NEWS

Self-trust in a relationship

By Rev. Jim Innes

As COVID-19 pulls us into self-isolation (which may be lifted by the time of this publication), many will experience the constant presence of loved ones. Relational (and personal) issues may arise. I thought of sharing a personal journey… building ‘Trust.’

Trusting someone means that you think they are reliable; you have confidence in them, and you feel safe with them physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, it takes less time to lose Trust in someone than it takes to build it. When Trust is present, things go well; but when Trust is lost, the relationship is at risk.

The ability to Trust (going forward) is based on a few essential factors. Alongside the ability (or desire) to forgive recent hurts, a necessary element in building a trusting relationship are our early childhood role models and experiences. For example, children of divorced parents, or those from abusive households, may struggle, to a greater or lesser degree, with building a solid foundation of Trust.

A solid foundation begins with learning to trust ourselves. Particularly, believing that our needs are legitimate. For example, many are in a relationship without ever putting their needs on the table. Not because they don’t have needs, but because they are uncertain as to their legitimacy. And in a relationship that has become dominated by the other’s needs, we quickly take the backseat. That is, until the day we finally blow up!

It can be easier to follow another’s lead than it is to trust ourselves. For some, when our needs conflict with a friend, or a partner, or an authority, or even our children, we will doubt the legitimacy of what we want. There is the fear of making the wrong choice and a tendency to criticize our own decisions after we make them.

Our needs can be tricky to figure out. Needs can be confused with wants. And this can lead to conflict and an increasing lack of Trust in ourselves (and consequently in others). For example, someone might overburden their partners with demands for closeness. It may be a demand that arises because of unmet needs from childhood (possibly because their parents were not very affectionate or warm). And because we naturally tend to seek fulfillment of these needs (which are definite ‘wants’), we might overwhelm our partners with demands. Pushing these demands can too often lean on manipulation and possibly, condemnation.

It can become quite confusing separating the past from the present, and discerning appropriate need from past wounds. And this process of discernment can leave us less than confident in trusting our needs. It is helpful if we have built a relationship with a confidant, or a therapist, or a pastor. They can ‘reparent ‘us by providing realistic expectations of what we ought to expect in a healthy relationship.

Building self-trust in a relationship is about building confidence. Particularly, developing and maintaining a good set of boundaries. These boundaries will keep us safe (under normal conditions). For example, knowing how much of ourselves to give, and how much to ask for, enables you (and your other) to be your selves. Establishing such parameters prevents the feeling of being swallowed up.

As I see it, trusting ourselves is a significant anchor in holding down healthy relationships. Without it, we blow directionless. And, unless the other enjoys, or greatly benefits, from our continual self-denial, we will burden the relationship with confounding demands.

Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of the Regional Ministry of South Huron. 
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