It’s a Matter of Trust

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Dear Whit,

My boyfriend “Jeremy” of just under a year has “trust issues” that come from his last relationship with a woman who cheated on him, so I can understand why he can’t trust me.

If Jeremy sees me talking to another guy at a party or a bar, he will accuse me of flirting with him. When I tell him that I am not interested in the other guy and that we are just friends, then Jeremy will say that he is sorry. I’m not sure if he is looking at my texts or emails, but I kind of suspect it.

What can I do besides reassuring Jeremy that I am trustworthy to alleviate his fears?

Wannabe Trusted

Dear Wannabe:

Because Jeremy dated a woman who cheated on him, all women cheat. Not sure which illogical syllogism this illustrates (some kind of gross exaggeration or generalization), but his thinking is not rational.

The game Jeremy is playing puts you in a no-win position because he always holds the winning hand: He is the aggrieved party because he can’t trust anyone, including you. Remember the first rule of relationships: you cannot be in charge of “fixing” anyone else, and its corollary: you are not your SO’s therapist. All you can do is demonstrate to him that you are a person totally unconnected to the woman who cheated on him. And show, don’t tell.

But maybe a little telling might help too. If you think that he might not be able to grasp the reality of your fidelity securely enough, you might want to have a talk with him. Ask Jeremy what about you makes him think that you are going to cheat on him like the last girlfriend. Sometimes by asking someone to articulate his fears or insecurities, you can help him see how they are based upon groundless assumptions or expectations. Bring up the issue when Jeremy is not anxious about your faithfulness so that neither one of you feels defensive.

Be careful if his insecurities begin to make you feel like you can’t do what you want to do. Does he ever try to keep you from going out with friends by yourself? If so, he’s exerting an under-the-radar form of control that often gets nasty. As much as you might not want to think of him as a potential, domestic abuser, you have to be aware of its possibility. Not all abusers are physical, but they can still make you feel the sting of the subtle insinuation that you are the problem instead of them.

How exactly do these “trust issues” manifest themselves? You say you suspect that he is reading your texts and emails. Do you have any way to verify that he is actually doing that? If so, ask him what he expects to discover. Listen to what he has to say, but don’t feel that you have to counter his suspicions. Remember that you have not cheated on him and have given him no reason to think that you have.

Keep that reality in full view when you say that you can “understand why he doesn’t trust me” but that you are “trustworthy.”  Do you see the inherent contradiction? What you mean, I think, is that you can understand that he is letting what happened before determine what he thinks will continue to happen—a kind of emotional “what’s past is prologue” mentality that blinds him to reality.

To help him see and hear (multi-sensory strategies always increase your odds), play him a song by Jessi Colter called I’m Not Lisa (you can find it on YouTube). Here’s how it starts:

I’m not Lisa, my name is Julie

Lisa left you years ago

My eyes are not blue

But mine won’t leave you

Then see (and hear) what kind of response you get. If it doesn’t produce some kind of “Ah ha” moment for him, it should be one for you. I hope you can see (through clear eyes if not blue) what I’m getting at: As I said before, you can’t fix someone; only that person can fix himself (maybe with professional help). Unlike Julie’s eyes, yours just might have to leave Jeremy because you can’t make someone trust you—trust me.


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  1. Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that “Wannabe” is gonna bust her hump doing all the things Al tells her to do to make “Jeremy” trust her, and in fact she will do such a good job of it that “Jeremy” ends up with an ironclad sense of self that leads him to decide he can aim higher as far as his love life is concerned?

    • Very incisive, In the Mix. Then they’ll both be better off, even if Wannabe doesn’t think so right away.

  2. This distrust doesn’t bode well for the future,alas. He could turn into a jealous mate trying to lock you up so you can’t have any friendships with other people at all. Solve his problem now, or think about moving on.
    Esther P.

  3. Your are right about getting out now, Esther P. I can easily see this guy getting more possessive as he justifies his “trust issues” instead of resolving them.

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