Trust Issues And Actions

Today’s reader question – about relationship trust – is something that I have extremely strong feelings about. And the reasons for those strong feelings are deeply personal ones, but your feedback the other day encouraged me to try to open up a bit more here, and especially about issues like this one (which I think are relevant to so many, and worth talking about).

So thank you for that.

Dear Jordan,

Have you ever experienced trust issues? I ask because my boyfriend, whom I’ve been with for a year, has allowed a single, attractive woman to move into his house.

They briefly lived together a few years ago, but at the time both were in relationships with others. They haven’t seen each other since, but she needed somewhere to stay for a week or two. Well, it turns out that she’s actually living with him while she finds a new place, which I only found out after the fact (he says he was nervous to tell me she was moving in because he thought it’d upset me).

She’s clearly here to stay: she’s begun including herself in our social life consistently, even on occasions when we would ordinarily be alone. How she interacts with him – her body language, her remarks – makes me very uncomfortable, but he says that she’s more of a sister to him than anything. Now she’s coming along on his annual July 4th camping trip with his friends…even if I don’t go. I have had serious trust issues with him in the past, and now I’m wondering if I should leave the relationship.*

- Anonymous

A. Dear Anonymous,

This is an extremely sticky and complex situation, and I really, really feel for you. Have I ever experienced trust issues? Yes, and they impacted the first year of my relationship with my husband in a major way. My live-in, very serious ex-boyfriend of a year and a a half cheated on me with several women, and was actually in a committed relationship with someone else for the last three months of our relationship (he was on a job in another state, hence his ability to be so deceitful)…facts I only discovered after we broke up.

When I say that I had no idea he was cheating, I mean it never even occurred to me as a remote possibility, and I was so shocked by my naivete once I found out that I had trouble trusting my instincts when it came to the next relationship (which happened to be Kendrick). It wasn’t that I didn’t trust him…I didn’t trust people. Or myself. I felt that if I could have been so blind to major flaws in one relationship, I couldn’t trust myself to see things clearly in another. I didn’t believe that it was possible for a man touring around the country with a rock band to be faithful to me both because experience had shown me otherwise…and because I didn’t think that I was special enough to make a commitment to me valuable to him.

I was.

And the way that I finally came to understand that was that over time I began to recognize such consistency in his actions that there was no room left for questions: he didn’t pander to my fears, but rather talked me through them and helped me see the truth (or falsehoods) behind them. He consistently conveyed to me through his actions that I was his priority and that he took my concerns seriously, and he worked to show me that nothing meant more to him than our relationship. I’m sure it was frustrating for him at times, but he never made me feel that I wasn’t worth it.

So I do know where you’re coming from. And based on the information you gave me, here’s my honest opinion: you are not being unreasonable when you say that you feel uncomfortable. Your boyfriend absolutely should have been clear about the circumstances of his new living situation with you prior to the move-in rather than just springing it on you because he was “nervous” – the fact that he was nervous says that he at least suspected that this would be tough on you, and he should have addressed that fact rather than avoiding it. And his new roommate should be sensitive to the fact that both he and you deserve alone time as a couple.

This is not to say that he’s cheating – or that he will – and he may indeed just be trying to do the right thing. But it is an understandable situation to be on the fence about, and so far it doesn’t sound like anyone involved has taken any real actions (I’m not talking about words) to make you feel better.

I’d suggest sitting him down – without his new roommate – and calmly expressing to him that while you understand that he’s trying to help out a friend, you’re a little uncomfortable with the situation and sometimes feel like there’s a third party in your relationship. Express how much it would mean to you to spend more time alone with him, and offer to start helping out with his roommate’s apartment search. Once you’ve conveyed your feelings, he can start showing you through his actions where his priorities are, whether that means not inviting her along on activities that you’ve planned as a couple, or setting a firm move-out date. And if he can’t show you this, I think that signifies something larger than fears about this particular woman.

I’m not telling you to leave the relationship – not at all – but I am telling you to pay attention to what he does once he knows that something makes you legitimately uncomfortable. And once he’s shown you that you can trust him, do, and feel proud that you have a boyfriend who’s a good guy, and is there for friends when they need him.

Big hug – I’ll be thinking of you.

J

*Question abbreviated and reprinted with reader permission.

  • Anonymous

    I definitely feel for the reader.  My (very recent) ex had some questionable interactions with other girls that really made me uncomfortable.  He claims he was just being friendly, but there is no need to exchange phone numbers and have full on text conversations when you have a very serious girlfriend.  Jordan gave great advice, you need to bring it up and watch his actions.  My boyfriend listened to some of my doubts and cut out the text messaging, but did not listen to a doubt that ended up being the downfall of our relationship.  Communication is so very important, speak up and keep your head up!  

  • Adeline

    Great question and great answer. And if he was nervous about telling you, then it might be he doesn’t understand why you’d be upset – best advice I’ve ever read was TALK, TALK, TALK (maybe it was on this site actually).

    Don’t assume he knows why you’d be upset or feeling insecure, talk to him about it so he knows where you’re coming from. Aren’t we all guilty for thinking everyone understands how we feel about every single situation..

    • Anonymous

      I was thinking about this a little more and wanted to chime in similarly to what you said.  I think guys can be very naive (which was the case in my relationship) and don’t always know what they’re doing can be hurtful or questionable.  Sometimes guys just don’t know, which is of course why talking is so important.

      • Anonymous

        agree. my initial response was that there was no way a guy wouldn’t know that moving in a single woman would bother his girlfriend, but kendrick and i talked about this last night and he said that if a friend of his – male or female – needed somewhere to stay, it probably wouldn’t occur to him that it would be a problem for his significant other. the tiptoeing around the truth, though, seems to indicate an awareness of the fact that the situation is potentially questionable. 

        • Jane

          I mainly agree; but it’s tough only hearing her side of the story. It may be that she is jealous about everyone, all the time, and his putting off telling her about his new roommate was a because he knew she was going to overreact and freak out. I don’t understand why having an opposite gender roommate or opposite gender friend who you take on a group camping trip is a problem, personally, particularly if their relationship isn’t serious enough that they’re living together as a couple yet. I feel like until you move in together, you shouldn’t have to explain your friendships or roommates to your partner. I know your advice is just to communicate about it, which sounds good. But I also think it’s possible to overdo it with the talking, if the girlfriend is the type of person who gets uncomfortable because her boyfriend has a close female friends and wants to make every little thing into a big deal. And if that is the case, then perhaps this couple is not the most compatible to begin with.

  • Ashley

    I think that trust and respect have to be the foundation of any lasting relationship. To me, it seems that you are beginning to question your trust of him because of his lack of respect for you.  Avoiding telling you that a single lady friend was moving in with him?  Not respecting you.  Going ahead and inviting her on a camping trip, even if you don’t come?  Definitely not respecting your feelings.  I agree with Jordan that a serious, sit-down chat is in order.  As well as conveying your own feelings, I think it sounds like the time to inquire about his tendency to do something potentially hurtful first, and then tell you about it (instead of bringing you in on the decision in the first place).  It sounds like you might have a bumpy road ahead.  :-(  Good luck, and hugs to you.   

  • Anonymous

    The same thing happened to me.  I dated a guy for several years, during which time he got an apartment with another girl.  As in, they signed a lease together.  We didn’t last much longer after that because I found out about a few girls (including his new roommate) that he’d cheated on me with.  We didn’t last long after that, and it was for the best.  I could have done much better than him, and I have.  He still doesn’t know that I know about *everything* he did, and it’s fine with me if it stays that way.  It’s odd, but there aren’t any bitter feelings.  He even invited me to his wedding years later (to a different girl, mind you), and I went.  And my boyfriend accompanied me.

    Point is, there are a million ways to react to a given situation, and when it comes to matters of the heart in such complicated situations, there is no such thing as a “normal” response.

    Get everything out in the open, and then decide.  It really may be an innocent situation. 

    And if it’s not…  Just know that while you never know where your choices will lead,  in my experience at least, things do usually get better when you stand up for yourself.

  • ELH

    This totally relates to Rule #234…

    http://juliasea.tumblr.com/post/6997348393

    A boy makes his girl jealous of other women.  A gentleman makes other women jealous of his girl.  

  • Iggiher

    Thanks so much for this! 

  • Anonymous

    To the reader–your letter really struck a chord with me. Like Jordan (first time commenter here), I’ve also been cheated on.  I don’t have a crystal ball into your situation, obviously, but it struck me while reading that she and/or he could be trying to subtly ease you out. If you look at it on way, you are more in the friend position now (not living together, doing things together but not alone) and she is in the relationship position (dated in the past, living together now, doing things with him when you’re there and when you’re not). I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t know already. I hope that your boyfriend takes steps to show you how he feels about you. If he doesn’t, don’t second guess yourself. You have a valid concern here. How he responds will be a real test of him and your relationship.

  • Katie

    Great advice. I had a similar situation- I had never been a jealous person but I was really uncomfortable with some of the things that happened. But although I was uncomfortable, I had nothing concrete (well, at least until after we broke up), and it was really hard to see that it was a bad relationship while I was in the middle of it. I admire this reader for being so aware and able to see that it’s really a problem. I wish I had seen this advice three years ago- it may have helped me at the time!

  • Francine

    I actually stayed with a guy who DID cheat on me in the beginning of the relationship. It was extremely difficult, and I still have moments when it’s not great. We have now been together almost two years, and he has been really careful to live his life very openly so that I see I have nothing to fear. He leaves his e-mail open, he checks in when he’s out, he always lets me know where he is, he always reassures me that it won’t happen again, he totally froze out the other chick, killed out all her contact info, etc etc, will not reply to her e-mails or phone calls (which finally stopped but only recently and only after he didn’t reply for months and months) and oh yeah, he pretty much moved in to my place three months after I found out, and works from home, so we are together almost all day, every day. 
    His hard work at convincing me I can trust him and have nothing to fear was surprising because I am older than him and he wants marriage and kids and I have already been there and done that and, in particular, do not want more children. The chick he was two-timing me with was 15 years younger and wanted marriage and kids too. But he loves me and chose me. So that’s helpful in getting over the pain and distrust, even if sometimes I am not quite sure why I am the chosen one given I can’t really give him what he wants.When I ask, he says: “Because you’re you.”But it’s been difficult and I do have bad moments where I get nervous if ANY woman is in touch with him in any way. Sucks sometimes.

  • Sfish_ny

    I dated a guy about four years ago who used to tell me that the annoying girl who was always hanging around him and his friends and had been for years was just like a sister to him. They got married last August and are now talking about trying for a baby. That sister thing is the biggest load of crap, and it always sets off my radar after that experience.

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