We have high expectations for the different people who play a role in our lives. We expect those in government to look out for us. Those in education should help us learn. And we look to our friends to have our backs. When any of these people fail us, we feel disappointed.
Perhaps our highest expectations are for our very close loved ones. When a loved one fails us, we feel betrayed. Even the smallest breach of trust can be monumental. It only takes a few small stones to start a rock slide. Failure is a given because no one is perfect, but how we respond to it can make or break a close relationship.
Many years ago, when my husband and I were just engaged, we made a deal. We decided that we would both get off social media for a week. There was no huge “promise” attached to the idea, just a simple commitment to each other to take a break from Facebook and use our time to focus on other things.
We had been chugging along for a few days when a friend of mine called me and mentioned a Facebook post that my fiancé had just put up. I was annoyed at first, but then I felt angry. We had agreed to do this together, and now he had gone and broken that deal for some silly and mindless post.
My mind went reeling into all the “what ifs.” If he couldn’t do this simple thing that he said he would do, then how would he keep larger commitments in our soon-to-be married life? Like the little stones that start the devastating rock-slide, I knew little breaches of trust can be a sure sign of a greater betrayal coming. I still strongly caution dating couples to beware of a pattern of those seemingly small fractures in commitment. They can escalate into a rock slide of deceit.
Without taking a second to consider that my fiancé was a man of pretty awesome character (one of the biggest reasons I was marrying him in the first place), I sent him a scathing text that went something like this:
“You are pathetic! You couldn’t even last three days without that stupid social media?”
When he replied that he had no clue what I was talking about, I got even more annoyed. Rather than trusting that my fiancé was telling the truth, I clung to the belief that he had betrayed me.
Well, you cannot imagine how small I felt when I learned that due to some big hack scores of people had their accounts tampered with. Turns out that my fiancé had held up his end of the bargain after all.
He hadn’t betrayed my trust, but I felt that I had betrayed his. My eagerness to doubt and judge him made him feel that I didn’t really know him as well as he thought I did. The truth of the matter was that I did know him that well. If only I had taken a moment to pause, consider the man and the level of trust that he had earned, and presumed his innocence before proven guilty.
I have never again made the mistake of doubting my now husband’s word. I trust him because I love him; I love him because I trust him. If and when we do fail each other, we can trust that we have in each other a best friend who will forgive and we’ll move on together.
Hammering down on our loved ones when we feel they have failed us is only going to breed more damage. Love is about telling the other person that we will help them pick up, dust off, and move on. Trust is more than expecting someone to never make a mistake. It’s expecting mutual love regardless of each other’s failures.
Trust really goes hand-in-hand with love. As a married couple, we’ve both learned that the remedy is quite simple for small fractures in trust: Forgive, love, and support.