This past year, I have made a great number of changes in my life, all for the better. And in the process, I have learned a lot about myself and also about how I want to form all types of relationships. However, I am not always able to escape the ghosts of my past in terms of former behaviors.
When we change for the better, we don’t necessarily want to be reminded of how we used to be. We like to look forward and embrace the better version of ourselves. One area where that’s hard to control is when we are on the receiving end of the very behavior we have worked so hard to overcome.
Some may see this experience as getting a taste of our own medicine, but I like to see it as a helpful reminder that changing was for the best.
Very recently, I was personally reminded of how I used to be. This reminder was served up in a way that has permanently altered how I understand and see mutual trust between friends.
I confronted the reality of a friend, with whom I had really opened up in terms of the inner workings of my secrets and most private thoughts, who was not interested in the same level of friendship.
Despite indications that this friend seemed as invested in our relationship as I was, this person was unwilling to trust me. It was a painful lesson, and I felt frustrated that this person couldn’t have been honest with me in terms of their desired balance of trust between the two of us.
I’ve written about my former obsession and need for privacy in the past. I have really fantastic friends, people whom I adore and feel a great affection for, but only a handful of people are positioned to know and hear about my internal struggles. It used to be that no one in my life got every part of me, my obsession with privacy nearly destroyed me. I like the way things are now, much better.
In the past couple of months, I realized that I have been too fast in fully trusting this friend and that’s been difficult for me to face. I am always trying to listen to my intuition, I am constantly aware of it, I trust myself.
How could I be so wrong?
This friend, with whom I trusted my vulnerabilities and insecurities, engaged in actions that make me question why I was so willing to open up. This friend isn’t a bad person, just disappointing–which is almost worse because I know the person is capable of better. It makes me wonder why I’m not worthy of my friend’s best.
I began to think about other friends who I allowed to get this close to me, and they all had one thing in common: they trusted me as much as I trusted them. They allowed me into their hearts, they were vulnerable with me, they didn’t attempt to cover up their faults, their insecurities, their struggles.
But this friend didn’t trust me in the same way as my friends do. This person didn’t reciprocate in the act of trusting. This realization left me feeling that our friendship was unbalanced and that I was emotionally exposed. I wasn’t concerned that all of my “stuff” was out there. But I had revealed my vulnerability, exposing all of my emotional self, and when it’s not reciprocated, it can feel incredibly lonely.
The trust I am referencing in this column, means full exposure, the worst, the best, all of it, without reservation.
Trust isn’t something you can prove to someone else through a bullet-pointed list of justifications, “Look! Here’s why you should trust me!”
Trust is about a feeling you give someone, a sense of real comfort. But sometimes, no matter what, they just may not be willing to trust anyone (which is the way I used to be).
You can do all the right things, you can be honest, warm, open and have a history of keeping a friend’s secrets, but if someone still won’t fully open up. It’s about them…not you. Some people just aren’t capable of trusting at certain points in their life…or ever.
I can’t be angry with this friend–they didn’t promise to open up or anything else in order to extract my trust. And for a number of reasons, they can’t provide the same honor of trusting me.
And that’s ok, nobody owes me their secrets.
When it comes to trusting someone fully, conventional wisdom tells us that we shouldn’t let a person in our inner circle until they have proven themselves to be trustworthy. As it should be.
But are we missing a critical element here? Should we also expect those whom we trust, to trust us on the same level, before we share our lives with them?
Should trust shared in a friendship or relationship exists in parallel and equidistant lines?
A reader shared his wise idea of mutual trust, “One has to peel the onion. And take the first step. Trust evolves.”
This is true. It takes one person to open up in order for the other person to open up. It’s a test–a trust test, really. It’s not like we can enter into a friendship and sign a contract from the outset to set the terms, it takes one person opening the door.
But, my problem was I kept on opening the door with this friend and got nothing in return. I was repeating myself, doing the same thing, and expecting a different result every time.
In this column, I am talking about a friendship with one particular person, but this idea of requiring a two-way trust exchange can apply and should apply to a wide range of relationships, including romantic relationships.
How many of you have been in relationships where you are open, honest, and yet, the person you are with is so locked away, unwilling to trust and share, that he/she makes you feel exposed and imbalanced?
Perhaps we all need to be more honest? Express that we aren’t ready to go there?
We can get fooled into opening up if we don’t have standards. Too often we’re just not honest in our friendships about what works and doesn’t work. We can believe that someone cares or cares to hear, nodding their head, seemingly supportive. However, the appearance of engagement does not mean engagement exists.
Don’t you almost wish someone would say, “I’m honored that you are wanting to share this with me, but I don’t think our friendship is at a stage where you should.”
They don’t because perhaps it would hurt your feelings. But one has to wonder if that would lead to healthier friendships.
It’s a horrible feeling to be in any relationship, especially a romantic one, and feel comfortable enough with someone to trust them and open your heart and receive only a veneer of support and no vulnerability in return. The lack of balance can leave one exhausted.
This is why the idea of a two-way exchange is so important to me from now on. In any relationship, friendship or romantic, both people should be invested, both should have skin in the game.
I see too many women facing this trust/vulnerability imbalance due to the emotional anemia of many men in our culture–a state which our conditioning encourages them occupy. It’s a sad reality for women who are a one half of a relationship in which they are open-hearted and vulnerable and share their secrets, but get nothing except robotic gestures from the men they are with and no real disclosure.
For those of us who have had or currently have obsessions with privacy, who are or were fearful of trusting, when we feel like we’ve been hurt, it’s so easy to shut down and go back to looking at people through a cynical lense.
I’m not going to be cynical about trust, because I’ve decided to see my experience with this friend as practice, practice doing something that for so long, wasn’t in my comfort zone: trusting someone fully and openly. I was open-hearted, I was attempting to reach out, and I expanded my circle of trust. IT was a positive experience.
There’s just no way i’m going to allow this situation, this friend, to destroy my new way of being. Because I’m grateful that I’ve been reminded of what I used to be like.
So for now, I can no longer offer this friend my full trust. But I remain open for the day that this friend is willing reciprocate.
Advertising executive and television host, Donny Deutsch, talks about the “the price of entry” in relationships–he is specifically talking about romantic relationships. But I think the idea applies to all relationships.
It’s really helpful imagery. We all have needs, requirements, wants, and the image that these words: “the price of entry,” conjures up, reminds me of going to a concert or gaining entrance into a museum exhibit. You can’t get past the gate until you give what you have to give.
And the best part is, we all have the freedom to set our price of entry.
So what’s my price of entry from now on? It’s pretty simple.