“We place (or feel) trust in another person when we believe that they have our best interest at heart… but what happens when that trust is broken?”
Good morning. I hope you’re sitting (or laying) comfortably because today’s post is going to be a lengthy one. I apologise but I’m trying to fit into one blog post what I discuss in detail through a series of chapters in my manuscript (Coming up For Air – Plug 1). Also below, is a transcription of an interview I conducted a few years ago that I believe relevant to the subject matter.
Anybody who has been involved in amateur dramatics in their life will most likely have played the ‘game of trust’. The game is often played as a ‘warm up’ before rehearsals and is normally played by two people; the catcher and the faller. The faller being the person who has to turn their back on their catcher, close their eyes and then allow themselves to fall backwards whilst hoping ‘catcher’ isn’t busy admiring themselves in the studio mirror.
The very same game is played at team bonding events around the world as is supposed to encourage ‘trust.’
So who would you trust to catch your fall, is it your partner?
If the answer’s no then you may well want to take a turn at playing the aforementioned game a few times although please don’t read too much into the results because, whilst the concept may work in essence it does not necessarily translate into actuality because, believe it or not, subject to gullibility factor, it takes much more to gain the trust of another human being.
We place (or feel) trust in another person when we believe that they have our best interest at heart and they consistently reinforce this belief (through actions and words). Our diversity as individuals means that the length of time that it takes for us to trust and to earn trust differs considerably and is subject to a complex formula of self-esteem and other human experiences versus the amount of ‘reinforcement’ we’re exposed to over a period of time as well as whether or not our trust has been broken once or several times previously.
Naturally, the more times our trust is broken the harder it becomes for us to trust again. This is a sad yet inevitable side of effect of us abusing the trust of others as well as allowing our trust to be abused, and, like dominos, each cycle affects a new relationship to the point where trust is either absent or seriously eroded.
Cue some of the most suffocating and corrosive relationships imaginable.
Actress Helen Mirren famously said “marriage doesn’t need sex”, but experts would beg to differ, and so would I. For us humans, sex isn’t just about pleasure; it’s about intimacy, about satisfying a need and making a ‘connection’ with another human being. In relationships, this reinforces an existing or fraying bond. In casual partnerships, it fulfils a basic need to engage with another human being, which is something ingrained in our biological makeup. This compulsion may fade over time but it’s inside all of us.
You’ll note above that I talk about ‘reinforcing a fraying bond’ which does sound a bit strange; how can sex reinforce something that is damaged or no longer exists. It doesn’t. What it does do is maintain some kind of connection perhaps not in mind but in body. This doesn’t necessarily ‘fix’ a problem but it does fulfil the need for intimacy and doesn’t require a hell of a lot of talking, and has a mutually satisfying result. It’s win win!
It’s one of the reasons why broken relationships continue to prosper; ‘the connection’, like a drug, sometimes slows down the effect that it’s actually over, that and the ‘convenience’ of living together of course.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d be the first person to say that it takes much more than sex to make a relationship work. By relationships, I’m talking about two people sharing each other’s lives for a multitude of years, who have learned, or believe to have learned, all intimacies about their partner; loves, hates, passions, desires, goals, values, and so on, not the occasional booty call!
Anyway, I digress…I talked about fraying relationships, what about those that are working just fine as they are? Why is it that even the vomit inducing, seemingly perfect partnerships sometimes end up with broken trust and the emotional devastation of betrayal? Why would anybody in a perfect partnership look elsewhere to make a ‘connection’?
‘Perfection’ is subjective.
There are a multitude of reasons why partners stray from each other, too many to list here and each and every one simpler or more complex than the other but I’m going to highlight some below.
Seeing… we talk about trust above and what it means to trust someone. If there’s one person we ‘expect’ to be looking out for our best interests, it’s our partner. Good or bad, thick or thin. You know, there’s that whole vow thing. So, when we dream and or we achieve, the first person we’ll turn to for validation is the person who is supposed to have our back. The one person who is supposed to really care about us making a mark in this world. But if that person is disinterested, be that because they are genuinely not interested or they’re busy taking care of the family or they have career pressures of their own, their inability to ‘see us’ can become a major source of disappointment. After all, one of the first reasons a relationship starts in the first place is because somebody else, a stranger, saw us when others didn’t. This need to be ‘seen’ does not stop once the relationship starts or end even a few years later. It’s perpetual. So, imagine what it’s like for somebody who hasn’t been ‘seen’ in a long time to be notice and therefore afforded the attention of ‘new eyes’.
Make time to ‘see’ your partner each day.
The flame… where did all the passion go? Do you remember what is what like to meet your partner for the first time? (Yes, go on, even you must be able to remember that far back). Your mutual passions probably burned as hot as the sun (okay, some artistic licence here). How about now? As hot as a match? Okay, perhaps a bit more.
Passion is such an important factor in any relationship because it’s not just about the obvious but it’s about that all important trust affirmation; telling your partner that you are still burning hot for them is telling them that you need and want only them. Without passion, the opposite message is being transmitted.
In time, as part of the normal biological progress of ageing, there’s a distinct possibility that those flames may well turn into smouldering embers, that’s okay too but that’s when the consistent trust reinforcement of words and actions becomes key; your partner needs to know that they’re still special to you above anybody else, regularly and consistently. This is particularly crucial in those who are contemplating, greeting or waving goodbye to middle age because this is a very delicate and vulnerable time in all of our lives. It’s a period in which we’ll often find ourselves considering our own mortality. See midlife crisis. It’s here where we’re often craving a lot of ‘reinforcement’ to believe that we aren’t anywhere near as old or our looks haven’t faded anywhere near as bad as that pathological liar of a mirror keeps telling us! It’s a time where we, effectively, need to trust our partner to support us the most, and though we may subconsciously know that they have a vested interest in telling us what we want to hear, there’s no doubt that hearing it makes a difference.
Not hearing it makes us wonder, even more so if somebody else decides to tell us. That whole ‘noticing’ thing again; if a stranger notices us where our partner hasn’t at a time where we’re feeling particularly vulnerable about our existence on this earth, like moths to the flame, we’re going to crave the attention and this, more than often, leads to other things, with devastating effect.
And please don’t bother writing to me about self-restraint. Let’s just take it as a given that I’ve said that people should be loyal to their partners and not decide to jump ship just because they aren’t hearing the right words anymore. I totally agree. As I mentioned previously, the reasons why some relationships fail and trust is lost are many as they are complex. I’m taking a summarised view here of some key aspects.
Although, the reality remains; humans need to be noticed. And this is the part where another smart ass will pipe up and say “I don’t, I’d much rather not be noticed”. There is going to be the exception to the rule but the majority of us will like it, many will pretend they don’t need it whilst the few will learn to live without it but ultimately, everybody needs and or enjoys recognition, be that at work (by your boss), socially (by your friends), at home (by your partner) or by members of your family.
We all seek validation, we all seek to ‘be seen’ because to not be seen is to not exist.
The enclosed is in no way a definitive list (hence why I’m supposed to be finishing a book about it – Coming Up for Air – plug number 2) as there are many mitigating factors in all of these scenarios (they don’t necessarily make a difference at the time but they remain nonetheless), such as professional stresses, health, emotional baggage, wrong priorities, etcetera, but these are just some of the obvious.
Remember, that all important trust is a bit like a mirror; once shattered it isn’t always easy to put it back together again. Even more so, if it was broken by somebody close to you.
So, let’s say you did become somewhat remiss and your partner decided to stray elsewhere to ‘get noticed’, you found out , were devastated, they were disinterested and dumped you, festering in all of your pain and resentment (see how I made that sound really crappy – because it is). You were betrayed! The result is this potential emotional basket case with trust issues. Yes, thanks for that! Now, you’re having a hard time trusting the next person that comes along. Moreover, you’ll be looking for the signs. Is there a constant ‘reinforcement’, is there ‘passion’, and all that stuff.
You’re not seeing that?
They must be having an affair that’s the only explanation. This is what happened to you before and it’s happening all over again.
Hang on a minute. Really?
This is the neurosis suffered by many with low self esteem and or whom have experienced betrayal. It’s self-feeding and self-destructive because it eats away at the proverbial trust and where there’s the absence of trust, there’s a hungry ‘attention seeker’ with a very inquisitive demeanour and, often, what you do not tell them, they’ll just need to find out for themselves, and the best and easiest way they know how, which, by today’s standard, is much easier said as it is done.
So, before we proceed any further, ask yourself; should your new partner really be held responsible for the wrong doings of your previous partner?
Don’t answer that.
Secondly, should your new partner be responsible for any low self-esteem you may have fostered over the years and that perhaps was compounded by your previous disastrous relationship?
Don’t answer that either.
Both of those questions are potentially incriminating.
Just ignore them and proceed with your plan. If you need information, there’s just one place to start. No, I’m not talking about your partner. That’d be too obvious and if they are cheating on you they’re not just going to admit to it are they? No, there’s only one thing for it, you’re going to have to ‘snoop’. You’re going to have search through your partner’s phone, email and any other communication device you can get your hands on to make sure he or she is not covertly communicating with Mr or Mrs Sexalot.
But that’s crossing the line isn’t it? Not only is it an invasion of privacy but it’s also an outright betrayal of trust.
Who cares, the means justify the end.
And that is very much the case in many partnerships these days but does it make it right?
There is an argument for the fact that your partner should not hold any secrets from you; what’s yours is theirs and what’s theirs is yours. And, if they weren’t doing anything untoward then they shouldn’t mind you snooping through their phone.
Well, that’s subjective. The real thing to look at here is the fact that you are being compelled to do it. It means there are serious trust issues between you. Something is so wrong in your relationship, be that lack of ‘attention’, ‘affection’, ‘passion’, or, most likely, something is wrong with you. You have such a lack of respect for yourself and your partner that you’ve resorted to snooping through their personal stuff. And where does it stop?
Today it’s just their phone, tomorrow; it may be a private investigator.
We’re all entitled to our own thoughts, our own privacy and this shouldn’t have to end because we’re in a relationship with somebody else. A quick example is: say you did have an argument with your partner and you’re really angry with them so you may text a friend and tell them all about it, you may even use a few expletives and, whilst venting, say some things that you don’t actually mean but, in the fog of rage, escaped nonetheless. When read out of context these things can be devastating. That’s just a basic example. Each an everyone of us has the right to privacy or to share their thoughts with whom they choose. It’s the very reason why many keep a journal or a diary. There is much that is said in these records that the writer does not want shared with anybody else.
“My thoughts be my own.”
The thing is, we all know that when we’re emotionally affected it’s really easy to jump to the wrong conclusions. This is the very reason why many couples seek therapists, that’s because it’s much easier for somebody who is emotionally disconnected to be able to look at the evidence in a case and reach (or enable the couple to reach) a conclusion.
This is exactly what happened to me once. A friend of mine asked if I would consider meeting his brother law and his girlfriend who were going through a “rough patch” in their relationship with the view to helping them ‘work through’ their issues. After the usual protestation that I wasn’t a counsellor, I agreed to meet the two twenty something year olds primarily because I already had an idea of what the problem might be.
Now, I’m going to transcribe below part of what was said so that you have the opportunity of forming your own opinion about this duo. Also, in order to protect their privacy, I’m going to rename our couple Jane and Jamie.
First impressions didn’t really tell me much about the couple. They looked good together. I noticed she was ‘holding’ onto him but not vice versa. They were both sitting at the dining table in my friend’s lounge (he had left the room). Jamie with his arms folded in front of him, Jane with her arm around his as if united in the face of my potentially probing questions.
I started the interview by asking them both to present each other. I then asked:
“So, I hear you work at a gym, Jamie?”
“He does, but he’s looking for another job,” replied Jane on his behalf.
“No, you want me to look for another job,” Jamie said, avoiding eye contact with her.
“Why do you want Jamie to find another job, Jane?”
“Well, it doesn’t pay enough and we’re looking to start a family…”
“What’s funny, Jamie?” I asked.
“It isn’t funny,” he retorted, “it’s tragic,” he said, forcing a smile.
“Jamie,” Jane warned, as if not trying to ‘spoil’ the conversation.
“What don’t you want Jamie to say, Jane?”
“She doesn’t want me to work at the gym anymore because she doesn’t like me talking to the other girls,” Jamie said. “Which just happens to be part of my job,” he added.
“Yeah, well, flirting with em’ isn’t part of your job, is it Jamie?”
“I don’t flirt with them.”
Jane just smiled knowingly, letting go of her boyfriend’s arm allowing him to shift in his seat.
The tension was clear.
“Do you flirt with the girls you work with, Jamie?” I asked, breaking the silence.
“It’s part of my job to be friendly…”
“That isn’t what I asked, Jamie. Because there’s a difference between being friendly and flirting, right?”
“I don’t flirt,” he insisted. “Sometimes, they flirt with me but that’s just part of the job.”
“Okay, so you wouldn’t mind if Jane visited you at work from time to time?”
“…I do now, after last week,” he answered quickly.
Jane shook her head and rolled her eyes.
“What happened last week?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“What happened last week, Jane?”
“Ask him,” she retorted. “He’s the one spilling his guts.”
“Hey guys, you asked me here,” I said. “I’m just talking this through with you. I’m just trying to understand. Nobody’s trying to trip the other up. We’re just trying to understand what’s happening.”
“…She threw a fit at work, and embarrassed me in front of everyone. She started screaming at me in front of a client and all the way to the car. It was humiliating. The worse thing is, she’s always doing that. I can’t even talk to someone and she thinks I’m having it off with em’”.
“What happened exactly?” I asked.
“Well, I was in one of the….”
“…If you don’t mind, Jamie, I’d like Jane to tell me,” I interrupted.
He looked at her pointedly.
“I went to pick him up from work and I walked in and found him.”
She pulled a face, “no”.
“The other girl was naked? “ I asked.
“They were kissing?”
“Okay. So, what were they doing, Jane?”
“Well,” she couldn’t find the words, “they were talking.”
“Talking?” I asked.
“Yeah, but you know, they were laughing and talking.”
I nodded, knowingly and sucked the air in over my teeth. “Right… talking AND laughing. I can see where you’re coming from.”
Jane laughed. “You’re making me sound bad.”
“I’m making you sound bad? No, I’m just listening to what you’re telling me.” I smiled.
So, what do you think to the story so far then? Was Jane right to ‘throw a fit’?
The reality is, I’d already been briefed about the incident at the gym before I’d even agreed to the meeting, and I already had an idea of the type of person Jane might be. She was indeed an insecure girl who had a relatively handsome man as a partner. He happened to work in a gym where he did receive a lot of female ‘attention’ and he did use this to increase bookings for personal (one on one) coaching sessions because for each booking he’d earn an additional commission and he was putting this additional revenue into a separate ‘wedding’ bank account.
Was he just being friendly? Yes. Was he flirting? Possibly. Is that such a bad thing in this particular scenario? I’ll let you decide.
The big question is, can flirting with somebody other than your partner be deemed as unfaithful? Or just talking for that matter? We’re talking just words.
I guess this all boils down to intent. Flirting could be construed as intent to perpetuate the crime yet it clearly is not conclusive evidence of the crime and is certainly nothing upon which a conviction can be made. To pre judge such an innocuous action is more a reflection on you than it is on the suspect.
I’m using the legal analogy because I tend to base a lot of my decisions on facts and evidence rather than on supposition and innuendo. Yet, I’m often told that the world isn’t a consistent legal black and white but that it’s made up of various shades of grey.
My preference is actually to see life in all of its Technicolor with those people whom I trust and that take the time to make me feel that I am trustworthy. And as much as life may distract me with episodes of emotional pain, and plots of deceit and betrayal, I take this as a reminder that there is ultimately only one to whom I must prove my trustworthiness, and that is to myself for I and I alone have the ability to make or break my own happiness.
Have a trustworthy Sunday. 🙂
“Love all, trust a few” – William Shakespeare.