Did he abuse your trust? And will it happen again?

by Annie Kaszina on December 14, 2011

There’s a killer question that abused women always ask themselves at some point.  That question is:

“How can I ever trust again?” 

Every woman I’ve worked with who’s been in an emotionally abusive relationship – including myself – has asked it.

Why wouldn’t we?

We’ve been in a relationship with a man who –  systematically – betrayed our trust.

Please bear with me if I labor that point: abusive men systematically betray our trust.  How else could they do it so often, and at such devastating cost to our feelings?

Just suppose for a second that they aren’t hugely emotionally clued up, or sensitive, or good at expressing themselves.  Sooner or later, if they brought any care and concern for your feelings to the relationship, they’d realize they were causing you enormous pain, and they would modify their words, and their behaviour.

But that just doesn’t happen, does it?

Instead, they carry on honing their hurtful skills, and they blame you either for triggering their behaviour, or being too sensitive, or both.

They do this because they set out to hurt and humiliate you systematically.   All the arm flailing, the finger pointing, the red-faced fury, and even the self-righteous silent treatment, only serves to mask their intention…

Of course, you feel terribly betrayed.

Because nice women are trusting women, are they not?

It’s nice to be able to trust your partner.  Trust should be part of a relationship, shouldn’t it?  Certainly, you’ll get no disagreement from me as far as the theory goes. It’s how it plays out in practice that matters.

And, in practice, things are more complicated.  Sweeping generalizations, reassuring as they may be, tend to sweep us into dangerous places. 

You’ve grown up believing that if you were trusting, you would be deserving of trust.  It’s one of those variants of the “Do unto others” rule that we embrace at our peril.

Most abused women that I’ve encountered want to believe in a sanitized world, where people behave decently, and bad relationships don’t happen to good people.  Most of us weren’t brought up in a sanitized world, free of ugly emotions, and hurtful behaviors.  We were brought up in a world where little girls were left to struggle, alone, with hurtful feelings – which is why we would dearly love to believe in a sanitized world.

We were also brought up to be trusting.  Our parents, and/or carers, taught us to be very worried about certain people and things, but also to be very trusting where our parents and/or carers were concerned; even when that trust was misplaced. 

So, we learned that nice little girls are trusting.

We’ve gone on to take our inner, nice little girl into relationships that were not nice at all.  Along the way, we’ve learned a few lessons we can be dangerously slow to internalize, like:

  • Abusive men are not nice men
  • Abusive relationships offer a very low proportion of happiness to misery
  • Abusive men make great promises, but they don’t deliver
  • Abusers blame you for their ill treatment of you
  • Abusive men will always let you down – sooner or later but, usually, sooner.

Being trusting is not a particularly useful or constructive way to approach the world.  Placing unconditional trust in someone who comes with a few red flags sticking discretely out of his ears, and his trouser pockets, is a seriously bad idea.

Yet we do it.

In fact, we do it more with red flag bearers.

So, coming back to the killer question: “How can I ever trust again?”, perhaps it’s time to learn something from “politician speak”.  Politicians, as we all know, have a knack of answering different questions from those put to them – which is something we would do well to learn from them.  

A more helpful question might be:

“Who can I ever trust again?”

Let’s start the answer by making a few necessary exclusions.  Let’s, first, ask:  “Who can’t I trust?”

Answers might well include:

  • Liars
  • Philanderers
  • Abusers
  • People who exhibit rude and anti-social behaviors
  • People who show clear signs of disliking children, small animals, and women
  • Fanatics, of all persuasions
  • Embittered people
  • Prince Charming
  • Men with an emotional age of 18, or less (please!!)

You can carry on with that list at your leisure.  Having excluded the riff-raff, you then come back to the key question:

“Who can I ever trust again?”  Or, to put it even more succinctly:

“Who can I ever trust?”

And, if you’re beginning to get an antsy feeling, that’s good.  There is a reason for that.  Who can you ever trust, if you don’t trust yourself?

Now, we both know you don’t trust yourself, right now.  Chances are, you never did.  That’s why you were so keen for Prince Charming to Take You Away From All Of That.

Life is too dangerous if you don’t trust yourself.  You already know that to your cost.

True trust starts with yourself.  Until you can trust yourself to keep yourself safe, you put yourself in danger by placing unconditional trust in another person.

As for the question: “Will it happen again?”  Yes, it undoubtedly will.  Either the same man will come back with a few faintly refurbished promises, but the same old nasty behaviors, or an abusive clone (or two) will appear, who is just as good at systematically betraying your trust.  You can expect it to keep happening until you relegate the trusting little girl persona to the safety of the nursery.

You’re an adult woman.  You really don’t have to prove to anyone, anymore, that you’re Little Miss Nice.  Remember: “Adult women learn to trust themselves first.”

Then everything else falls into place.

Most people are nice.  There are enough good men out there.  Good things really do happen to nice people.  But they don’t happen by right. You cannot rely on the Mythical Law of Should – otherwise known as what should happen in a properly sanitized version of reality.  The Mythical Law of Should has no power in Abuse World.

An abuser can – and will – ignore many, many things that he should say, do and feel.  And he will cheerfully ignore them, without any apparent harm befalling him.

So, you have to place your trust in yourself.  Until you can trust yourself, you must expect to be vulnerable.  Until you can trust yourself, you really don’t have the power to keep the bad at arm’s length, so the good can make its way to you.

After all, if you’re not prepared to invest your effort and energy in your happiness, safety, and wellbeing, what message do you think you will be giving?

If your partner has abused your trust, and you’re worried about keeping yourself safe in the future, you need to know that there is a systematic way to create a happy, lasting relationship next time round, and you can learn about it here: http://recoverfromemotionalabuse.com/go/7ssr/

 

 

Because nice women are trusting women, are they not?

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