How do I deal with insecurities and trust issues in a relationship?

I have a hard time in trusting my girlfriend let alone giving her the benefit of a doubt when she says she loves me. I have been with her for a year now but my trust issues are back.. I can't sleep and I am always over thinking
Asked by K

Hi K, 

Thank you for this excellent question. I'm so sorry to hear you're losing sleep and we might call the persistent thoughts an "internal distraction." Relationships can really bring out some paradoxes even when we have the best of intentions of wanting to love someone. In this situation, we might notice there's a lot of care going on due to the nature of thinking and wanting to understand and yet, we might also notice there's an impact where we may feel drained, doubtful, and if you can pay attention to other emotions that may be going on. It may be helpful to journal about your thoughts to build some insight and connections. We can certainly have more than one emotion occur at a time, and we can experience more fatigue i.e. mentally drained or we might even become irritable because of it. This might contribute to feeling more tension, more distance in the relationship and then becoming more anxious/concerned about the sustainability of the relationship. It can be a lot of work and unfortunately, you're doing a lot of it on your own because it's based in overthinking. If you'd like, try writing down some of these things you might be noticing that gives you doubt - they could be validating things that you and your girlfriend could work through together, or they could prove to be something of a "rough draft" or Automatic Negative Thought (ANTs), that might be more of a reflex to avoid getting hurt. Our bodies are amazing when it comes to being hot-wired for survival, so if it gets stressed - our bodies will think whatever is stressing us out is a true threat. Sometimes, we notice factors like disgust or feeling like we're building a wall up. This could be part of how we develop trust with others, by building up walls and seeing who is strong enough or willing enough to tear our walls down to see us. This process can be fatiguing for both of you and although it might seem like we achieved something together, the longevity of the relationship might suffer because we're not basing these committed acts in hope, but rather in fear/distrust so they might feel less like wins and more like bail outs.  

When we build a relationship with another person there is going to be some give/take in the form of compromise, intimacy, and opening up about ourselves with this person we want to spend quality time with. What is it to love? To be loved and to receive love? when we reflect on the questions there may be some relationship role models who come to mind as well as some experiences that we might consider "deal breakers" aka the things we want to avoid due to a not so pleasant experience, or what we might consider "baggage." The things we carry with us, like a business man and his briefcase. It may be time to do some spring cleaning in those areas to see what we want to keep in terms of serving us well as a person and as a couple. This could be values, things we enjoy or prefer, and perhaps it might be helpful to identify anything that might seem very idealistic or perfect and ask whether this is reasonable. We accept our partners and sometimes there is grace in this acceptance, and yet you may have some gut feelings/intuition that comes up. 

One of my favorite therapeutic frameworks when we start talking about love and relationships is Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love which describes the need for passion, commitment, and intimacy for relationships to function well. Sternberg cautions us all, that the feat of strength is really maintaining the relationship - not just finding that special someone and getting through the process of dating. Sometimes, it might be this existential feeling of: I don't know if I've ever done that before (maintain a relationship past a certain point emotionally or with respect to time) and that might be giving us some pressure or doubt. Label and validate your thoughts, weigh the pro's and con's about the relationship, and see what's helpful and hurtful/holding us back from getting the love we desire/think we deserve. 

Our perspective on life might be similar to a lens, do you feel like your lens is looking at the relationship in a "clouded" way or with a bias? Are there any fears like rejection or hurt that we're hoping to avoid? Can you find things to reassure yourself about the relationship based on facts and can you build more connections in the future? The past can be like an anchor with our thoughts, and that can feel like we're stuck and feeling held back. So making future plans can help build more connection and have things to look forward to. 

I hope this helps as you navigate some of your feelings and helps develop more feelings of secure attachment with others. Love and vulnerability is an amazing human condition to experience, and can take courage to explore. 

(LCPC, (ME), LPC, (PA), NCC)