Why was I ready to throw away a man and his friendship just because they couldn’t be trusted with one, small thing?
Recently I’ve been thinking about a Facebook conversation I had a few years ago with a male friend. In a post, I explained the dilemma I always go through when I feel someone has betrayed me.
I always wonder if I can trust them at all or if I should even continue to put myself in their sphere—like I might just be asking to be betrayed again if I do.
At that point, I’d have no one but myself to blame, as I chose to continue interacting with them. So, when this sort of thing happens, I feel that I cannot trust them at all—the distrust I feel extends to the entire person, to everything they do and say.
I went on to write about how I could still love that person without being around them or interacting with them and how that might be more healthy than hanging around being jumpy about if I’d be betrayed again or not.
My friend was amused by my throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bath-water approach and proceeded to explain how wrong I was. He used the analogy of knowing he could trust his dog. He knew, he wrote, that if he gave his dog a cookie and asked her to take it over to his wife, that his dog would eat the cookie instead of taking it to his wife.
Therefore, he reasoned, he trusted his dog—just not with cookies.
So why was I ready to throw away a man just because he couldn’t be trusted with one thing?
I followed his logic and even felt a bit chastised, kind of ashamed of my ready willingness to be so “callous”—especially since it had been such a public discussion. I reexamined my logic long and hard, trying to find a way to adopt his way of looking at the situation.
But I just couldn’t. It didn’t feel safe. To adopt his way of thinking felt like not taking care of myself. It felt like I was putting myself in possible harm’s way, like I was not standing my ground and maintaining my healthy boundaries.
I have discovered, though, in the intervening time—and after much research—that we were really having a conversation about how men’s and women’s brains function differently. We just weren’t aware we were having this conversation.
His explanation and how he classified the trust experience is a classic example of how men’s brains work. Men compartmentalize. Each subject/person/idea has its own separate “box/compartment” in his brain. Men’s brains are, for the most part, single-focused—and women’s brains are considered to be multi-focused.
With my female brain, when one (even small) thing doesn’t feel right, then my whole world does not feel. Because our brains connect everything, if one part of our life is not going well, we tend to connect that to everything else in our life and conclude that really nothing is going well.
Mark Gungor explains it well in his video about how women’s brains connect everything to everything else.
To men, this often looks like drama. To women, this looks like normal life.
This is especially true of trust in relationships. Women are all about relationships—of all kinds. We value relationships above almost everything else—with co-workers, friends, lovers, our children, the volunteer committees we’re a part of, our community, the world.
Gentlemen, to feel safe in the world and in a relationship, a woman needs to know she can trust you.
When you don’t follow through and do what you told us you’d do, we begin to feel like we can’t trust you and that makes us feel unsafe in our relationship with you, unsafe in the world.
We begin to think things like, can I trust him at all—with anything? Simply because that is the way our brains work—we begin to worry that we need to paint the whole picture of you with that same he-didn’t-do-what-he-said-he-would-do brush.
We know that you separate everything into “boxes” in your brain and consider one little forgotten promise to be just that: little. We know your guy friends wouldn’t bat a proverbial eye at the same space-out, because they categorize everything too. We know they’d react just like my Facebook friend did—I just can’t trust him with cookies. They’d shrug and forget it.
We know he’s a good person— in fact, we love him. And then our brain circuitry takes over and starts making connections (true or not) and we begin to worry that we have chosen an untrustworthy man.
Oh my gawd, I’m in love with a man who cannot be trusted! And I have to make good decisions for myself, I have to take of me and I know I need to be in a relationship where there is trust because safety/certainty is my top human need—therefore, I am gonna have to leave this untrustworthy man that I am completely in love with!
Ladies: Stop. Breathe.
Before you throw out the man with the bath water, put on your man-cap for a minute or two and create some compartments. Just because he spaced out one little thing, does not mean he is not worthy of your trust. Maybe he doesn’t even remember promising you that, because he was distracted when you asked him about it.
One, learn how to really get his attention. Two, maybe you find out you can’t trust what he says about that one subject or in that one area. Granted, you will have to designate the worth factor of that one area.
Can you let it go? Or is it too significant for you to let go?
But that doesn’t mean he is totally untrustworthy. That just means when he promises you something in or about that one category, you know that may or may not happen. You teach yourself to mentally shrug, to let it go and not use it against him.
You love him, remember? Let him be human. Humans make mistakes. Humans have Achilles heals—literally and figuratively.
I’m not talking about a man who continues to betray you and lie to you and/or cheat on you. I’m also not talking about compromising your values and putting up with abuse or neglect or anything else that is abhorrent.
I’m talking about the man you love and with whom you have an otherwise great relationship—a man who has proven you can trust him in every other category/way.
That (usually) trustworthy man loves you and is hardwired to make you happy and might have been so dazzled by your sweet smile or distracted by the lights, the crowd, the noise, (his erection, your body, that beer he had or a work problem) that he just nodded and said yes. At least, give him the benefit of the doubt first.
Don’t punish him for how his brain works.
And gentlemen, when we bring this mess of connecting thoughts and fears to you, and when we are so upset because we love you and can’t bear to think you might have lied to us, and now we can’t trust you, and consequently we may have to leave you, please don’t punish us for how our brains work either.
Author: Grace Cooley
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock