This past week I have been having so many conversations with you about trust, in the spirit of which I am reposting this gem. Know that you are in my heart.
I’m not sure what you’ll be doing all week, but I will be talking to people about the intimate details of their lives. They will tell me about their heart aches, heart breaks, losses and traumas. They will tell me, sometimes with surprising attention to detail, what’s missing in the bedroom. And I will help them navigate their way through it all, in a better way than they probably know how to, based on the emotional education we all get in our “See Tip Run” and “Jack and Jill” books somewhere around our elementary years. Someone, or everyone this week is going to tell me about betrayal. Someone is going to ask me how they will ever trust again.
And I will have an answer, and a way.
What does it mean to trust someone in a relationship?
Are we trusting them to keep our secrets?
To “Stop!” when some “young thing comes around”?
To override their temptation to flirt?
Are we trusting them to value us? To unconditionally support us?
Not to leave us, or stop loving us?
Are we trusting them to be kind, to put in effort? To share?
To put us first, or the kids first?
To spend time with us, protect us?
Think only of us while having sex?
To choose us?
To prioritize our relationship?
To understand us, or seek to understand?
To listen, share communicate with us?
To not take shitty care of themselves, get sick and die?
And how do we as partners show up and do all of that, while we are navigating the world and its daily shenanigans? Because I don’t know about you, but right now I am looking at some garden plants that I bought that were never properly planted because it rained hard the day I had the time set aside to plant them. So now they just look at me from where a kindly friend dunked them into the dirt for me with no particular attention to arrangement, half bulging from the roots with their Eeyore stares, saying “You bought us, but you couldn’t even plant us, and now look at us, and what’s the point of it anyhow, because it’s already September, and we have spent the ENTIRE summer in ramshackle arrangement as people walk by and stare at us like poor little kids with holey knees and different coloured socks, and you’re just kidding yourself if you think you’ll ever be one of those people who keep their flowers nice into October, even if you found the wherewithal to dig us out and put us back together again with some basic fucks given”. And then I remember the time I walked out and saw my sad little half planted donkey flowers parched and choking and guilting me for not watering them, just as I was embarking on my run with barely enough minutes after to freshen up before a long roster of clients, and I thought of my people, my beloveds, and what they might be doing in that moment —reposing? Bathing? Enjoying their lives? Why were they not thinking of me and how hard I was working to help soooo many people, including them, and why wasn’t their first thought upon waking “By George, let me run down and water those flowers for her, because she is so lovely and good to us, and look how hard she is working and it is OBVIOUS that the flowers need it because it is hot.”
Are you as shocked as I was? As dismayed? Flabbergasted (never has my flabber been so gasted!) that my lovelies might have been thinking about something BESIDES ME and my sad donkey flowers, upon greeting the day. Might they have been thinking they had to pee, or that they were hungry, or what they wanted to accomplish? Might they have been in a rush to wash their hair, or been out of toothpaste, or been feeling sad about their own donkeys!? What would that mean? That they didn’t have my back, or that I couldn’t, what, trust them to…think of me first? To care enough to see me struggling? What if while I was facing off with my sad donkey flowers, they were in deep despair over the weight they could not lose, or the friend who never called, or how they were going to live up to all of the ever loving expectations the WORLD placed on them in every ever loving second of every ever loving day? What if I, ME, sad donkey flower Erin, was failing to rush in and notice their sadness, and help them with it, somehow, with the extra time I had that one day at the end of May when it was raining?
Which brings me to my point about infidelity and how I have met some really good people who have had affairs, or been indicted on a thousand other counts of failing to love someone the way they were expecting to be loved.
People who did it all perfectly for a long time and then fucked it all up.
People who did not keep IT in their pants or out of their pants.
A confusion arises around this arena, because we, as a culture, tend to use the word TRUST as a very superficial evaluation of someone’s character:
I loved you for twenty years but then you did a bad thing and now everything else is subsumed by the simple fact that I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO TRUST YOU AGAIN.
Now, I if you are my partner, I don’t want you touching someone else’s boob. I really don’t even want you to be resisting it. I kinda want you to think I am the bees knees (or something even more glamorous and sexy than a bee but it’ll do for now). I don’t want all of the not-boob-touching to feel like a full time job, or a heavy bag of groceries, you know? I am not personally into free love, or polyamory, or keys in a bowl, unless they are keys to my new minivan hidden in a bowl of Smarties, in which case, thank you, it’s like you know me you sexy beast.
But I digress.
There is a teency weency line between the beloved who does a thing and doesn’t do a thing. So how is an entire relationship and an entire being, defined by the crossing or not crossing of such a line?
Well, I am here to tell you that it isn’t, or that it doesn’t help us to look at it this way.
If trustworthiness is defined by a retroactive assessment of how we responded, the lines we did not cross and the things we did not do, then we don’t get our trustworthy badge until the whole thing is over, so we had all better start dating 90 year olds in a huge hurry.
What I am saying is that behaviour is emotionally driven, and that there are probably circumstances in which most of us would, will, could crack. We like to think not, and let’s hope we don’t have to write that exam without a calculator.
We are better served to think and understand ourselves in terms of emotional health, emotional truth, emotional openness and emotional safety.
It’s like this: When we enter into a partnership, we cannot promise to be and do ALL THE THINGS. There are going to be times when you don’t even notice my sad donkey flowers, and it does not mean you don’t care, or that you expect me to be able to stand at the top of Mount Everest on the daily and somehow also have a cake baking in the oven, you’re just trying to do your best you, and you thought you actually did a pretty good job of planting, or changing the toilet paper, or washing the laundry even if black is now the new orange and my sweaters are all a size 2 (I am not a size 2, just to be clear).
What we really WANT and NEED, is emotional engagement. If our person is willing to look at their stuff, and to share their needs, and to put a continuing effort into discerning between the twain, if we can take each other’s needs to the table and say “Hmmm, let’s work together to get everyone’s needs met as best we can”, then we have a VOW that will actually serve our relationship.
And that is…
Our best prophylactic against the temptation to stray, it’s the best antivenom when someone has been bitten by betrayal, and it’s how we create and experience emotional safety, which is what we are trying to get at when we get lost in all of these idea of trust, and trustworthiness. When we have this working, well it’s no longer about luck, or character, or how we fall apart under strain. We have a FOUNDATION for healthy relationship. Inside, and outside. Neato.
And often when someone screws it up by screwing, this vow has already been broken, by one or both, or it was never made it the first place and it was just waiting for the sweet young thing to come along singing a song so someone else could slip out the back Jack.
Once a cheater always a cheater. Nope.
So next time you hear yourself thinking or saying I can’t trust you, ask – I can’t trust you to what? Not seek your emotional needs to be met elsewhere? To live without intimacy? Don’t allow your short-cut thought process to miss its desired destination.
What we think of as “trustworthiness” is simply the effect of showing up and participating in an emotional engagement with truth and willingness, and doing it again, and doing it again.
Ya, betrayal is no fun. Even when we get it with our heads, we buckle inside. Way back in my twenties I loved a really nice, ‘least likely to cheat’ in his High School yearbook boy, who probably at one of the most vulnerable times of my life had one too many drinks and did not say no to that girl with the pretty feathered hair when she removed his clothing, hers, and then…well that’s a lot of not saying no, if you catch my drift. I forgave him, because it was so out of character. Then I threw some dishes and forgave him again, while watching our relationship totally deteriorate in a soul sucking, saddest movie of 1993 kind of way, featuring me sitting over the proverbial dead horse administering CPR and braiding its mane. I didn’t know how to have and create emotional safety in a relationship back then. I didn’t know what was keeping my dead horse dead.
And I am not saying every couple is going to get that FOUNDATION thing figured out. Some of us are too confused or too tired to seek or get help, and we just don’t know how to get from seeing Tip walk to seeing Tip run by our lonesome. Some of us are the only willing partner, and well, if only one of you is engaging, who’s gonna hold you when you dip? (Alert: This is a Tango metaphor now, we’ve moved on from walking and running to ballroom dance).
But I send this out in the spirit of helping you to understand what is really going on when we struggle with trust. And to give you a shot at getting it back, or getting it out of the gate next go around. And if you pass by some sad ass flowers on your way to love, or to my actual porch at my actual house? Well, don’t expect me to save your petunias from the newest infestation of Tasmanian dew worm, but I’ll get your love life on track. Trust me.
— Love Erin
P.S. If you have a friend or loved one who is struggling sometimes a few sessions of support can make all the difference. Reach out and we’ll find the solution that is right for them.
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