By Dr. Steve
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might become your friend
if you allow him to be who he is.
next two chapters focus on the construction materials of a relationship-bridge. These
materials influence all aspects of the relationship-bridge that will be discussed
throughout the book. The brittleness or flexibility of a relationship is formulated from
these materials. The adaptability of a relationship is influenced by them. I am referring
to trust, limit setting, support, and accountability.
Everyone, regardless of their background or personal style, has a need for trust.
Its really simple. Unless we are willing to trust another in at least a small way,
not much will happen.
between two people can take on several faces. Trust may symbolize the confidentiality that
exists between two people in a relationship.
friend of mine has no problem listening to her best friend over the telephone as she
enjoys the absolute trust that their conversation will stay between the two of them. Even
small indiscretions will be avoided. She knows it, her best friend knows it--they both
count on it. Trust may mean accountability within the contract of the relationship.
married couple I know uses trust in each other to ask probing questions, enjoy mutual
responsibility, and live up to promises. I remember once they were to meet at a dinner
party one evening and one of them was late. When she got there, her husband asked several
questions in front of the other guests.
are you late? he said.
ran late at the doctor. she said.
was worried, is everything O.K.?
was a silent moment. Yes, everythings fine.
some settings and between some people that might have sounded like the beginning of an
inquisition. Between these two, it was a marvelous exchange of trust and caring. The
difference was their tone and manner with each other.
trust is the consideration for the use of power between individuals--trusting one partner
will not abuse the power given by the other partner.
was on vacation for the summer. I watched a couple playing in the surf for what seemed
like hours. When I went outside, I noticed she was standing in the breakwater of the surf
with her back to her partner. When he gave her a cue, she would fall backwards into his
arms, trusting he would catch her before she fell into the shallow water.
was able to do the same exercise with him a little further out. Though they were clearly
having fun, the value of trust in each other was far more important than the game.
trust can refer to empathy or valuing the feelings of someone you are involved with
men I know share feelings so fragile and personal, they have to trust each other. I was talking to one of
them about trust in disclosure and he said, One time I asked Bob if he ever
remembered how big his house was when he was a little kid--only to visit it as an adult
and find the place was actually tiny.
strange and unimportant as it sounds, its great to have someone who will take those
moments seriously and not make fun of me. I related that experience to the last place I
ever saw my dad as a kid. He respected my asking the question so I could tell him the rest
of the story.
some extent you should expect all of these forms of trust to be active in a fulfilling
matter of who trusts who first is like the question of which came first, the chicken or
the egg. One way of looking at trust is to expect it. Trusting one another is not a
weakness, it is a strength. And someone who trusts is to be respected.
asked an especially intuitive woman in group one night why she had the remarkable ability
to demonstrate trust so freely. She answered, I guess a lot of people demonstrate
trust, and I guess I see that differently from others.
asked her what she meant, and she said, Some people express their trustworthiness by
keeping a small confidence well. Others do what they say they are going to do, and I think
thats worth my trust. Some people demonstrate respect by showing warmth, interest,
and cooperation with others in the group. I intuitively trust those people.
was amazed at her insight. She continued, If you look carefully, you can tell a lot
about a persons trustworthiness. In my family, we look closely at people we
dont yet know. Some people act realistically about what they can and cannot do,
without exaggerating. They avoid behavior that might be indicative of the presence of
ulterior motives such as voyeurism, selfishness, superficial curiosity, or
I knew an elderly man who had no money, no real home. Every
day he ate in a community shelter. His friends gathered around him in a public park on
most afternoons to talk and play games of chess. I wanted to know the secret of his
popularity, so I got to know him.
the course of several small visits I noticed that he remembered many things about me. He
noted what type of soda I drank. He remembered the clothes I wore. Most importantly, he
remembered my attitudes and feelings.
day, he asked me if I had been sick. I said yes, and then asked him how he
sniffled for the past two weeks and your eyes have been puffy, he said. The sad
thing is that I never really got to know him very well before he died.
went to his wake and there were many people there all telling stories of this man. I found
out he had owned a hot dog cart years before. I saw television personalities, bank
presidents, writers, and professional people. Soon I found out that all of them had gotten
to know my friend as they walked through the park over many years of chess games and
conversations and hot dogs. He had remembered things about all of them, and regarded each
of them with respect. And when he died, they remembered him with respect as well.
bridge can stand alone. Any bridge constructed must be built to compensate for the extreme
elements of its changing environment, if it is to withstand them. There must be enough
flexibility in the bridge to sway with the blowing of the wind. The bridge must be
anchored to the ground so as not to drift away with the flow of the river. It must be
tempered so as not to rust from the drenching rain. It must be strong enough to support
the burden of the traffic that flows back and forth.
are no different. They are constructed of very special materials so as to be able to
withstand the extreme elements of a relationship. As I said earlier, the special materials
of any relationship bridge are trust, support, limits, and accountability. The sturdiness
of any relationship bridge is proportionate to the degree of trust, support, and
accountability that exists in the relationship.
pylons of any relationship bridge are trust. Trust is what anchors a relationship to the
ground. The strength of trust that exists in a relationship determines how much
risk-taking will take place among two people.
develops as a result of risking, exploring, and experimenting. The more risk-taking is
successful or accepted, the more trust exists in the relationship. If risk taking is
unsuccessful or if it produces painful consequences, trust decreases. If trust decreases,
the relationship becomes dominated by fear, doubt, mistrust, and confusion. These feelings
then dominate how you start to think about yourself, your partner, and people in general.
person brings into a relationship a certain amount of trust. This supply of trust is
influenced directly by previous experiences and is composed of two parts: the trust you
have in yourself, and the trust you have in other people. Whatever the amount of
trust you bring to a relationship, it will influence the amount of involvement you have
it turns out involvement in building a new relationship-bridge is safe, then the trust in
the relationship will increase and more risk-taking will happen.
how frightening it must be for someone to share any secret they may have about themselves with
somebody. Let me use the example of the secret of alcoholism.
years ago, a friend and I were out for dinner. We had known each other for only a month or
so but had a good friendship brewing. We were enjoying the meal and each others
conversation when she grabbed my hand and said, There is something I must tell
looked at the seriousness in her eyes and became alarmed. I tried to guess in my mind at
what such disturbing news she might have. After a very awkward moment, she told me she was
a recovering alcoholic. She told me how frightened she was to tell me, yet she felt
compelled to let me know.
thanked her for being so honest. I then told her I understood how difficult it must have
been for her. She looked at me and started crying.
wondered in my mind what I might have said that was so upsetting. She said, Your
understanding and openness makes me feel so accepted. I feel like it would be safe to tell
you anything. That was the start of what has turned out to be an important
friendship that has meant a lot to me through the years.
is built into a relationship when the interactions that take place are clean, not made up of jagged edges. The jagged
edges are the remainder of past experiences that you impose upon the present. This means
that you must learn to separate your past experiences from the here-and-now experiences of
is always defeated in a relationship when your past experiences in old relationships leak
into the here-and-now. Your partner will feel like a prisoner frozen in time. They never
know what you are reacting to--never know what to expect from you. Such an inability to be
in the present with your partner erodes the intensity of the present relationship. It
keeps two people from getting close because it never feels safe. You never know when the
next ghost is going to appear.
relationship itself begins to collect its own history that a couple can continually trip
up on. I refer to that as laundry listing. How
many times have you or your partner silently kept track of every insult perpetrated on
each other? How many times have you taken the opportunity to hit your partner over the
head with something they did in August of 1991?
once had a relationship with a woman who had the most incredible memory. I have enough
problems remembering what happened yesterday. She was none too glad to remind me. Over and
over and over. Our relationship never had a present because we never completed the past.
can never be any trust in a relationship when you hold the relationship hostage to your
own past and the past of the relationship. It is critical for a couple to work hard at
keeping the relationship grounded in the present. It is critical a couple develop the
skills of separating the past from the future in order to enhance the level of trust in
chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your
children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs
free. Learn how
to in Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. Recovery book seriesFrom Insanity to Serenity.