We were at a baking class when my friend Betty asked me, “My boyfriend doesn’t trust me because of my past, should I be worried?” I responded, “Have you ever heard of a cake baked with just one ingredient? No, of course not. You need the whole assemblage of eggs, flour, butter, baking soda, sugar, etc., and a nice, well-functioning oven. Similarly, your relationship needs more than love to go the distance.”
Trust is an indispensable element of any healthy relationship. Think of the best couple you know, the one that sets couple goals. Chances are, they’ve put in a lot of work to arrive at this space in their relationship. They’ve been able to do so because their relationship is built on the foundation of mutual respect and trust. So, the question is: can you trust someone who doesn’t trust you, and build a healthy, lasting bond with them? Let’s try to find the answer in consultation with psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle (Ph.D., PGDTA), who specializes in relationship counseling and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, and also figure out the right approach to dealing with a boyfriend who doesn’t trust you.
10 Possible Reasons Why Your Boyfriend Doesn’t Trust You
“Being in a relationship with no trust can be like living in a house of cards. You never know when it may fall apart. It can create a sense of anxiety and impending doom, and you never know what might tip off your partner,” says Dr. Bhonsle. But what leads to suspicion?
The question, “Why does my boyfriend not trust me?” can have many answers. And the reasons behind the signs he doesn’t trust you may not always be simple. Let’s take a look at the top possible reasons that contribute to his inability to trust the person he has chosen to be with:
1. He has low self-esteem
Self-esteem is a characteristic of a person that determines their self-image. People with low self-esteem often struggle to develop a healthy self-image and rely on approval from others to feel good about themselves. This can manifest in relationships as a need to constantly monopolize their partner’s attention or love. A man with low self-esteem turns out to be an insecure partner. Here’s what it may look like:
- Insecure people find it hard to trust others and it takes them a lot of time to place their faith in a new partner. As a result, even a small slight can feel like a huge deal
- Insecurity can lead to jealousy, which is a result of a fear of rejection
- It can also lead to a controlling nature, which stems from a strong need to avoid uncertainties in the relationship. This is rooted in a fear of helplessness.
- Insecurity may also manifest as a thought that he doesn’t deserve a good relationship
- Dealing with an insecure boyfriend can be tough, but with patience and empathy you can help him get over it
2. He’s being gaslighted
It’s entirely possible that he’s being gaslighted by someone who doesn’t want you two to be together, like a jealous friend, or an ex. The chances of this happening are higher if he is gullible or has low self-esteem.
- Notice if he mentions a certain person telling him about you doing something that he’s not okay with. If so, talk to your boyfriend about it. If possible, confront that person and ask them to back off
- It’s okay to give him evidence to soothe his worry for the time being, but at the same time do highlight that it’s not a long-term solution and you value your privacy
3. He thinks you’re better than him
Everyone on the popular show, The Big Bang Theory, often made jokes about Leonard having Penny as a girlfriend because she was so out of his league. This could be an issue with your boyfriend too
- Are you considered better looking or more successful or high-achieving than your boyfriend? Chances are, the disparity between the groups you and your boyfriend belong to could be a reason for his trust issues
- He has difficulty fitting into your world, he thinks everyone is talking behind his back, and you have to constantly reassure him
- If you see these signs, reassure him. With time he will be able to let go of these feelings
4. You have commitment issues
If your boyfriend is moving at a faster pace than you in the relationship, he may begin to doubt your intentions. People often question their partner’s love when they learn that their partner may have commitment issues.
- Does he bring it up often that you still won’t say “I love you” or tend to use “my partner and I” instead of “we”? Does he also badger you about being in contact with an ex?
- “If so, you need to have a conversation about why you’re taking things slow and try to find a middle ground,” Dr. Bhonsle advises
5. Once bitten, twice shy
When someone doesn’t trust you for no reason, they may have been a victim of infidelity. He has emotional baggage from previous unsuccessful relationships, and because of that, he often suspects you of looking at other men or being interested in them.
- He doesn’t like talking about his previous relationships or talks about them negatively or with bitterness. It may appear as if he hasn’t moved on at all
- He gets triggered by certain words or situations that remind him of his ex
- You have to sit him down and explain that he’s not in that relationship anymore and so has to move on
Related Reading: Trust Exercises For Couples To Improve Relationships
6. He has seen infidelity up close
It’s also possible that he has seen one of his parents cheat on the other. Traumatic childhoods are often the reason why people develop trust issues.
- He has internalized that certain behaviors are associated with infidelity, like spending too much time away from home or going off the grid. When you indulge in such behavior, his subconscious associates them with infidelity
- It’s important to be patient and firm at the same time and let your partner know that he needs to work through his past baggage so that it doesn’t continue to haunt his present and future
7. His inability to trust you could be rooted in your past
Are you grappling with a classic case of “my boyfriend doesn’t trust me because of my past”? This could happen if he has caught you cheating on him in the past, or he knows about it even if you think he doesn’t know about it. It’s also possible that he knows about you being unfaithful to someone else and that is causing his trust issues
- Dr. Bhonsle says, “If there is a history of cheating or bad relationships on your part, you have to work on building trust in your partner. The same stands true if you tend to manipulate your boyfriend or play mind games in a relationship”
- Avoid passive-aggressive tactics with your boyfriend. This could be the solution to the lament, “My boyfriend doesn’t trust me because I lied.” For instance, trying to make him jealous by flirting with others. These are immature tricks that harm your relationship. Rise above these, do better, and become a solid support for your better half
- It is possible to fix things after the trust is broken once. A good first step is following through on your promises. Let your actions and words be in harmony
8. The relationship has hit turbulence
Sometimes little things, such as forgetting to text “good night” can create huge misunderstandings. The thing to understand here is that it’s not just a single thing that led to niggling sense of doubt in your boyfriend’s mind, but a progression of several minor, inconsequential things.
- Are you having a hard time being with each other without either having arguments or awkward silence?
- Angela, a small business owner from Austin, told us, “I can’t open up to my boyfriend about business struggles without a sarcastic comment from him about how I had it all while he was shunted around foster homes. He thinks I’m seeing my business partner behind his back just because I stay late to avoid talking to him. Now my boyfriend doesn’t trust me because I lied about having work.” This is just a minor example of how trust issues are cyclical in nature
9. He is cheating on you
You could say it takes a cheater to know one. It’s not entirely baseless. Psychologists call it transference. He may suspect you of infidelity because he is involved with someone else.
- You may notice him eavesdropping your conversations or going through your messages, while he demands complete privacy.
- He wants to monitor every aspect of your life, and you’re left wondering, “Is sharing locations healthy in a relationship?” Well, if that’s where you’re at, know that you need to draw the line between love and privacy in the relationships
- He appears to make a great fuss about “catching” you, and you begin to walk on eggshells around him
- This is a strategy to make you not even think about him cheating on you
10. He has mental health issues
When someone doesn’t trust you for no reason, it’s possible that they have some sort of mental disorder that distorts reality for them, and makes it difficult for them to trust their partners. Such disorders often go undiagnosed, which makes it harder to manage them.
- Mental disorders such as psychotic disorders cause a person to perceive experiences that they never had. These delusions are so powerful that even evidence against such hallucinations fails to convince the person that they might have a problem
- If he exhibits signs of distrust or says, “I can’t trust you”, but his reasons exhibit traits of PTSD or paranoia, it’s a sign that you need to consult a professional
Related Reading: 10 Tips For Finding Love Again After A Heartbreak
What Can I Do If My Boyfriend Doesn’t Trust Me?
This question is not as uncommon as you think. Trust issues in a relationship are as common as Santa Claus on Christmas. Many people have walked this road before you and emerged unscathed – you’re going to be a-okay too! We ask you to approach this advice from a rational perspective. Take a few deep breaths as we come closer to the question of the hour – what to do when your partner doesn’t trust you?
1. Ask what and why
Dr. Bhonsle says, “Trust is a very broad term so the first thing to do is ascertain which aspect of your personality is being mistrusted. What does he not trust about you? Is it your financial habits, is it your equation with another man, or is it the incongruency between your words and actions? Once this has been determined, the remedial steps can follow.”
- Investigate the reason behind his trust issues. Maybe he has been let down in the past and the history of betrayal is a burden he is still carrying. Perhaps his control issues are manifesting themselves as trust issues. Maybe he is simply jealous of somebody in your life. Or maybe he has archaic notions about women being answerable to men
- There is always the possibility that his mistrust is not unfounded – that you have been an untrustworthy partner in the past. Think about your relationship history and examine your behavior too. Become an inquisitive soul and look into these different aspects of your boyfriend’s life
- You also need to consider his childhood and think about the role models he grew up with. We emulate the behavior we have seen – if he is a child of a bad marriage, then he did not see many healthy relationships around him when he was growing up. Consequently, he might struggle with trust and commitment issues
Related Reading: Trust Issues – 10 Signs You Find It Difficult To Trust Anyone
2. Communicate with honesty
Being vulnerable and building emotional intimacy facilitates trust significantly. Dr. Bhonsle says, “Resolution begins with communication. Talk to your partner honestly and voice any concerns you have. Bring it all out in the open and give them the space to share too.” You can use the following communication exercises for couples.
- Keep in mind that listening is as important (if not more) as speaking in such conversations. It is always better to have difficult discussions rather than make assumptions
- Keep this thumb rule in mind – never assume. Don’t assume that you know their situation or vice versa
- Whenever you voice your side of things, talk like you’re explaining things to an 11-year-old. Clarify everything and use simple, short sentences. Be straightforward and avoid analogies or complex metaphors, because they distort meaning
3. Seek professional help
Self-sufficiency is a remarkable quality to possess. But there are times when we simply have to accept the fact that there are things beyond our control. In these situations, it is wise to seek help from professionals who can guide us through the rough patches in the relationship. It is an option you should consider if you have trust issues in the relationship and don’t know what to do.
- Dr. Bhonsle explains, “There are always deeper underlying issues to a person’s lack of trust. And this is what any mental health professional will begin with. Anyone experiencing trust issues should consider therapy for sure; the sailing becomes much smoother when you know just how choppy the waters are.”
- You can consider couples counseling for yourself if the mistrust in the relationship is getting the better of you. At Bonobology, we offer professional help through our range of licensed counselors and therapist
4. Set relationship boundaries
While trust is all about openness and transparency, you don’t want to overstep in your boyfriend’s personal space (or the other way around). “But what to do if my boyfriend doesn’t believe anything I say”, you ask? A good way is to keep realistic expectations of each other. For example, you can update him on where you’re going and with whom but he can’t call you every hour and inquire about your whereabouts.
- For both your sakes, fortify yourself and define what is acceptable and what is not. If your friendship with an ex bothers him, you can maintain a distance from the ex; but your boyfriend can’t log in to your social media and access your chats
- Setting healthy relationship boundaries is vital to avoid ugly fights over privacy. You ought to do everything in your power to reassure him, but he can’t enter your personal space to assuage his doubts. If he does this, he’s exhibiting the traits of a toxic boyfriend
- Dr. Bhonsle says, “Draw the line where your partner’s actions don’t align with your values or belief system. If you think that your selfhood is being compromised at any point, be vocal about it. Communicate and negotiate with your partner. Setting boundaries makes this negotiation smoother.”
Related Reading: 19 Examples Of Healthy Boundaries In Relationships
5. How to make him believe you won’t leave him? Exercise empathy and patience
Shinja, a teacher from Alaska, says, “I told my therapist that my boyfriend doesn’t trust me because I cheated on him once. It meant nothing and was a one-night stand. But he still hasn’t let go of the past. I love him, but he doesn’t believe me. I didn’t know what more I could do. The therapist explained that my infidelity had brought Nate’s insecurities to the surface. Maybe he thinks he is not enough for me. Maybe he’s worried he will lose me to another man in the future. I can see what my boyfriend has been put through because of my mistake.”
If your boyfriend’s lack of trust stems from something you’ve done to make him feel insecure, here’s what you need to keep in mind:
- A lack of empathy in the relationship can corrode it quickly. Try and see things from your partner’s perspective – this will prevent frustration, anger, or bitterness from growing in your heart
- Be patient with your significant other, give him enough time, especially if his inability to trust you is triggered by your mistakes. The thought “My boyfriend doesn’t trust me because I cheated on him”, can be rephrased as “he doesn’t trust me yet”
6. Can you trust someone who doesn’t trust you? Consider your options
A relationship without trust is not healthy. If this problem persists, you may want to consider your options by asking a few basic questions.
- Where is the relationship going if the signs he doesn’t trust you don’t dissipate despite your best efforts?
- Can you be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t trust you?
- Will you be happier if you part ways with your partner?
- Is there any scope for self-improvement from his end?
Realistically, you can make one of three choices upon being confronted with the question, “What to do when your partner doesn’t trust you?”– continuing with your boyfriend, taking a break from each other, or breaking up with each other.
- The first makes sense if he is willing to do the grunt work from his side. If he is committed to working on the problem, things will likely improve with time
- The second choice is ideal if you just need a breather to think through things. A break from him can help you see things objectively. You can then decide if reconciliation is on the table
- A breakup is the way to go if the relationship becomes a liability and drains you. If it is a constant source of stress and anxiety, something is wrong. It’s best to part ways before the problem escalates. You should also break up right away if your boyfriend is displaying abusive tendencies in the guise of trust issues. Ditto if you’re being gaslighted or subjected to romantic manipulation in the relationship. Evaluate the pros and cons of each path to be able to make a well-thought-out decision
- Insecurity in men is often responsible for trust issues
- Communication is important to resolve any trust issues in relationships
- If necessary, seek professional help for mental health issues
- The reasons why your boyfriend doesn’t trust you can vary from his own emotional baggage and past experiences to your actions and behavior patterns
- Only by getting to the root of the issues can you figure out the right way to work through this problem
- Depending on your circumstances, you can choose to stay in the relationship and work on it, take a break to figure out what you want or prioritize yourself and break up with your boyfriend
Can you be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t trust you? Well, yes and no. You can’t say, “Place your trust in me” and expect the trust to just blossom. As cliché as it sounds, trust has to be earned. There are two broad things you can do that will make your partner a little less insecure. Creating a safe space for them is the most effective way of building trust in the relationship. Also, you cannot expect change to happen overnight, so be patient with progress. Your boyfriend has to come around at his own pace. Sadly, if it’s still an issue, there’s very little chance your relationship will survive.