This blog post is based on a conversation a few of us had with Neil the other day in a sauna. None of us took notes, but we attempted to write down every piece of Neil’s logic and advice he offered on phones, trust, and relationships.
Let’s talk about trust in relationships around the phone and social media.
As a metaphor for trust in general.
Neil often hears people complain that their partner doesn’t trust them, that they’re always looking over their shoulder when they’re on social media, that they are always cyber-stalking them.
They make it sound like they’re the victim of a crazy, jealous partner.
But when Neil asks the question: Is there anything you are doing or have done on social media that your partner would be upset if they saw? Their answer is a sheepish “yes.”
In other words, they are not behaving trustworthy, so of course their partner doesn’t trust them.
So let’s go a little deeper…
There are two elements to making relationships work in the age of social media, or for that matter, any age:
Are you trustworthy enough to have the passcode to your partner’s phone, but to never look at it behind their back?
Can you lay bare your life, including your online life, to your partner and have nothing there that you don’t feel comfortable with them seeing?
If your answer is “yes” to both questions above, excellent. If not, look at what’s going on. Either you or your partner are trying to escape from the intimacy of the relationship in some way by keeping doors open with other people. Or you or your partner have abandonment issues, and are so worried about losing your partner that you don’t trust them and, as a result, will at worst lose your partner or at best push them away.
The Parole Partner
Some people behave impeccably, yet their partner acts more like a parole officer than a lover.
The subtext is, “I don’t think you can control yourself, so I will control you.”
And as a result, instead of being a lover, they become a parent. And no one wants to sleep with their parents. Consequently, the sex life plummets, and the impulse to find someone else to meet that need increases.
Here’s the deal:
1). You have no control over your partner’s behavior. Attempting to control it only causes both of you anxiety and stress.
2). You should give your partner a free choice. Think of yourself as the Garden of Eden. If they choose good, they get to stay in Paradise. If they choose evil, they’re expelled.
3). You don’t need to know the truth. If you consistently don’t trust your partner, it doesn’t matter whether or not they are actually cheating, the relationship is already over.
4). If you had healthy self-esteem, you wouldn’t worry that they’d find someone better than you. And if they think they’ve found someone better, then they should be with them. You want them to be happy.
5). We have this wrongheaded idea in our culture that if a relationship or marriage ends, it’s a failure. But a relationship should be measured not by its length but by its depth. The only relationship that’s a failure is one that lasts longer than it should. (Paraphrased from a line in Neil’s book The Truth)
The paramount challenge for all relationships is to be honest.
Honesty creates intimacy.
Without honesty, there is no love.
Without trust, there is no love.
Intimacy is the combination of honesty and trust plus openness and vulnerability plus safety. For a primer on sharing your deepest secrets with your partner, listen to the podcast interview Neil did with PostSecret founder, Frank Warren.
Or just take a little step and let your partner know the passcode to your phone.
While Neil is writing books, Brian Fishbach is assisting Neil with his work. If you want to be on the inside, and learn the latest tools and techniques we are using here to improve our lives and the lives of others, then you’ll want to be part of this limited email distribution list. Click here while we’re still doing this.