Not a week goes by without somebody asking me about my love life. “Why aren’t you dating? Why aren’t you married? No news in the love department?” And when I’m not asked outright, it’s a subtext to other conversations too loud for me ignore. I wonder sometimes at the frequency of these questions. Maybe it’s so important for us people to “belong” to other people, that if you aren’t formally attached to somebody, it’s somehow harder for others to categorize you in their head. Maybe it’s just like that, and that’s okay.
There are times, however, when I wish I could answer these subtexts with some of my own. But subtexts can be misleading, so I’m going to go with the real thing here on my blog.
First off, I don’t have any really good answers as to the why and when of romantic relationships. Timing. Timing in life is something I have little control over. When I have least expected it, beautiful people, including many strapping young men, have come into my life and then we have parted, for one reason or another. You just take what comes gratefully, learn what you can, and try to make the things you *do* have some control over a little better every day.
I’m remembering something my Dad said recently. I’m not exactly sure the source of this distinction, but basically he said, “there’s the love thing and the trust thing and they’re two separate things.” We’ve all got the love thing going for us. We’re all love-worthy, no matter what we do, say, think, or become. There isn’t a soul in our midst who doesn’t deserve our deepest love and appreciation and kindness, including our own imperfect selves. But not everyone is trust-worthy. We are not always trust-worthy. Trust is a different thing, which develops over time. There are no short-cuts to trust and it isn’t a given, even (or especially?) in familial relationships.
I like that distinction, because I can say that I have fallen in love before, but I don’t think I have fallen in trust before, or better said, developed the kind of trust sufficient for our relationship to continue blossoming. Again, timing and life seasons have a lot to do with this relationship thing, but it brings me back to these questions:
What makes us trust another person? What makes us trust ourselves? What can we do to build trust in ourselves and in others?
A few thoughts.
1. CONSISTENCY. Trust thrives when two people know that there are at least some parts of the other’s belief system and behaviors that are somewhat predictable and have a small chance of changing any time soon. The chance is always there—there’s always risk involved—but the probability of change in key areas is low enough that you are willing to move forward and take the chance.
2. FORGIVENESS. It is so easy to trust people who are quick to forgive and work problems out. You get the sense that you could do no permanent harm and so you are freed up to try out being your best self. This can really boost the trust and confidence you have in yourself. And being this way with others will boost their self-confidence as well.
3. HONESTY. This goes along with consistency. There’s nothing like knowing that the person you are dealing with is the real thing and not a temporary fabrication. Being honest with ourselves is a lifelong challenge, but it is the key to being honest with others.
4. SERVICE, COURTESY, & KINDNESS. It’s amazing how far little things can go toward building trust between two people. The real challenge and adventure is figuring out what those little things are! Here’s a news flash, in case you hadn’t heard: the small acts that build trust are different for everyone. So the journey never ends when it comes to developing trust with your actions.
5. WORDS. How we say and express things, what we say—again, such a delicate and individual thing—can do a lot to build or diminish trust with another person. This is perhaps the most difficult of them all, because one misstep and you may have inadvertently violated someone’s trust. Difficult, yes, but it is possible to build trust with our words. Good, honest, forgiving communication can smooth over a lot of bumps in the road.
So there you have it: my big five for developing trust. The thing about being single is that even though you don’t have a significant other, you still have opportunities to practice this everywhere you go and with a great variety of people. Until that right time and person comes along, I’ve still got plenty of opportunities on a daily basis to practice developing trust.
Here’s an affirmation to ponder: With every interaction, I experience trust in myself, trust in others, and others trusting me.