Trust is hard. Very hard.
Just like everything else in this world, it takes so much longer to build it than to demolish it. Destruction is quick and easy, but it doesn’t happen simply or quietly. Once complete, all the rubble has to be picked through and collected before the new foundation can be laid for any future structure.
Take an injured animal, for example. It might be skittish and cower away, or it might be hostile and snap if you get too close. It’s not because it’s standoffish or mean—it’s because it’s been hurt. Maybe hurt really bad. Hurt by something else entirely that has nothing to do with you.
So if you care about the animal and want to help, what do you do? Well, it takes a lot of time and effort. It has to be rehabilitated and loved, and it must learn to love in return. You have to sit with it for hours on end until it gets used to you. You bring it food and other treats to show it that you care. You re-culture it and socialize it to the point it begins to trust again on a grand scale, by showing it you aren’t going to hurt it in the same way it’s been hurt before.
Too many of us walk through life as demolition scenes. We are injured animals, hiding, snarling, doing our best to protect ourselves from any and all future injury. It’s reactionary. It’s survival. It’s safe, but it can also be extremely isolating and lonely.
Personally, trust has gotten me in a lot of trouble over the years. So has not trusting. Somehow, despite being opposites, both have led to proportionately equal amounts of heartache and emotional damage. I tend to overthink and project my fears onto other people, and before I know it I’m randomly convinced someone I know is lying to me.
I know I’m not the only one with this story. There’s a good chance either you identify with it yourself, or someone very close to you does—maybe even your significant other.
Not everyone has trust issues, of course, and in my experience those who don’t usually have a hard time understanding them. It’s almost like trust issues have developed a similar stigma in our society as mental health issues.
If you don’t have them you won’t understand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be understanding.
There have been times when I’ve tried to express how difficult it is for me to trust within relationships that I’ve been been met with a cold lack of reassurance, as if having trust issues from a past girlfriend is like catching something venereal—as if getting too close will infect her or change her life in some incomprehensible way.
Maybe trust issues are, in and of themselves, a form of mental illness—or more likely, a result of one such as deep-seated anxiety. But believe me, it can be understood and handled appropriately. It’s very much possible to work together and come to a place of mutual understanding and general happiness.
If you want to help someone in your life with trust issues, be patient; attempts to listen and understand will mean more than you could ever fathom. Don’t get angry; getting angry will only increase the level of alarm and distrust. Remember it’s nothing personal; they know better than you do that it isn’t your fault, so there’s no need to make them feel worse about it than they already do. Communication is everything; if you can openly express your thoughts and feelings to them, they’ll feel that much more comfortable sharing their experience with you. Don't give them space unless they ask for it; distance makes the heart grow anxious, and if you’re just going around giving space all willy-nilly like it’s no big deal it’s going to come off the wrong way.
Trust is hard. Don’t get me wrong, ultimately it’s up to the person with the issues to work through those harder memories. They must learn to not let the past define who they are and who they become—at the end of the day that’s the only possible cure. But until then remember that every bridge has two sides, and its entire purpose relies on the strength of its core where those two sides meet in the middle.
So go ahead, meet them halfway. Have breakfast together, or see a movie, or play chess or something. Build that bridge, whatever it takes.