Innocence, naivete and trust

I’ve been thinking a lot about trust lately.

In my last relationship I was naive and far too trusting. I believed my ex’s description of himself and his characteristics, and acted accordingly. I believed that he had a good insight into my personality, and wouldn’t say things without good cause. Unfortunately he wasn’t the way he had described himself, and my trust in him made me very vulnerable when he started behaving coldly and erratically. He didn’t intend to harm me, but simply wasn’t the person I trusted him to be.

A necessary part of growing up is developing protective mechanisms that stop us being too deeply affected by the judgement of strangers or people we do not trust or respect. My protections were perhaps weaker than they could have been, but still fairly effective in maintaining a good level of self confidence. The real problem was that my trust in him was strong enough to deactivate them. So I was wide open to the things he said, and believed them far too easily.

Ironically, one of his criticisms was that I didn’t trust him enough. And this and similar comments made the situation worse, because they made me try to ignore my fears and question my judgements. Without going into the details, I rapidly reached a point where his advice and judgements had seriously weakened my normally strong self-esteem. It was only after we split up that I began to see how much more his judgements had to do with his fears than with me. Our last conversation confirmed this, demonstrating just how bad the problem had become, and really kick-starting my recovery.

Now that I am well on the way to complete recovery, I am thinking about preparing for future relationships. I am vividly aware of the dangers of trusting too much – but I’m now at risk of falling into the other extreme of not trusting enough. I need to heal my ability to trust and to be open, without allowing myself to become so terribly vulnerable.

To retain my innocence and trust, but not my naivete.

To some extent it’s a question of finding someone who is trustworthy. Someone who is genuinely the way he claims to be, whose personality is secure and not subject to sudden crises of self-confidence. But in my old relationship, I saw the signs of trouble from an early stage – the problem was that I closed my eyes to them because I wanted to go on being happy in the belief that he was perfect.

So what really needs to change is in me – in my willingness to accept reality as it is. And to be open to what comes, with the knowledge that I will cope. I’ve made a lot of progress on these things over the last few months, and many of the mistakes I made have been seared into my memory deeply enough to be an effective deterrent!

Some vulnerability is inevitable in any relationship, of course. So I think I also need some sort of warning system that will alert me to take action to protect myself if needed. But at the same time I don’t want to be so alert and paranoid that I can’t relax into a relationship. Or am always wondering whether I should be with someone else.

I’ll need to experiment and explore a bit, but I think part of the answer lies in being open to what I am feeling at any one time.

To be alive to my experience of being in the relationship – enjoying the positive bits but not ignoring any fleeting moments of discomfort. Because if I’d paid attention to the moments of discomfort in my old relationship, I would have been alerted to the problems before they became serious issues between us, and much better able to protect myself. And then the second stage would be to act on what I see – to resolve the problem or step back to protect myself.

In that way I hope it will be possible to be open and yet protected, and at the same time fully present in the relationship. I’m sure it will be harder than that in practice, but it’s a nice idea to aspire to!

I’m sure many other people have taken this journey before me, and I’d love to know what your experience says!


4 responses to “Innocence, naivete and trust

  1. I don’t tend to trust or give openly of myself easily. I find that I have a much harder emotional shell than most as well. Until I met my husband (I was in my late 30’s), my longest relationship was 2 years. The one or two times I did let my guard down, I got really seriously hurt, and I know that there’s a chance I’m going to hell because of all of the men I’ve hurt who have probably been praying all these years for me to end up in hell.

    The thing that my husband taught me is, “The Right” person makes all of these issues disappear. If you’re like me, you’ll one day meet someone who will feel like an extension of yourself. It won’t necessarily be a dramatic physical attraction. In my case, there was almost no physical attraction on my part (I was in a dysfunctional relationship with someone else at the time, in fact.).

    Being together was so incredibly natural that I didn’t even realize he could be “the one”. Knowing what I know now, I know for a fact that when people say “a relationship takes work” that it’s not necessarily true. It takes work if you marry the wrong person. If you marry the right person, there’s no work involved because the other person is like an appendage. Even through rough times, you’d just never ever consider cutting that appendage off, it’s a natural part of you. And the care and love and committment that you put into that person is the came care and love that you would put into your own appendage. That’s not work, that’s just a compelling drive to take care of part of yourself.

    I paid a dear price by waiting for the right man before getting married, because I lost my opportunity to have kids. I can’t even begin to imagine a life without my husband, though. You can easily lose many years of your precious life through a bad marriage. I’d much rather have a great life with a supportive and loving mate without kids than a shitty married life with kids.

  2. Jane – thanks so much for these personal and encouraging thoughts!

    “That’s not work, that’s just a compelling drive to take care of part of yourself.”

    Beautifully put. I’ll remember that!


  3. Oh, how lovely, Jane! You express the very same things I have felt and still feel about my relationship with my husband. So nice to hear someone else feeling the same way about such things, and speaking from experience too!

    I perfectly agree: if it “takes work”, he’s probably not the best person for you. You could be too far apart in too many – vital – areas.

    Whether or not you actually marry, I believe that’s what a true, meaningful marriage is: you become a team, part of the same body, and nothing is really a chore, because it only makes sense that you should take care of yourself. And you can never feel used or abused if it is right, because you BOTH feel that it is totally natural to look out for the other and try and see to it that they can be well and happy. You can be clumsy – for nobody’s perfect – but you can never really be unkind to the other, because that would be the equivalent of hurting yourself. Both of you just love the other…

    They say “love is blind”. THAT IS WRONG!!! Desire is blind, not love! Love, true, deep, kind, understanding, boundless love is incredibly insightful! True love is not afraid to see the other as he or she truly is, with all their faults and failings, because love simply loves them as they are. Which is why the other can trust them, open up and grow.

    Someone I knew once advised me: “Never take second rate. Wait for the best.” A couple of relationships later, I wondered whether the advice was sound, because it felt like I was so picky I would never meet the right one. And staying true to what I wanted, I decided I would rather be alone than with someone who wasn’t just right for me. It’s when I’d finally accepted I might have to remain single that I met the man of my life. 🙂 Life and love work in strange ways!

  4. Bottom line: see them as they really are and not as you would wish them to be, no matter how much they also try to convince you they are perfect. Don’t be afraid of imperfections: neither yours nor theirs. Only clearcut discrimination and goodwill can lead you to the right person for you.

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