Vail relationships column: How trust is built, lost
Dear Neil: I just came out of an 11-year relationship. We lived together and had custody of his daughter who’s now 14. I work full time and make more money than him, and he works only part time. We got engaged two years ago, and decided we wanted a big wedding, so we opened a joint account to save together. Three months ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. Then, last month, while I was at work, he moved all his belongings out of our place and cleaned out our joint bank account, leaving me $500 of the $13,400 we had saved. When I dropped in to his place of work to confront him about it, he told his staff to call the police.
The money is upsetting, but the real hurt is that we had a life together, and then I learn that he left me for a woman he had met less than a week earlier. It’s like I ceased to exist to him. I have now been in five relationships, and all of them have left me in the end, and three have robbed me. What am I doing wrong?
Discarded and Deserted in New York
Dear Deserted: What an awful story. Here’s where I would recommend you look more carefully.
The foundation of all relationships revolves around trust. If I say I’m going to do something, and then I do it, then I am demonstrating that I am trustworthy. If I do this hundreds or thousands of times consistently throughout time, then you begin to trust me more deeply and therefore allow me to see your vulnerabilities, your sensitive spots, your innermost secrets — and this trust assists you in loving me and offering me your heart.
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But let’s say I am not always consistent with my words or behaviors. Let’s say you catch me in a lie, or you witness me misrepresenting myself or witness me being dishonorable with someone. I am now demonstrating that I am not always honest and that you may not always be able to trust me. This is where I would urge you to pay closer attention in the future.
Pay attention to whether a man shows you, throughout time, that he is honest, trustworthy, honorable and operates with integrity — or not. And if you determine that he is not always trustworthy, then that needs to be directly confronted. If he accepts responsibility and acknowledges wrongdoing — and then doesn’t do it again — then perhaps you have found a decent and trustworthy man. But if he repeats dishonest or dishonorable behaviors, then you will not be able to reliably trust him.
The other place where I would suggest you look more carefully is regarding the connection between the two of you. Most people, throughout time, grow complacent in their relationship, and they quit consistently behaving sweetly, attentively, affectionately, communicative and loving. They have settled into being a “normal” couple, which so often means that they have quit trying.
It sounds as if your relationships with men lose their connection and that you’re not noticing or acting on it. But the connection means everything about someone wanting to stay in a relationship. So if you sense that the connection is lessening in your next relationship, then that is the time to increase communication, affection, fun and talking about what each of you feel and desire from the other.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. He is the author of the best-selling book, “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship.” Contact him at 303-758-8777, or visit neilrosenthal.com.