"It's amazing how much 'mature wisdom' resembles being too tired." --Robert Heinlein

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Trust & Relationships

(Adapted from a previous essay I wrote on 5/7/02)

I've met people who've told me that they have huge "trust issues" with regard to romantic relationships. I've never described myself that way, so I often wonder what they mean.

I remember a friend telling me that his boyfriend pressured him to stop using condoms during sex, saying he wanted them to "trust" each other.

I've seen people agonize over whether to begin a promising new romance, because they aren't sure whether they can "trust" each other.


One form of trust is related to secrets -- some people keep secrets and fear sharing these secrets with people they don't trust, so they won't share them with a new boyfriend until that boyfriend has somehow "earned" their trust. Another form of trust is related to not keeping secrets -- that if you dare to keep a secret from your lover he'll think you don't trust him, and he'll wonder what else you've been hiding. Another form of trust is related to snooping -- that if you check to see whether your boyfriend is telling the truth he'll accuse you of not trusting him.

I haven't dealt much with these issues because (a) I don't keep secrets, (b) I don't usually date people who keep secrets, and (c) as a result there really hasn't been any need within my relationships for snooping. There are people out there who are open and honest from day one :-)


There seem to be two kinds of problems related to trust.

First, there are people who are slow to trust because they feel like they've been burned in the past. Personally I feel like I've been burned in the past also, but that doesn't stop me from trusting people until they give me reason not to. But trust means something different for me ... I don't depend on it so much ... I don't place important bets that depend on trusting what somebody else says.

For example, I'm going to wear a condom -- or make you wear one -- regardless of what you tell me about your HIV status. It isn't a matter of trust, it is a matter of mutual survival. I might trust you, and still I won't let that affect my decisions regarding personal safety. HIV isn't the only STD out there, and many people carry STDs without showing any symptoms.

Maybe I don't really trust anybody ... or maybe I realize that trust is no substitute for protection.


The other kind of trust problem occurs when a boyfriend makes a big deal about how you need to trust him. Usually he asks you to trust him so that he can have his way on something that makes you feel uneasy. It might be the condom issue, or it might be about lending him money, or it might be about "letting" him go on a ski trip with some handsome fella you suspect he wants to fuck. He'll address your legitimate doubts by saying "trust me" instead of by offering proof that he's not about to fuck you over.

For me, a special request that I trust somebody is a big danger signal ... because I already trust you ... and trust isn't the reason I'm not granting your request. I'm not granting your request because it wouldn't be safe, or it wouldn't be good for our relationship, or because I'm not comfortable taking such a big risk.

Why is he asking me to risk so much without addressing my concerns, is what I think.

Maybe I don't really trust anybody ... or maybe I realize that trust is no substitute for protection.


But I don't ask people to "trust" me. I keep my relationships balanced, and independent, so that trust isn't a big deal. I don't ask for extreme promises. I don't make extreme promises. I don't like depending on others, and I don't like others depending on me. I don't enter into a relationship with the hope that this time it will be awesome, that this time I won't get hurt, that this time I've found my soulmate.

I enter into relationships because I want to hang out and have fun and offer support on bad days. After a while I'll care about you so much that I'll tell you I love you.

I guess I've wiped the trust issues from my life by not allowing myself to be in a situation where trust is necessary, or even important. If something bugs me, either I let you do it, or we address it together. I don't close my eyes and proclaim my trust in you.

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