would never lie again, I took her back, and only for the reason because I knew we had something special..

Ever since we’re back together I’ve been having trust issues, it’s a feeling I have never felt before in my life. There is an unsettling queasy feeling in my stomach all the time and I feel sick. I let her know how I’m feeling and she feels terrible. I think she has changed, I told her if she ever lies to me again it’s over. How can I overcome these issues, I want to be able to trust her again.


Demetrius says:

Quick synopsis from Wikipedia of one of my favorite fables ever, that I think applies to your question/situation:

A scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung, but the scorpion argues that if it did so, they would both drown. Considering this, the frog agrees, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When the frog asks the scorpion why, the scorpion replies that it was in its nature to do so.

Maybe you’re too young to have heard this fable, but it makes a great point about the fundamental nature of people, and it’s a fable you should probably take to heart.

Here’s what I know about your situation. You’re both young and this is your first relationship, but more importantly, your girlfriend lies a lot. I’m not a mental health professional, but even a layman would raise an eyebrow at the way you describe her habit of lying. You said that during your relationship she “would lie all the time” which, not to be dramatic here, sounds troubling as hell. I have a very strong aversion to anyone whose primary attribute is dishonesty, and I’m just sort of baffled that knowing that she habitually lies you’d think that you should continue dating her. Also troubling is the fact she lies about things that are fairly serious. You said she lies about stupid stuff like her family and her life and I hate to break it to you, but those are pretty important things. If she lied about something like adding an inch to her height, sure, that’s a silly thing, but lying about family and her own life just seems sketchy as hell to me. You also constantly caught her in lies, which means not that you’re good at sniffing out a lie, but that she’s lied to you so much you’ve had multiple opportunities to catch her in a lie. Then you caught her in a relationship ending lie. Then you got back together because she said she would never lie again.

What stands out about the facts as I’ve laid them out? If you had to make an educated guess about your girlfriend’s nature, what would you say? Would you say that by nature, she is dishonest? If you were unclear about who you were in the fable, you’re the toad, she’s the scorpion who stings you because you know what her nature is and still let her ride on your back. Now, I’m not making a moral judgment about her dishonesty, nor excusing it, but you have to understand people’s nature when you date them. This goes not just for you, but people in general. You really have to look at someone’s nature before you dive into a relationship and see if your values align with their nature. If you enjoy a of luxury , someone who by nature is very frugal might not be the best fit for you. If you value honesty and trust, being with someone dishonest probably won’t work for you. If you want to swim across a river without dying, maybe don’t let scorpions hang out on your back.

I bring all this up to say: You don’t have trust issues. What you call “trust issues” is more like “reasonable suspicion based on a pattern of behavior”. Your human brain, which excels at pattern recognition, has recognized a pattern and is expressing that understanding by making you feel uncomfortable because discomfort is part of your brains warning system, same as nausea, pain, etc. I wouldn’t say that’s a “trust issue” so much as it means that your intuition is pretty sharp. A trust issue would be if you didn’t trust her but had no reason not to.  She’s dishonest, that bothers you, and now you can’t seem to shake the feeling that she’ll continue to be dishonest. That’s not so much a trust issue as a valid concern.  I doubt that she’s changed only because I believe that interpersonal change is generally precipitated not by external factors, but by a decision made by the individual of their own accord. She didn’t decide on her own that a commitment to honesty was important, she made a promise to be honest in response to something you did. I think of it the way you would an alcoholics and the concept of “rock bottom”. They won’t change until they hit their own version of rock bottom, so before that happens they’ll get drunk and do something terrible, apologize, and perpetuate the cycle until they decide they need help. Since her lying doesn’t have any real long-term consequences, why would she change? How does it benefit her to be more honest, if she can be dishonest and still be with you?

I don’t think you have issues to overcome, I think you’re dating someone who is dishonest who you probably need to leave. Not leave until she changes her ways, just leave with no plan to return. It’s a pretty good bet that she’s lied to you since promising she wouldn’t, and she will continue to lie to you if she feels that there aren’t really consequences to her dishonesty. I could be wrong and I might be a bit harsh with my advice, and maybe she’s changed. I that’s the case, the only cure for these “trust issues” is time. If she’s committed to being honest, and you’re committed to staying together, the only “cure” will be establishing a new pattern of honesty. Time heals wounds, not just saying the right words. Just having her be consistently honest over a long enough period of time will push the memory of her dishonesty out of the forefront of your mind. Probably anyway, it’s entirely possible you’ll never let this feeling go.

People can change, I don’t want it to sound like they can’t, but they can also not change when they say that they will. If you decide to stay, try to remain optimistic in the belief that she’ll be honest with you, and if she is honest, eventually your “trust issues” will fade. If those issues don’t fade, maybe you’ll never be able to trust her. Some trust just cannot be repaired, no matter what a person’s intentions might be.

Good Luck Out There.

Demetrius Figueroa

Demetrius is a sex, dating, and relationship writer based in Brooklyn.

4 thoughts on “It’s my first relationship, how can I overcome my trust issues?

  • June 2, 2016 at 4:17 pm
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    This is the truth. She doesn’t align and that’s the bigger issue. Lies can be super hurtful and although I don’t excuse bad behavior I have to say if shes not willing to get it together in the lying department he will never be over it but maybe he shouldnt be either

    Reply
    • June 2, 2016 at 4:25 pm
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      Yeah I think that some people think that every issue they might have needs to be overcome. This is a great example of an issue (not trusting shady people) that should never be overcome

      Reply
  • June 20, 2016 at 8:47 am
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    Good advice Demetrius, sometimes no matter how much you care for someone you can’t change them unless they want to change themselves. It might be hard to leave someone but if they can find it so easy to lie then you can’t put yourself through the pain of not knowing when they are telling the truth or a lie.

    Reply
    • June 20, 2016 at 9:14 am
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      Thanks Emily! The pain of not knowing is really what trust is all about. It’s not whether or not what they say is a lie, because it can be hard/impossible to prove, it’s whether or not you think they’re lying and not knowing.

      Reply

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