I am trying to get with a girl for almost a year now. I’ve treated her very nicely and shown my affections to her, perhaps too much but she says she can’t trust me. Why is that?
Lost and confused
Hi Lost and confused,
Romance, love and relationships are all about trust. Over the course of our lives, we repeatedly enter into relationships that don’t always work out. Sometimes they fail amicably, sometimes painfully. But, after a period of healing, whether complete or incomplete, we find ourselves taking romantic risks again, entering a new relationship that could result in us being hurt further down the road.
Risk Versus Trust
Each time we engage with another person, striking up a conversation with them on the bus or in a coffee shop, each time we ask someone on a date or agree to go on a date if they ask us, each time we agree to a more “serious” and committed relationship, each time we decide to move in with somebody, each time we get engaged, each time we say, “I do” at the altar – each one of those times we are taking a risk. Each time we are risking painful failure and rejection in the near or far future.
So why and how do we keep doing this over and over? The “why” is because we’re human beings with an innate need for love and companionship. The “how” is because we take a leap of faith in deciding to trust the other person in the relationship.
That trust comes from within us, not from the other person, though it is certainly affected by their behaviour, by the “vibe” we get from them. But a leap of faith is a leap – there is no bridge to cross – and the courage to leap comes from within us, not from the other.
Think of standing on the verge of a cliff, looking down at a deep abyss – who knows how deep? – and wondering whether you can jump across to the other side. You use your best judgment, of course.
You know yourself – how strong your legs are, how far you can jump, how frightened you are of heights. And you know about the other, outside factors you can’t control, like how slippery or slanted the far side of the pit is, or how bright the light is so you can see where you will be landing.
On the Edge of a Potential Relationship
Now alter the idea. You’re standing on the metaphorical edge of an abyss – a potential relationship. You take account of all the things you know about yourself – how brave you are, whether you’ve been hurt in previous relationships, and how badly, how lonely you are, how much you are attracted to this other person. And you get the best sense of them you can, of whether they seem attracted to you and whether they are a kind, gentle, loving person rather than a jerk out to play with your feelings.
You combine all this information, which is never quite enough to know for sure, and you take that leap of faith. You decide to trust this other person and you make your move – you ask them out on a date, or say yes to their request for a date, you agree to move in with them, or marry them, or whatever.
I’ve spent so much time going through this to illustrate what a tricky thing trust is.
Trust is a decision you make about the relationship, or a decision the other person makes about you. To answer this reader’s question, “Why can’t she trust me?” is not a simple exercise.
Since trust is a complex thing, with many different ingredients, most of which are out of your control, there is no easy answer. She has to decide to trust you. There is no way for you to control her decision. Most of the decision to make that trusting leap of faith comes from her own mind and heart, based on what has happened to her in previous relationships. If she’s been burned repeatedly, or had her heart badly broken, she has to recover from that herself and decide to trust romance yet again.
You can assure her and reassure her that your intentions are true and honest, but that only goes so far. She may have believed very strongly in those other relationships, the ones that failed so painfully.
The (small) Part Under Your Control
The only part of this situation that is under your control is a small part – how you come across as a potential partner. Don’t lie to her. Be honest about what you think and feel. Also be honest about what you want from your relationship, but don’t be pushy and overwhelming. Be considerate of her feelings. If you act honestly and honorably, you give yourself the very best chance of coming across as trustworthy. And that’s about all you can do.
The rest is up to her. Though it may drive you crazy, you have to be patient and wait for her to decide she can trust you. Only she can make that leap across the abyss, even if you are standing on the other side, waiting with open arms, assuring her it is safe. There’s still an element of risk, and only she can decide if it’s worth it.
So, like so many other aspects of love and relationships, the best thing for you to do if she can’t trust you is to focus on yourself and give her time to change.
By focusing on yourself, I mean taking care about how you treat her – honestly and honourably. Communicate clearly about what you want. Let her know you are hopeful that the relationship can move forward.
A Time to Back Off
But once you’ve let her know what you want, back off and let her have time to think. Don’t let yourself get demanding or pushy, no matter how impatient you are – you are likely to come across as controlling or smothering, and this will just drive her away for sure. Don’t argue with her and try to browbeat her into trusting you. Your relationship – if it progresses – will be much stronger if it is built on a foundation of genuine trust rather than if you pushed her into it too early.
As a final note, you need to decide for yourself how long you are willing to wait for her to trust you. This is a two-way street. But decide for yourself and keep the decision private for now. Check in with yourself honestly about how you feel. Don’t issue an ultimatum to her, threatening to leave if she doesn’t change her mind.
Give her the dignity of making her own decision, and give yourself that dignity, too. In the end, if she can’t ever decide to trust you, it’s time for you to trust yourself and go find somebody else.