Let's Stop Romanticizing Trust Issues In Relationships

By Meghan Dillon··  6 min read
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Let's Stop Romanticizing Trust Issues In Relationships

With the rise of hookup culture, casual relationships, and ghosting, it’s hard not to develop trust issues.

Unfortunately, we’ve developed an unhealthy habit of romanticizing having trust issues like it’s a quirky and cute personality trait. Though this can seem like a harmless coping mechanism, it actually prevents us from confronting our trust issues and developing healthy relationships.

Romanticizing Trust Issues Hurts Us

Trivializing your own trauma or mental illness can be used as a coping mechanism similar to self-deprecating humor, but there’s a point where it’s unhealthy and harmful. All you’re doing is delaying overcoming your issues, possibly delaying your chances at finding love and happiness. Romanticizing having trust issues like it’s a cute and quirky personality trait pushes the root of the problem under the rug, making it nearly impossible to have a healthy and trusting relationship. 

Have you ever romanticized a past relationship to avoid acknowledging long-standing trust issues and other problems? That's a recipe for continued disasters. Sex and relationship therapist and director of the Intimacy Institute Jenni Skyler agrees. She writes, “Romanticizing the past can help you dodge responsibility for difficult things happening in the present. It’s easier to escape the issues of your current relationship or situation if you can blame the problems on them and say, ‘This wasn’t how it was for me before.’”

Romanticizing having trust issues like it’s a cute personality trait ignores the root of the problem.

I’ll admit that I’m guilty of falling into this trap; it’s much easier to blame your current trust issues on your past instead of facing them. Though it’s easier to brush it off, it’s worth working on in the long run because it will help you find a healthy relationship and heal from the trauma that caused your trust issues.

Unfortunately, hookup culture dominates dating culture, and hookup culture is nothing short of a recipe for developing trust issues.

Hookup Culture Is The Root Of Our Problem

Nothing describes how hookup culture wreaks havoc in relationships quite like country-pop singer Robyn Ottolini’s song “Trust Issues.” She sings, “I don't need another heartbreak in the making / I don't need another boy who's seeing me naked / I can't fall in love if I leave ya / You can't break my heart if I don't need ya / I'll say "yes" to the first date, but never the second / Who's ignoring who, who's keeping who guessing? / Yeah, you have problems, I have 'em too / Yeah, I got trust issues / I got trust issues, yeah.”

This song is painfully relatable (I can’t be the only one who has refused to let someone in just to avoid getting hurt) because we've probably all experienced that feeling to some extent. Sex naturally connects us emotionally to our partners, which can mean a broken heart or feelings of unworthiness when someone ghosts us after a hookup.

Research show the connection is worse than we may think: Amber Lapp of Institute For Family Studies relates how 71% of young adults surveyed described having trust issues. 43% of participants believed they had been cheated on, but only 16% had cheated. 

Lapp theorizes why this inaccurate perception occurs: “My guess is that — just as students tend to overestimate how often their peers are hooking up — working-class young adults tend to overestimate how often their partners are cheating. That suspicion is a symptom of distrust, and the distrust seems a symptom of a sexual culture that tends towards objectification of the person, as well as an ambiguous relationship script that blurs lines, devalues clear communication, and makes cheating easier because it is sometimes unclear what the expectations are.”

Distrust seems to be a symptom of a sexual culture that tends towards objectification of the person.

And it’s not like young adults are ignorant about the importance of trust or blind to how hookup culture is impacting them. The young adults Lapp interviewed said that trust was one of the “most important ingredients for a healthy relationship” and blamed the current state of dating culture for “creating an environment of low trust.” In particular, they blamed social media and dating apps for “facilitating casual sex and cheating.”

Sociologist and author of American Hookup Lisa Wade also believes that hookup culture and the incredibly blurry lines of today’s relationships prevent young adults from overcoming trust issues. She writes, “[College] Students have to be willing to express emotional attachment to a person in a culture that punishes people that do so, and they have to be capable of responding positively to that kind of vulnerable confession, too.”

In short, hookup culture is so common and so damaging, hurting even those who don't participate, that probably the majority of us have developed trust issues in relationships. So how do we overcome our trust issues so we can be in a healthy relationship?

Overcoming Trust Issues for a Chance at Love

Overcoming your trust issues means being vulnerable, so it’s often easier to romanticize them than confront them. The first step is acknowledging that you have them and that overcoming them is probably going to be a long and difficult (but worthwhile) process. I would recommend seeing a therapist to help work through your trust issues (cognitive behavioral therapy is my personal favorite because it helps me rewire my thoughts and think logically) or confide in a trusted loved one. 

Love will always be a risky but worthwhile endeavor. 

Be honest with yourself and your loved ones about your struggle. Start by assessing your friendships and seek out relationships that are built on mutual trust and respect. This will help you train yourself to recognize and respond to healthy, loving behavior rather than emotional drama and games. Also, your friends will be able to spot a guy who's not on the up and up, and tell you right away.

When searching for a partner, look for someone with trustworthy qualities like integrity, adaptability, and emotional stability. His actions should match his words, and he should follow through on his commitments, both to you and in his life in general. Look at his friends' behavior – you are, after all, the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. If you like his friends and he has long-term, healthy relationships with them, it's likely he'll be able to do the same with you.

Closing Thoughts

Although pop-culture loves to romanticize dysfunctional relationships, we don't have to accept that standard in our own lives. While hookup culture may be making finding true love more difficult, it's not impossible. Finding ways to build healthy vulnerability in your relationships (both platonic and romantic) will improve your life in so many ways. Learn from your past experiences, but don’t close yourself off. Love will always be a risky but worthwhile endeavor. 

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© 2022