Q: “What do you do when you realize that you are 32 and you don’t know one person in your life that you trust? This was a painful realization.”
A: What this tells me is that you probably had a childhood in which nobody around you was trustable. Kids know whether to trust each person or not, and you must have had to decide that every important person was untrustable, and this led to the belief that nobody is trustable now.
First of all, you might think that “everyone” is untrustable because you live with someone who is untrustable and who hurts you regularly. If you are unsafe in this ongoing, daily way, everyone else may “seem” untrustable only because you feel threatened throughout your life. If this is the case, the rest of my response won’t matter until you get away from the scary person you live with.
If your life isn’t scary, the next step is to make sure that you are trustable. Do you keep your word about 99.9% of the time…? (If not, you’ll need to start by becoming trustable yourself…. If you aren’t trustable, you are attracting other untrustable people all of the time, and you are “training” all the trustable people you meet to get away from you…)
If you know that you keep your word almost all of the time, then the following should work for you:
1) Look back to the years since you left your childhood family. Realize that along the way you did meet some people who were trustable. Make a list of these people (on paper would be best), and think about what you’ve lost in terms of relationships, closeness, and above all from being unable to simply feel safe… Notice how sad you are about this, and how lonely…
2) Then think about the current people in your life, and make a similar list. (Realize that since these people are still in your life you can still get closeness and such from them…)
3) From the current list (#2) decide which of these people would be LEAST significant in your life if you trusted them and they turned out to not be trustable after all.
4) Take the risk of acting like you trust these people when you are with them. (Say a bit more about what you hold to be private… be spontaneous with this person by laughing or showing other emotions that you normally suppress when you are so sure someone isn’t trustable…)
5) Do this with one person at a time, until you do find someone who responds genuinely and doesn’t in any way take advantage of you.
6) Once you’ve found one such person, find two, then three………
7) Expect to have a life in which nobody in your closest circle of friends is untrustable. Read “Who Do You Trust?. I acknowledge here that all of us are untrustable when it comes to those few things about ourselves that we deny and even lie to ourselves about. Nobody is perfect in this regard (including you), so don’t use “perfect self-knowledge” as a standard. Use whether people Keep Their Word as your standard.
And, of course, the best way to develop trust is to have a good, safe, close relationship with a competent therapist. This, more than anything else, can get at the family roots of the problem you have. Good therapy can be like being taken care of by someone who is far better at it than your parents were.
I hope this helps! Thanks for an excellent question!