It's Not Sex, It's Not Romance, It's All About Trust
I’ve been married for almost eight years. We’ve been together for 12. I am no expert on relationships but recently, there’s something I’ve come to understand that has been a game changer. It’s been relationship transforming. I’d go as far as to say, it’s been life changing.
It’s always hard to write about this stuff without overstepping the boundaries because, you see, my relationship is not just mine. It’s ours. It’s Jimmy’s too and while I’m committed to sharing my experience, I’m not committed to sharing his. For that reason, you won’t see me go into specifics but you will see me speak generally.
In my last post about relationships you could probably have ascertained that we were struggling. We had been struggling for a couple of years. We had become adept at pushing most of it under the proverbial carpet but, as is always the case, it didn’t, couldn’t stay there. It had to emerge eventually and it did so with a bang; it was all dirty, bashed up and it went everywhere. It made a mess of us, our relationship and it appeared, at the time, that paying a lack of attention to our relationship and the niggles within it, had done irreparable damage.
Fortunately, at the point of no return, we were both able to stop and take a breath. We didn’t know what would happen and whether it was possible to make it better but we agreed to stop before making any life-shattering decisions. We agreed to brutal honesty, to taking it a day at a time and to increased therapy. We agreed to it not being right, for now. We agreed to not really liking each other but we also agreed to bear the past 12 years in mind and to at least give each other space while co-existing amongst honesty and gentleness until one of two things happened: either we got to a point where we couldn’t even co-exist anymore or we grew to love each other again.
It was a risk.
Fast forward a few months, a tonne of therapy and some very difficult periods and here we are, stronger than we’ve ever been and, dare I say it, enjoying each other for the first time in a long time. I recognise how lucky we are. It’s not possible for every relationship to a) throw lots of therapy at it (it’s expensive shit) or b) to make it work. Some relationships just don’t last and aren’t salvageable. Fortunately, no matter how ‘done’ we were, we both felt there was a chance - the tiniest of chances - that our story wasn’t over. And here we are.
But here’s the thing I learned as we dragged ourselves through this whole harrowing process. It’s not about romance and grand gestures - they’re nice but they don’t hold a relationship together. It’s not about sex - it’s essential that there is affection and sex is important but relationships can withstand significant periods without it (we all know kids are the biggest cockblockers of all time). It’s about trust and I’m not talking, ‘I trust him/her not to sleep with someone else’. I’m talking about, ‘I trust that, at any given time, he/she has me in mind. I trust that, at any given time, he/she has my feelings, thoughts, wants, needs and desires in mind.’
We didn’t trust each other like that for a long time. If one of us took the piss out of the other, the other would get defensive. It’s not that we don’t have a sense of humour or that we take ourselves too seriously, it’s that we didn’t trust that the other had us in mind, the the other loved us, that the other wasn’t being passive aggressive about something. We weren’t able to give each other the benefit of the doubt so everything felt like it was a dig or a criticism. Eventually, we were actively looking for negatives in the other’s language and consciously choosing to fight about it. It was exhausting. It was debilitating. It was very, very sad.
Now though, after taking a huge leap of faith with each other, we’ve got used to giving each other the benefit of the doubt. We’ve got used to trusting that if one of us is taking the piss, that’s all it is. Fun. We’ve got used to trusting that if the other is pissed off about something, that we will bring it up calmly, without any veils of passive aggression or sarcasm. We’ve got used to trusting the idea that each of us keeps the other in mind and, conversely, we’ve gotten used to keeping each other in mind again. For the first time, we feel like the other has our back. We forgive each other if we’re tired and snap and trust in our belief that it isn’t about us, but about the fact that they’re tired. We forgive each other for leaving dishes lying around instead of putting them in the dishwasher because we’re not too angry to see all the other amazing shit they do (ok, that one might be me).
All in all, I’ve come to realise that putting my trust in him has been difficult for me. It admits an element of vulnerability that I’m not 100% comfortable with. It requires me to not react to everything but, instead, to sit with things for a little while. It requires me to stop myself and consider for a moment that maybe, just maybe, he isn’t a totally thoughtless cockwomble; that actually he brings a lot to our shared table and it requires me to remember that we are one the same side and that I need to pick my battles or perhaps realise that, given some trust, there aren’t as many battles as I thought there were.