We were in a fast-moving security line at the airport on our way back from a family vacation. As the line moved along, I reached in my purse to find my driver’s license. It wasn’t in the usual pocket. I searched other locations in my purse. No luck. I started to get that panicky sick feeling associated with losing things and screwing up. I told my partner we’d have to step out of line so I could look for my ID. He, the kids and I left the line and moved to a sitting area. I set my suitcase on a table and unzipped it. Two of us pawed through the suitcase but didn’t find the license.
I could feel my partner’s impatience building. I could sense his eye-rolls. I didn’t look at him.
My heart beating faster, I thought back over the week. When would I have removed my license from my purse? It dawned on me. I put it and a credit card in a smaller purse (OK fanny pack) when we went to the amusement park. I dug through my suitcase and found the fanny pack. Safely tucked inside was my ID. Hallelujah!
As we put my things back together and prepared to re-enter the security line. I said, “I’m so glad I remembered I put my license in the fanny pack.” My partner, in front of the kids, looked at me and said, “I was going to leave you here if you didn’t.” Straight faced, no joking.
I swallowed the huge urge to cry and got in the short security line. We made it home with no other problems but when we got to the Minneapolis airport my partner walked twenty steps ahead of me to the parking ramp.
Whenever I think of that experience, the hurt still rises in my chest. Being the analyzer I am, I have sought to figure out why it bothered me so much. There are several reasons related to trust and respect.
Relationship advice from 1500 people
Writer, Mark Manson, recently got married. Prior to his marriage he solicited advice from his readers regarding healthy happy relationships. More than 1500 responses poured in. As Mark and his assistants read through them, they noticed a pattern. People who had been through divorces and/or had been married for 10-15 years, believed communication was the thing that made the relationship work. For those married or together for 20 years or more, respect was the key ingredient.
No matter how good at sharing and how transparent you are, communication will break down. There will be conflict. There will be miscommunication. Feelings will be hurt.
In those times of trouble, we need to believe in our partner. We need to respect their decisions and their different perspective. We need to trust they have good intentions. If we respect our partner, we have more patience with them. We persevere by their side. We know we can work through things with them and trust they’ll do their best.
Through respecting each other’s opinions and appreciating differences, we build an account of safety. As an added bonus, authenticity thrives for both partners.
Through consistently being their for each other, we build an account of trust. It becomes OK to show vulnerability and share intimacy. It becomes OK to make mistakes.
That day at the airport I did not feel respected. I learned I could not trust my partner to be there for me. Making me feel small in front of my children, made it much worse. I had planned, prepared and delivered on many details for that trip prior to the airport incident. One hiccup apparently cancelled any appreciation for those efforts. The safety of the relationship took a hit. I learned I would be called out for any mistakes.
Perhaps doing the preparations for the trip myself made my partner feel disrespected? Like I didn’t trust him to do it. I’ve thought about all of the angles. Perhaps for both of us, the respect and trust accounts were overdrawn.
Please stand with me
Had he said, “I’m sure it’s somewhere in your suitcase. You’re usually so organized.” I wouldn’t be writing this post now. Had he stood with me, instead of against me, things would have been fine. Had he given me some credit and forgiven me for my mistake, I would have felt loved instead of abandoned.
If I am completely honest, I have a hard time trusting significant others. Believing they have my best interest in mind and will be there for me, is difficult due to past relationships. It takes a lot of integrity, experience and proof of wisdom to gain my respect as well. I realize I don’t make it easy for the men in my life. I continue to work on my awareness and openness. I continue to work on healing wounds from the past.
Communication only gets you so far
Since we are leaders in our own lives, we get to choose who we keep in them. After many attempts at communicating and gaining understanding and many occasions of being unable to trust and feel emotionally safe with the partner at the airport, I chose to discontinue that relationship.
Since I’m divorced and was married for 15 years, I fit into the pattern Mark Manson and his assistants noticed. Communication is a vital ingredient for healthy relationships but trust and respect ground and protect them for the long haul. I now make respect and trust priorities and hope to make it past the 20-year mark.
How well do you communicate with your partner? How well do they communicate with you? Would your relationship benefit from more respect and trust? How could you incorporate more respect?
If you would like to discuss increasing respect and trust in your relationship, please contact me for coaching.