Team of climbers in danger.If you grew up unable to trust one parent in childhood it makes things difficult to figure out in the present. If you grew up unable to trust two parents in childhood it means trust can be a complete mystery. Sometimes trust is confusing because of a trauma when you were too young to protect yourself. Sometimes trust is a puzzle because it’s hard to recover from rejection in high school by someone you truly loved. Sometimes trust is a tricky piece of business because everyone was silent about the reality of an important relative being an active alcoholic. Sometimes an inability to trust leaks through to a present relationship because your last boyfriend was married and you had no clue. In a culture with so many people avoiding the truth about hard things it is very easy to end up puzzled about what it means to trust someone else.

Trusting someone else does not mean never being lied to or mislead. Trust means that when you find the courage to say the truth that the other person can acknowledge what they’ve done wrong and work hard not to let it happen again because it’s important to the other person. The ultimate test of respect is letting someone else influence you to be a better person. Trusting that you have something to learn from each other and can grow by slowly nudging yourself forward into acting differently.

Trust builds on the infrastructure of honesty. Mistakes and mistreating others is a part of our humanity that we all have to live with. Being able to hear someone you care about, complain or present how they are unhappy with you is the true beginning of building trust. When my kids were very little I would say “Tell Mom three things you don’t like about me.” This was to establish trust is not a one way proposition. I was saying I believe you have important things to teach me too. Moms all have a combination of strengths and weaknesses and honest conversation means an opportunity for everyone to grow. I’ve learned a lot from my kids.

If someone says snooping through my phone messages is unacceptable, or you drink too much or you’re spending too much and we can’t afford the credit card interest rates, it’s important to stop and consider how it might be true and what you can do differently to be more trustworthy………even though it may be very hard to admit the truth to yourself. Many years ago, Fritz Perls said “growing up is honestly facing painful situations.” When you are more trustworthy then you can ask for more trust from those you love most. If someone says “You’re not listening to me!” follow that up by asking what is it that you’ve missed out on instead of blowing up with defensiveness. So much of couples work is wading through reactions built on insecurities to reach the kernels of truth both partners have to teach each other. Your relationship has a greater possibility of lasting if you can take a deep breath and face these kernels of truth instead of lying to yourself that they simply can’t be true. Every relationship you are in holds the promise of growth. Don’t turn away from that opportunity to learn, and steady yourself through the initial discomfort because it will be worth it.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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