Dear Dr. Love,I’m in a wonderful relationship with a caring, thoughtful and trustworthy man. He treats me very well and I can tell he loves me as much as he says he does. He is helpful, reliable and willing to put up with my busy life. The problem is me. Several years ago, while I was busy pursuing my master’s degree and raising twin toddlers, my ‘reliable, dependable, corporate executive’ husband left our family for a woman he met in an exotic dance bar. She was an attractive woman in a plastic sort of way, but very unstable due to heavy involvement in drugs and alcohol. Honestly, I can’t believe my husband would fall for such a person, but their roller coaster relationship lasted throughout our stormy divorce and may still continue today. I won sole custody of our then six year old daughters and he skipped state to avoid child support. We are no longer in contact.Although I am thankful to have’dodged that bullet, ‘ I find it very difficult to trust the wonderful man I am now with. It’s ridiculous for me to be this way. His first marriage ended due to infidelity (hers) and he was faithful to her even after he found our she wasn’t. (This I’ve heard from many different sources. )I’m attractive, well spoken, intelligent and have a very successful career. My boyfriend constantly reminds me of these things. But I’m suspicious over everything! After he attended conferences at his kids’ school, I was dying to know what their teachers looked like. One night he stopped off for a beer with a friend. When I found out they had gone to Hooters, I cried until I fell asleep. Most of the time I am able to keep my jealous feelings from my boyfriend. I don’t want him to know I am so insecure, because I know he is attracted to my independence and (faked) self confidence. He would be turned off if he knew how I really was.The problem is, the longer we’re together, the worse my jealousy gets and the worse I am at hiding it. Shouldn’t the opposite be true? I was never like this before, believe me. I need to know what to do to gain some confidence in our relationship before I drive this great guy away. He wants us to move in together. We’ve been in this relationship for almost three years. I don’t want to take the next step until I get myself together, otherwise, I am sure to lose him. Any thoughts?Can’t Seem to Trust
You have been traumatized by your ex. and it common to be afraid to trust following such an experience. The inability to trust is an unconscious defense designed to protect you from hurt. Unfortunately, the defense is backfiring big time and you are becoming hurt by your own protective mechanism. At this point, your mind is programmed to associate all men with danger. Again, the purpose of this is to keep men away from you so that you won’t be hurt again.At this point, I think you need to work on breaking this universal, negative association. But, how, is the big question. Since you say your lover is so trustworthy and faithful (he even stuck with a cheating wife), it would be good to work on seeing this man as different from your ex. In other words, take him out of the ‘dangerous = men’ category and place him in a category of his own. You may be thinking, but I was sure that my ex. was trustworthy and look at how wrong I was. How can I be sure that my lover will be more trustworthy than my ex. ?Let’s discuss this a bit further. If you were to make an honest examination of your ex. , would you be able to say that he was 100% trustworthy? Were there signs that he couldn’t be trusted that you chose to overlook? Most of us overlook relationship warning signs in order to spare ourselves pain and disappointment–a form of denial. I am not saying this to blame you, but to remind you that there may have been signs that your ex. was unreliable. If you can admit that these signs existed and that you overlooked them, then you can promise yourself that you will study your lover with an objective eye. If you subject your lover to harsh scrutiny, and you don’t see the same warning signs that your ex. exhibited, then you should feel more secure with your lover.In other words, seeing your lover as different from your ex. is the first step toward breaking your association that all men are dangerous. Keep reminding yourself what is different about your lover, and you are dissolving this bad association that keeps you afraid to trust.Also, keep in mind that when a person finds it hard to trust after a trauma, he or she may be dealing with an earlier trauma that hasn’t been worked-through. For example, when your husband left you for another woman, it may have stirred up a similar wound from your early life. Did someone betray you, abandon you or turn on you when you were little? Whenever we find it hard to move past a trauma, it is helpful to do some soul searching to determine if a deeper, unhealed wound is lurking.Another point to realize. Most women personalize other peoples’ actions. In other words, instead of placing the blame on your ex. , you may be blaming yourself for his leaving (I wasn’t attractive or sexy enough). When the blame is placed on you, the result is a diminishment of your self-esteem, which erodes your trust even more (I’m not good enough to keep my new lover. He’ll abandon me too, so why trust. ) If you are placing the blame on yourself for your ex’s. rotten behavior, try reframing that. Point the finger at him (he had a mid-life crisis, couldn’t sustain intimacy, whatever). It is crucial that you see that you were and are fine, desirable, etc.And, finally, if all else fails, act’as if. ‘ I mean, respect that trust isn’t in your heart, don’t discuss this with your lover, but move forward as though you trust. If we bow we feel respectful. If we smile we feel happy. If you behave as though you trust him, the trust should come. My best wishes to you. Please let me know how you do.