He does not trust me

-- Question for John --

I was in a relationship for two years. I feared that we would never get married and I had actually had visions of him leaving me at the altar. I wanted to get married. I never stopped loving him, but I walked away and moved on. Should we try to patch things up or just move on.

Now, the light bulb sort of went on some things that made the relationship less than comfortable. I realize I shared some of the blame.

I’m a little too idealistic about how I can become super girlfriend and enchant him into love and marriage.

Right now, he has said he doesn’t trust me because I left.

We’ve been on a merry go round lately. I left. I left because I was hurt. He wasn’t there when I needed him (when I broke my foot and really needed somebody). I internalized it. I saw that as a sign. He didn’t ask for me to come back. Months later, he decided to ask for me to come back. I was dating someone and didn’t think the ask was strong enough. The person I am dating has made it clear that he is ready for marriage.

Then the holidays come around and the reality of me not being with my ex sunk in. I never said I stopped loving him. I just never know what to do with the remnant feelings. I’ve broken up with people before, but a part of me still cares for them all.

I do care for him and he is a good person. But I guess that is not enough to make a relationship work is there?

-- Answer from John --

I’d call it a not-so-merry go round. I would suggest that your overall mission is to get completion with this guy, one way or the other. See if he is willing to get together and talk about what went wrong in the relationship — in order to heal it emotionally.

I don’t know how he will respond to those words, but use your own judgment. If he is willing, then great, talk about what happened, what he felt, what you felt, all without blame or defensiveness, and get to a place of clarity and letting go. This is a process which can, of course, renew a sense of intimate connection, even though all you are doing is discussing past baggage and negative feelings.

Maybe after this, there will be space for positives to explore… or not…. who knows? There’s only so much you can orchestrate and make happen.

What you CAN do is:

(1) Proposing getting together, and then

(2) Making sure you don’t bring along any blame or defensiveness if you do get together and talk it out.

You cannot get him to agree to get together, nor can you get him not to bring along blame or defensiveness. But in doing the two things you can do, you will have done all you can at this moment. If he does not respond, then you will know you’ve done all you can do. And you can move along to the next stage of letting go.

You can then really get the lessons from this relationship “failure” so that you don’t have to repeat them again in your next relationship. Failure is actually only the failure to learn the lesson at this moment. It will come back around again to learn with the next relationship.Right now you personally have to address his trust issue and find out from him what he might need as a very first step towards re-establishing a sense of trust.

Generally speaking, real trust comes from:

(1) facing emotional challenges in a relationship and

(2) sticking around and dealing with the discomfort that those challenges bring up and then

(3) seeing that your partner is sticking around also, despite the discomfort and fear and then, finally

(4) getting some sense of moving through the challenge together and learning from it.

When this cycle around challenges (facing-sticking-seeing-moving-learning) is repeated enough times, trust becomes solid. Anything short of this experiential building of trust is rather more blind hope than solid trust.

So you have a great opportunity to build trust right now. Why do I say that? Because there is obviously a pretty big challenge involved here. The cycle I describe here not only builds trust, it is what makes a relationship work, survive and prosper in the long run. It is also what lets partners finally realize that they are unreplacable by anyone else, and leads to commitment through action — not merely the kind of commitment that occurs through words or even wedding ceremonies (which only lead to longterm relationships less than half the time, by the way).