The Effects of Distrust in Our Relationships

The Effects of Distrust in Our Relationships

Last update: 03 November, 2017

When distrust  comes into a relationship, it is very difficult to restore what we feel for the other person again.  It is easy for suspicion to turn into obsession. The effects of distrust can be disastrous. If it happens between friends it is relatively easy to keep our distance. But if it happens with our partner it is another matter altogether. If we start to doubt them, then the other person is going to feel accused. We may be afraid of offending them, and so how should we really react?

The formula of trust has many variables that we have not yet measured with precision. Sometimes we place all our confidence in a person we have just met. But, by contrast, our co-worker who we have been working with for six years may not give us that degree of certainty. Distrust seems at first sight the simplest way to guide us, at least the one that protects us most.

If we chose several people at random and asked them what trust and distrust are, then we would most likely find we agreed on more about the second one than the first. If we followed our instinct for survival then we would simply distrust the unknown. Trust is complicated. There are many factors to take into account: the emotions, the intensity, the situation and the people around us.

The storm of distrust

Voluntarily choosing to trust someone requires effort. It is a conscious decision. It is a personal commitment that we make, and we let go of our desire to control. We leave our emotions and our behavior in the hands of another person’s future behavior. That’s why when the trust is broken it is very difficult to recover, due to so many factors being involved and, therefore, a high chance of failure.

 “Hate and distrust are the children of blindness”
William Watson

If we take into account all the problems we can have in our relationships with others, then perhaps the most difficult one of all is lack of trust in a couple. If a friend or family member lets us down, it will hurt and we will start to keep our distance. We will start by avoiding any sort of close contact until we finally distance ourselves completely and emotionally from that person. Once the spiral of thoughts or feelings of lack of confidence begin, it is difficult to stop.

woman distrust

The effects of distrust

People always do things for a reason. Sometimes our way of thinking is conditioned by what are known as cognitive distortions. These include the prediction of thoughtprediction of the future and generalization.
This means that, in the moment we feel that they have failed us, we presuppose a cause (usually a bad one) for that failure. And, on top of that, we will subconsciously make a prediction that they will fail us again. If they already did it once, surely they will do it again.

The degree of the “betrayal” we have experienced will decide what measures we take. But the wheel of distrust has started. We start to avoid that person, we move away, we keep our distance. We start a dynamic that will mean the end of that relationship, unless we try to consciously stop it, and that is not at all easy.

Distrust in the couple

We can take that path in our relationships with family or friends, but we can’t as a couple. In a couple there is an emotional coexistence where feelings do not follow patterns or rules. At the same time there are opposing forces that push us in opposite directions: from love to distrust and back again.

Once we begin to distrust, the secret battles begin. Hidden actions and hidden suspicions. When talking about distrust in the couple the most obvious reason seems to be infidelity. Nothing, however, is further from reality. Mistrust can occur in many of our day to day activities. We can trust our partner in many different areas: our family, their work, our friends, their friends etc. And they can let us down.

“What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?”
George Eliot

distrust couple

Suspicion tends to turn into obsession. The common space they both share is suddenly becomes a minefield for the other person. He or she will not know what is going to detonate the relationship. In the end the spiral turns into a battle of reproaches and blaming which can accelerate out of control.

Antidote or vaccine?

Communication is the key word. Mistrust is a virus that is secretly at work in the relationship between the two people. It can stay dormant and silent and then at the most unexpected moment it suddenly explodes. Rebuilding these relationships is very complex. The antidote, once injected, is difficult to integrate into our feelings and emotions. There are many elements: responsibility overload, a search for perfectionism and guilt and doubts about how to remedy the situation on one side and on the other. It is not impossible, but it is an arduous path.

 “Your distrust worries me and your silence offends me”
-Miguel de Unamuno-

Everything seems to indicate that a vaccine is better than an antidote. What we mean by this is that the couple should work on what they have in common, but at the same time not overlooking the little things that affect us in the background. Couples who have the space and possibility to complain are the most likely ones to have a healthy relationship. Even though this may seem unlikely, there is even mathematical evidence to back up this hypothesis.

Mathematician Hanna Fry, in a lecture, shows us an equation that can help us understand why it is a positive thing not to overlook a suspicion we may have. The most important point of the equation how the two members of the relationship influence each other. For this influence to be present, communication must be continuous. Couples who can seem to predict future outcomes better do not ignore the seemingly unimportant things. What they do is to try to “balance” the relationship continually, either automatically or unconsciously.
Surprisingly, understanding and commitment are not the foundations of a relationship. It is true that they are essential, but if we don’t communicate in situations of mistrust, then they will not be enough for our relationship to progress. The most important thing is to look after the spaces we share for dialogue about the small day to day problems and for the influence they may have on us.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.