Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

My boyfriend of 10 months has trust issues. His previous girlfriend hooked up multiple times with her ex, so I understand why he has issues trusting women. I have taken it upon myself to never do anything untrustworthy, since one small mistake could tarnish his opinion of me for good.

The problem is, he already uses an accusatory tone with me all the time. I blow it off and am reassuring. This weekend he found out his parents are separating. They confided that they had both been unfaithful. So now he has an even worse opinion of relationships.

I have done nothing to lose his trust, but the things he says make it quite clear he doesn’t trust any woman. Is there anything I can do to convince him to trust me? The reassurance is starting to sound repetitive.

(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)

Without Trust . . .

Do you see the unjustified logical leap here? This one ex cheated, so of course! All women cheat!

That is such unadulterated bull. It’s emotionally lazy, and bigoted, and, in a perverse way, self-aggrandizing: He of course isn’t an infidelity risk — it’s everyone else.

What about his dad? Don’t all men cheat now?


You’ll need to wake up and break up, but you’re not there yet emotionally, since you still think it’s your responsibility to fix his inability/unwillingness to trust. So we’ll start a little farther back in the process.

You have figured out that reassuring him is a waste of breath — and that’s progress. You also get that the mere act of being trustworthy is not enough for him, also good (though being trustworthy just to persuade someone of your worth is highly suspect).

So, are you ready for the next step? Recognizing the problem doesn’t lie in you and therefore the solution doesn’t lie in you either? And, the next step, seeing the ex isn’t the problem, either? Yes, what she did was awful and entirely her fault, but your boyfriend is the one who chose to extrapolate one experience into a view of half the human population. (Well, two experiences; no doubt he picked up more of his family’s instability than he realized.) And, he’s the one who chooses to date someone even knowing he is unwilling or unable to trust. That’s just not fair.

He’s fresh off some rough experiences, so maybe he just needs some time to find daylight again without dragging a girlfriend through the darkness with him. That’s the best case. Worst case, he’s not seeking daylight at all, but instead looking to blame and punish everyone else for the pain he feels.

Either way, I hope you soon recognize that he needs to be single until he’s able to (1) accept individuals for who they are — the accumulation of their own actions, and no one else’s — and (2) see humans for who they are — flawed (oh so very!) and capable, all of us, of hurting others, but also resilient, and therefore capable of getting back up and finding joy again after getting hurt.

Trust isn’t about having a spotless record and finding someone else who does. It’s about finding someone good-hearted enough not to hurt you on purpose, and knowing you’ll recover and carry on when pain inevitably comes.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at