Thursday, January 20, 2011

Guest Post: Trust, Honesty and Loyalty

Emily is a very close friend, and former roommate, of mine. She doesn't have her own blog, but happily offered to write a guest post for me while I was on vacation. Please let her know what you think of her very first blog post and if you want to contact her directly, feel free to shoot me an email at peacelovebagels[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll be sure to forward on the message! Enjoy!!

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Trust, honesty, and loyalty.  These are three of the key traits I look for in any relationship whether friend, family, self, or partner.  So what do you do when you lose one of those traits with someone you already have a relationship with?  Do you act differently whether it is family, a friend, or a boyfriend/girlfriend?  Which traits do you feel you can live without?  And what do you do when you can’t ignore or enable those flaws anymore?
That is what I have struggled with in several relationships over the past few years.  So let’s take a second to examine these traits individually.

Trust is one of the key components in any relationship.  If you cannot trust someone why would you even spend time with that person?  Someone once told me that it takes years to build trust and only a second to break it.  How true that is!  My senior year of high school I was struggling with depression, drugs (nothing too serious), and alcohol.  My struggles drove me down a very dark and scary path.  Luckily I had an amazing friend and her family who pulled me out of that hole.  We went through an incredibly traumatic experience together and it brought us incredibly close.  To some, our relationship was borderline inappropriate.  To us, it was completely normal.  So why does this relate to trust?  Well, my mother was insanely jealous of my relationship with this girl and her family.  So much that she expressed concerns to a friend of hers that she believed we were gay.  Those of you reading who went to high school know all about rumors.  They would spread like wild fire!  You wouldn’t think it would move as quickly with adults.  Well, you don’t know Jewish adults!  Within a few days my friends mom heard.  That was it, end of my friendship with the one person that understood me.  From that moment on, I have never trusted my mother again.  They are the ones who are supposed to protect you from that garbage not start it.

So here I am, 8 years later and still don’t trust my mother.  I cannot hug her, I cannot confide in her, and I cannot be alone with her without a “buffer”.  Some might say I am holding this grudge way too long.  And they may be right.  But I say when someone betrays your trust to that degree they don’t deserve it back. Every once in a while I throw out little bones to test the waters and very often I get the bone thrown back to me by my grandma or another family member who was not meant to hear the news.  It has made me bitter and it has ruined my relationship with my mother.  So when I said earlier that it takes years to build trust and only seconds to break it, I can honestly say there is nothing more true than that.

Without honesty you can never have trust.  Honesty is an incredible judge of someone’s character, how they treat themselves, and how they treat others.  There are so many times in life where we are taught to give just enough information to get through a situation.  In some cases that works just fine, in others, it just creates a fake sense of security.  Then later, when the whole truth comes out, the floor drops from beneath you and you can’t recover.  Another interesting thing I have learned about honesty is that it is not always about one person being honest to another.  It is about being honest to yourself.  I recently told a friend that it is one thing to say something honestly to yourself in your mind, it is another to say it to yourself out loud, and yet another to say it to someone else out loud. 

Why is complete honesty such a difficult feat?  Probably because no one truly wants to hear the complete and honest answer.  It is much easier to speak say just enough to get your point across but not enough to possibly incriminate yourself.  So when our friend asks us if her butt looks big in her new jeans what do we say?  “No, it looks great!”  What should we say?  “Well, you have a big butt, it’s gonna look big in any pair of jeans you buy.  But those jeans make your big butt look great!”  But who wants to hear that?

I had a friend for 14 years who I recently ended my friendship with because of lying.  He had a problem, and I mean a serious problem.  For 14 years I knew he lied and yet did nothing about it.  Occasionally I would call him out but then, shortly thereafter, forgive him and act like it didn’t happen.  This went on for YEARS!  Most of the time the lies were stupid.  I would ask what he was doing for dinner, he would tell me he was getting ready to go out but then I would stop at his house to drop something off and there his family was sitting around the dinner table together.  That is the kind of crap I ignored for years.  But that kind of lying took a toll on our friendship.  I took everything he said to me with a grain of salt.  Usually not even believing me when he said he had to go to the bathroom.

Six months ago it got worse.  I found out he was lying about a woman he had been seeing who was married.  He had stolen money from his parents and had been lying about every important part of his life.  So we had an intervention.  We sat in the gazebo for hours begging him to get help.  I wrote him a letter telling him how hurt I was and that I would no longer enable his behavior.  That once he got help I would be back and that I’d never stop loving him.  I walked away that night with a firm policy that I would only speak to his parents.  Too bad a few weeks later I found out his mom was also lying and asked me to lie to her husband about it.  That was it, end of relationship.
So now, six months later I want to reach out to him.  But when do I know I can trust that he is being honest again?  How can he prove it to me?  Am I willing to take that chance?  I am not sure.  I love him and he has been a part of my life for over 14 years, but am I willing to go through the disappointment again if he hasn’t changed?  And if he has, do I just forgive him?  So many complicated questions with complicated answers. 

Being loyal to your partner is easy to define, don’t cheat!  Being loyal to your friend is a bit more difficult to define.  Loyalty comes in many forms.  Keeping a secret, sticking up for someone when others put them down, being there for them when they need you whether they tell you they do or not, telling them when they have toilet paper hanging from their shoe, and knowing when a secret shouldn’t be kept.  I consider myself to be an incredibly loyal friend.  If I hear fight and I know my friends are around I jump out of my chair to help out.  Granted, most of the time it is a false alarm but the point is just that I am there if it was real.  When someone says to me “in confidence” that is where it stays.  When I sense a friend needs me I am always there, even when they wont say they need me.  And when I know something about someone that will hurt my friend I do everything I can to first protect them but make sure they hear the truth.

A little over 2 years ago I lived in Pittsburgh with a friend of mine from college.  He and I had been friends for about 5 years.  While in college he dated one of my other good friends but they had broken up our senior year.  While living in Pittsburgh he was single and quite ready to mingle.  He spend may nights going from one girl to the next.  I never knew most of their names, just the back of their coats as they walked out the door.  Once he had three different girls three nights in a row.  It was incredibly disgusting.  But whatever, it was his life and nothing I could say was going to stop his behavior.

About 10 months after living together he and my friend decided to get back together.  It had only been 2 weeks into their relationship and I already knew he was cheating on her.  Fortunately for him I had no actual proof so I couldn’t do anything about it right away.  But one night he brought a girl home.  I heard them having sex in the room next to me.  I was FURIOUS!  I got up, pounded on his door, and asked him if he wanted to call his girlfriend or if I should.  I grabbed a beer, went outside, and told him to get the girl out of our house immediately.  As they walked out I asked him why and he said, “it is what it is”.

That night when he got back from taking her home I told him he had 24 hours to tell his girlfriend the truth or I would.  I woke up to 6 text messages and 2 voicemails.  First was from the girl he had cheated with, she apologized for what happened and told me she didn’t know he had a girlfriend.  The next was from my roommate telling me he told his girlfriend, and the last few texts and messages were from my friend, frantic about what she had just heard.  So of course I call her, she tells me that her boyfriend said that he brought a girl home but I broke it up before anything happened.  I was furious.  I avoided all questions and hung up with her to call him.  His response to me went a little something like this…”She will kill me if she knows the truth.  Can you please just tell her that nothing happened?  Be a good friend and lie for me.”  My reply…”You have 2 hours to tell her the truth or I will.  And how dare you ask me to lie for you.  In the 5 years we have been friends name one time I have lied.  You obviously don’t know me very well and that makes you a shitty friend.”

That was it, 2 hours later he had lied to her again so I told her the truth.  End of relationship and end of friendship.  I was loyal to one and not to another.  But in my opinion, I was loyal to the only one who deserved it.  Two months later I moved out.  Loyalty is everything in a friendship.  You have to know that the other person has your back otherwise what is the point of being friends.  It is very easy to find a drinking buddy.  Not so easy to find someone who will show you complete and utter loyalty.  So what things are you willing to give up to find that kind of friend?

Did you notice a theme with all of these traits?  How about the phrase “end of relationship/friendship”?  Throughout my years I have dealt with all of these issues and a misstep in each one has cost me the loss of a friend.  So why am I writing about this?

Every day I see elements of distrust, dishonesty, and disloyalty in the people around me.  Sometimes I allow the flaws in others to define my emotional state.  I get angry, frustrated, and upset.  Even when they are people who don’t matter to me.  And maybe I act that way because I have been burned so many times.  But at what point do I just say, “okay, I surrender”?  At what point do I understand that not everyone is like me.  Not every person in my life will be as honest, trustworthy, and loyal as I think I am.  And if they aren’t, fine, they don’t deserve my friendship anyways.  But instead I keep them around and wait for the next opportunity to get hurt.

Take a look at every relationship I spoke about earlier…

My mother…
We are still having problems.  Her jealousy and need for attention cause big fights between us every 3-6 months.  I have been in therapy for 7 years trying to learn how to understand my feelings and forgive her enough to have a relationship with her.  But every time we take a step forward, something happens and we take a few steps back.  We never heal the wound, just cover it.  My mother keeps pushing me for more and I just can’t give it to her.  So where is she pushing me?  Away.  I love her but I have not gotten over the lack of trust I feel in her.  She is my mother, I can’t just end the relationship.  So how do I get past the hurt?  It was 8 years ago yet it seems like yesterday.  If it were only the trust issue maybe we would be in a better place.  But unfortunately it isn’t.  The plethora of conflicts we have had throughout the years get carried around daily just waiting for someone to slip up and open them back up again.  And guess what, it happens.  Boy does it happen!  So now I am stuck.  I love my mom but I care too much about myself right now to allow this to go on any longer.  Every time we fight I go through a 3-day depression that sets back my personal progress.  So what do I do?  Just too hard to know sometimes.

My friend the compulsive liar…
How will I truly know he is making progress if I don’t speak to him?  But if I do speak to him how can I prove he is telling me the truth?  And if I catch him lying again do I have the willpower to walk away for good?  After 14 years of friendship is that even possible?  I love this guy more than I can even say.  But the pain he has put me through is immeasurable.  And if I let him in does that mean I have to let his family back in?  They have their own drama and issues to work out.  No way do I want to get sucked back into that.  These last 6 months without their drama have allowed me to really focus on myself and some incredible changes in my life.  I am happier, healthier (30lbs lighter in fact), more self confident, and more drama free than I have been in many years.  So if I let him back into my life do I have to give that up?  Or should the question be…if I let him back into my life WILL I give that up?  I sure hope not!!

My cheating friend…
We have maybe spoken 5 times in the last 2 years.  And it has only been in person twice.  As far as I am concerned he went from being a friend to being an acquaintance.  He no longer deserves all the things that come with my friendship.  So honestly, I really have no issues here.  The thing that seemed to frustrate me the most and maybe the reason I used this example at all was because I was upset that a friend of 5 years didn’t know me and asked me to lie.  So it is more of a reminder of who to keep and who to let go of.  There is a big difference between a friend and an acquaintance.  Acquaintances are great to party with and fill a room, but do they deserve to be treated the same as a friend?  A friend is someone who isn’t just there for the party but stays to clean up.  That person deserves the trust, honesty, and loyalty.

So what was the point of all this?  Honestly, no point but to allow me an opportunity to express my feelings and restate to myself what I deserve from people.  Like I said before, it is one thing to admit something to yourself in your head, another to admit it to yourself out loud, and yet another to admit it to others out loud.  So that is what I am doing.  I am admitting out loud that I am good enough to deserve someone in my life (friend, family, or partner) who will treat me the same way I treat others.  I deserve someone who will be honest, trustworthy, and loyal.  I deserve someone to love me for the fact that I will tell you that you have a big butt if it is true.  And I deserve someone who wont let me down like others have in the past.  I am good enough.
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