Question of Day: “What do you say when your teen says he has trust issues?”

My son Cole is 14 years old and has been in his first “real” relationship for about six months now. Last night he turned to me and said that he is really having a tough time adjusting to a long term relationship.

“What do you mean?” I asked. I was not sure what he was saying or where he was going with this, but my older son rarely shares his feelings with me, so I wanted to be sure I was clear before we continued.

“I really have a hard time believing when someone loves me. I mean when it isn’t a member of our family. Bri tells me she loves me and she shows me she loves me all of the time. I’ve never had that before,” he said.

“Well, all of that sounds really good, buddy. Are you saying you don’t trust that what she is saying is real because of something inside of you?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said, shrugging a shoulder.

“Why do you think that is?”

“I am not really sure,” he responded.

“Are you exhibiting behaviors because of your trust issues?” I asked.

“What do you mean?”

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“There are two ways people with trust issues react in a relationship when they are triggered. A person can become really needy and insist on some type of physical or emotional action on the part of their partner to help them feel better or a person may become cold and distant to punish the person because they didn’t give the proper amount of affection,” I explained.

“The first one,” he said. “I can be really needy, and then I apologize because I know I am being that way,” he answered.

I felt so bad for my son at this moment because I recognized these significant trust issues and the behaviors that arose because of them. In this moment, I was faced with the part I must have played in his development for him to be struggling with this at such a young age, so I apologized. We talked about my role in his trust issues, and we looked at the role his father has played in them as well.

We talked mainly about how he did not feel he was loveable and how he believed he wasn’t worthy of love. I asked him if he felt loved by his father, by me, by Brian, and by his little brother. He answered “yes” to all of them, except his father who was a “sometimes”.

Two conversations two nights in a row with both sons about their inability to believe they can be loved has been tough.

The Universe’s lesson here isn’t entirely clear, but it is certainly painful. My divorce and my struggles as a single parent have certainly contributed to the holes my children have in their self-worth and identity. I don’t when it happened, and I cannot change the past. My heart breaks for my sons and their struggles, but I am also quote proud of them. I told Cole as much when he stressed he was going to figure this out.

“Cole, you are in 8th grade and you recognize that you have trust issues, and you would like to fix this because you recognize it’s not healthy to have in a relationship. I was abused and abandoned and had serious trust issues in relationships as well. Do you know how old I was when I realized it and tried to heal and help myself?” At this point, we both were smiling. “I was in my 30s, Cole. My 30s! You are way ahead of the curve, baby.” We both laughed and he was smiling, which felt good for the moment. “You are going to be just fine. And next time you feel yourself experiencing trust issues, please know you can always talk to me.”

And I guess at the end of this day, this is really all there is. In that moment, I chose to love my son the only way I know how and hope it will someday be enough.

Love and Light, All.

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