Wifeys and Gentlemen,
Last weekend, as I sat angrily in my stylist’s chair, getting my lioness mane back on point, I was forced to watch several shows on the OWN channel. I rolled my eyes throughout the duration, hating how “fake” everything appeared to be and wanting to strangle my stylist for adding her ill-informed chorus of “mmm-hmm” and “that’s beautiful” to a mostly one-sided conversation.
For the record, I have nothing against Oprah! I love her and everything she stands for as a person. She is a great host, an icon for her industry, and a real credit to her race (which is a Woody Allen joke, so please don’t boycott my blog). Still, when I see things that are designed specifically to be ‘inspirational’, I am immediately skeptical and become wary that what is being marketed to me is neither authentic nor genuine.
After episode upon episode of content that I was doing my best to tune out, the ‘Super Soul Sessions’ began, introducing a woman named Brene Brown and her talk on “the anatomy of trust”. Something about her speech and the way she delivered her information really resonated with me. I was hooked. Watching her, I found myself taking notes, listening intently, making needless side-commentary with my stylist, and feeling inspired (gasp!) by what was being conveyed.
Though I am not quick to abandon my usual blogging format in favor of something like this, I decided last night that the universe wanted me to hear Dr. Brown’s message and find the best way to pass it along to all of you! As I mentioned in my last post, the holiday season has a weird effect on me. My ears and heart are wide open and I get overwhelmed with the desire to connect with, share with, and open up to others. I also view this season as the time to take chances on and give chances to the people we love; to build something amazing and push ourselves to become more than what we are.
Dr. Brown opened her talk with a story about her daughter and her 3rd grade experience losing faith in the idea of trusting others. She began examining the importance of trust and how we know to trust some people and not others. Obviously, as a future marriage therapist and true believer in the concept of ever-lasting love, one of the very foundations that I hang my heart on is trust! Although I am not proud of it, trusting, for me, is one of my greatest life challenges. Maintaining and building trust is extremely important when trying to build a foundation for a healthy, open, and personally fulfilling relationship. While this concept can apply to any type of relationship we establish, I wanted to do my best to link her ideas to how we build trust romantically…because, it’s me! & that’s kind of my thing.
Dr. Brown used the acronym, “BRAVING” to describe the 7 elements of trust that allow you to be vulnerable with another person. Let’s dissect these terms to better understand how they apply to our significant others. They include:
- Boundaries – I know we haven’t had a chance to discuss boundaries in depth, but next year (2016) when I plan my monthly topics, I want to do a post focused entirely on establishing and maintaining healthy relationship boundaries. Still, Dr. Brown was spot on when she mentioned that respecting boundaries is one of the first ways that we feel safe and comfortable opening up to and engaging with someone else. Romantically speaking, if your partner takes time and considers your feelings before making choices about you, your relationship, or your body, these small actions accumulate in a way that makes you feel safe and cared for. When we can trust someone to respect our boundaries, we can then begin to trust that they won’t hurt us in a relationship. While there is never a “fool proof” method for predicting the end of a relationship, an inability to establish and understand boundaries is ALWAYS (yes, I’m saying always) a red flag. You cannot trust someone who doesn’t respect your space, metaphorical or literal.
- Reliability – We all know what it means to be reliable. If your new girlfriend says she’s going to pick you up from the airport at 7:30 and she never shows up, it becomes difficult to trust that she will stick to her word and be there for you when you need her. Still, in romantic relationships, reliability is worth far more than the sum of its parts. You might be willing to overlook the occasional mistake (ie: forgetting to pick you up or flaking last minute on plans you’d made), but if our partners come through when the chips are truly down, it speaks volumes. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re with someone who regularly blows you off for plans, forgets your birthday, and/or leaves you to take a cab when they were supposed to pick you up, even the grandest of gestures won’t reverse the significant damage to their reliability. When someone is characterized as reliable, these mistakes/mishaps are shockingly few and far between (& rightly so!). We come to trust the partner who show up for us. We come to trust the partner who does what they say they will do. And, perhaps more importantly, we come to trust (and are eventually trusted by) the partner who holds us to the same standards. Think about it: why would you want to rely on someone who couldn’t rely on you?
- Accountability – when we do something wrong, the people that we harm or hurt need to know that we will take ownership and responsibility for our actions. As humans, we must accept our limitations. This is especially true in romantic relationships. I believe I said this in my last post, but I think it merits repeating: at some point in your relationship, even the one that lasts forever, your partner is going to hurt you & you are going to hurt them. He/she is going to challenge you in some meaningful way that will make you re-evaluate the terms of your union and see love in a new way. When this happens, and more importantly, when you’re the one who is doing the hurting, PLEASE be accountable to your partner. Communicate with them about your actions, do your best to explain yourself, and provide a more-than-reasonable expectation that you will do everything in your power to make it right (or better). My relationship is far from perfect; we have both had moments of weakness, anger, sadness, and uncomfortable vulnerability. However, what keeps us strong is trusting that when we make a mistake we will hold OURSELVES accountable for correcting it. Nothing is sexier than a partner who recognizes the need to atone and holds themselves to a high standard of accountability. 😉
- Vault – In many ways, I believe this principle goes without saying. I mean, it’s obvious, right? In order to trust our partners, we must be confident that they will keep personal information personal! I have always believed that acting as a vault for our loved ones’ information is a huge honor! It tells them that we value their thoughts, fears, opinions, and ideas, and that we won’t go around sharing those personal disclosures with anyone else or start discussing them behind their backs. Moreover, it is difficult to trust someone who always gossips to us about others. We all have (or had if you’re lucky) those friends who always seem to know the dirt on someone else and are all too willing to share it with us. It is NOT POSSIBLE to trust someone with your secrets when they continuously prove they are incapable of keeping secrets with someone else. The same is true in relationships. We trust the partner who can act as a vault for others and our partner trust us when we have a track record of being a vault for our own family and friends. Remember, no one is perfect, but in this department, strive to come as close as possible! We will all gossip and share the stories with our friends. Just remember there is a line. You’re partner will be so thankful that they can take refuge with you and feel safe letting their secrets out.
- Integrity – the dictionary defines integrity as follows, (1) “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” (2) “the state of being whole and undivided.” To trust a partner, we must see in them a level of integrity that either meets or exceeds our own. Simply put, integrity is what you do when no one is watching. Integrity is going to a bar without your boyfriend and politely declining anyone that tries to pick you up…even the one who is ridiculously attractive or easy to talk to! Integrity is sticking up for your girlfriend when someone else tries to put her down behind her back. Integrity is the “state of being whole and undivided from your partner, even when they aren’t around”. If you have that kind of faith in your relationship, you’ll develop a kind of trust that is untouchable. 1/2 of your battles are already won, and I firmly believe that there is (almost) nothing you can’t overcome with that kind of power by your side.
- Non-Judgmental – I read memes on Facebook and Twitter ALL THE TIME that celebrate how amazing it feels to have someone you can “be yourself” with. I whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment, and I think it truly speaks to the foundation of trust. Dr. Brown mentioned in her speech that a huge part of trusting someone is knowing that when you come to them with a problem or ask for help, they will still accept you and support you without judgement. In a relationship, talking about hardships, fears, and emotional scars becomes a routine part of sharing a life with someone else. We need to know that our partner won’t freak out or shame us when we open ourselves up and become vulnerable with them. We need to know that our past experiences, secrets, and mistakes are safe with our partner and won’t be used against us later. Humans judge. We can’t help ourselves. All we can do is continue to practice a spirit of openness and kindness with others; it helps to make us better people, and helps prepare us for the ‘long-haul’ of non-judgement with the one we love.
- Generosity – the last point of trust, generosity, is not entirely what you’d think. Sure, it’s great when someone (especially our partner) shares and gives freely with us; gifts, food, that ride to the airport I keep mentioning throughout this post (hehe), but this type of generosity is more than that. In a relationship, we learn to trust when our partner is generous with love, affection, and time. The generosity of emotional connection and hard work speaks volumes in a relationship like no material object ever could (or should). I trust in my fiance’s love because he is generous with it every single day. From the little details (saying goodbye every morning before he leaves) to the major moments-of-truth, I am confident that the love and affection he gives is genuine and well-stocked (i.e.: he won’t just stop his generosity one day and never get it back). It is important to show your partner that you are always willing to work for them; a generosity of dedication that shows how much you trust them and aides in how much they’ll trust you through the duration of your partnership.
The bottom line?
In our relationships (romantic and otherwise) we all deserve to feel safe and cared for. Dr. Brown’s anatomy is a relevant and important road map for what to look for in our relationship that offers us this space of safety and love. This holiday season, make sure you take the time to spend it with the people that you trust. I know (better than I care to admit) how hard it is to find trustworthy people in this life. I know even more how hard it is to make those real connections last. Now is the time to celebrate and honor those trusting relationships, bringing only the best with you into the New Year.
Until next post,
Carry on Wifeys!
Ps. To watch Dr. Brown’s talk, follow this link! ‘The Anatomy of Trust’