Relationships are hard.
All kinds of relationships – between you and your parents, your friendships, siblings, co-workers and yes those romantic ones too – all relationships are hard.
I’ll admit upfront that I’m the last person on the planet that should give any advice on relationships. But someone asked, and as many of you know, it’s hard for me not to share…
I have a shrewd way of dealing with people in my life that works for ME, but please understand, it may not work for anyone else.
With that said, let me start with my definition of LOVE: It’s a feeling and for the most part, it’s intangible to quantify. Love can be pretty complex but, in most cases, and definitely in the beginning – love is pretty easy. Whatever you may think of love I believe it can happen instantaneously. A baby is born for example – that feeling of love is innate and all encompassing. I know in my own experience, you can meet someone and “fall in love”. It’s possible. No matter what anyone tells you, love can be inexplicable and undeniable. And since no one owns the patent on what love is, to me, it’s a feeling first. Given time, love can surely evolve into something more in-depth depending on the circumstances and attention to the relationship. But the essence of love is something you simply feel deeply that is difficult to always put into words.
So, in some respects, love is easy. There’s no controlling it. You can’t help who you love and most times you don’t really understand why you love a person, you just know that you do. I think we’ve all experienced that in some way shape or form – and I love people who always feel the need to chime in to tell YOU what you’re actually feeling when you say you love someone – it’s as if they’ve cornered the market on what love is and is not. Cracks me up every time. Don’t listen to those people. No one can tell you what you’re feeling.
But don’t be confused – there’s a difference between LOVE and TRUST. People make this mistake all the time in all types of relationships.
If love is easy, then trust is difficult – REALLY DIFFICULT. Trust is earned. Trust takes time. Trust is not innate. Trust is NOT a feeling. People confuse being “in love” with the fact that they don’t trust this person yet. How can you trust someone you do not know?
Trust is important because it helps define our relationships. We trust our parents because through thick and thin, they’ve been there for us even when we’ve messed up or shined, parents have walked us through infancy to adulthood. So we trust them.
Siblings on the other hand, we may “hate” but ultimately, just based on sheer time, proximity and history, we love them. But what about a sibling who’s a drug addict? We may not trust our siblings who are drug addicts, but our love is based on our history and connection with them. So, a family member who is a drug addict may be someone we love, but we would never trust them, unless they worked real hard to earn that trust back. Right?
What about a new boyfriend or a new girlfriend? Sure, you can “fall in love” with someone you just met. It may be the beginnings of a deeper relationship – but all that questioning going on in your head, all the wondering of “does he” or “doesn’t he” has to do with getting to know each other. That takes time. And even if you think you trust a new person in your life, truth is, you just don’t know. Trust is earned. Trust takes time and effort. It’s not a feeling.
Okay, so just for clarity (and simplicity): Love is easy and is a feeling. Trust is earned and is tangible to calculate. Good.
I can honestly say I have fallen “in love” romantically twice in my life. Once with a man who I slowly grew to appreciate over time and then realized he couldn’t be trusted so I walked away – and another man I fell in love with instantaneously whose presence in my life was rather short, so trust between us was never established. I can easily say that I loved both of these men – but trust is a thing. It matters. And without trust, you cannot have a good relationship with anyone.
So, when you meet someone and you “fall in love” don’t be confused by what that means. It’s a feeling and that’s fine. Don’t let anyone tell YOU how you feel or what the definition of LOVE is or is not. No one can fully explain what love means – but DO NOT confuse TRUST for LOVE. That’s key.
This is where most people get confused. It doesn’t matter how old you are. I know people who are married, divorced, married again and divorcing again because they have continuously confused trusting someone for loving someone. And regardless of the relationship we’re talking about – friendships, siblings, boyfriend, girlfriends, spouse, parents – if you can’t trust a person, if you have doubts about who someone is in your life, then it’s not a healthy relationship. You need to consider why you keep toxic relationships in your life and how you can work with them if you have to or learn to work around them if you can to remain a healthy and positive person. Please, if you have questions or concerns about this in any way, it’s always good to seek out professional help from a therapist, counselor, or doctor – I am none of these, but know that talking to someone can help walk you through.
Here’s my shrewd way of dealing with people I can not trust – again, I preface this by admitting this may not work for other people, so I don’t recommend it, but like all things – take what works for you and mold it into what is uniquely you. Be a sponge who retains what little water you need and ring out the rest. But this is my way of dealing with relationships – especially romantic ones:
When I’m clear that I can’t trust someone, regardless of the relationship, I easily walk away. Because of my upbringing, (which you can read in the book CANELA), I’ve instilled a system of deciding what people I keep in my life with clear “rules”. It’s always been about self-preservation and something I’ve practiced since I was a kid. It’s actually simple: after three times of being disappointed by someone, they’re out. I’m done. I walk away. In theory, you get three chances to be in my life, and then after that, I cut all ties. My instincts tell me that in any relationship, especially a new one, if after three times someone’s proven they cannot be trusted, then they clearly do not have respect for my time and therefore do not deserve my energy.
I justify it this way: There are close to 7 billion people on the planet. If you don’t have time to respect me, then I need to move on. There are too many people to meet who may have a mutual level of respect that I want in my relationships – why bother wasting time on people who don’t “get” me even if they claim too?
Trust is the most important aspect of any relationship I have in my life. I still love those two men dearly but let them go and never looked back or regretted the decision. It doesn’t mean they are bad people, it just means we’re not in the same space. Look, I don’t claim to know exactly how the world works, but I do know that I want people in my life that want to be there, that need to be there. Friendships, siblings, lovers, even co-workers. Fake relationships are a waste of everyone’s time and energy. There’s a level of respect you can demand to have with all relationships if you start understanding that it’s okay to have boundaries and rules that work for YOU. When you have a set of standards, people will either meet them, or they won’t. When you love and respect yourself completely – you’ll never let a person into your life who continuously lets you down and hurts you – intentionally or not.
And there it is: How well do you understand yourself? Do you love yourself completely and what does that mean? How well do you trust your own gut feelings? What are your standards? What are your expectations of people and do you practice those same rules? What kind of people do you surround yourself with and do they reflect the best of who you are? I can honestly say, the people that are IN my life are some of the most beautiful people I am privileged to know. My loyalty to them is fierce — and I know for them, my relationship is just as important. I always say, you don’t need a lot of friends, you only need one REAL one. And I’m lucky, I have several beautiful REAL people in my life. True wealth.
Now, I’m not saying it’s ever easy to walk away from someone you’re interested in. Even with my rules in place for decades, relationships are always hard. But over time, you realize it’s easier to control your own behavior and reaction than it is to force others to BE a certain way. I’m a firm believer that you can have everything you want in life, but first, you have to understand what it is you want and embrace the idea that you deserve the very best and never settle for less – especially when it comes to relationships.