An interesting aspect of trust in relationships is how sometimes, it changes dynamics in unexpected ways.
When one person in a relationship has actions or behaviours that causes the other person (or persons as the case may be) to lose trust that’s understood. We try not to blame or accuse or find fault for why things are how they are… but the facts usually are such that a breakdown in trust in a relationships comes down to one person and that person’s actions.
Now that can be actions that are obvious and physical, such as cheating or hiding activities that are knowingly outside of the realm of accepted and agreed upon boundaries within the relationship. Or, it can be hiding emotions or feelings from a partner that results in a breakdown in communication that can result in one partner being unable to trust the other. Not being able to trust that answers to questions about feelings are honest and true sets the stage for a level of distrust that can kill a relationship… and that, rather than the physical, is the aspect that I am trying to examine right now.
For me, communication and sharing is paramount in a connection with a partner. If I am being given incorrect or watered down information on how my partner is feeling or experiencing emotions, then I can’t accurately make decisions or base actions for “us” or even for myself within a relationship. Regardless of the reason, the end result is the same. Distrust from me that what I am receiving is the truth. It’s like a pilot trying to navigate after being given a wrong map. The pilot is set-up from the start to be behind the eight ball and is going to have a hell of a ride.
When I have made it clear to my partner that I want, need and must have openness and honesty in communication of feelings and emotions; whether they are pleasant or not… I mean that. I can’t impress enough that I would rather hear something that hurts me than not hear it and be “sheltered” – only to dig it out eventually and then have to deal with the hurt AND the deception. It’s that deception that will chip away at the trust and the connection. I am a big girl and I can handle whatever gets tossed my way. That doesn’t mean I won’t feel and be hurt, but I can take it. It’s not that I can’t take lies, I won’t. And lies by omission are still lies.
Then there’s another bent to this… one that’s not as cut and dried…one that’s much harder to navigate because the edges of the boundary are vague and fluid.
There’s the aspect of deception that occurs when the person that is not sharing is not sharing because they, themselves, just simply don’t know what their feelings are. They aren’t necessarily hiding how they feel or lying about how they feel. They very simply, don’t know. Someone who, when you ask how they feel about a major,important issue that is going on, is unable to answer and gives you an “I don’t know”. Someone who isn’t purposely deceptive or vague but who lacks the self-connectedness to even be able to access their own feelings and emotions to either deal with them or share them. How do you deal with that? You can’t fault them for deception when they don’t even know what they feel in order to hide it. Or they have a vague feeling but can’t express it. What do you do? Do you continue on in the relationship, knowing that it’s up to you to pull out the information and that, at best, you *might* scratch the surface.
Now here’s another scenario… You’re involved with someone who displays all the earmarks of the aforementioned inability to access or share their own feelings because they explain they just “don’t know” how they feel when asked. Yet, almost every time that an hours (or days) long discussion ensues because of the importance of an issue; you are faced with an admission that they did in fact “know”, they just knowingly hid it from you and deceived you in order to spare your feelings or because they didn’t want to face the bad feelings they have. It comes to light eventually, all the time, that the initial “I don’t know” is always a smoke screen. Not done with malice or to manipulate, but because of a deep seated aversion to them actually feeling what they feel. What then? This is different than the simple aspect of “you can’t fault someone for not knowing” and brings it back to “they’re lying and hiding”… even though the reasons aren’t classically “bad”.
What happens is that you lose trust. Everytime that you see altered behaviour that could indicate an “issue” and you ask, you don’t believe what you’re told. Why? Because the history has shown that, if you push the conversation, you’ll eventually get the “real” answer and it won’t be the same as the first “It’s all good, I’m fine”. They express that the real problem now is that you don’t trust them. That they *are* trying and that you just need to trust them…
So you’re faced with a couple of options. One is simple… you communicate that – as has been discussed – honesty and openness is wanted, needed and not optional. You make sure that they know that, from this point on, you will trust that what they tell you is what they are feeling. Period.
And you trust… and follow that up with actions. Trust that when you see something and call the person on it and ask how they are and they say “I’m fine” … you will simply trust that answer and take it as truth. You will then base your following actions on that being truth – because they know that that is what is agreed upon. An example… “Hey sweetie, how do you feel about me doing xy and z?” The answer you get verbally is “That’s great, I’m fine with it”… even though the tone and body language says they’re not.. you reply with “great” and go ahead and do it. You discussed it, they said it was all good… they have expressed that they know the issues they have with sharing feelings and they know the importance and they have said they will be honest and that you need to trust them… so you do.
At this point, some may argue that you *knew* they weren’t ok with it by their body language etc and should have pressed it. But, and here’s the but, you both agreed that you would trust and take them at their word. You can’t rebuild broken trust if you don’t take that step. Sure, someone may get hurt. That’s the risk. The partner may come back, guns blazing a couple of days later (or the same night) saying that you *knew* they weren’t ok… or they may never share that and bottle it up and the relationship implodes weeks or months later as time after time the same thing happens. that’s the chance you take.
So I said a couple of options and that was one. The other option is you don’t trust… you spend every day questioning and second guessing their feelings and what they’re sharing with you and whether they even know what they’re feeling well enough to communicate it to you – and to themselves. You get to the point that your communication is so muddled in distrust that you are accusing them of lies and deception inside your own head and it starts to eat away at how you feel. You lose the ability to trust and can’t find it again. You feel that they are moving along blissfully happy that they can just be as vague and hidden as they want and get away with zero responsibility since it’s just “how they are” and you’ve accepted it. You see a pattern in yourself evolving – one that is leaving you as a suspicious and distrustful person… and that’s not who you are.. or who you want to become.
So it comes to a decision to be made and it’s not an easy one. Trust or not. In the end, it comes down to that very simply.