I have a metaphor for trust that I share with many clients. Like weight, trust can be easy to gain. However, when broken, trust can be hard to earn back as weight is harder
to lose. When a person is already distrustful of others, trust is much harder to earn and even harder to earn back when lost.
How does one develop trust, especially in a relationship where you are supposed to share every intimate detail? It takes at least two people to create a trusting relationship whether intimate, sexual, or casual friendship. For the sake of time and length of this blog, we are going to focus on a trusting relationship between two people. As I discuss with clients, “actions speak louder than words.” While words can be hurtful, actions can drive a steel knife into someone’s heart.
I have a good friend living out-of-state. Though this friend has given permission for me to use examples from her life, I will call her Veronica to protect her privacy. Veronica recently met a guy (who we’ll call Henry). Despite a few character flaws, Veronica was willing to give this relationship a try. After three weeks of talking and three dates, Henry made plans to meet Veronica for lunch one Friday. Shortly before the time for the date, Henry cancelled and agreed to meet Veronica later that evening after she got off work. Henry instructed Veronica to call when she was ready to meet. When Veronica called, Henry again cancelled stating he was tired and had to get up early the next day. Despite Henry stating he felt bad about his actions and wanted to continue seeing Veronica, his actions of canceling on her twice in one day struck hard.
Henry isn’t necessarily a bad guy or a jerk, but Veronica saw this as an unreliable characteristic in such a young relationship. Should Henry have followed through with his date despite being tired? Not necessarily. In fact, Henry exhibited a positive characteristic for stating his needs in the relationship. What better decision or action could Henry have made? How about checking his schedule prior to making plans with Veronica? If he realized he might be too tired to hang out all night or needed to get into bed early, why not suggest meeting on a day more convenient for his schedule?
Trust begins to develop the moment a relationship forms. Once trust is established, actions such as Henry’s may not have as hard an impact on the relationship. Veronica would already know that Henry IS a reliable and trustworthy person, and he may be overwhelmed with current stress. She may know this is not typical behavior for Henry.
Forming a relationship is scary. Creating trust in that relationship is downright terrifying. Sometimes, we need to step outside our own self and look at how our actions may affect another.