One thing I hear constantly from those who have experienced multiple hurts and disappoints in their life is “I don’t need anybody.” Each time I hear this my heart breaks for them. What they are essentially saying is that they are tired of being hurt from those that they trusted, it’s too much of a risk to get their hopes up, and they will protect themselves at all costs in order to avoid being disappointed by others ever again. In some cases, not all, these individuals become so unpleasant that they make their fear a reality, no one wants to be around them, leaving them isolated and affirming their thoughts of not needing others. The reality is that we were created to be relational beings, meaning, WE NEED ONE ANOTHER!
Those who have reached this place of being an island may actually be experiencing real relationship anxiety. In some cases, as mentioned above, they do an incredible job at pushing others away. Their unpleasant ways make it easy for others to feel revolted by their presence. However, there are those that will give their last for others. Loving hearts, for sure, but ask them to give parts of themselves, that becomes a deal breaker. Either way, these individuals are terrified to trust others.
Let’s first understand that both behaviors are rooted in fear. Fear is a driving force in so much that we do in life. Overcoming fear can lead us to taking the plunge into a new adventure or continuing to sit on the sidelines. Fear is powerful. Relational fear keeps us from really connecting with one another. There are ways to build healthy trusting relationships. Picture it as a level system, 1-5.
Level 1- This is what I call elevator conversation. “This weather is nice” These are small statements about general topics that are safe, very obvious things. “This rain is falling hard” Now, if a person responds to this in a way that it not socially acceptable (in agreement or by making an equally shallow comment), just put them on your prayer list and keep it pushing!
Level 2- Coffee shop talk- This may be where you begin to talk about your likes and interests. Again, nothing to heavy but things that are observable. “Oh, you got a blueberry muffin?” “You’re a soccer fan?” It is okay for people to disagree with your likes and dislikes but it’s the response that we are looking to be appropriate. “How do you watch soccer, it’s stupid?” vs “Soccer’s not really my thing, what team do you like?” There’s a difference. Depending on their response determines if you can take a chance on taking them to the next level.
Level 3- Building on common interests. Why build on the interests” Because we can then learn to appreciate things about that person in our interests while being able to respectfully allow then (and them allowing us) to have our disagreements about other things. This is where, for building healthy trusting relationships, the plot thickens and it gets scary for those with relationship anxiety. Going to the next level will cause them great anxiety and they will then have to decide to overcome the fear or take the plunge. For those that experience the fear I challenge them to share one life experience. If the person is able to respond in a genuine supportive manner, respecting the confidence you put in them, i.e. not spreading your business like gossip, then stay here with them, continue to build.
Level 4- The “What about your friends” level. Please take into account that we sometimes have friends that serve different functions in our life. At this Level 4 there should be levels of vulnerability that has and will continue to take place within the relationship. People that you have allowed in this level should be pretty solid people. At this level when we experience hurt from this person, we need the skills to repair the relationship (that’s another post for another day). Reasons why vulnerability is important at this level is that we have to have enough vulnerability to say, “I’m sorry” AND enough compassion to say, “I forgive you.” If your pride does not allow you this human connection, you have some work to do! Relationships, including familial, intimate, friendships, etc., are hard! It requires us to acknowledge that this world is not all about us. Those who have issues with trust have had more run ins with those who do not understand this, those people were selfish individuals, who themselves probably have experienced violations of trust.
Level 5- This level requires such a deep level of intimacy that it should literally consist of only a few people, your spouse being your primary person. The only relationship with is closer than this level is the one you have with yourself and God. These people are your true soul mates. There’s NOTHING superficial about this relationship and you protect this relationship. This level is not for the 5th BAE you’ve had this year. No, this is for the person that has been through the valley with you, you’ve laughed, cried, prayed together, you have been present with this person through some really tough times.
While we all will experience disappointments in various relationships, there are some that have been truly scarred by the damage of the trust violation. Be gentle and patient. Trusting for some, is a very scary experience. We deal differently but we were not placed on this earth to be alone.