Trust or Mistrust

Can we Trust or Do we Mistrust?

A Canadian friend asked me why Iranian men are suspicious of their wives? I said: “not all of them acting this way.” This woman being a psychologist added: “Most of those men come to my office; they are all concerned that their wives would cheat on them.” We discussed whether being suspicious is a psychological problem among these men. I thought of all these women who through the years have told me about their husbands acting this way. I also thought of all women who fear their husband would find a mistress, an act which is easy in our home country and also elsewhere. I thought of the level of fear that brings in negativity and fight.

After thinking more, I thought, this is really true, Iranian men in general are very much afraid that their women would cheat on them, while some of these men are the number one cheaters! Now thinking more, all the couples I have met as a counsellor also have had issues where the man is accusing the wife of “being loose” or “wanting to date others.”

I should now raise the question: Why Iranian men are suspicious of their wives? What is about the notion of trust and mistrust that our suspicious men and women are missing? While there is no real statistic is this area, we can only go with our experiences and observations. In addition, I would remind us of a common sense that when most men are suspicious then, there must be reason in the way of upbringing of these men. Development of trust in early childhood is a psychological argument that we (Iranian) have not heard of in a real scientific way. Erik Erikson and John Bowlby (both psychologists) emphasis the relationship between child and caregiver as the most important element for a child to develop trust and self-concept.

Now I would not make a psychological analysis of how these men may or may not have developed that sense of trust to the “self.” I just want to raise awareness about the big picture. We shall look at the cultural form of this (in my idea) “illness.”

We should realize that Iranian women have always throughout the history faced false accusations of adultery and infidelity. Every time a woman talks about own rights or own needs, she would be accused of thinking about other men! Even if a woman wants to leave her relationship she should have the freedom to do so. However in cases of divorce, Iranian men (most of them) always ridicule the woman for wanting to “find another husband.” Unfortunately some Iranian men in order to maintain their control over women do not hesitate of accusing, threatening, and harassing their women, special if these women complain about anything. If a woman asks for divorce some of these men would then try to hurt woman by accusing her of infidelity, dishonesty and affairs. Why do our men behave like this? Why do our men (some of them) need to be this much in control? I do want to acknowledge that women also can be quite jealous of their husbands and whoever interacts with them. We Iranian have many internal ways of suffering: not trusting anyone, acting suspicious, and jealousy is one of the most painful ones. Many individuals, families, and communities get hurt because of the complications of not having communication about what is right and wrong. When there is no trust in a family there is no hope for building. Being suspicious of our partner takes away the energy for living a healthy life. Now what is really going on with our men and women, who always fear the other one would cheat?

It is no rumor anymore that a number of men in Iran are having affairs with several women at the same time, while having a public family life to cover things up. We hear stories here and there while many of those women have started to talk. The question is who are these women and how they get involved with married men? These are usually women who seek financial support and also emotional connection which they can not find else where. These men use women as sex slaves, as an extra resource while they have quite harsh, rigid, and hard standards for their own daughters: “no dating boys.” So if a man cheats he would then be suspicious to all women. The issue of infidelity need also a big space to analyze, why we just point out that this is a social issue based on low morals and low family values. When thinking about the notion of distrust among some men and also women, I came to think about all those women who stay in their relationships despite many obstacles, struggles and hardship. Most of these women try to work things out, even though they know their marriage is an ill fated one.

Lies and deception are always signs of low moral, lack of respect for others, and anxiety. With lying to someone we just increase disappointments in our relationship. Lying is an unhealthy defence mechanism that we use to save ourselves in a situation. If our relationship is in trouble we better take care of it and solve the issue whether the outcome is not what we want.

Once we jump from one relationship to another in order to rescue our low self-esteem, then we are in danger of not emotionally invest in any relationship at all. If some men are more suspicious of their wives than others, it must be pertinent to the upbringing of these men and also the type of unhealthy relationship they have gotten into. In a man oriented and men controlled society as our home country, it is no strange thing that men are suspicious of their wives, these men know how other men like themselves behave and think! A client once said that her husband always reminds her: “I know how Iranian men think.”

In any case, having suspicious thoughts are unhealthy. These thoughts lead the person to unwanted anxiety, stress, anger, distraction, mental health issues and unhappy moments. What can these men and women do? They should seek help, talk about the issue, and deal with the thought in a healthy way.

If your wife/husband/ woman/man/boyfriend or girlfriend is dishonest, there is a reason for that. Either leave or stay while dealing with the issue in a healthy way. What do I mean with healthy way? I mean seek advice, discuss, talk, and think while controlling your emotions. Obviously trust is a huge building block for every relationship, if we do not trust the other person in our life, how could we live a life together?

Being suspicious to everything in life, that is a disease. If we constantly believe that other people would betray us, lie to us, or destroy us, then we are not living a very healthy life. If we do not trust others we can not have a normal interaction with others and we can not live a social life. If we always think that our partner will cheat on us, then we can not be self-confident and happy. I believe both men and women can suffer from this disease, the illness of being doubtful of everything and anything. If we want to learn more about the notion of trust vs. distrust, we have to check into many other areas of psychology such as personality development and developmental stages. The socio-economic and also socio-cultural factors are also important aspects of developing this illness in our men and women.

For now, we should say: Do not get involve in the cycle of suspicious thoughts and unhealthy behaviours.

Seek help!

January 4, 2008