13 Subtle Signs of a Man with Trust Issues

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What are the signs of a man with trust issues? Let’s face it; we’ve all got trust issues, whatever our gender. We can’t make it through high school, let alone into our adult years, without being let down in ways that make it hard to risk getting close.

When you also consider that one of our first tasks as babies is to develop trust by bonding with our parents, it doesn’t take too much imagination to see how there are a lot of things that can go wrong.

We can develop trust issues at any time, but it only takes one moment for them to surface and for us to recognize what those feelings are. A good relationship, be it romantic or plutonic, will allow each person to take their time and build trust gradually.

That said, there are some warning signs of a man with trust issues that can make a relationship difficult or even dangerous… so women should be on the lookout for these “red flags”.

So, What Are Trust Issues?

First, let’s define trust issues. Fear is at the heart of it. If we don’t trust someone, we’re afraid that they aren’t telling us the truth, that they may hurt us, betray or abandon us. These fears lead us to behave in ways that make it hard to start and sustain close romantic partnerships.

What Causes Trust Issues?

Parental Divorce or Absence, or Both

Many studies have shown an association between parents divorcing and their children having greater difficulty trusting romantic partners. One study of over 400 college students also showed that the absence of parents had a significant impact on how much people trusted their romantic partners, whether those parents were divorced or still married.

Parental Addiction or Mental Illness

Dr. Claudia Black has been working for decades on how to help children of people with substance use disorders. She summarizes the rules a child adopts in a family with alcoholism or drug abuse as, “Don’t Talk, Don’t Trust, Don’t Feel”.

Not trusting can be important for the well-being and even the survival of a child with a parent who is compromised by addiction or mental illness. The trouble is, what helps them cope as kids can keep them from engaging in loving relationships as adults because you can’t get close to someone you don’t let yourself trust.


Attachment theory demonstrates that the only relationship as intimate as that of a parent to a child is a long-term romantic partner. We transfer our deep need for love from our parents to our partners. It’s how we’re wired. So when a partner cheats or betrays you in some other big way, it’s devastating. The wound is deep. Trust comes harder after that.


There’s no end to the big and little ways we can be traumatized, from seeing our friends die on active military duty to having a father who never let you finish a sentence. Trauma that we don’t get help with processing will lead us to some ways of coping that keep us from trusting in a healthy way.

Darius Cikanavicius, blogging on trust issues, identified three ways our beliefs can become distorted. We can believe we are unacceptable, we can believe we have to do everything ourselves, or we can try to trust too quickly out of our deep need.

13 Signs of a Man with Trust Issues

Humans are complicated, so everyone will have different ways of showing problems with trust. Here are some examples of some ways a man with trust issues might behave:

1. There’s an undertone of anger in his voice after you ask him personal questions.

Something about his voice and body language gives you the impression that he thinks you’re being intrusive when you’re just asking normal “get-to-know-you” questions.

2. He makes jokes about women being ‘gold diggers’ or ‘just looking for a good time.’

If he makes derogatory jokes about women more than once within your first few encounters, make a note of it. Talk about it with him and tell him how you feel when he says those things.

3. He implies that women are less logical, reliable or good-hearted than men.

Ditto. A belief system is a hard thing to change. If you notice a double standard in how much he respects or trusts men versus women, he may not be able to see you for who you really are.

4. He won’t talk about past relationships and why they didn’t work out.

It can actually be healthy for a man to show some reluctance to talk about past relationships at first. Diving into his drama can be a sign of neediness and immaturity. You want to be the one on his mind, not some ex. But if weeks go by and he dodges any questions about history, he may have unresolved issues with other women that keep him from giving you a chance.

5. He asks you questions about what you’ve been doing that seem odd.

You can hear distrust in someone’s voice and see it in their eyes before you even register words. If you talk about your day and he seems to be questioning whether you’re telling the truth, that’s a trust issue.

6. He seems uncomfortable with you spending any time with male friends or coworkers.

If you have peace that your other relationships with men are no threat to a potential partner, you don’t deserve disapproval for having those relationships. You may not want to snuggle on the bed watching rom coms with your male buddies, but if you have good boundaries, his attitude says more about him than you. It’s a sign that someone let him down in the past.

7. He takes it personally when you’re late or you forget something, implying that you don’t care about him.

We need to pay attention when a partner tells us they’re hurt. If we’ve been too self-absorbed, we need to admit it and give the relationship more space. But if you know you’re giving him time and energy and you’re still being accused of negligence, his issue may have little to do with you.

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Things will seem fine one moment and he just starts needling at you the next.

Ask yourself a question – how old does he seem when he’s accusing you of not caring? If his expression and posture is looking about eight years old, you’re not the problem. Be kind and show empathy; after all, you may have a six-year-old moment tomorrow. But don’t take it on.

8. He talks a lot about how other people have screwed him over.

If he seems to see himself as a victim on a regular basis, that’s a warning sign. You may be the sympathetic listener at first, but if you hang around long enough without addressing this, he’ll eventually perceive you as a threat.

9. He tends to isolate or act distant under stress.

Many of us do this, but if his default is to only have energy for your relationship when he’s in a downtime, that can lead to problems.

10. He acts overprotective of you.

This might be a veiled way of keeping tabs on you because he doesn’t trust your faithfulness or competence.

11. He wants to know a lot about you without being willing to share about himself at the same level.

The ‘needless and wantless’ version of trust issues holds you at a distance even while he’s being kind and interested.

12. He picks fights.

There can be several reasons for this, but it certainly serves as a way to hold you at a distance. Things will seem fine one moment and he just starts needling at you the next.

13. He avoids commitment.

Trust is what holds people together. If you’ve been together for a few months and trust doesn’t seem to be growing, this may be a relationship that comes with an expiration date.

Ways to Help Him Get Over Trust Issues

Be Honest

The best way to help anyone get over their trust issues is to be trustworthy. That includes being honest about who you are, what you need, and how much you have to give to a relationship.

Sometimes, as women, we play a game of pretending to be more interested or sympathetic than we really are, in an effort to win a man over. That’s confusing to a guy. Our first task is always to stay centered in ourselves, to be aware of what we’re thinking and feeling, so we can be partners who tell the truth.

Be Kind

That said, we need to temper our honesty with kindness. We don’t need to do damage to stay real. “I’m just not that into you,” can easily be rephrased as, “I don’t have the energy right now to give you the kind of relationship that you deserve.” Learning a more effective way to communicate is a great first step towards approaching people with kindness.

Don’t Try to Fix Him

Sigh. If women could fix men, men would be really different, right? Let’s face it, we can’t fix ourselves, so why do some of us think that our love or our wisdom is going to be the missing piece in his life that he needs to blossom into intimate trust? This is a really big lie that sells a lot of romance novels.

It’s not a woman’s job to make a man trust her. All she can do is be trustworthy. The rest is up to him.

Do Your Own Work

It’s a lot easier to figure out what our partner needs to do than to focus on what we need to do. It’s a great idea, if someone you really value is stuck in mistrust, to suggest therapy, to read books together, to watch YouTube videos on attachment theory.

 But, getting back to the last point – you can’t fix him, or even make him interested in getting fixed, or even make him agree with you that he has trust issues getting in his way.

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If we don’t trust someone, we’re afraid that they aren’t telling us the truth, that they may hurt us, betray or abandon us.

When we come to terms with our own strengths and weaknesses, when we identify our own unresolved issues and make them our focus, we mature. Who we’re attracted to reflects our level of maturity.  

So, if we want mature men, we need to do the work to become mature women. Sitting around and talking to our girlfriends about what a loser we’re dating won’t get us there. (Believe me, I’ve tried it.)

Know Your Needs and Limits

Related to doing our own work is being realistic about how many trust issues we want to get close to. If you have a man treating you well and bringing joy into your life in all kinds of ways, it’s probably worth your time to be patient with his need to test the waters and move slowly on trust. But, if he’s entrenched in mistrust and doesn’t see it as a problem… lookout!

This is crucial when it comes to protecting ourselves from abuse. Is he taking out his lack of trust on you? Is he blaming you for not caring when you do care? Is he accusing you of flirting when you’re just having an interesting conversation? Is he keeping tabs on your location in a way that feels a little bit creepy?

If so, his trust issues have become your safety issues. There’s a fine line between workable trust issues and emotional abuse. If you’re feeling afraid or even uncomfortable with how you’re being treated by a partner, pay attention to that and act on it. You’ll both be better off.

Final Thoughts on Signs of a Man with Trust Issues

If a man is good hearted, and he seems to be a good fit for you as a potential partner, there’s nothing wrong with continuing the relationship… even if you see some significant trust issues. The key is to be honest about what you feel and need.

However, if he’s projecting his past experiences onto you and can’t seem to see you for who you are, there may be cause for concern… especially as those voices in your head are telling you it may be time to move on.  You know it’s time to back away if he blames you for his trust issues and takes out his pain and anger on you.  Or worse yet, he stonewalls you completely.

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