I have trouble trusting and I need help
July 18, 2011 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Yes, I have trust issues and I don't think my girlfriend is helping any... I'm ready for therapy... what can I expect, what can I do to make it the most helpful, and what can I do to preserve my relationship through this -- or should I?

Yes, if you look at my last 2 questions I obviously have some trust issues because of my past - which includes being cheated on by all but 1 of my long term girlfriends prior. My current girlfriend has also agitated those trust issues - not in any relationship-breaking way that I'm aware - but she has certainly not made things easier on me. If you view my last post, the follow up is: we talked about it. It was a low self esteem moment for her, she was embarrassed by it but didn't think I should feel so threatened by it -- still she respected why I did feel upset by it.

To be clear: I've not been the type to ask her where she's been, pry her for details, etc. I have trust issues, but I've kept them mostly to myself until the picture incident (see my last post)...

Well, she recently went on a 2.5 week trip home, and we texted constantly night and day almost the entire time... Without my asking, she told me who she was with and what she was up to... until one night when she took 2 hours to respond to a text, and just said "I'm out with a friend, sorry I didn't respond for a while"

I said "no problem, have a great time with your friend" and left it at that... The recap I got later that night before I went to bed was that she was "with friends, got a blanket and a bottle of wine and watched the fireworks"

I know, it's probably stupid - but the sudden change in communication from constant to cut-off, and the inconsistency of "with a friend" to "with friends" was enough to start consuming my thoughts.

After I stewed over it for a day, I couldn't help myself. I asked why things were so inconsistent. I said that I wasn't accusing her of anything, and that I hope she understood that I'm just freaking out probably because of my past and I could use some reassurance. She was upset (I understand why, even if I say I'm not accusing, it hurts to hear that I can't fully trust her), and she admitted (with some coaxing on my part) that it was a guy. She says she hid it from me because she was concerned I'd freak out that she was with a guy.

Reminder: I do not have a history of prying from her. Our only history of "trust issues" in 2+ years is my confronting her over a picture (see my last question).

I told her, and meant it, that I'd have felt far more comfortable about it if she told me it was a guy from the get go, instead of telling a little white lie. This would make me trust her more, because she was being honest about it and I would feel there's nothing to worry about.

Well, we talked it out, we admitted we both need to communicate better, etc. She insists nothing happened with this guy, but has volunteered no information at all (and I'm trying not to pry) about who this guy is, etc. I realize I don't have a "right to know", and I'm doing my best not to ask.

When I next saw her, I nearly lost it. She left the room for a bit and I grabbed her phone and turned it on, but stopped myself from actually looking through it. I shut it off and returned it to her purse before she got back. Still, my heart was racing so fast that I felt I just needed to tell her. I admitted to her that I nearly cracked, and I nearly snooped her phone. I felt horrible about it.

Since then (it has been about 2 weeks), we've had a number of talks about our communication, and a lot of positive has come out of it. She's said she feels closer to me than ever before, and she wants to help me work through my anxiety as well as my trust issues from my past... All's going great, right?

This past weekend, I'm at her place helping her with some house related work, and I ask if I can use her browser real quick to see what this event is going on at a nearby park. I type the name of the park, and thanks to Firefox's elephant-like memory, I find she has searched Craigslist Missed Connections for "m4w" and the name of that park.

Now I realize, maybe she's just curious or looking for an ego boost... so again - I say I shouldn't be alarmed by this and I should just either ignore it and forget it, or talk to her about it. I opt to talk to her. She says she just browses them for curiosity and we leave it at that.

Now I'm worried I'm looking like a total privacy-invading freak and I'm probably worrying about stuff I shouldn't be.

I recognize I need to have my head examined, so to speak. I have an appointment for Friday to talk to my general doctor about my anxiety and I imagine I will get a referral to a psychiatrist.

Given these moments, my relationship with my girlfriend is simultaneously stronger than ever, and more tenuous, it seems. We're opening up in ways we haven't - I'm telling her about my insecurities and she's sharing a bit more too. We're suddenly talking about getting through things "together" and "for better or for worse", almost as if it's marriage -- and this is not unappealing to me!

However, I can't shake the fact that each of the few times we've talked and I've explained why I got panicky, etc, she has not volunteered to expand on her night with this guy, a bottle of wine, a blanket and fireworks. I'm finding myself obsessing over it a bit now, but I don't want to ruin things by harassing her about it too much.

I've also caught her in a couple of little white lies about totally mundane and unimportant things that I can't fathom ANY reason why she'd even lie about, which raises a tiny alarm bell but since it's not stuff about "us", I am trying to just dismiss.

On the flip side of her being weirdly quiet / not so reassuring about that incident - she has volunteered to go to relationship counseling with me. Clearly she has shown a vested interest in making things work between us. She also agrees she has communication issues (worse than I do in some aspects), and that therapy would help.

So, finally my questions:

1) I'm just being paranoid because of my past and I'm overly insecure, right? This is what I'm going to talk to my future therapist about and work on? I should focus on the fact that she's showing such a strong interest in making "us" work, instead of my unsettled concerns, right?

2) What can I expect in terms of therapy? Can this sort of thing be dealt with on my own, or is couple's counseling a must? If I go solo, I'm covered by insurance. My insurance won't help for couples therapy.

3) Are there good techniques for overcoming trust issues? Anyone here have experience with this?

4) Yes, I obviously have trust issues and I'm obviously letting them put a strain on my current relationship. Have I ruined it beyond hope? If not, how do I make sure I don't?
posted by doompuppy to Human Relations (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You need to work on you, and maybe you need to not be in a relationship for a while so you can do that with a clear head.

But step one is for you to go to your counseling. And "do your own time" there: don't take your idea of her in for counseling in absentia, make sure the counseling is about you.

In a few months, if you're still together, you can talk about couple's counseling. You do not indicate anything about this relationship that suggests it is particularly rare and precious, and in all likelihood you will end up needing to be alone and later starting fresh with someone else you don't have all this baggage with.

You seem really fixated on the having of the trust issues, and I will suggest that maybe you're just a bad judge of character or you're letting yourself generally be treated in a way that should be below your standards in the first place, which is why your experience has been poor. I hate seeing people go through life wearing this big banner of hurt with streamers of "not my fault can't help it" when you could be, like, taking those lessons to heart and moving on from them.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:49 PM on July 18, 2011

You are hairsplitting about pronouns and freaking out when you do not receive a text from her for two hours.

Yes I do think you need professional help with this.
posted by tel3path at 2:50 PM on July 18, 2011

You do not indicate anything about this relationship that suggests it is particularly rare and precious.

I should clarify then, that despite our troubles it is pretty rare and precious. We really do have something special. I've kept her at a distance for too long because of these trust issues - but despite that, we're comfortable with each other in a way that neither of us has really felt. We do little sweet things for each other even 2.5 years in.

Despite the trust issues which I admit are my fault as much as anyone's, the good things are truly great.
posted by doompuppy at 2:56 PM on July 18, 2011

You are hairsplitting about pronouns and freaking out when you do not receive a text from her for two hours.

While I agree with your second sentence - that I need help, I'd like to point out:

My hairsplitting came from instinct, and it was 100% correct. I was right there was something different/fishy. I haven't questioned her on other things - this is the one time I thought I smelled a rat and brought it up, and I was right. The motivations behind it are another story altogether, and may well be relatively innocuous -- but when you know someone as well as she and I know each other, stuff like this sticks out like a sore thumb.

I need help for a myriad of reasons, but it's not because I hairsplit "friend" versus "friends" as a very glaring inconsistency in that particular story. That was instinct because of how well she and I know each other.
posted by doompuppy at 2:58 PM on July 18, 2011

So you think that you do have a reason to be suspicious? If so, that's the thing to address by asking her what exactly happened. It seems like you're holding back and not communicating with her about what happened because you're so afraid to be seen as paranoid, but if she's not actually sharing what happened then I can see why you're continuing to think about it.

The craigslist thing is sketchy in addition to everything else.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:07 PM on July 18, 2011

Wait, I'm confused... Your original story says you thought you smelled a rat and you were WRONG, doesn't it? She was just hanging out with a friend who happened to be male? Not doing anything untoward?
posted by brainmouse at 3:17 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

If she was watching fireworks with a bottle of a wine and a guy she later looked for on Missed Connections I'd say there's some chance your suspicions aren't completely a product of your own anxieties.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 3:42 PM on July 18, 2011 [10 favorites]

Yeah you are in the process of blowing this relationship up because of your mistrust. Sorry to have to be the one to tell you, but your concerns are "unsound" - you are either finding, or more likely creating, cheating women because of what you haven't yet figured out about yourself. Mucho therapy, pronto.
posted by facetious at 3:44 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you have "trust issues"? Maybe. But you keep heaping the blame and responsibility on yourself, and I don't understand why.

This is a woman who secretly posted nude pics of herself on the Internet, lied and stonewalled about doing a seemingly couples-y activity with another dude, and has been cruising Missed Connections ads looking for descriptions of herself. None of these activities necessarily is cheating or wrong or necessarily signals that she is cheating. But taken together, they suggest that she is looking outside the relationship for sexual validation, and doesn't seriously care how you feel about it.

I think you really want this relationship to work, and so you are frantically attributing all these problems to your own issues -- it's just paranoia, it doesn't speak to the fundamentals of the relationship or this woman as a person. I think she is doing something similar. On the one hand, she is acting out in all these ways that suggest her dissatisfaction. On the other hand, she vocally affirms that she wants to make the relationship work. Presumably she is being sincere. But even after the searching discussion in the wake of the "picture incident," she has continued to look for sexual validation (if not more) in secret outside the relationship.

Are you worried you can't do better than this? You are putting up with mistreatment and breach of trust. Are you doing it out of fear?

I would be concerned that your efforts to "work on" these issues within the relationship will exacerbate the problem. Constantly working and re-working your insecurities and worries will make you seem more and more insecure -- and obsessing over these things may actually make you a weaker and more dependent person. I would focus on being the sort of person who does not need constant text-message reassurance -- or contact of any kind. When you're away from your girlfriend, get absorbed in something else -- other interests, other people. Focus on being more independent, and you may find that these anxieties bother you less -- and even that you have less reason to be anxious.
posted by grobstein at 3:50 PM on July 18, 2011 [8 favorites]

fwiw, i sometimes check out the missed connections because they are FUNNY. "blue shirt at the checkout at the minimart on 2nd. you were buying cigarettes." that could be a bazillion people.

anyways, going to therapy is a great start for you.

just because your spidey-sense kicks up doesn't mean it's necessarily nuclear. like you determined, she was actually trying to have you not freak out by not saying she was with a guy because she knew you would. granted, that is all twisty logic, but you've talked about it since.

what i recommend, from personal experience in being you and having the spidey sense and finding out both innocent and terrible things at various times, is couples' counseling in addition to your own therapy.

it's not easy, it's not a fix all, but if she's willing to go with you, it will be helpful - so she can understand why her actions raised your hackles but for the wrong reasons.

i wish you the best. anxiety like mine (and maybe yours) can be horribly crippling and it makes it hard to tell what's a legitimate thing to react to or just let pass. medication and some calming techniques from meditation have helped a lot. plus lots of therapy.
posted by sio42 at 3:50 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

oh, on preview, i really should have read your other questions.

get thee to couples' counseling. post haste!
posted by sio42 at 3:51 PM on July 18, 2011

I'd say there are several elements here that could add up to something sketchy. Or not-- a more charitable interpretation could also be a legitimate reflection of reality.

What a therapist will do is help you to look more objectively at your suspicions and to challenge your assumptions. This will help you to decide if these issues are worth pressing further, or letting go.

If it were me, I would have a few individual sessions first, to get my own thinking straight and some clarity to state what I want the couples counseling to achieve. THEN I would do the couples therapy. This may be best achieved with two separate therapists, so that she won't feel threatened by going to 'your' therapist.
posted by hic sunt dracones at 3:55 PM on July 18, 2011

Sorry, but based on how you've phrased the post--a need for communication where 2 hours is an eternity for 2.5 weeks would drive most people batty, for instance--this relationship will at best require a lot of therapy (mainly for you), and at worst is bad for both of you. It seems to me that you're either (a) blowing things way out of proportion and making this poor girl's life hellish, or (b) she's fed up with being treated with the same level of monitoring as your average Most Wanted criminal and is taking action. The former is more likely, but there's a fairly decent non-zero chance that you've created a self-fulfilling prophecy.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:57 PM on July 18, 2011

If she's afraid to tell you that she watched fireworks with a guy, you two need couples counseling, full stop. It doesn't matter if nothing happened between them; she withheld the truth because she knew it would bug you. Doesn't make her wrong, just means there's a definite problem with trust. She doesn't trust you either, obviously.

I've also caught her in a couple of little white lies about totally mundane and unimportant things that I can't fathom ANY reason why she'd even lie about

This is absolute crazy-making, because you will start investigating every little thing she says. If it's mundane and unimportant, then let it go.
posted by desjardins at 3:59 PM on July 18, 2011

To be clear: I've not been the type to ask her where she's been, pry her for details, etc. I have trust issues, but I've kept them mostly to myself until the picture incident (see my last post)...

You don't say whether or not you kept them to yourself in the 7 months after this. I was in a relationship with someone who constantly wanted to keep tabs on me, and who freaked out when I didn't respond immediately. After a few years of this, I got sick of feeling like I was being punished for a crime I hadn't committed, and cheated- because I was already serving the time.

This is not to say that your girlfriend is cheating on you, it is to say that it wears on your spirit to not have your partner trust you. I was so exhausted by the end.

Please get yourself some therapy to work on your trust issues for the sake of any future relationships, and for your own sanity.
posted by Zophi at 4:00 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

a need for communication where 2 hours is an eternity for 2.5 weeks would drive most people batt

I should clarify here: throughout most of our relationship we have hung out 4 or so days out of the week. On days we haven't hung out together, we'd text a hello / i love you in the morning, check in maybe once or twice a day in total, and that's it. We don't need to be in constant touch for me to feel secure.

The 2 hour thing was weird not because I need to hear back from her in minutes every time - but because the rest of her trip she was constantly giving me updates on what's going on... "We're out doing so and so.. this funny thing just happened", etc... It was very unlike the rest of her absence...
posted by doompuppy at 4:12 PM on July 18, 2011

You don't say whether or not you kept them to yourself in the 7 months after this.

A fair question: For the most part, yes. I did keep to myself and not ask her questions. We had the talk about the picture, and it came up maybe once or twice in the 3 weeks following when it was still nagging at me and I was insecure about it.

Beyond that, we did not harp on it or continue to discuss it in those 7 months. Trust issues, while they're something I've dealt with in my head, are not something that have invaded most of our relationship. I've not been keeping tabs on her or asking unnecessary questions about where she's been, etc.

Only in these last few weeks since the fireworks thing that's driving me mad have I brought up trust issues more than once or twice... and it hasn't been daily... it's been maybe every 5-6 days we'll be spending quiet time together and my mind will start racing and she'll notice that I'm spacing off into my own little world of worry and ask what's wrong - and I'll answer.
posted by doompuppy at 4:15 PM on July 18, 2011

Wait, I'm confused... Your original story says you thought you smelled a rat and you were WRONG, doesn't it?

Yes and no. I was right that she was hiding something. She says nothing happened and she was hiding it because she didn't want to worry me -- but I was right that she told a lie by omission and the inconsistency in her story revealed that.
posted by doompuppy at 4:20 PM on July 18, 2011

Yes, definitely speak to someone about this - I don't think there's any big problems here, but perhaps you need to use this as a way of working out what you really want in a relationship and in a partner and who you want to be in a relationship. I feel there's a level of uncertainty from you about all of that, so perhaps use the anxiety you feel to explore those issues in more depth.

One of the biggest things I hope you learn is that you have to let go of the anxiety. Letting go will not necessarily mean that nothing bad will ever happen to you again (partner leaving/partner cheating/partner flirting with leaving/etc) but it's not helping you in any way to cultivate yourself and your current relationship. Holding onto that anxiety is like putting yourself/your partner/your life into lock-down mode because you're afraid it's all going to disappear on you. You need to develop more resistance to face those things should they arise because they are a part of life.
posted by mleigh at 4:28 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

"The 2 hour thing was weird not because I need to hear back from her in minutes every time - but because the rest of her trip she was constantly giving me updates on what's going on... "We're out doing so and so.. this funny thing just happened", etc... It was very unlike the rest of her absence..."

So she'd been in constant contact the whole time she was away and then went quiet for 2 hours. You say it's rational because it's a deviation from a pattern that had held for several days.

If you're doing this level of data mining and fraud detection on her, but you still haven't found any proof, there probably isn't any proof to find. There is no actual suspicious behaviour going on here. None. I've probably done versions of the things that are making you suspicious during the last three days, and I'm so celibate it's not even funny. The level of surveillance here is so intense I do not even see how it's possible for her to be cheating on you.

That's why I thnk the 2 hour window freaks you out, because it was physically possible she could have been cheating on you.

You know the last guy who made me this suspicious? I was suspicious because he finagled his way into my hotel room under false pretences, flopped down uninvited on my bed, and called his gf right before my incredulous eyes. There is no level of surveillance short of being in her presence 24/7 that is going to stop her if she's a determined cheater, and no level of reassurance that is going to satisfy you if she's not cheating on you.

If I were your gf I would actually be afraid of you right now.
posted by tel3path at 4:34 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

The OP seems to be a good guy who understands that his suspicions may be unfounded or exaggerated and is looking for ways to deal with them. I'm not sure why he's been jumped on in this and his previous question but, unless he's lying to us, he is not keeping his girlfriend under surveillance (On days we haven't hung out together, we'd text a hello / i love you in the morning, check in maybe once or twice a day in total), she doesn't need to be afraid of him (really?), and I at least think there might be something to his suspicions.

In normal situations freaking out over not having gotten a text for two hours would be pretty over the top, but consider the context: she'd been updating him all day, a two hour gap passed between texts during which she's drinking wine and watching fireworks with what she describes as a "friend," then "friends," and finally "a guy," and then OP discovered (accidentally) that she has been doing a keyword search in missed connections for that park.

It's entirely possible that he is being over suspicious (as he himself admits) and that nothing is going on, but he's not a stalker or an abuser and he seems to be coming here in good faith looking for help.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 5:17 PM on July 18, 2011 [7 favorites]

Okay, I've made my point much too forcefully.

Whether the suspicions are well- or ill-founded, the relationship clearly isn't healthy. However, when your sense of reality is being tormented, the question of whether your fears are rational is as important to you as whether anything is or isn't happening and whether the overall context is or isn't healthy.
posted by tel3path at 5:35 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's only paranoia when you're wrong; when you're right, it's good instincts or observational skills.

I think something shady is going on here. It just feels wrong. She cut off communication because she didn't want to tell you what she was doing, she lied about who she was with, and it turns out she was with a guy in a park and a blanket and a bottle of wine. In combination, these things aren't great.

Worse: she won't tell you who this guy is (i.e. the context of their relationship). If that isn't because she's cheating, then why? Because she's messing with your mind and wants you to doubt yourself and your judgment? That would be much worse, but it seems possible as well, if less likely.

I don't know if you're insecure and have trust issues. If so, get thee to therapy. But regardless of that, I don't think this is a healthy relationship for you to be in.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:42 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think her watching fireworks on a blanket with a guy and a bottle of wine is dumpworthy. Maybe that makes me a possessive, old-fashioned Neanderthal, but so be it ... If I find out my GF did that, I'm gone.

So, from where I'm sitting, your concerns aren't unfounded. My question is, why do you keep ending up with women who cheat or quasi-cheat on you?
posted by jayder at 5:53 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

From a guy that's working on the same things.

1) You're being too paranoid. Cover your paranoia with the therapist, not her part of it. You don't obviously know what's going on in her head, to discuss.

2) I'd say a lot of this is for therapy on your own, but having never been to couples therapy, can't really answer that one.

3) Chill. It's hard, but it works. What's the worst that can happen? She breaks up with you. If you freak out over every little thing, what do you have instead? A strained relationship that nobody really wants to be in anyway.

4) You have not ruined that beyond hope. But if you keep thinking you have, or going on about it, your chances go down.

Having said all that...I feel like you still have the right to press about the guy under the fireworks. That's something a boyfriend gets to know.
posted by trogdole at 5:58 PM on July 18, 2011

Too many times people use 'therapy' as a catch-all concept or a magic bullet, making it seem like a process that is about as divorced from personal agency as getting treatment from a medical doctor. Which, on the one hand, is good-- gets you to take it seriously. But it also distances you from the common-sense interventions that anyone can do. After all, therapy too will depend on you making some active changes in your behavior with each other outside of the therapists' office. It's good to know when you need help, but I encourage you to simply try harder to communicate, and to ask for what you need, and not take someone's saying 'I'm bad at this' for an answer.

So, on that note... what you need-- and what you need to learn to ask for-- is an explanation of her thinking, ie why she posted that nude pic, why/what kind of relationship she had with fireworks guy, etc. There is a middle ground between 'stalking'/obsessing and simply never asking. Trust is not 'never asking'. Trust is knowing you can ask, and you can tell. It's never asking that signifies a lack of trust on some level, just as never telling does. See what I mean? Privacy is a different concept in relationships than between a person and say, the government. The more trust you have, the more you can tell, the more you can ask-- absolute trust is knowing that you don't have to worry about whether it's ok to ask, because either they will tell you or you can always ask to know the truth. It's not about 'issues' or no issues; it's about the fact that we're all human, and sometimes we worry and are jealous, and this isn't automatically pathological. Some worry is normal. The sign of a healthy relationship isn't to never worry, but to always resolve that worry through discussing everything that both parties want to address; not empty reassurances and vague gestures towards 'issues', but real illumination. Especially after 2+ years, you have a right to know and discuss anything that makes you uncomfortable, rather than have it be swept under the rug with a white lie or labeled a 'trust issue' to be overcome. The way you overcome issues is simply to address them. Labeling it an 'issue' isn't actually that useful.

Say you find it problematic if she doesn't tell you why/how she's meeting with a guy-- the solution isn't to either accept it's your fault for caring or give her an ultimatum (...or just dump her...), but rather to tell her you find it problematic. Then you discuss it. Why did she do it? Is there a way she could defuse such a situation in the future? Is there a compromise to be made? Likewise with the nude pics. She doesn't have to stop, but maybe she does need to. The issue isn't to force her either way, but to situate it as a problem for your relationship, not an issue you have alone. Read up on Savage Love replies (Dan Savage's column) and you'll see this pattern-- people who have needs need to speak up for those needs to be valid. Whether or not it's ok to seek outside validation of her nude body (say) depends on a conversation (or 2 or 10) that you have and a compromise you make. If at some point you have an unmet need, emotionally or sexually, the process is the same: the answer's 'no' until you discuss it.
posted by reenka at 6:00 PM on July 18, 2011 [10 favorites]

@reenka - Thank you - easily the most rational and helpful post. Not that others weren't also helpful. thank you so much. You make me feel better about myself for having these concerns, and less guilty about wanting to talk things out. I realize I still need to be tactful and handle things delicately of course, but I think maybe I've been a bit unfair to myself up to this point, too.
posted by doompuppy at 9:09 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

However, I can't shake the fact that each of the few times we've talked and I've explained why I got panicky, etc, she has not volunteered to expand on her night with this guy, a bottle of wine, a blanket and fireworks

I just want to say that it is not necessarily a bad thing that she's non-reactive here. Compare--

Scenario 1
You: "What? you were out watching fireworks with some guy?"
Her: "Yeah. What? OMG is this your jealousy thing again?? I cannot believe you have to know every little detail! It was nothing!! It was only James, my friend Julie's husband. I canNOT believe that a little thing like......."

Scenario 2
You: "What? you were out watching fireworks with some guy?"
Her: "Yeah, but it was just my friend Julie's husband James, and she and their daughter joined us after picking up their son Ben. I didn't even think that it would, and I hope it does not, upset you, I mean, I guess maybe I should've asked if you'd mind...? or told you about it? but it was so nothing and it all got set up so fast that I just-- But I can see now that you'd worry and I should've known....."

Scenario 3
You: "What? you were out watching fireworks with some guy?"
Her: "Yeah, we watched the fireworks down at the park. It was fun. Anyway. Want to get some pizza? I'm starving."

See what I mean? If she were sensitive to a whiff of your jealousy, the whole situation could become more volatile because she might amp up the emotion rather than ramping it down.

Instead, combined with her strong willingness to talk about it, I think you've got some potentially good conditions for making progress here: she doesn't freak out, get offended, or anxiously rush to reassure you; she may have a slightly different set of boundaries than you do; and she is committed to discussing it.

This situation does sound a bit more complex, and couple's therapy sounds like a great idea. One thing it will do is let you each learn about how the other sees it. You see it through the lens of "am I going to get cheated on or not? is this person trustworthy or not?" She has an entirely different lens, one apparently involving her own self-esteem, and it might be interesting to really learn what that is. A therapist can help you both better hear and communicate. Right now you might not be fully hearing one another. A deeper understanding of what it's really about for each of you might go a long way.
posted by salvia at 12:38 AM on July 19, 2011

Hmm. I was just thinking about self-esteem and Missed Connections. Is she cruising it to reassure herself that her body caught the eye of other men? What if that was all it was -- would you mind if you knew she'd never physically cheat? What if she was no longer embarrassed about her need here and could say, "it was a great day -- three guys posted about me on missed connections! But I don't want them, I want you, so tell me how sexy I am and let's go to bed." I don't know if that would work for you, but the honesty and disclosure might reassure you.

Anyway, that kind of solution (or another that works for you both, or a decision to part) is something you might arrive at in couples counseling. As I said in the last question, I think you and she aren't communicating fully here. I don't think personal therapy would entirely resolve that. It might help you get more familiar with your own half of the equation. But it wouldn't help you learn what things look like from her end nor do as much to troubleshoot your interaction with her.
posted by salvia at 1:00 AM on July 19, 2011

Trust isn't something that can be cultivated in a vacuum, independently of your relationships with other people. If you don't trust your girlfriend, that's no more likely to be a result of your 'trust issues' than it is of her acting in an untrustworthy way. Which isn't to say she's cheating on you - there's nothing here to say she is - but she's not acting all too honestly when it comes to relationship-related matters like 'browsing Craigslist m4w missed connections after an evening of fireworks and a bottle of wine at a park with a man her boyfriend knows nothing about', and it's okay to be bothered by that.

Why didn't she tell you who she was with? Because you wouldn't have understood and you might have freaked out about it? Well, maybe, but you say you've got no history of irrationally freaking out on her for having male friends, and '[partner] might have a problem with the truth of this so I'll just lie' is not a great way to behave in a relationship.

Also, this stood out:

I've also caught her in a couple of little white lies about totally mundane and unimportant things that I can't fathom ANY reason why she'd even lie about, which raises a tiny alarm bell

Are these white lies like "no, honey, of course you didn't sound like an angry hyena at karaoke last night!", or are they white lies like, I don't know, "I bought a new pair of shoes from the shop over the road today" when you know she didn't leave the house? Because I've known a few people who regularly told lies like the second one, and for all of them it was a sign that for whatever reason they just didn't value honesty that highly. If someone's prepared to lie at the drop of a hat, your internal trustometer is bound to start giving you little 'alert!' messages about them. That's what it's there for.

It sounds like you're letting the idea of whether or not she might be cheating on you overwhelm things given your own past, and so you're interpreting 'trust' as just 'trust her not to cheat on me'. But trust in relationships is a more complex thing than that - can you trust her to be honest with you? Can you trust her to let you know what she wants/expects? Can you trust her to take your comfort levels into consideration when it comes to deciding what to do? - and that's the kind of trust you need to work on together.

You aren't going to fix your worries about your girlfriend independently of your girlfriend. If she's interested in making things work, which it sounds like she is, then I'd start by taking the whole idea of cheating off the table and having some lengthy conversations about both of your expectations re: honesty, communication, what is and isn't okay in your relationship, etc.

(As an aside: I have also seen otherwise-rational people turn into crazy insecure phone-snoopers who were beating themselves up about their inability to trust their partner, and who reverted back to their normal secure selves in subsequent relationships after breaking up with the person who, it turned out, they had very good reason not to be trusting. That isn't to say that's what's going on in your situation, but it's maybe something to bear in mind going forward.)
posted by Catseye at 3:23 AM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

doompuppy, run. I mean, ffs! This is not your trust issues, this is just you being cheated on. Again. If all your girlfriends cheated on you, the problem is you. I suspect your problem is you are attracted to the wrong kind of girl.

Work on it, but please don't waste your life believing sketchy crap.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:49 AM on July 19, 2011

This relationship isn't fun for you. Why continue it?
posted by Ironmouth at 7:05 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

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