Trust In Relationships

This series of blog posts focuses on some of my reflections on the nine foundational attitudes of mindfulness and how they relate to interpersonal relationships. This final post in the series is an exploration of trust in relationships.

Trust is a huge issue for many people; one that is bound up with expectations and fear of betrayal and abandonment.

We have all experienced betrayal at some point. This might be a partner’s infidelity, a friend betraying a confidence, a colleague or business associate going back on their promises. We can never really know how another person is going to behave. We cannot ever truly protect ourselves against betrayal. Some of us believe that if we don’t trust then we won’t be hurt when people inevitably let us down. However, it doesn’t work like that. So how do we truly trust others, whilst knowing that we are trusting the unknown?

Where we get stuck is when we put the wrong kind of trust in others. If we trust others to meet all our needs, or to never change, or to change in the way that we want them to, then we will be disappointed.

Being human

However, if we trust people to be themselves, to be human, to be flawed but to ultimately try their best, then I believe we stand more of a chance. I have been repeatedly disappointed by people for simply not being who I wanted them to be. They never promised me that they would be but I had my ideas about how they should behave and felt let down when they didn’t meet my expectations.

Many years ago I had a fundraising idea for an organisation I was a part of. I decided that we would write a cookery book. Everyone in the organisation would submit a recipe and I would compile them into a book, which we would have printed and everyone would sell. In reality, around half a dozen people submitted recipes and I wrote the rest. I think there are still around 500 copies left unsold. I was disappointed and yet this was not their fault.

Nobody had gone back on a promise; I had trusted people to do something that they simply hadn’t signed up for!

Sometimes we trust others without asking ourselves whether it is realistic. A few years ago my best friend became seriously ill. Until this happened I hadn’t realised how much I had trusted him to be strong and be there for me. When he became ill it felt like an abandonment and a betrayal of a trust that I hadn’t even recognised that I had.

Strangely, I found that I needed to forgive him for being ill – which was totally out of his control and learn how to trust in him in a more realistic and authentic way.

Being present with ourselves

In order to have genuine trust we need to recognise that trust in the future is always provisional. We can only trust, with certainty, the present moment – beyond that there is always an element of faith. We also need to trust in ourselves. Nobody can fully meet our needs and if we expect them to then we will only ever be let down. However, the more we listen to ourselves, the more we can develop a deep trust in our own wisdom. Our bodies, emotions and thoughts are ultimately on our side and trying to keep us safe. When we stop and tune into those messages we can learn from our own wisdom and become our own source of trust.