A friend and I were talking recently about trust and relationships. As we were talking, I remembered some incidents that taught me a lot about life, and about trust. I’ve had many things happen in my life that have led me to be a generally mistrustful individual, but these incidents have shaped my life, and who I have become to a much further extent than I had imagined.

The first began in high school, and continued on until my wedding in 2001. He and I always had an attraction, but were always attached to someone else, except for a brief period in the two years following high school. We went on exactly one date, and it still remains burned in my memory as one of the most romantic experiences of my life.

Let me explain…we had always flirted, even when we had significant others, and we both knew that nothing would come of it. When he moved away after he graduated, we exchanged letters for about a year, and then made plans to go out when he visited Ohio. It was an incredibly beautiful summer day – warm and sunny, and we went to dinner and then for a walk in the woods near home. Akron had a series of parks with trails, and we walked along the trails and talked, until we came to a small clearing. I remember we both stood there, and became awkward for a moment, and then he kissed me…it still remains one of the most passionate, longing kisses I’ve ever experienced, and that was over 20 years ago. And…then we went our separate ways, and continued to write.

Over the period of time that we wrote, he offered to fly me out to where he lived to spend the holidays, but I had met and was seriously dating the man who would become my first husband. After the marriage, we lost track of each other until 1995, when I looked him up on the internet and began corresponding again. It turns out that he had married, and often had business in the Denver region, so again we made plans to meet – this time with my son and the man who became my second husband. He came to our wedding with his wife – I met her and she seems like a wonderful woman.

And yet, I still wonder about where he is, what he’s doing, and if he’s happy…he is probably my strongest “what might have been.” We recently got in contact again, and it’s nice to hear from him. Nothing will happen, of course…but we do seem to weave in and out of each other’s lives like a key thread in a tapestry.

Ironically enough, my other “if only” also dates from the same relative time period. I met this person through a church, where he was doing missionary work – he was not allowed to date or be alone with a woman, so every time I saw him, we were with other people. I fell, and I fell hard for this man, and I thought it was returned…every one I knew seemed to see the attraction, and noticed the flirting. However, I found out after about 6 months that there was another woman, also a missionary…and my heart broke.

So, like any sane person, I let it go…until he contacted me again via letters and asked me to come visit his home and meet his family. I spent a week there, and again, it seemed the attraction was there, and then suddenly wasn’t. The week ended with him telling me that I was “too smart and intimidated” him. Again, my heart broke…and again, I went on. Later that year, I moved to Utah, and met the man who became my first hubby…and again, he contacted me and wanted to spend time with me. This time, I was not so gullible – I went, but my guard was up. I had learned not to trust him, and was not going to get hurt again. Even so, I kept thinking that if only I were not as smart, maybe things could have worked out…

In retrospect, I don’t think he knew what he wanted, only that he wanted someone. I think he tried to like me, but the chemistry wasn’t there for him. However, at the time, all I knew was that I was tired of being hurt.
As you might tell from the timeline here, this period in my life was busy and somewhat confused. I met the man who became my first husband during this time, and married him for all the wrong reasons. Partly to escape my abusive home (I was away at college and could see for the first time how truly bad it was), partly out of loneliness, and partly on the rebound…although at the time, I had convinced myself that I loved the man. Again, though, an “if only”…if only I’d been more self-aware and self- confident…I think, if I could do it all again, I would go back and see where things with Mr. What Might Have Been would have led. But, the past is what it is, and I’ll never know.

So how does all this relate to trust? Well, the “if onlys” are obvious…I trusted when I should not have, and ended up hurt badly in the process. I learned that it was easier to build up a wall, and not let anyone in, than it was to let go, take a leap of faith, and trust. With the “what might have been”…I should have let go and taken that leap of faith. I often wonder where I would be, who I would be, and what I’d be like if I’d reversed my trust…if I’d kept myself safe with the “if onlys” and taken that jump with the “what might have been.”
Coming back to the present, I still find myself struggling with these lessons…Trust is a hard thing for me, because of these and other experiences. I’ve learned that trust is fragile, and broken easily…it’s difficult to let go and take that leap, especially when so much is at stake. I find myself wondering who is safe to trust, and who is not, and if I am to be totally honest, I don’t think I trust any one person 100%. I try, but there is always a piece reserved, some area fenced off…just to be safe.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to let go and be able to completely trust anyone…my current husband is the closest I’ve ever come, and the trust there has been broken. I’m trying to heal and forgive, and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve always run, before, and not looked back; I’m learning here too. I’m learning to trust my friends, though, and although scary, I’m finding it very helpful. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in some things, and that others struggle with similar things. Maybe together we can learn to feel safe and let go…