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Tell Me About It | by Carolyn Hax

Relationships need trust — by both partners

Relationships need trust, and trust is a two-way street

Q: I recently broke off a relationship with a girl I was head-over-heels for, and I find myself lonely and filled with regret even though I know it's for the best.

While we were together we had both agreed to stop hanging out with exes and friends of the opposite sex. I did my part, and found out seven months into it that she didn't do hers. She had kept talking to exes and even hung out with a guy occasionally behind my back.

I don't think she cheated or wanted to be with anyone else, but her breaking my trust was enough for me to end things.

But the fact of the matter is we enjoyed each other's company more than I could ever imagine. Was her lying a good reason to break up? I've convinced myself that she will continue to lie if I get back with her. I need to get over this, as it is consuming my thoughts. Help.

Relationship Is Killing Me

A: I don't see this as the work of a liar (though she may well be). I see it as her lacking the maturity to say out loud, to you or even to herself, "This agreement to ban opposite-sex friends is paranoid, controlling and silly." Children hide where grownups confront. So, she hid.

But you were hiding, too, behind that ridiculous opposite-sex boycott. You were hiding from the very real risk every couple faces, that one of you will fall for someone else. People who love and respect each other do so not in a vacuum, but in a world populated by others — some of whom, inevitably, will prove tempting.

If your relationship can't survive that, it can't survive, period, no matter how thoroughly you scrub each other's calendars of every conceivable risk.

Look at your own question: "I don't think she cheated or wanted to be with anyone else." You're essentially saying this breakup was over her innocent interaction with friends; only the lying was wrong.

And you created the circumstances that criminalized her pursuit of innocent friendships. Was she wrong to lie? Obviously. But you came to that conclusion and quit, when you needed to keep going and take a hard look at yourself.

That's probably why you're still consumed, even though you've "convinced" yourself of her unworthiness: It's hard to lay an issue to rest when you're wrong about its source.

Yes, of course, you can't have trust without a trustworthy partner — but that merely completes a profound, internal transaction. And that transaction involves, mainly, your own willingness to accept vulnerability to forces beyond your control. Love is risk. Until you're ready to face that, you're not ready for anyone else.

I know a lot of people discount this; it's so common to rationalize various efforts to fence a partner in. But while some insecurity is inevitable, there's no level of control that can pass for appropriate.

One more thing. Getting burned is a top justification for indulging every jealous, controlling, paranoid urge people get when starting a new relationship. So here's how you'll know when you're ready to be someone's partner for real: when you realize the way to keep someone is to drop those defenses completely. You can't keep temptation out. But you can let in goodwill, good people and faith.

Advice

Relationships need trust — by both partners

06/14/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:55pm]

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