Personal

Redux: Trust the water

Yesterday, I posted “Don’t trust the water”. It is a piece I originally wrote in late 2013, over a thousand days ago, and I am thankful to not be that person anymore.

That person lacked trust even before that situation happened. She had gone through all the motions of a relationship, had read all the books, but had missed out on some fundamentals. If you are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, don’t worry, if it takes too long, you’ll simply push it off the shelf yourself.

What does that mean? I’ll explain it plain:

What you seek, you find.

If you expect someone to betray you, the moment they laugh a little too hard at someone else’s joke when you’re out at a bar one evening, you will take that as evidence. If you expect anger all the time, the moment they scrunch up their nose at a bothersome situation, you will add it to the list. If you expect that people don’t really like you, the moment you hear a criticism, you take it as proof.

But, I believe it goes further than that…

What you are, you seek.

I lacked trust, so of course I found and dated people who proved me right and who lacked trust themselves. I myself used shallow measures, so of course I found and dated people who exemplified and expressed that behavior. I myself had failed to do the hard work of forming my identity, so of course I found and dated people who were illegible.

I was confident in some areas of my life, but deeply insecure in other areas. Do you need me to spell it out? Therefore, of course I found and dated people who were deeply insecure.

It is easy after a breakup to completely blame the other person. In fact, it’s expected. Your friends are quick to support you and point out all the things the other person did wrong. They want to prop you up, and it is all with good intentions. It’s easy. But, it is also easy, when you’re unsure of who you are and what your value is, that you think that it is all your fault, too

Hard truth: it was both of you. (Excluding truly severe and extreme circumstances).

It takes two people to setup something up to fail, and when it is all done, it doesn’t matter if it’s six on one side and half-a-dozen on the other, you both did it. When you fail to manage your own business, be certain that you will mess with someone else’s business.

What is your own business? Your needs. Your identity. Your boundaries. Your interests. You. And this is not with a sense of it being a static thing – we all, I hope, change and grow as we age – but getting to foundational elements right, so that you may stand on your own two feet and not shake every time the wind blows.

When you fail that, to have your own identities and boundaries, you may shakily stay together in a form of co-dependence, but chances are you will break at the first challenge. Or, if you are fortunate, in a relationship one or both of you do form your own individual bits and recognize that they don’t mesh – that’s fine, too. That is preferable, in fact.

Before, I used to think a relationship was leaping into the water and expecting it to hold me up. I don’t think that anymore. While I know an intimate relationship should be a place of safety and an earned right to rely on another, now I imagine it more as me swimming alongside someone else, our eyes looking forward into a shared future. We support one another with presence, but we are both capable on our own.

We just choose to be in it together. And we can trust the water; we can trust each other.

I much prefer that story.

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