I’ve often written that the decision to love rather than the feeling to love your partner is the most important thing to learn in romance. You cannot rely on sexual attraction to propel the relationship into something that people will emulate and envy.
Sexual attraction is only one important factor, but here’s the thing. No matter how sexy your partner is or how sexy they find you, it won’t matter much unless there’s trust.
Okay, I kind of lied. The truth is that most people will torch various aspects of their lives and even themselves for someone they find attractive. You’ve done it. I’ve done it. It’s wildly embarrassing.
But when we eventually come to our senses we remember that no matter how attractive our partner is, if there is a lack of trust, the end is nigh. It’s only a matter of time that the attraction wears off and the ugliness of distrust changes how we perceive them.
There is a psychological phenomenon called the halo effect where people who look attractive are assumed to be good people. If you want to read more about it, you can do so here. But with the explanation I just provided, you can see the dangers that people you find attractive can pose to your life.
As dramatic as that may have sounded, so many of us can attest to being taken for a ride by a sexy stranger whose bad traits were there all along. We just happen to frame them in a positive way because their face and body made us feel good.
And it isn’t that this person has a Cluster B personality disorder. Sometimes the sexy stranger is quite nice, but they still have a trait that grinds your gears and it causes you to not trust them.
Maybe it is how defensive they get when you mention their ex; maybe they don’t love animals; maybe they always make an excuse when you invite them to hang out with friends or family.
Not the worse things in the world but enough to raise an eyebrow and ask a question or two. So what do you do about it? If trust is so important, how can we gauge whether or not to give it before we get our hearts broken because we became too invested? And how does the decision to love come into all of this?
First, we need to become a bit more pragmatic when it comes to relationships.
What we often do when faced with the person we adore is that we give of ourselves too much and too fast. We want the other person to know that we’re the real deal and we’re serious about things working out.
And they may be too but you can’t do that. They are probably doing their best but it may not be good enough, and the same goes for you.
So instead of trusting them right off the bat, mindfully gauge the relationship and give trust only when the other person has earned it.
You also need to know your boundaries, meaning, you need to know what you are willing to tolerate in the relationship.
For example, you’ve both agreed to meet up for drinks. If you value punctuality or you have other commitments that you want to be on-time for, your boundary could be that if your date is half an hour late, it could mean that you can’t trust their timing. If they do it more than once, you might want to hang up that relationship.
It all depends on you. Perhaps their schedule keeps them running late to everything. You can use that to your advantage and show up later. Or maybe it is still a deal-breaker for you. Either way, you get to set the rules for what you want. Next time, date someone with a less strenuous schedule.
Just remember that people may have their pet peeves too and they may end things with you based on their own needs.
Let’s say your date is punctual. Cool, you can trust them to that extent. Then you invite them to hang out with your friends at a games night. Let’s say that goes well too. Awesome, you can trust them even more. Then things lead to the bedroom. They conduct themselves well and everything’s respectful. Dope, give more trust.
The point is to dole out more and more trust over time instead of all at once. I think some of us do this but then we get sort of lazy and just give all the trust. Others of us give trust in an attempt to show that we are trustworthy and that we love the other person for who they are.
For those latter folk, people may see that you really are trustworthy but they will take advantage of it.
I don’t necessarily think people do it because they are evil. They do it because you set the stage that no matter what they do, you will trust them because, after all, they didn’t have to do anything in the first place and they already got all your trust.
Now when it comes to love (that is, acceptance of who the person is), as we all know, we first fall into the infatuation phase but eventually that fades and we are then faced with a decision: to decide to love or to not decide to love and wonder where all the magic went.
This is a pivotal stage in a relationship. You have incrementally given trust and fallen in love but now there’s a new challenge.
Because you don’t have neurotransmitters and hormones that are making you generous, gregarious and the greatest person ever, you now have to decide to be generous, gregarious and the greatest person ever.
And that isn’t as easy. Some might say it takes the romance out of it.
But to me there is nothing more romantic than ensuring your partner is good even when you feel lousy; there’s nothing more romantic than trying to understand your partner so that they can better understand themselves; there’s nothing more romantic than having a disagreement and your partner slips up and attacks you but you kindly redirect them and refocus on the problem.
I could go on and on but you get the point. When you reach these bumps in the road where things aren’t that sexy or there’s some confusion with compatibility or whatever the case may be, you still approach the issue with the desire for the other person to be happy and fully seen.
When two people are taking each other as a part of themselves, it’s something special. It may not end up in a relationship, or it may end up in an eventual breakup, but at least there was love.
If that relationship were to end, the trust you have for that person would be sky high. But this is what we say we want in a relationship, right? Well, this is what it takes.
It starts with incremental trust. Chances are, boundaries will be crossed because people are simply different. But if there is a decision to abide by each person’s boundaries, that’s great. The more that is done, the more trust will be built.
Then when the infatuation phase of the relationship is over, if the decision to love is made rather than just relying on giving love if or when you feel like it, you’ve got yourself a winner.