Recently, I wrote about the three layers of trust in relationships. Since then I’ve been noticing how and when I trust people and situations, as well as how and whether others trust me in our interactions. What I’ve noticed is that my own ability to trust runs deep, and that my deep trust is contagious. It’s not universally contagious, but it has the potential to be. This deep trust carries with it a strong sense of peace and well-being, as if all is right with the world, even when appearances seem to deny it.
At dinner with a friend recently, we were discussing trust and settled on the term “unconditional trust.” Dictionary definitions of trust link it with confidence, faith and belief. Those four words can be interchangable in many cases, and they all boil down to being free of doubt.
Looking through the lens of a romantic relationship, how can a person be free of doubt? There are two ways to cultivate trust: through experience and through choice. The first is the easy way; when my partner proves to be repeatedly reliable, I learn to trust in his reliability. However, when we’re learning important life lessons like trust, it’s usually not so easy.
I’m reminded of a poem (author unknown) that starts, “I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to overcome/I asked for wisdom and God gave me problems to solve...” I think trust is a lot like that. We learn to trust through experiences that force us to learn how to trust. We learn to trust by learning what not to trust. And ultimately, we learn to trust by consciously choosing to trust.
Trust, faith, belief, and confidence are all choices we make. There is no empirical evidence in faith. Beliefs are things we make up in our minds; we choose to believe certain things. And although there are people who mistake belief with truth, they are not the same thing. Having confidence in someone or something is also a choice. If faith, belief and confidence are choices, then so must be trust.
My husband and I have been having this conversation for weeks now. He’s not thrilled that I’m an exotic dancer, and on one level I understand and sympathize with that. On the other hand, we have been consciously cultivating trust in our relationship for the past year or so. He says things like, “It’s not you I don’t trust, it’s the men,” and “I’ll trust more when you stop dancing.” Statements like that make me a little crazy because they’re conditional. And trust, like peace, to be real, has to come from within (Ghandi). To be real and sustaining, trust has to exist regardless of outside appearances. My husband, if he really wants to learn the life lesson of trust, is going to have to make the decision to trust me.
On my part, I can help by being open, honest and transparent. But I can’t pick and choose when to be those things, I have to be them consistently. Last weekend this took us backwards a step. I had to tell him that I’d really prefer not to be monogamous. Now, I could have easily had an affair and hidden that from him, but that wouldn’t help him learn to trust. On some level, no matter how well hidden, our romantic partner will energetically feel the betrayal. I also could have kept my mouth shut, but that wouldn’t have been transparent or open. What I did say is that although I'd prefer to be polyamorous, I'm choosing to stay with him even though it means monogamy.
The other thing I can do to help my partner learn to trust is by modeling trust. When I choose to trust something, whether it’s about him or something else, I say it. I consistently remind him of ways that the universe is conspiring on our behalf. I have chosen to trust on such a level that even when I don’t understand or like something that’s happening, I always trust that it’s in my best and highest good. In fact, I have a favorite saying, developed while we were separated and I often couldn’t see how this was unfolding in my best and highest good: “It’s all good, I don’t care what it looks like.” Well, it looks an awful lot like unconditional trust.
When you make the decision to trust, and repeatedly choose to trust, you will eventually develop the empirical proof that you were right to trust- even if the proof doesn’t look like what you might have expected. Yes, it would be easier if the proof came first. However, I believe that trust learned by repeatedly choosing to trust in the face of uncertainty is one of the greatest gifts available to us. It comes with a deep sense of peace and faith that is unshakable. It’s mine, and nobody can take it from me... but I’ll gladly share it.