Boomer guys's relationships suffer if they've buried their trust issues deep in their psyches.
A High Hurdle
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to emotional intimacy for a man in a relationship is his struggle around trust. My mentor opined, "Where there’s no trust, there’s no love," which is a painful truth for men with trust issues. The negative consequences of not being able to trust pushes some men to face their issue, and many opt to work with other men, do individual therapy, read self-help books, or be in a relationship with a woman who's willing to be his partner while he resolves his trust issues. While it may seem smarter for a woman to find a man without trust issues, the reality is that trust issues for men are ubiquitous.
Trust Is Learned
I’ve worked with men for decades, and I counsel men via Skype. What I’ve gleaned from my own experience, as well as my work with other men, is that a substantial number of boomer men’s trust issues originated in boyhood, which is when trust was supposed to be learned from parents, but often wasn’t. Unfortunately, boomers’ parents didn’t always relate to their children from an emotional place other than anger and as a result weren’t the best emotional role models. A parent’s promise wasn’t necessarily a guaranty for many boomer boys, and while it may not have been their intention, promises not kept felt like betrayal, and affected a boy's ability to trust.
The Gift That Keeps On Giving
A boy’s learned lack of trust follows him into his relationships with women as well as other men, and it hobbles him until he’s suffered enough to face the emotional work. Sadly, few men dig into their trust issue because doing so churns up old and painful demons, and while my experience demonstrates that other men can best help him, it’s a catch-22 situation because he doesn’t trust other men sufficient to work with them. Trust issues affect many aspects of a man’s life and often with painful consequences. Their friendships with other men remain mostly surface, and their relationships with women are in constant struggle around trust. Trust issues can make a man a cynical loner and feel unlovable.
So how can a woman be in a successful relationship with a man grappling with trust? First and foremost, the work to move beyond his trust issues is his alone, and the most a woman can do is offer her patient, compassionate support. What does that look like? Men with trust issues are typically insecure around their partner’s love and frequently ask her for reassurance. On a personal level, this feeling still comes up for me occasionally, but I’ve learned to recognize it and then let it go. A hug, a compassionate smile, or a simple declaration of love can all help a man feel that he can trust. But the caveat to this support is that a woman can’t take on a man’s trust issues as hers, but rather support him in his work. A man with trust issues needs a partner, not a codependent.
My trust issues were cemented by a violent, abusive boyhood. My father taught me by example that men couldn’t be trusted, and my mother followed his lead. As a consequence, I wasn’t a piece of cake for any woman until I began doing the difficult work around my trust issues. While I’ve learned to open my heart, those trust demons still pop up occasionally. When they do and I'm finding it difficult to let them go, I ask my partner if she still loves me, to which she asks if I’m fishing, which is her way of letting me know my concerns are unfounded. When I consider the myriad of men I’ve worked with over the years it’s clear my trust issues aren’t unique.
Sometimes It Was A Woman
A woman’s betrayal is another trust related event that can shut a man’s heart down and prevent him from trusting women again. A man who has been betrayed and had his feelings crushed isn’t going to willingly repeat that experience. Part of the problem is that few men face their pain, heal their wounds, and ignore it until it festers and affects his ability to be emotionally open or honest. A man’s fear of having his heart broken again lives in his psyche until he comes to grip with it.
Doing The Work
I counsel men individually, and I urge those that don’t seek counseling to become involved with other men in confidential groups where they can trace the source of their trust issues together and resolve them. I urge women to encourage men to pursue this work with other men, because it will improve the quality of their relationship. When the women I date coach ask what they should look for in men to date, my suggestion is to date a man who has faced or is facing his issues in therapy, a man’s group, through reading books about his issue, who has problem resolution skills, and an emotional vocabulary. Every relationship faces difficult times, and a man who hasn’t learned problem resolution skills will find resolving relationship issues impossible. These skills aren’t innate in many men, but learned instead. Emotional health is as important as physical health for partners in a relationship. I urge men harboring trust or other demons to work on them before beginning a relationship. Showing up whole, or on the mend is only fair.