He looks into your eyes and tells you he doesn’t understand, and you wish you could explain how your trust has been eroded, how it has been crushed and not just by one man but by the process, by the machinery that brought you to this place, by the institutions around which you once rallied, by the family that did not stand beside you, by the principles in which you once set such store, by the self in which you once believed.
You’d like to be less cautious and believe in the love drug but the very fact that you know how it distorts and deceives, how we lose our heads after our hearts and it’s one thing to lose your heart but to believe in the investment of your feelings, your future, your children taking assurances in that future – those may be steps that are too distant, too demanding, too terrifying to give yourself to.
And it is indeed about the giving not the taking – your tendency to give too easily, too tenderly, too wholeheartedly.
You were there once and you know you misjudged, looking away at every turn when the signs were present though small at first, and then more prominent, and then undeniable. But by then you were in it, deeply in it with children and a “life” and a ring on your finger and even love, love of the sort that you thought would be sufficient to carry you through if not passionately then peacefully and you trusted that. You trusted the promises and the institutions and the sanctity of family.
You were naive to trust and so this necessary process of rebuilding that seems so much simpler for others is not for you, and you can’t say why precisely, though you imagine the origins lie in your childhood as well as the years of marriage, in the way of foundations that are slippery and undependable, in the betrayals that follow in the years after breakage, betrayals by blood, new ruptures – by blood.
Once you were able to build trust and give yourself, allowing another into your life and your heart, and there were happy experiences and painful ones, learning experiences and throwaways, and with each you began to understand what would work, what felt right, what formed a bond that would last, and so you formed a bond you were convinced would last.
And you were wrong.
How do you rebuild trust after divorce has torn it down, after those who were your family have helped to aim the wrecking ball, when your tendency is to give too much rather than just enough, though pop culture would have us give ourselves away in entirety, over and over again?
You have rebuilt so many other parts of yourself, stone by stone, roughly and slowly. Yet you cannot seem to complete this construction, this aspect of who you are and who you have always been, a woman who feels love deeply, a woman who does not run from its responsibilities, a woman who does not expect only what is shiny and new but understands the obstacles, the roller coaster ride, the periods of quiet as well as jubilation.
You wonder why she cannot believe or more precisely, why she cannot fully believe.
With the years of dating, tenuous at first, you learn what it is to fall in love again, and you are relieved. You learn what it is to have your heart broken again, and you make repairs. You learn resilience, the capacity for joy and its aching alter-ego, the strength you must master in motherhood; parenting requires us to stand up no matter how many times we are knocked down.
You grow smaller moving to the rhythms of the years alone, but you are still moving; you know you can manage this solitude, though its constancy is not your preference.
You grow smaller in relationships that are partitioned and guarded, though they are nonetheless relationships; you are reassured even in measured caring and tentative taking.
You memorize the refrain of “I am enough” though you haven’t forgotten the delights of intimacy, not just physical intimacy but the laughter of private jokes, the painstaking and pleasurable process of creating shared history, the simplicity of actions so many take for granted – picking up the phone to say “come over” or “I miss you” or even, with difficulty, “I need your help.”
Trust is also about asking for help when you need it, not fearing the answer will be no because it’s unlikely the answer will be no, understanding that we all need help and you are no different, setting aside the years in which you wandered alone and knocked on doors and no one would answer.
“Learn to trust your judgment again,” he says, and you want to do exactly that. But you did so once and the devastation extended far beyond one man and one woman whose lives took a different turn.
He looks into your eyes and says nothing, his eyes assuring you that he is a patient man, a good man, a man who will not run away, a man worthy of risk and of digging deep to find the courage to risk what remains elusive.
Trust. Trusting yourself. Trusting the future.
You consider the questions he poses, the thoughtful manner in which he offers each possibility and your inability to respond with definitive answers, and you wonder if it’s only a matter of time.