Many years ago, I was thinking about making a habit out of roller-skating. I had been to the rink a few times but the babies made it hard to skate. Instead of tripping over someone’s child or being clipped by a toddler, my friend and I thought we would give adult skate night a chance. We were at novice level but everyone else looked like the Roll Bounce movie. Knowing how to skate well was clearly a perquisite for adult skate night at the black rink.
Although my friend and I put on our skates, we never actually got onto the floor. Folks were moving very fast and we were big chickens. Tripping over somebody’s baby was actually much more my speed. Instead of skating, we people watched for at least an hour and then were put to shame when two senior citizens hit the floor! They turned it out, and the elderly woman was blind. They both skated like pros and she truly trusted her husband, who was guiding her through the NASCAR speed of the skaters. It was an honor to watch them skate and that one night taught me so much about fear, love, and trust.
Fewer years ago, someone told me I had trust issues. At the time, I was very surprised. I am friendly and gregarious. I always felt like I trusted people easily, and for the most part am an open book. I give people a chance and try not to let their past interactions with others dictate my perception of how they will treat me. I know a person can change, if he or she wants to change, not because someone else wants the change to occur. I do believe that once a person has established a pattern with you, breaking the pattern with you will be hard, however, if bad behavior was never established with others, the person shafting you could treat other folks like gold. Trust really was not my strong point!
I had conflated honesty with trust. I thought I trusted because the philosophy of ‘do not ask me a question you do not want an honest answer too’ governs my life. I thought I trusted because I do not feel the need to project a ‘life is always perfect’ image of myself. With good days and bad days, I am honest with myself and with those around me, but my ability to be honest and authentic was because of my lack of desire to change my personality and/or behavior in different settings not because of trust. Coming from a long line of suspicious Caribbeans, who a very comfortable not trusting anyone on principle alone, I should have known my lineage would catch up!
I feel like I give folks the benefit of the doubt unless they give me a specific reason not to trust, yet I am very good at never trusting folks again once trust has been broken! In any relationship, I have never been able to regain trust, completely, once I felt like it was broken. In friendships, I wait for the other shoe to drop—feeling as if the second shoe must be on the way since the first one already hit me in the head. In romantic relationships, I do not want to be the angry woman who is always checking phones and doubting words.
Even at work, if my boss omitted one too many pieces of vital information or my co-worker intentionally sent one too many condescending emails, where he cc’d everyone and disregarded my opinion while bolstering his, chances are I am never able to trust any of these people, on a real level, ever again. They remain at arm’s length and something in my gut will not let me trust or let my guard down around them. I do not know how not be the person looking for knives headed for my back, once you have already proven yourself to be an ass. It is much easier for me to walk away than stick around and be mad while sticking around.
Many, many years ago, a friend of mine was in a relationship with a man she loved. She had lost her job and he had been supportive, inviting her to move in with him so she would be more comfortable and would not need to worry about living expenses. He had a son from a previous relationship so as my friend’s partnership with her man grew she also became a parent. When the child began acting out, my friend thought it was because his mother did not like her, after all she was the new woman.
Ultimately my friend found out her partner was still in a relationship with his son’s mother, that extended beyond parenting. I figured the child was having a hard time processing seeing his father with both women and feeling like my friend was the reason he could not be a family unit with his mom and dad. I was very upset and invited her to stay with me. I thought she would need time and space away from him to clear her head. She was still was not working, and he had stepped into the role of provider, therefore leaving would not be cut and dry for her.
I knew my offer to have her stay with me until she got on her feet would represent a very different dynamic, and environment, from sharing a home with the man she loved. She considered my offer but ultimately decided to stay and they earnestly worked it out. They married, had children of their own, and are still together. After the wedding, but before the first child, I asked her how she stayed. As a repository and listening ear for the family stuff of many of my friends, cheating stories definitely were not anomalous, therefore I figured I knew why she stayed but I needed to know how she stayed.
When an ex cheated on me, my thoughts were consumed by the havoc loss of trust created and I could not move past the negative feelings when he asked me stay in the relationship. I felt myself becoming bitter and evil. I was constantly taking jabs at him and I am the Letter Lady so I can jab with the best of them! I was cringing at my own words (and thoughts) and since I was already a suspicious Caribbean, I did not need to add any fuel to the flame that just lives in my spirit.
I was tired of thinking about if there were more women he didn't tell me about and if he would do it again. For me, leaving was the best way to preserve my sense of self and stay grounded. I did not need to acquire new skills in bitterness, shade throwing, and being jaded! Bitterness emanates from your soul when you cannot let go of the anger you feel when you think someone has done you wrong. Staying with that ex would have put me on a path to bitterness so I chose happiness and left him behind.
My friend told me that after couples’ counseling, and I believe individual counseling for each them, they were truly able to work things out and she trusted him again. Trust might be in contention with hope when it comes to the power they hold in our lives. Sometimes I wish I could trust enough that I am able to make a completely fresh start with people. Forgiving to a point where I do not let the past enter into my concept of my future with a person has never been in my personality and I cannot say that I am committed to becoming that person. When I forgive, I always remember and predicate any new beginning with extra cautiousness and the premise that everything will be radically different between us.
Building trust is the start to building a good relationship, but maintaining trust is the true test of a long, satisfying relationship. My crystal ball won’t tell me if learning how to rebuild trust will become one of my skills but I do know that as the elder couple made magic on roller rink floor, there was something very freeing in seeing how much the blind lady trusted her partner. He appeared to be there for her in every since of the word. I wonder if it took years for her to build that with him or if that type of trust just lives in her spirit. May we all figure out what works best for our lives.