Michele O'Mara

A Broken Trust(er)

Filed By Michele O'Mara | November 11, 2008 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: broken trust, gay advice, judgemental, learning to trust, lesbian advice column

When my partner and I first got together, she had issues with my dating history. Not only did she have a lot of negative judgements about the number of sexual partners I have had, she was very critical about the actual women I dated - making harsh statements about them. We have been together for two years now, and she is still making comments, and she is still very critical about my history. She doesn't trust me because she can't get over how many women I've been with. I have never been unfaithful to anyone - even if I've dated A LOT of women. I'm not proud of my history and I do regret dating so many women because it's ruined my reputation and I'm afraid any future partner is going to feel just as my current partner does - like I'm "damaged goods."

What am I supposed to do to gain her trust?

- untrusted

Dear Untrusted,

I'm sorry to hear about the two years of shaming you have been enduring. As we move through life we experiment with different choices. We go through different periods of growth and development and at times we make choices that no longer reflect who we eventually become. Those choices reflect who we were then, and reveal how we got where we are now. When we bring our self to a new relationship, it is important to have the support of a partner who is able to appreciate the journey we have traveled to become who we are today. We are all human. We make mistakes. Our mistakes do not define us, they refine us.

More after the jump

Anytime we attract, and tolerate, a partner who is invested in shaming and blaming us for our past decisions or actions we must ask ourselves, "Have I forgiven myself for this?" Sometimes we punish ourselves for something we feel badly about by attracting someone into our lives who will do the work of "beating us up" (figuratively, and sometimes even literally) for us.

To tolerate and accept our partner's negative judgments and views about who we are is a form of agreement that we are "bad," "broken," or just plain "wrong." It is like saying, "yes, you and I both know I am damaged and therefore I will continue to be here with you, to tolerate your negative views of me, because, in fact, I agree with you." When we no longer believe we deserve punishment we become less willing to tolerate the ridicule or criticism of others.

Trust is the ability to predict well. When we predict what is going to happen, we are able to prepare in ways that can minimize the hurt. Issues of trust are most often about the person trusting, not about the person being untrusted. When we have faith in ourselves to predict how something will turn out, and we are able to anticipate what to expect and while we can not change another's behavior, we can better prepare our hearts when we know when we may not get what we want.

If, for example, she has trusted others before you whom were not worthy of her trust, she may have come to believe that NO ONE can be trusted - even you. Sometimes people have misjudged so many things in their lives that they believe their truster (my word for our ability to determine what is trustworthy in this world and what is not) is broken. When you have a broken truster, it doesn't matter what others do, you do not have faith enough in yourself to know what can be trusted, and what can't, so it becomes easier to cease to trust all together.

Unfortunately you can not fix her truster. You can, however, assist her in regaining faith in you. To do this you must first and foremost, be predictable. Make sure that you words match what you do - and not just in one category - in all categories. You must be consistent, reliable and throw in a little extra responsibility (in all areas of your life) and that will go a long way. Take the focus off of you by showing compassion for her around why she may have trouble trusting. Envelope her in compassion and caring, and reduce your defensiveness with her. Stay positive and hopeful and you just may help her heal her broken truster.

If you are unable to make progress after diligently employing these behaviors consistently for at least six months then you may need to evaluate whether or not this relationship has what you need.

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For me, it's also important to note that a rich relationship history is neither inherently good nor bad. Too often, the world around us promotes unrealistic hopes and expectations about falling in love once and forever.

In fact, for many of us, having a rich and diverse dating history makes us stronger, more self-aware, and better partners.

I hear what Untrusted is saying -- that her history hasn't been healthy for her -- but still, it strikes me that the hard-won lessons she has gained can be framed as a plus.

If untrusted is telling you that "I'm afraid any future partner is going to feel just as my current partner does," is she telegraphing the same message to her partner and thus unintentionally stirring up insecurity in the relationship?

I wondered that too, Greg. I'll be interested to see Michele's response to the question.

I think whenever we live from our fears (i.e. believing that "any future mate will not trust me either...") we risk attracting precisely what we fear. This philosophy, for those of you who aren't familiar, is the Law of Attraction which, in a nutshell, theorizes the notion that we prepave our future with the thoughts we have today. I have observed so many gay men and lesbians that believe on both a conscious and unconscious level that they are so unlovable they are willing to tolerate what simply isn't tolerable.

Whenever our partner's have an issue with us that provokes conflict in our relationship - we have a related (though usually not the same) issue ourselves. One can't trust - the other can't set clear boundaries around how she wants to be treated. Together these issues keep them going... if one were to change / grow in their respective issue, the other would have to adjust accordingly. So goes the dance of love...