Most people would say trust is among the most important aspects of a relationship, particularly a romantic one. And I agree. But I view it a little differently than most (see “You Cannot Trust Your Man”).
One of my readers, Tiana, recently wrote to me with an issue that many people, myself included, have struggled with at some point:
Why do people who are untrustworthy feel that you should just trust them again immediately? How do you prove that you are trustworthy while the person who needs to heal learns to trust you again? Do you go an extra mile to prove yourself, or just expect that trust will be granted again simply because the person sticks around?
In order for Tiana’s partner to feel that he needs to earn back her willingness to depend on him, a critical nuance must occur. He must truly believe that his action was “untrustworthy.” Unless both partners share this perception (and believe this behavior is undesirable in a relationship) then simply characterizing an action as “untrustworthy” will only leave one mate feeling upset, betrayed and infinitely frustrated. Meanwhile, the other mate, who was acting in a manner that was consistent with his values, is possibly feeling unfairly persecuted, or perhaps even successful, if this was his intention all along.
I believe it is very important to have dependability in your relationship, but rather than depending on your mate to do or not do whatever is important to you, I suggest it’s far more important to have confidence in yourself and be able to rely on the fact that you have learned enough about your mate to know him well. If you truly know someone, you probably aren’t often surprised by his/her actions, at least not if you’re really honest with yourself. And if you’re not surprised by what someone does, why be hurt by it? It’s obviously part of who that person is, not a reaction to who you are. If you become angry with your mate for acting in a manner that is consistent with his/her values, your dissonance stems from your lack of clarity about what those values are.
I’ve been in Tiana’s shoes, feeling hurt because someone I thought wanted only me turned out to already have a boyfriend, one she planned on returning to. I felt betrayed, angry, hurt…all the emotions typical in such a situation. And then I realized that feeling this way wasn’t benefitting me, and that I was being angry with her for being true to herself. Because I liked who she was as an individual person, one who owed me nothing and must do what was best for herself, I let go of my judgment about how she handled the situation, and we remained close.
In no way am I saying that Tiana (or anyone in her situation) should stay in this relationship, nor am I saying she should leave it. But one thing is clear, she remains interested in keeping her relationship or she would not have asked this question. And while many would counsel otherwise, there is nothing wrong with staying if that’s what she wants, whether her mate is sorry and plans to avoid repeating his action, or whether he plans to do it again. It’s up to her, and her alone, whether or not to embrace these aspects of her mate’s behavior.
If you find yourself in a situation like Tiana’s, where you feel you have been violated or betrayed, but you want to stay, it would be helpful if you let go of the judgment around the questionable action and simply appreciate whatever you do find valuable in the relationship. I suggest that anyone trying to decide whether to remain in a relationship ask two very simple questions:
Do I enjoy most of the time that I spend with him/her?
Do I feel as though we spend enough time together (in general)?
If you can honestly answer “yes” to these questions, then you want to be in that relationship. And it is worth digging deep inside yourself to discover if or how you can love all of who your partner is and let go of the rest…despite the needs, wants and values that differ from your own.
…and please do not multi-task when driving.