Yesterday I received an email from a woman who told me she’s never been in a relationship for longer than three months, and it’s because, “all men lie and cheat, or they leave.” I asked her how she came to that conclusion, and she said, “Because it’s true.” It turns out her dad left her mom for another woman when she was six, and then had several girlfriends while he carried on this relationship with the woman who eventually became her stepmother. Her mom also remarried, and her stepfather had a roving eye as well. She remembers her mom putting her in the back of the car one night to follow her step-dad and see if he was really going to a card game and she remembers her mom bawling as they watched her step-dad enter a house when a woman opened the door and let him in with an embrace. She said she can still locate that sick feeling in her stomach, just like she had as she held her crying mother in that car all those years ago. (I could write a whole post about the damage done to children when they’re forced to be in the parental role.)

She said that every guy she’s ever dated has cheated on her or left. The same thing happened in college and continues to this day. She’ll meet someone she likes and everything will seem okay in the beginning. She doesn’t have a problem letting herself fall, but once that happens she starts to panic. She said it never lasts once the hormones wear off, because no guy wants to deal with all the constant scrutiny and need for reassurance. She’ll get a vibe early on, this one likes a woman at work, this guy still talks to his ex, this one goes out with his buddies a few times a week, and she’ll start looking for clues. Asking questions. Checking their cellphones when they leave the room. Grilling them about their comings and goings. She said it’s not unusual for her to go through a guy’s closets or drawers given the opportunity, to check recent searches on his computer, or to go through his email account if it isn’t protected with a password. She tries to make friends with his friends right away, not just in life, but on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else so she can “keep tabs” more easily. She has “tests” that she doesn’t talk about, but they’re there. Is he calling once a day? Asking her out for Saturday nights? Talking about the future? She said some guys are up front about their commitment issues, and others aren’t, but she assumes they’re there, either way.

There’s no way a relationship can grow in an environment like that. If there isn’t any trust, there’s no foundation and it’s only a matter of time before it crumbles. No one likes to feel like they’re being tested or spied on or paying the tab for someone else’s transgressions. Your current boyfriend doesn’t deserve anger that’s really about your dad, and you can easily flip the genders around here. People drag their past into their present all the time. That’s a great way to keep it alive, and keep yourself triggered, and end up creating the very circumstances you want to avoid. If you want someone to feel like they want to build something with you, violating their privacy is not the way to go. Trust. If you need support with that, reach out, but trust unless or until there’s a reason not to trust. The worst that happens is that you’re disappointed and your heart is broken. That’s okay, it won’t kill you; you’ll learn more about yourself, you’ll grow and you’ll strengthen. The best that happens is you create something beautiful with someone that helps you go deeper and also learn about yourself so you can open up even more to love. If you’re looking for a committed relationship, don’t pick people who tell you they can’t commit, or that they have a history of always being unfaithful. If someone shares that with you, believe them and move on. You’re not going to be the one to change them, because that’s something in them, it has nothing to do with you. Pick wisely, and then open up.

I told the woman who wrote in that all men do not lie and cheat, just the ones she’s picking. We only know what we know. We can only have the frame of reference we have. The first step is to recognize your frame may be severely bent. The glass across your frame may be distorted. You might need to trash that frame altogether, and start building yourself a new one. Believe me, this goes for men and women. I’ve had guys write in who’ve said all women are liars and users. Remember the guy I met last year with the tattoo on his hand, “Trust No B!tch”? If you walk into a situation in defense mode, don’t expect anyone to be able to get to know you. That is the point of trying to connect, is it not? To be seen and understood and cherished, with all your beauty and all your flaws? To be embraced, and held so you can relax? If you have the impetus to want to get close to people, that’s a natural, healthy feeling. Bringing distrust and fear into the equation right off the bat is like deciding you’re going to bake a cake, and blowing up the oven before you start.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here and my yoga classes and courses here.