86% of our distrust is institutional distrust. Institutional distrust is distrust towards a person or a group of people based on negative experiences or perceptions of people that fit the same mold. For example, Jenna has had a number of men who slept with her, only to leave her soon after. In this, Jenna perceives that all men use women for sex. When I explained to Jenna the negative impact of institutional distrust, she became a little defensive before saying, “I don’t trust someone unless they give me a reason to.” The ‘someone’ she was referring to, of course, was any man that attempted to come into her life from that point forward.
Have you been Jenna? Statistically speaking, 86% of us have. Men, women, young and old; institutional distrust has stalled us all at some point in our dating lives. The question is, are you willing to investigate yours? Great. Let’s go!
When you realize that you do not trust someone, whether it’s for specific reasons or institutional ones, you must ask yourself what you do not trust about them? Is it their capability, judgment or intent? In dating speak:
- You either trust (or don’t) that they are capable of being good partners in a good relationship. Can they be loyal, responsible and communicative?
- You either trust (or don’t) that they have sound judgment. What is their sexual history, drinking habits, financial responsibility, etc.?
- You either trust (or don’t) that their intentions are good. This is all about their motivation and integrity.
It may not surprise you but we distrust intent moreso than any of these three areas. And if our distrust of intent is institutional, that means that we distrust the integrity of someone that we don’t even know. Does this sound reasonable to you?
Before we move forward, let’s recap with some questions to ask yourself.
- In the dating sphere, do I trust (or distrust)?
- Is my trust (or distrust) specific or institutional?
- If I distrust for institutional reasons, would I want someone to distrust me for institutional reasons?
- If I distrust, do I distrust ‘their’ capability, judgment, or intent?
These are very important questions that you must ask when you are in the dating world. It is difficult to trust, that’s a fact. But unless you understand where your distrust comes from and begin investigating it to solve it, you will never be in a natural and healthy relationship. Let’s walk through the final piece to investigating trust.
By now, you have a basic understanding of institutional distrust and its connections to capability, judgment and intent. But what about scope, recency and consistency? This is the final piece to investigating trust.
- Does your distrust stem from something recent that occurred? Recency bias is the tendency to assume that a recent event will be an accurate predictor of future events.
- What about scope? This affects our dating life when we allow one incident, albeit a big one, to cloud our trust and judgment going forward.
- Lastly, we have consistency. In the world of relationships and trust, we very often assume that something we have experienced consistently with different people will continue to occur with different (future) people. The fallacy here, of course, is stereotyping and generalization.
Now that we’ve walked through the various layers of distrust in a relationship, let’s put together some quick hitting thoughts for you.
1. Some will defend their institutional distrust by associating it with realism. They will contend that ignoring their own relationship history would be foolish and likely lead to future heartache. I hear this often and I ask two basic questions:
- Can you use pieces of your painful relationship history as lessons learned while in a relationship instead of letting them sabotage your ability to get into one?
- Is the consistent behavior of four past boyfriends or girlfriends truly predictive of what future boyfriends or girlfriend might do? If so, that means you too. Do you consider yourself trustworthy?
2. While something recent (recency) and significant (scope) may hurt, can you also put things into perspective? Let’s say you’ve been on a date with- or dated- 50 people in your lifetime. Do recency and scope, really compare to the rest of your dating experiences?
These are painful questions to ask and answer and they really get why 86% of us suffer with institutional distrust. But as long as we justify ours or fail to investigate it, we better be okay with two specific things.
- Others distrusting is for institutional reasons
- Being single or being in a painful, untrusting relationship