Get Real! How Do I Learn to Trust Him?

Heather Corinna

When you are having issues with trust due to sexual abuse or for any other reason, three basic factors to pay attention to are your partner's competency, consistency over time, and congruency between words and behavior.

anofficialknight asks:

If
you have been raped by more than one person but as a result you never
stay with a male in fear of becoming close to them and then you find a
guy that you really like and you want to trust him but you just can’t
… what should I do to make us a trusting couple?

Heather replies:

Whether
a person is having issues with trust due to sexual abuse or any other
reason under the sun, I really like how Staci Haines, in The Survivor’s Guide to Sex, concisely outlines three basic factors for trust. She talks about competency, consistency over time, and congruency between words and behavior.

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When she says competency, what she means is if that person is
competent in the ways you need for them to be. For instance, as a
survivor of rape, it’s going to be important for you that any person
you get close to has competency when it comes to a decent understanding
of what you have been through, what your healing process is and has
been, what kinds of residual issues you’re grappling with — like a
reluctance to trust — and, clearly, a sensitivity when it comes to
rape and sexual abuse. Someone who just doesn’t get any of that, or who
can’t be competent about that, is not likely to be someone you will be
able to trust. Competency also addresses another person just having the
basic intelligence, sensitivity, integrity, self-awareness and
compassion for others to be a person we can trust: someone who is just
plain unable to care for or about others, to figure out what others
need and hear what others are saying, or who just isn’t in a space to
think about anyone besides themselves isn’t a sound person for anyone
to trust. I’d say that competency is the starting point for developing
trust.

Consistency over time addresses that, as time passes, someone
demonstrates that we can trust them. They do things like tell the
truth, and honor agreements or boundaries, not just once or now and
then, but all the time, over time. If you tell someone something very
personal and private, and they respect your privacy not just for a
week, but for months or years, you can begin to grow trust with them
because they are showing you that they are worthy of it. If, as time
passes, it’s clear someone is honest with you — even when it’s not
easy, or doesn’t make them look good — you can start to develop trust
in them.

The time factor is a biggie: while some survivors can trust too
much, too soon, others can never quite get there, or don’t give people
the time that’s needed for trust to develop. Trust is something that we
extend, nurture and grow over time, not all at once. We tend to build
it and have it built in baby steps. We can do that by testing the
waters gradually, extending trust in ways that are sound based on where
we are at with someone. With someone we have just met, for instance, or
only known for a few weeks we might see about developing trust with
small things, like if a person agrees to meet us somewhere and shows up
or not. We might share something that’s not earth-shattering, but not
small either, like the fact that we feel like an idiot when we fail a
big test, or are really upset about the loss of a friendship and see if
they respect our privacy and keep those disclosures to themselves, and
also treat us with care when we make them. We might go on a date or two
with friends where there is some limited, but safe, alone-time, and see
if they respect our boundaries.

With someone we have known for longer periods of time, who has
already shown us that they can be trusted with the smaller things we
have extended, we can start to take bigger steps, maybe share something
with them that is more personal, maybe do something with them which is
a slightly bigger risk for us and which requires more trust.

As time passes, and we take those gradual steps to be more and more
vulnerable, more and more open, get a bit closer each day, we can see
how things go and, ideally, start to build more and more trust. Or, at
some point, it might become clear that we cannot build or have trust
with someone, and we then stop extending it to them. But if we’re
moving gradually, we can manage our risks in that. While having trust
broken never feels good, if we have taken baby steps with trust, rather
than making ourselves very vulnerable to someone early on all at once
and before they have shown us they can be trusted over time, we can
usually heal from those smaller wounds.

Congruency between words and behavior basically means that someone
isn’t just all talk, and that their words and actions match. For
example, some survivors have been told by the people raping or abusing
them that they were loved or special: however, someone who says those
kinds of things while they are assaulting or abusing you clearly is not
being congruent in their words and behavior. We do not abuse or assault
people whom we love or feel are special.

So, if someone you like says they will do things and does those
things, their words and behavior match: the more this happens, the more
we learn that we can take them at their word, that we can trust them.

Someone who, for instance, understands that pushing sex really isn’t
okay for you (not that it is for anyone), and agrees to go at your pace
and takes things slow but then starts exerting pressure or tries to
coerce you is not being congruent. Someone who says they will keep a
secret you tell them but then blabs it all over the place is not being
congruent. Someone who says they will see you through something tough
then blows you off is not being congruent. On the other hand, someone
who says they love you and actively treats you in a loving way is being
congruent. Someone who says they respect your boundaries and, in their
actions, very much does just that is being congruent. Someone who keeps
the things you say are private to themselves is being congruent. And
this is another one of those things where time comes into play: over
time, you take stock and see if someone’s words seem to usually match
their actions or not.

You ask about how to become a couple who trusts each other. I’d also
add to Staci’s list the need for mutual and shared transparency and
vulnerability, and the need for shared extension of trust. If only one
person makes themselves vulnerable and opens up, and the other keeps
all of themselves under lock and key, we’re not likely to be able to
develop a lot of trust. To trust each other, we have to both share,
both be open in our communication, both be willing to be vulnerable,
not just one of us. For you to get better at trusting him, he also has
to trust you, and give you opportunities to demonstrate your own
trustworthiness. To trust others, we also have to be trusted ourselves.

By all means, as a survivor, you are going to have your own set of
issues with trust, and your own set of vulnerabilities, but plenty of
people who are not survivors have those, too — and deep trust is
automatic for no one — so to build trust together, you both need to
have all this stuff going on. Just because we have been abused or
assaulted and know what it is to have had trust broken or betrayed does
not mean that we are trustworthy ourselves, or that it’s safe for
people to automatically trust us, either. I think it’s helpful
to be mindful of that, because it can be easy to get tunnel vision and
assume that since we were hurt so badly, we’d never hurt anyone else or
breach anyone else’s trust. The truth is, we have to work to earn the
trust of others just like they do to earn ours. Their part of that work
is to extend trust to us, and ours is to make good on that. We’re not
the only people who can be hurt or betrayed, after all.

As well, if you still self-blame at all for your rapes — plenty of
survivors do, not because rape was your fault, but because there is so
much victim-blaming afoot in the world, it can be tough not to
internalize it — you may have some of your own work to do when it
comes to trusting yourself. If we don’t feel like we can be
trusted, or should be trusted, it’s really hard to see how someone else
should or could be. Same goes for accepting that if we trusted the
wrong person or people before, someone who abused us or did us harm,
that doesn’t mean that we or our instincts cannot be trusted. No one
ever told me those parts as a survivor myself early on, and I really
wish they had, because it took me a long time to figure out that my own
mistrust of myself was a huge barrier to my developing the ability to
trust others. Once I started to get a handle on that, not only did my
interpersonal relationships improve, so did my relationship with
myself.

Put some stock in your own instincts, too. It’s entirely possible
that if you have not trusted people in the past, with at least some of
them that’s because something inside yourself was telling you that you should
not trust them. For sure, that could have been because you had troubles
with trust even with people who may have been trustworthy, but it also
could have been — in whole or in part, with some folks or all —
because some of these factors we are talking about were not in place,
and intuitively or overtly, you knew that a given person wasn’t sound
to trust. Not everyone deserves our trust, after all, and it is
absolutely okay for us to withhold trust from some people, and to take
the time we need to figure out if we should trust someone or not.

Maybe you feel differently about this guy right now because he does
seem trustworthy. Consider those three factors and you can evaluate
that for yourself some, even early on. If he is someone you feel like
you do want to get closer to, someone you think you may be able to
extend trust to, start with some baby steps, give it some time, and see
how it goes. Test the waters, and know that if, at any time, he proves
himself unable to be trusted, you get to pull back or withdraw.

If you two are already starting to become close, I’d also suggest
being open with him about needing time to develop trust, and about
having reluctance to trust others. If this is a very new relationship,
you may not yet be at the point where you want to disclose your rapes
(I’d say that is something where you’d certainly want to have
established some trust over time first, particularly if you are at an
earlier stage of healing from your rapes, or have not disclosed to many
others before) and thus a big part of why you have trouble trusting,
but that’s something that, down the road if and when you have
established trust, you will hopefully be able to get to. In the
meantime, though, you can simply say you have a hard time trusting
people, but are working on that and just ask if he can handle that. If
he can’t that brings us back to competency: someone who can’t deal with
you perhaps taking a little longer than others to trust would obviously
not be a good choice for you right now. That doesn’t mean anything is
wrong with either one of you, just that you’re probably not the best
fit for each other.

Someone giving us their trust is a pretty big deal, and I think it’s
absolutely okay for anyone to hold any of us to high standards when it
comes to trust, including insisting that we be patient in the time it
may take for us to earn someone’s trust.

If we really want to be close to someone, and really care for them,
we’re going to be okay with that, particularly when that other person
is being open — is not trying to keep us at a distance for the wrong
reasons — and is wanting to get close to us and to learn to trust us
in time. It’s a big gift to be given someone’s trust: there’s nothing
wrong with any of us — survivors or not — treating it as such, or
asking others to treat it that way.

In your question, you didn’t ask about sexual issues, but in case
that is part of this, I want to leave you with a few links to look at.
What I’ve talked about in all of this is certainly relevant to sex, as
well as the whole of a relationship, but there are some additional
things which might help you.

My very best wishes for you in your relationships, in learning to trust, and in your own healing journey.


Culture & Conversation Human Rights

Let’s Stop Conflating Self-Care and Actual Care

Katie Klabusich

It's time for a shift in the use of “self-care” that creates space for actual care apart from the extra kindnesses and important, small indulgences that may be part of our self-care rituals, depending on our ability to access such activities.

As a chronically ill, chronically poor person, I have feelings about when, why, and how the phrase “self-care” is invoked. When International Self-Care Day came to my attention, I realized that while I laud the effort to prevent some of the 16 million people the World Health Organization reports die prematurely every year from noncommunicable diseases, the American notion of self-care—ironically—needs some work.

I propose a shift in the use of “self-care” that creates space for actual care apart from the extra kindnesses and important, small indulgences that may be part of our self-care rituals, depending on our ability to access such activities. How we think about what constitutes vital versus optional care affects whether/when we do those things we should for our health and well-being. Some of what we have come to designate as self-care—getting sufficient sleep, treating chronic illness, allowing ourselves needed sick days—shouldn’t be seen as optional; our culture should prioritize these things rather than praising us when we scrape by without them.

International Self-Care Day began in China, and it has spread over the past few years to include other countries and an effort seeking official recognition at the United Nations of July 24 (get it? 7/24: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) as an important advocacy day. The online academic journal SelfCare calls its namesake “a very broad concept” that by definition varies from person to person.

“Self-care means different things to different people: to the person with a headache it might mean a buying a tablet, but to the person with a chronic illness it can mean every element of self-management that takes place outside the doctor’s office,” according to SelfCare. “[I]n the broadest sense of the term, self-care is a philosophy that transcends national boundaries and the healthcare systems which they contain.”

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In short, self-care was never intended to be the health version of duct tape—a way to patch ourselves up when we’re in pieces from the outrageous demands of our work-centric society. It’s supposed to be part of our preventive care plan alongside working out, eating right, getting enough sleep, and/or other activities that are important for our personalized needs.

The notion of self-care has gotten a recent visibility boost as those of us who work in human rights and/or are activists encourage each other publicly to recharge. Most of the people I know who remind themselves and those in our movements to take time off do so to combat the productivity anxiety embedded in our work. We’re underpaid and overworked, but still feel guilty taking a break or, worse, spending money on ourselves when it could go to something movement- or bill-related.

The guilt is intensified by our capitalist system having infected the self-care philosophy, much as it seems to have infected everything else. Our bootstrap, do-it-yourself culture demands we work to the point of exhaustion—some of us because it’s the only way to almost make ends meet and others because putting work/career first is expected and applauded. Our previous president called it “uniquely American” that someone at his Omaha, Nebraska, event promoting “reform” of (aka cuts to) Social Security worked three jobs.

“Uniquely American, isn’t it?” he said. “I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)”

The audience was applauding working hours that are disastrous for health and well-being, laughing at sleep as though our bodies don’t require it to function properly. Bush actually nailed it: Throughout our country, we hold Who Worked the Most Hours This Week competitions and attempt to one-up the people at the coffee shop, bar, gym, or book club with what we accomplished. We have reached a point where we consider getting more than five or six hours of sleep a night to be “self-care” even though it should simply be part of regular care.

Most of us know intuitively that, in general, we don’t take good enough care of ourselves on a day-to-day basis. This isn’t something that just happened; it’s a function of our work culture. Don’t let the statistic that we work on average 34.4 hours per week fool you—that includes people working part time by choice or necessity, which distorts the reality for those of us who work full time. (Full time is defined by the Internal Revenue Service as 30 or more hours per week.) Gallup’s annual Work and Education Survey conducted in 2014 found that 39 percent of us work 50 or more hours per week. Only 8 percent of us on average work less than 40 hours per week. Millennials are projected to enjoy a lifetime of multiple jobs or a full-time job with one or more side hustles via the “gig economy.”

Despite worker productivity skyrocketing during the past 40 years, we don’t work fewer hours or make more money once cost of living is factored in. As Gillian White outlined at the Atlantic last year, despite politicians and “job creators” blaming financial crises for wage stagnation, it’s more about priorities:

Though productivity (defined as the output of goods and services per hours worked) grew by about 74 percent between 1973 and 2013, compensation for workers grew at a much slower rate of only 9 percent during the same time period, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute.

It’s no wonder we don’t sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been sounding the alarm for some time. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend people between 18 and 60 years old get seven or more hours sleep each night “to promote optimal health and well-being.” The CDC website has an entire section under the heading “Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem,” outlining statistics and negative outcomes from our inability to find time to tend to this most basic need.

We also don’t get to the doctor when we should for preventive care. Roughly half of us, according to the CDC, never visit a primary care or family physician for an annual check-up. We go in when we are sick, but not to have screenings and discuss a basic wellness plan. And rarely do those of us who do go tell our doctors about all of our symptoms.

I recently had my first really wonderful check-up with a new primary care physician who made a point of asking about all the “little things” leading her to encourage me to consider further diagnosis for fibromyalgia. I started crying in her office, relieved that someone had finally listened and at the idea that my headaches, difficulty sleeping, recovering from illness, exhaustion, and pain might have an actual source.

Considering our deeply-ingrained priority problems, it’s no wonder that when I post on social media that I’ve taken a sick day—a concept I’ve struggled with after 20 years of working multiple jobs, often more than 80 hours a week trying to make ends meet—people applaud me for “doing self-care.” Calling my sick day “self-care” tells me that the commenter sees my post-traumatic stress disorder or depression as something I could work through if I so chose, amplifying the stigma I’m pushing back on by owning that a mental illness is an appropriate reason to take off work. And it’s not the commenter’s fault; the notion that working constantly is a virtue is so pervasive, it affects all of us.

Things in addition to sick days and sleep that I’ve had to learn are not engaging in self-care: going to the doctor, eating, taking my meds, going to therapy, turning off my computer after a 12-hour day, drinking enough water, writing, and traveling for work. Because it’s so important, I’m going to say it separately: Preventive health care—Pap smears, check-ups, cancer screenings, follow-ups—is not self-care. We do extras and nice things for ourselves to prevent burnout, not as bandaids to put ourselves back together when we break down. You can’t bandaid over skipping doctors appointments, not sleeping, and working your body until it’s a breath away from collapsing. If you’re already at that point, you need straight-up care.

Plenty of activities are self-care! My absolutely not comprehensive personal list includes: brunch with friends, adult coloring (especially the swear word books and glitter pens), soy wax with essential oils, painting my toenails, reading a book that’s not for review, a glass of wine with dinner, ice cream, spending time outside, last-minute dinner with my boyfriend, the puzzle app on my iPad, Netflix, participating in Caturday, and alone time.

My someday self-care wish list includes things like vacation, concerts, the theater, regular massages, visiting my nieces, decent wine, the occasional dinner out, and so very, very many books. A lot of what constitutes self-care is rather expensive (think weekly pedicures, spa days, and hobbies with gear and/or outfit requirements)—which leads to the privilege of getting to call any part of one’s routine self-care in the first place.

It would serve us well to consciously add an intersectional view to our enthusiasm for self-care when encouraging others to engage in activities that may be out of reach financially, may disregard disability, or may not be right for them for a variety of other reasons, including compounded oppression and violence, which affects women of color differently.

Over the past year I’ve noticed a spike in articles on how much of the emotional labor burden women carry—at the Toast, the Atlantic, Slate, the Guardian, and the Huffington Post. This category of labor disproportionately affects women of color. As Minaa B described at the Huffington Post last month:

I hear the term self-care a lot and often it is defined as practicing yoga, journaling, speaking positive affirmations and meditation. I agree that those are successful and inspiring forms of self-care, but what we often don’t hear people talking about is self-care at the intersection of race and trauma, social justice and most importantly, the unawareness of repressed emotional issues that make us victims of our past.

The often-quoted Audre Lorde wrote in A Burst of Light: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

While her words ring true for me, they are certainly more weighted and applicable for those who don’t share my white and cisgender privilege. As covered at Ravishly, the Feminist Wire, Blavity, the Root, and the Crunk Feminist Collective recently, self-care for Black women will always have different expressions and roots than for white women.

But as we continue to talk about self-care, we need to be clear about the difference between self-care and actual care and work to bring the necessities of life within reach for everyone. Actual care should not have to be optional. It should be a priority in our culture so that it can be a priority in all our lives.

News Politics

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Resigns as Chair of DNC, Will Not Gavel in Convention

Ally Boguhn

Donna Brazile, vice chair of the DNC, will step in as interim replacement for Wasserman Schultz as committee chair.

On the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) resigned her position as chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), effective after the convention, amid controversy over leaked internal party emails and months of criticism over her handling of the Democratic primary races.

Wasserman Schultz told the Sun Sentinel on Monday that she would not gavel in this week’s convention, according to Politico.

“I know that electing Hillary Clinton as our next president is critical for America’s future,” Wasserman Schultz said in a Sunday statement announcing her decision. “Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention.”

“We have planned a great and unified Convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had,” Wasserman Schultz continued.

Just prior to news that Wasserman Schultz would step down, it was announced that Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) would chair the DNC convention.

Donna Brazile, vice chair of the DNC, will step in as interim replacement for Wasserman Schultz as committee chair.

Wasserman Schultz’s resignation comes after WikiLeaks released more than 19,000 internal emails from the DNC, breathing new life into arguments that the Democratic Party—and Wasserman Schultz in particular—had “rigged” the primary in favor of nominating Hillary Clinton. As Vox‘s Timothy B. Lee pointed out, there seems to be “no bombshells” in the released emails, though one email does show that Brad Marshall, chief financial officer of the DNC, emailed asking whether an unnamed person could be questioned about “his” religious beliefs. Many believe the email was referencing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT).

Another email from Wasserman Schultz revealed the DNC chair had referred to Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, as a “damn liar.”

As previously reported by Rewire before the emails’ release, “Wasserman Schultz has been at the center of a string of heated criticisms directed at her handling of the DNC as well as allegations that she initially limited the number of the party’s primary debates, steadfastly refusing to add more until she came under pressure.” She also sparked controversy in January after suggesting that young women aren’t supporting Clinton because there is “a complacency among the generation” who were born after Roe v. Wade was decided.

“Debbie Wasserman Schultz has made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party,” said Sanders in a Sunday statement. “While she deserves thanks for her years of service, the party now needs new leadership that will open the doors of the party and welcome in working people and young people. The party leadership must also always remain impartial in the presidential nominating process, something which did not occur in the 2016 race.”

Sanders had previously demanded Wasserman Schultz’s resignation in light of the leaked emails during an appearance earlier that day on ABC’s This Week.

Clinton nevertheless stood by Wasserman Schultz in a Sunday statement responding to news of the resignation. “I am grateful to Debbie for getting the Democratic Party to this year’s historic convention in Philadelphia, and I know that this week’s events will be a success thanks to her hard work and leadership,” said Clinton. “There’s simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie—which is why I am glad that she has agreed to serve as honorary chair of my campaign’s 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states.”

Clinton added that she still looks “forward to campaigning with Debbie in Florida and helping her in her re-election bid.” Wasserman Schultz faces a primary challenger, Tim Canova, for her congressional seat in Florida’s 23rd district for the first time this year.