“Now just lean back and hold each other there.”
I snapped my neck around and looked over at my salsa teacher panic rising in my chest. He held the hands of his partner and both easily tipped their bodies backwards held up only by the grip of the other’s hands. Looking back at my partner, I began easing backwards but before I even broke the plane of balance, I shot upright again giggling in nervousness. I couldn’t do it. My body felt like it had a mind of its own and it did—mine. And, mine, subconsciously was saying, no way, no how am I going to let him let me fall over. My partner looked back at me and said, “You have trust issues, don’t you?”
Being in a relationship is much like dancing and one of the basic steps is trust. It is possible to have relationships without it. You don’t have to trust your co-worker or your neighbor. A courteous, at-arms-length relationship can exist in these circumstances. But with a romantic relationship, with love, trust is essential. Not having trust is like both partners dancing with two left feet.
After I left dance class, I thought a lot about my ability to truly be present in my relationship. I had to ask myself if my past experiences created a problem within me revolving around trust. Could my partners distrust forged from working the streets and my own cynicism gleaned from law enforcement work have created a trust vacuum? I started doing research on the issue. The first thing I was encouraged to do was define what trust meant to me. After all, it would be hard to know if I did or did not have it or how I could work on improving it without understanding what it was.
My first task was an exercise of brainstorming. I wrote the word “Trust” on the top of a piece of paper and for five minutes wrote down any word or phrase that came to mind. I’ll admit the first two minutes words flowed easily, but I struggled through the last three. I forced myself to continue focusing on the word, letting go of any images or tangents my mind wanted to take me on. I just sat and let the word roll over and over in my head writing down anything that came to mind. At the end, I was left with an interesting list including items like: caring, broken, between two people, not hurting, dreams, mist, not from a person but from experiences, child-like, allowing love, giving of yourself, acceptance, he will not do something to hurt me, keeping promises, thinking of others, kindness Cinderella’s Castle, allowing someone in emotionally. Some seemed common, but some, such as the Disneyland reference, I had to think through. The next step in the brainstorm was to circle the words that resonated with me the strongest. These were: earned, comfortable, love, respect, believe, choice, no deliberate pain or meanness, conscious choice, saying what you mean and meaning what you say. With this list and a clearer understanding of what trust meant to me, I was able to move forward to look at how it plays a role in my current relationships.
Whether you are coming into a new relationship with painful experiences or living in a relationship where trust has been broken, it’s essential to understand that trust is the foundation for a loving, close, healthy love. Being without trust creates a feeling of being on alert all the time around the one person who you should be able to put your guard down for. If you can’t be completely open and relaxed, if you feel you have to “be on” all the time so you can “one up” your partner, you will live in a state of constant stress where there should be the ultimate peace. Trust implies having a truthful, honest, dependable and honorable relationship. Without trust, you get the opposite and who can live happily with that? Growing or rebuilding, and maintaining trust is necessary to creating that refuge so many of us seek through romantic relationships especially when one or both partners work in an occupation steeped in mistrust.