I’ve got trust issues.
As my therapist would say, my cup of trust is empty right now, and I’m working on filling it up. With someone new in my life, whenever I feel like I’m ready for it, it’s going to take some time to fill my cup back up.
I recently decided to go out on a few dates, just to see what it’d be like and to remember what it’s like to be back in the Tinder game.
And– spoiler alert– it’s kind of awful for the most part.
The whole thing feels like taking a dive back into high school. Everyone has their defenses up, no one puts their cards out on the table, everyone waits for you to fold, and everyone wants to seem cool. Every line you write feels like it could either be the thing that woos the person of interest or sends them running for the unmatch button.
It’s high school. Only the baggage that each person carries is heavier and deeper, and they’re trying harder to cover it all up until the time comes to reveal their secrets in tiny bite sized chunks.
It’s draining. You experience the mix of hopeful highs paired with inevitable and disappointing reminders of why you decided that now is not the right time to date in the first place. Tinder makes you feel alone, more alone than when you weren’t trying to meet people and single as fuck.
Love is a numbers game. Sex is a gamble. Trust is currency.
If I trust you this much, I’ll give you this part of me. If you break my trust, you owe me this part of you. If you steal or cheat or lie your way into me giving you my trust, I’ll eventually find out I’m broke and need to declare bankruptcy on the trust bank until I figure out a way to fill it again. But filling your bank account after declaring bankruptcy? That’s really fucking hard to do.
It’s give and take, and it’s rarely equally given or equally taken. Like all currency, certain people get really good at falsifying and creating counterfeit trust. Other people get good at stealing.
The liar who tells you he loves you.
The cheater who tells you he is faithful.
The false victim who turns the tides on you.
You fill your bank account with counterfeit dollars, and you’re surprised when you realize it was all false and worth nothing.
Then there’s the stealing. The thieves who steal your logic, your reasoning, your sanity. They are masterminds in gas-lighting and making you believe you were the one in the wrong. You were the crazy one. You were the one who was doing something shitty– not them. Never them.
But wait. Hold up. Isn’t that your fault? You gave it to them. Is the trust stolen if I gave it to them under false pretenses? If I gave it to them willingly and blindly?
Okay, but so what? We get it, right? There are bad people out there. There are good people out there, too. There are people in the middle and in both extremes. That’s not the point, right? The point is, how do you spot the thieves and the forgers? You can hide under a rock and give up. But, as a hopeless romantic, we know that’s not something you’re going to do. So how do you spy the people who will take advantage of you?
Well. People will usually show you their true colors if you’re looking– if you’re paying attention.
They will show you.
They show you in the way that you get a tiny gut reaction that you can’t trust them.
They show you in the way you catch them in small lies or moments of dishonesty.
They show you in the way that they don’t do what they say they’re going to do.
They show you in the way the things they aren’t telling you forms mountains of silence.
They show you in the way they don’t listen to you or show interest in what you’re actually saying.
They show you in the way they dismiss your feelings.
They show you in the way they gaslight you and play the victim.
They show you in the way they don’t share with you their truths in the same way you share yours.
They show you in the way that something feels off and disingenuous.
They show you in the way they ignore your boundaries and do what they want.
They show you in the way you feel when you step away– dazed, unsure, insecure.
They show you in the way your gut is screaming for you to pay attention and get out.
I am slowly learning to trust my gut.
As someone with massive trust issues, I tend to lay all my baggage out in the beginning. I ask interested parties to do the same, and I receive mixed responses. I don’t think people understand transparency or are comfortable with it in the same way I expect it.
How could you?
Tell me what’s wrong with you first, and if I’m okay with it, I’ll learn the good stuff second. Put the ugly stuff on the table right now, when I’m unattached, so I can decide if I want to opt in or opt out. You can do the same with your cards. I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours.
Divorced, three kids, two baby mamas. Halfway across the country from all of them.
Opioid addicted brother who stole your identity, an identity you’re still trying to get back years later.
Parent died early on so you don’t know how to feel complete on your own.
Suspended with pay from your job for harassing a female colleague, but, of course, it was all a misunderstanding.
Gamer with a weed habit, and an awkward inability to open up.
Ex girlfriend of eight years turned out to be a lesbian.
Ex girlfriend stalks all new girlfriends and threatens to report you to ICE.
Ex fiance who was deported from the country after being hospitalized with a mood disorder that made him believe he was god, and that I was a dangerous demon.
Ex partner with a cocaine habit and a secret penchant for personal ads and prostitutes.
Ex boyfriend with the keenest ability to turn any of my feelings or experiences into an opportunity for him to be victimized.
How do you pick? How do you decide which baggage is the type of baggage you’re willing to help someone else carry? How do you know you’re broken in ways that work with the ways that this person is broken too? How do you know if you’re both broken in ways that are compatible? Who will help you carry your baggage? Which type of baggage will bury you? How do you figure it all out and answer all those questions without wasting massive amounts of precious time?
These are the questions that wrap me in a sticky saran wrap, unable to make a move because I’m too busy over-analyzing and giving up before I start.
There are friends you release your worries to. There are people you share and decipher the red flags you noticed with the new guy or gal. They give you their opinions, but you know it’s only the truth painted by your own hands, and crafted by your own words. It is only a single color on a landscape, so big, you can’t see the whole canvas. You can’t help but wonder, what red flags do I raise? When do they think– oh shit. This woman has baggage I can’t help carry. Her baggage will swallow me.
Opt out. Unmatch. Ghost.
She puts all her truths on the table. She’s too honest and abrupt. She’s too direct– that’s bad judgement. She’s talking about a man who damaged her. She’s talking about an experience that almost killed her. Too soon. Uncomfortable. Too much. Too dramatic.
Can I count the ways in which I send out my own red flags?
I was discussing this with a close friend of mine who has been telling me for years that my screening process needs some serious repairs. I let people in too easily. I trust too quickly. And I pick people who are not my equal, who do not deserve my honesty, my openness, my me. My friend’s advice was on point, simple, and something I had never really considered. He told me, “Chloé, if you’re looking for your equal, you need to ask yourself– is this something I would do?”
Would I lie to someone I supposedly liked or loved?
Would I make that person feel crazy for being upset over something I did?
Would I disrespect her boundaries, laugh when I crossed them, and do it again?
Would I make someone feel unsafe, uncomfortable, and unheard?
I certainly hope not.
Can you trust too much and that be an issue?
Can you trust too little and that be an issue?
Can you trust just the right amount for the wrong people?
Trust issues, while swiping right and swiping left in a world where everyone has their defenses up, and their own philosophy on what works, is an interesting experience.
Act disinterested. Be honest. Make the first move. Wait until they make the first move. Lay down all your cards. Hold back. Be someone you aren’t until they like you, and then slowly let the real you show. Then discover that they’re interested in someone you are not. We all do it to an extent. We forget who we are because we want someone else to want us so badly it hurts to imagine the rejection. The rejection is even worse when you were your authentic self all along.
Why do we do it then?
It’s impossibly ridiculous. So why do we keep doing it?
Because self-sacrifice is the ultimate romantic gesture?
Because we settle out of fear?
Because we believe who we are isn’t good enough?
Because putting someone first is glorified?
Because women are taught that their greatest goal in life is to get married and have children?
It’s mostly loads of bullshit, but these thoughts are deeply ingrained, at least they have been for me. I’ve been spending a lot of time unwinding those messy and totally fucked up ideas. It’s an interesting societal and self exploration experiment even attempting to date in any capacity at this stage in my life, where I’m in the middle of doing the work on myself in order to be the best version of who I am and want to be.
But I’m learning. And I’m looking inward. And I’m understanding even more, all the time, what works for me and what doesn’t at this very moment of myself. I’m putting up with less bullshit. I’m acting on the red flags faster, and I’m standing up for myself unapologetically. I’m learning how to fill my cup, one lesson and mistake at a time.
I write this, because I know my experiences are felt by so many of the other women and men going through similar things. It’s not you. Opening up, and being vulnerable, and having hope– that’s not a bad thing. Even the most confident of people, myself included, are susceptible to the icy stings of disappointment that come with being vulnerable in the Tinder age. I have zero answers, and zero bits of advice. All I know is I’m learning what’s right and, even more so, what’s wrong for me. It’s an interesting process, but I’m proud of everything I’ve learned and that I keep getting back up.
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