08 March 2010

Lesson #22: The only person you can trust in a relationship is yourself.

I know this sounds paranoid and somewhat sociopathic, but hear this one out. It follows a similar vein as the thread on Follow Through, love as an action, and the idea that I can dictate who I am and how I look at the world.

Two people choose to enter a relationship - romantic, platonic, it doesn't really matter - which involves a certain degree of intimacy.  At any level, there's an exchange.  An investment.  People become connected.  Expectations are set up.  Trust is established.

And I believe trust is one of the most important foundations of a relationship.

But, as we've already explored, people are human.  They might fail.  So how can you base a relationship on trust, when it may be broken?

To some degree, it takes belief, or faith.

But really, the only person you should be trusting in the relationship is yourself.  This trust focuses on two things:
  1. trust in your own integrity to make the right decisions for your relationship; and
  2. trust in your ability to choose and surround yourself with people of the same integrity.

So the idea of trusting only yourself takes on a new, non-paranoid meaning.  They focus on things that you can control

I can't control the decisions, actions, or feelings of another person, no matter how close I am to them, no matter how much I love them or want them to love me.  People have free will.  And a good chunk of the time, people are going to do what they're going to do.  I can only control myself, by exercising that free will to make decisions that maintain my integrity and personal ethics (post coming up).  I can only control my circumstances in so far as my actions reflect those same values.  With me?  Let's go deeper.

Not long ago, a friend pointed out to me that the one thing a person can't afford to surrender in a relationship is their integrity.  This was extremely profound, though it's taken me a while to really learn it.  But now, what it means to me, is that I need to recognize that I have a responsibility to adhere to my moral code, the way I want to live my life, and the things I say I'm going to do.  Put another way, I must be able to trust myself.  I cannot betray myself with actions that go against the values I hold close

And he was right.  Losing trust in myself was probably one of the worst things I've done in my life, because it changed everything.  I questioned every direction, and everything I thought I knew.  I felt lost.  I made bad decisions thinking they were good, because I didn't know which instincts or rules to obey.  It was very lonely. Now, I truly don't believe that integrity is a thing that, once lost, will never return.  But I see myself differently, and consider my actions differently, because I don't want to be in that place again.  It's like pulling a baking sheet out of the oven with my bare hands: I'll probably continue to bake (once the burns have healed up and the skin grafts are done) but I'm going to look for the oven mitt every time.

So I need to trust myself, and prove it, to keep my peace of mind.  But what about the relationship?

Well, if I trust myself, and my integrity, I will be able to trust my ability to seek out people of the same trustworthiness and integrity.  I'll be less likely write off or rationalize behavior that clearly runs counter to what I believe.I'll minimize influences that could sway me at points of hardship or decision, where I don't have a fancy pink blog that pretends I have all of the answers (or at least 28 of them).

I'll know that they will also be making decisions that are healthy and right for themselves and for our relationship, based on ethics and integrity.

If I can trust in myself, and in my ability to see other people clearly, then I won't have to worry about the actions of others (which I cannot control).  I can focus on my own.  And on our relationship, and on enjoying the time I have and the things I share with that friend.  And my friend will know that she or he can trust me to do the same.

Makes everything seem simple, huh?

This is one I'm still working on, every day, and I'm sure I didn't hash it out as well as I could if I worked on this post for a week or two.  So if you have thoughts, leave 'em.  Otherwise, see you at #23.

1 comment:

  1. I would have to disagree with the statement that "the only person you can trust in a relationship is yourself." The only person that you MUST trust in a relationship is yourself, all others are optional. If you cannot trust the one person you should know best, then how can you put trust in others?

    Trust is your belief in an individual to act or react to a particular event in a predicable manner. Trust does not mean that the action is a good one, only that their behavior is predictable as it pertains to a specific event or series of events. Trust is about understanding motivations and limitations and adjusting your position based upon your level of trust. To trust someone, is to expose yourself to being hurt if they fail to act as you anticipated. A good, healthy relationship is built on trust...it cannot exist without it. Often, people substitute control for trust, but this is an illusion and a dangerous one. Control is especially dangerous as it is inviting after being hurt by someone you have trusted.

    Control allows the individual to influence events without exposing themselves to the dangers of mislaid trust. Using control as a substitute for trust means that you don't invest the time to understand the person you are controlling, whether that person is yourself or another person.

    Understanding means that you can let go of control. If you understand yourself and others then you can trust all involved to act according to what your trust dictates. Events will play out and your trust is adjusted based upon the action you anticipated as compared to the action actually taken.

    As you stated, "I can't control the decisions, actions, or feelings of another person.", and this is the reason why trust is so very important. Since you should not control the actions of another, you must have trust that they will act as experience has shown them to act in the past.