Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Do I Trust You? (part 2 of a series)

Trust.  Commitment.  These are important elements in a relationship.  I’m sure you will agree.  But how does it look in a healthy relationship?  That we may not agree on.  Please read on.

If you watch as much television and see the same movies as I do, possibly you yearn to hear someone say, “I am committed to you”.  Or long to be in a relationship so you can say, “We are committed to each other”.   It sounds so romantic.  And as soon as that happens you will live happily ever after.  Quite alluring.  And I think, UNdoable.

But the pull is real.  So use it for your advantage.  Ask yourself why would you commit to someone?  What NEEDS will be met?  What kind of experiences are you hoping to have more of?  (possibly safety, security, partnership, love, inspiration?)  These questions will enable you to determine if being in a relationship with the person you are committed to is, indeed, an effective strategy for the experiences you say you want.   I suggest you (both you and your partner), commit to those needs and values rather than to each other.  

Compare these two scenarios:
Scenario One:
You have found the love of your life.  You are committed to each other.  It is yummy.  As humans, you begin the relationship by projecting your hopes and dreams onto the other person.  (And, after a while you will begin to project your fears onto this person...but I’ll save that for another article).  You like the same movies, you are both interested in art, and reading the Sunday times in bed.  You both want a house and two kids. Everything is going to be great.   Fast forward two years.  Your partner lost his job 10 months ago.  You discovered recently that it wasn’t due to a cut-back in his office, rather he got into a fight with a co-worker, and then published some private information about that person on facebook.  Your partner was not the person who gave you this news.  He is now interested in accepting a job halfway across the country.  It would require you leaving your job of 7 years, where you will be vested in an 401k in just 2 more years (I made that up, please forgive that I know nothing of 401k plans).  For the past 6 months you have been happily providing the finances that support you and your partner.  You ask your partner for a conversation about your concerns about his leaving out some details about how he was fired from his job, and your dwindling bank account and moving.  His response is, “I didn’t think I could tell you what happened, and this is why.  You don’t have my back.  I can’t believe you even talked to so-and-so.  I thought you were committed to me.  If you love me, you wouldn’t be making it so hard for me to take this new job.  Its perfect for me.”

If you are committed to him, what are your choices?  It seems that he is no longer committed to you, although if you ask him, he will say of course he is, that is why he wants to take the job.  To support you.  Even though that isn’t what you want in order to feel supported.  He is committed to you, you are committed to him and now it doesn’t seem much like how you imagined it in the beginning.  I see years of arguments increasing in volume and distress, until one of you blames the other one enough to finally feel justified in breaking your original commitment.  Painful.

Scenario Two:
You have found the love of your life.  You are so happy when you are with each other.  It is yummy.  As humans, you begin the relationship by projecting your hopes and dreams onto the other person.  You like the same movies, you are both interested in art, and reading the Sunday times in bed.  You both want a house and two kids. Everything is going to be great. 

As you deepen your relationship you take the time to discuss what is important to you individually and as a couple.  For example, you might say to you partner, “I am hoping to have an experience of collaboration, fun, trust and honesty inside this relationship”. To support that outcome, you each agree to have weekly check-ins, you decide that you want to dedicate time to hear the important things that are happening in each other careers, etc.  In addition, you decide to have monthly check-ins about how you feel about the relationship.  Maybe this is where you get to say, “Last Tuesday, when you decided to go out with friends, and didn’t invite me, or let me know, I felt disappointed.  I made a roast for dinner, and I would have loved to have had more of an opportunity to make plans with my mom, had I known in advance.  When we talked about collaboration, this is what I had in mind.  I’d love to know how it worked out the way it did, why you didn’t let me know ahead of time.”  This gives him an opportunity to express himself about what happened – from the agreement to collaboration and trust.  Fast forward two years.  Your partner lost his job 6 months prior – in the same way as the previous scenario.  He told you about it, how it happened, and how he felt about it.  Now he wants to take a job halfway across the country and has asked you to move with him.

The conversation might look more like, “Honey, I understand you want to support me, and I am having trouble trusting that this move will provide the support I am looking for, given the circumstances of the past year.  I am not prepared to give up the security I have in my career, for the possibility that your job may work out.  How about you go out for 3 months, and I stay here.  I will continue to contribute ½ of the financial support during those three months.  I am hoping that we can feel supported by each other again in this arrangement, as we work our way toward finding more trust, collaboration and comfort in our relationship.  In 3 months, let’s talk about how it is and isn’t working, and what kind of changes we’d like to make then.  How do you feel about this arrangement?”

If you are committed to the experience of trust, honesty, collaboration, your actions are in response to that.  Meaning, that even if your partner ‘lies’ to you, your response to that would be one of collaboration and trust and honesty.  Rather than blame.  Remember that what you say and do will be to increase the experience you are looking to have. If it turns out that this person has changed their commitment, and is longer interested in the same values you agreed to, then your choices become more clear. 
There may be many reasons to stay in the relationship – other needs that are getting met.  You may choose to get your collaboration needs met in other ways, and modify your expectations about that inside this relationship so that you feel more contentment.   Not giving up...but choosing new strategies to get more needs met.   There is no arguing in this case.  It still may be difficult and sad to change the relationship, mourning the loss of a certain quality of connection, yet there is actually trust, collaboration and honesty inside the re-working of what NEEDS you are both committed to inside the relationship now.

In the second scenario, where you are committed to NEEDS being met, there is so much more freedom to choose the perfect relationship in every moment.  NEEDS and values change, people change, dreams change.  Are you able and willing to notice what’s alive in you now, know what is important to you for your life and commit to that inside any relationship you have moment by moment?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Do I Trust Me? (part 1 of a series)

Trusting people can be so confusing, can’t it?  There isn’t much worse than someone saying one thing and doing another.  It is just plain wrong.  We are only as good as our word after all.  Confusing because in Nonviolent Communication we suggest that moralistic judgment (right/wrong thinking) is not a resourceful strategy to get needs met.  Certainly in this case you would be exempt from not making a moralistic judgment because lying is clearly inappropriate behavior.  No one likes a liar.

I have grappled with this my whole life, and I can honestly say now that I like many liars.  And my life is much easier now because of this.  (Haven’t we all ‘lied’ at one point or another?  C’mon.) I’ll explain this further.

For reasons that are no longer interesting even to me, I had built complicated rules about people who made commitments to me and then broken them, or might break them, or might talk about me behind my back, or did something and didn’t tell me about it, or laugh at the wrong time when I was talking, and on and on.

There were many times when I was distraught about something someone did and I had strong urges to punish them in some way for how I felt.  I learned that my reaction was not universal.  I would talk to friends about the situation and they didn’t think ‘it was that bad’.  That is when I discovered that I might have ‘trust issues’ I decided to ‘work on them”. 

My first strategy was to make clear agreements, and then expect (read:  hope and pray) that everyone would live up to them always.  Of course I explained in detail to people why it was important to me that they keep their agreement, and most often the people in my life did keep their agreements.  But...not always.  And that became a problem.  I would be extraordinarily upset.  “How could they?  Especially when they know my history...blah, blah!”  And even when people weren’t breaking agreements, I still had worries that they might in any moment.  Needless to say, I was in some level of personal distress a great deal of the time.

As I longed to address this problem, get people to be trustworthy, I sought the help of a teacher of mine.  She asked me a simple question.  “Are you willing trust yourself to meet your needs, by how you think, by how you listen, and by what you do?”  This question changed my life.  This is when I learned how to be responsible when I discovered (or decided) that someone was not worthy of my trust. 

Armed with the understanding that needs are universal, and everything I say and do is to meet a need, (and everything everyone else says and does is to get a need met), I began to realize that my strategy to have an experience of trust was not very resourceful.  I was outsourcing the responsibility to others.  Yes, people may or may not keep their agreements with me.  Intentionally or unintentionally.  And the real question I began to consider was, “Am I willing to know what my needs are, and make an effort to address them in every circumstance I find myself in?” 

Here’s an example, if someone breaks a commitment to you over and over, are you willing to let go of expecting that person to keep the commitment, and make a new choice about how you might relate to them ongoing?  Or will you keep ‘selling yourself out’ and ask again and again?  Most likely blaming them over and over, and labeling them untrustworthy – not worthy of my trust.  This is an exquisite example of using judgment to determine if life is being served (needs are being met).  If someone is “untrustworthy” and you have a strong need for trust, and you continue in the same way of relating, then really, aren’t you the one who is not meeting your own need for trust?   Are you being response-able to what your feelings are telling you, to the situation in the moment? 

Please consider your resources (time and energy) when reflecting on this question.  
Are you willing trust yourself to meet your needs, by how you think, by how you listen, and by what you do?