I was having a conversation recently about relationships with someone who travels as part of their job, like I do. One of the big things that we agreed upon is that being in a relationship with someone who you will wind up spending a lot of time apart from, requires more trust than many people are capable of. (Or worthy of, to be honest..).
I admitted that were it not for the very trusting relationship I have with my wife, I couldn’t work like I do. Now, my wife and I have always had various things that have caused us to be apart, she used to travel as part of her job, we spent 6-7 months living apart when I accepted a job in the South before we were expecting to move, etc., and those things have proven to us that we do trust one another enough that it was never an issue to be considered when I took this job. If we didn’t have trust between us, the stress of being apart, and then the suspicion that we’d have to deal with every time I came home, would not be worth it.
It also got me thinking about trust issues that many survivors grow up with, and how this is one area where many, many survivors don’t live life to it’s full potential because of it.
Let me explain. As children we learned, early and often, that we couldn’t trust anyone. Even those closest to us might be the source of abuse, or at least may not believe us or see the warning signs, etc. The only one we could trust to help us was ourselves. This lesson stays with us, leading us to get involved with people who aren’t trustworthy, because after all don’t we know no one is really trustworthy? Then, because we are now involved in a relationship with someone who never deserved our trust, it is betrayed, and teaches us the lesson all over again.
Or, if we’re lucky enough to actually wind up with someone who is trustworthy, we spend most of the relationship suspecting them of not being trustworthy, which creates a very unhealthy relationship that falls apart, and which we use to also remain convinced that no one is worth investing our trust with.
Of course, like many things we learned in childhood, it’s not true. Sure, there are lots of people out there who aren’t trustworthy, and we should be aware to stay safe. There are also lots of people who are worthy of our trust, and who we might make real connections with (romantic and otherwise), if we could only learn how to trust. Also, imagine how much deeper those connections could be, and what kinds of great things we could be accomplishing with our time if it wasn’t spent worrying about what the other person is doing, or when they might hurt us? For myself, I couldn’t do the work I do, and see the people and places I get to see as part of that if I was spending the whole time worried about what my wife might be doing without me. My inability to trust would actually hurt me, in terms of having to pass up opportunities out of fear of getting hurt.
Of course, healing and coming to grips with trust issues is easier said than done. As I said, survivors learn early not to trust anyone, and use that mistrust to protect themselves. I do not honestly believe that we can heal by simply “trusting” anyone when we’ve never had any practice doing it. I believe the ability to trust comes from something deeper than that. I believe it comes from having the confidence in ourselves that we’ll be OK, no matter what. Simply put, as long as my well-being is dependent on another person’s actions, I will always be at the mercy of that person, and being in that position makes it impossible to not worry about what might happen, and how I would survive it. It’s that worry that drains our ability to live and enjoy life.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating being cold, distant, and never allowing anyone to get close enough to hurt you. I am, however, advocating having enough of a sense of yourself that you can exist, and have a life, regardless of what another person may or may not do. For myself, if my wife decided she didn’t want to be married to me any longer, it would break my heart. I would be devastated, but I also know that it wouldn’t have anything to do with my value as a human being. I don’t believe you can truly be vulnerable in a relationship, and trusting someone else is absolutely about being vulnerable, if you don’t have the self worth to know that you can go on with life even if this relationship ended. If you don’t have that level of confidence in yourself, you’ll wind up wasting a lot of energy trying to control things, and protecting yourself. That doesn’t sound like a relationship worth staying it to me. It’s definitely not trust!