The Rules of Trust Early-on in Dating
Several years ago, just a few months into a relationship with my boyfriend at the time, he asked me to hold his phone while he went to take care of something. While he was gone, it started ringing, and I recognized the name on the caller ID, as it was a female with whom he'd had some casual encounters prior to us meeting. When the call went to voicemail, text messages from her began to pop up on the screen, and while they didn't suggest anything directly, what I did gather was that he was still in contact with her and there was still a possibility of the two of them hanging out. We hadn't been dating so long that I expected him to never receive a text message from another woman, but it had been long enough that I felt upset and even a little insecure. I had questions about our relationship, as well as his intentions, and while I didn't want to act like a jealous lunatic, I also felt I deserved the truth.
Oftentimes, during the beginning stages of a relationship, you have more questions than answers, and being unclear about whether you can really trust your partner can drive you mad.
You want to play it cool, but there's a voice in your mind that wants to know why his ex is calling, or why his dating profile is still active online. As your connection with your partner deepens, the relationship can bring up feelings of jealousy and insecurity. So, what are the rules of trust when it comes to dating, especially early-on in the relationship, meaning you've only been dating for a few months and it's still uncertain if the relationship has potential for a long-term future? How do you navigate learning to trust your partner, while still leaving time and space for him to figure out exactly what he wants and where he sees the relationship going?
Here's the key: Trust is something that grows. If you take some time to think about trust, what it really means is that you feel safe to share your thoughts, emotions, and body with another person, without fearing that he will betray you; that doesn't mean cheating necessarily, but rather, he won't intentionally do anything that makes you feel unvalued, or like you can't open up fully and take down your guard.
Imagine trust as a garden that needs tending. Early on in dating, you're given a packet of seeds, a rusty tin can of water, and some dirt. You need to invest time, energy, and faith. You need to keep watering your garden and tend to it, remaining faithful that the seeds will bloom. The benefits you will reap from all of the energy and love you put into your garden will come in time, but though they might not be apparent at first, it doesn't mean that they are not on their way.
When you've been dating someone for a few weeks, or even a few months, you will need to be patient, as your partner might take longer than you to figure out his feelings and what he really wants. This is not to say that you wait for an eternity for someone to declare that he only wants to be with you, but rather, that there is a transitional period between being single and meeting someone great. Often, it takes some time to adjust to opening up and being in a a relationship. It can take time to work out communicating with a new partner and figuring out a new partner's triggers, boundaries, likes and dislikes. Imagine if you were dating a man whose previous girlfriend didn't like to talk or share her feelings. It might take some getting used to for him to adjust to someone who does like to communicate and share things.
Similarly, behaviors that might not have bothered a past partner might bother you, and so there is a period of learning that requires grace and faith. The trick is to keep planting seeds of trust, encourage your partner to be open and communicative, and be patient while he sorts through his feelings and desires. Encourage him to share his truth, even if he thinks it will hurt your feelings, and be willing to be honest even when it's uncomfortable.
Trust is the foundation for any healthy relationship, and so you have to be willing to work on it and to see the other person's perspective, even when it feels like you are clearly right and he is clearly wrong. As you cultivate a spirit of patience, trust, and honesty, you will deepen your connection with your partner. It does take some time, and it takes a whole lot of faith, but it pays off in the end. The questions and trials you face early on eventually lessen, and even if you have bouts of insecurity or random issues that arise, your foundation is there. The relationship has what it needs to get through tough times when both partners trust each other.