I Want to Trust You, But I Don’t

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Photo credit Giulia Marotta 

I carry secrets.

Secrets I don’t tell anyone. Not even my husband.

Which I find unusual because I don’t consider myself secretive. They aren’t terribly scandalous secrets. Just parts of my soul that I keep to myself.

Because no matter how long we’ve been together, and despite what we’ve been through, this is all a house of cards. There’s no guarantee that any passing breeze won’t whip the foundation out from below. That I may reveal the wrong thing and cause the sort of tsunami no woman can control.

He’s never hit me. Never raised a hand to me.

But he could. And I don’t ever forget that. I’ve even warned him. The first several years especially I would remind him from time to time.

I will leave you if you hit me.

They are my kids.

He’s their father. He’s a good father. And not just in the earns a living for us way. Though he does work his ass off for us.

I mean in the ways that count. If one of his kids finds a new hobby, he’s all in. Something breaks? He’ll fix it. He brings home little surprises for them. There were times we had no money, but he still brought home surprises because he talked so much to others about his kids that if they had something to give away, they’d seek him out.

Here, the boys might like this.

Boxes of baseball cards and a beat up gaming chair. Headphones or some candy.

He goes to their games and events and jokes with their friends.

But they’re still my kids.

I refer to them that way when we argue.

He’s communicated to me how much that bothers him. Yet, I still call them mine. In a voice that cannot be mistaken.

It feels like an incantation. Some type of magical spell I cast over them. If they’re mine, it keeps them safe.

From whom, you wonder? I often wonder the same. And if I’m being honest . . .

From him.

From anyone, really. But yes, even from him.

I don’t believe him when he says I’m attractive.

I don’t believe any man who tells me that.

How can I be? I don’t look anything like the women in the ads, in the magazines, in the movies, in porn, in TV shows, on runways, on billboards, or anywhere else that women are on display.

That’s the ideal, right? The long legs and flat stomachs and perky tits. Fuck, I remember being in elementary school and reading the Little House series of books for the first time. I remember the way Laura watched as her mother and aunts readied themselves for a dance. Cinching corsets and bragging that Pa’s hands could still meet around his wife’s waist.

I remember the disappointment I felt alongside Laura as she grew into a young woman who lamented her appearance. She would never be willowy or pale or thin. Even then, Laura in the 1800’s and I in the fourth grade, we recognized the other category we were pushed into, beyond our control, for not meeting or exceeding society’s standard of the  ideal woman.

So no, I don’t believe him.

If the house is messy, it’s my fault. I take it all on, the guilt and feelings of not measuring up somehow. In some way. Even when I worked two jobs and volunteered as class mom to two kids in school so that I could feel I was still a part of their day, I’d come home and beat myself up that the house wasn’t more organized.

Clearly I couldn’t have it all.

That disarray revealed all the cracks in my facade. And weakness will never do. Not when you’re a woman trying to prove that somehow, some fucking way, you’ve got it all covered and dammit you’ve earned it.

No matter what it is.

I always feel I have to prove I’ve earned it.

The fact that he’s never asked me to . . . doesn’t seem to matter.

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A detailed response to this question posted on Facebook:

What are ways that you have difficulty trusting the men in your life that objectively have earned your trust? 

This isn’t about overtly horrible men, or even average men. Specifically how has your experience of misogyny made it difficult for you to form trusting bonds with men that you WANT to trust? What is your experience with that phenomenon? How does it make you feel? How does it affect your relationship to those men?

ONLY people who experience misogyny – and it’s on you to decide if you feel you qualify because some non-binary people do – should respond to this challenge.

My Mechanic’s Broken Thing 

Photo by Allison Bedford

He patched and painted the ceiling in the dining room after I took a step in the attic without the knowlege that one must only step on the beams.

One year, our Christmas tree just would not stay up. Until he screwed the stand to the floor. Right through the carpet.

I’ve watched him open up computers, fiddle around, button them back up and suddenly they work again. But once they’re loaded up, he’s got no use for them.

He has six children. Six times (Daddy, fix this times the number of toys each child has owned and/or touched and/or played with) plus (the number of friends who have visited our house times all the toys they’ve broken while here or brought because the toy was broken and they wanted him to fix it) equals roughly a metric fuck-ton of broken. 

No child has ever walked away without a working toy and a hug.

Ever.

He’s fixed tons of motorcycles, including that one I wanted to try. That little Sportster a woman rode. So I said, “Hey I bet I could ride that! Let me walk it into the garage!”

He stood back. I hopped on, kicked up the kickstand, took one step forward and then just keeled over to the side, unable to hold up the weight of the bike.

He fixed that, too.

Cars. Appliances. Skinned knees. Bruised egos.

He’s fixed all that.

The one thing I love the most, I can’t fix.

He’s said that to me a lot over the last three years. With a sigh and a sense of regret so thick I sometimes can’t breathe in the same room with it.

It’s not your job to.

That’s always my response. With a sigh and a sense of shame so thick I feel my throat closing.

Only I can fix me. We both know that.

But I’m no mechanic.

I flounder, searching for things that will work. Things I can manage. Things that will stick. 

Therapy and vitamins. BDSM and yoga. Old friends and new. Reading and writing. 

Changing how I view myself and the world around me. Changing how I confront the things that make me uncomfortable. Changing my life and how I want to live it.

That’s a lot of change to try and understand, let alone embrace.

He can’t fix me.

But every time he hugs me and tells me he’s proud . . . 

Every time he sits with his discomfort while I flit about in the breeze . . . 

Every time he lands a kiss on my forehead and a good girl in my ear . . . 

Every time he supports and encourages . . . 

He helps put a piece back in place.

He’s a mechanic who loves nothing more than when things are fixed. 

Except me. Even if I’m broken.

The Improbable, Possible Things I Seek

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By Jonathan McIntosh (Own work) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

As a child I curled up under the Christmas tree to read. Every year I received books as gifts, in addition to some toys. While the shine and glitz of a new toy tended to wear off quickly, the books were forever.

The stories never ended.

I’d hide under the lowest branches of the fake tree my family put up year after year. My grandmother had crocheted a large tree skirt that wrapped around the base and splayed out in a circle on the floor beneath. I’d lay upon it, my book in hand, and read my way to someplace else.

Somewhere quiet and less chaotic than the world I inhabited.

There were moments though when I’d look up, through the branches twinkling with light and adorned with tiny whimsical figures and shiny, gleaming globes, and I’d stare.

Up through those branches I found silence. It waited for me in every tiny nook. I’d hear nothing but the sound of my own breathing and the faint whisper of a magic that only exists in timeless moments. In moments where the real world falls away and one can believe with absolute certainty that something fantastic can happen.

I stared up through the galaxy of stars that blinked through the branches andfelt them upon me. Shifting shades of red and green and blue and gold. Nothing else existed for me then except the lights that danced across my skin and a tree that breathed with possibility.

I curled up, small and silent, with stories dancing through my head and it was a tiny thing, that moment. A young girl in the corner of a silent living room in a small house that stood in a small town on a tiny plot of the earth.

But it was big enough for me. Big enough to transport me. Enormous enough for me to believe that maybe something existed in that tree that I couldn’t see. It felt so magical, like a place where fairies could be found fluttering or tiny mice in clothes bustling about their errands.

There was silence enough beneath the Christmas tree that it became sacred.

Now I wonder if that’s what I’m seeking. Moments, where I believe in something. Something outside of myself and my experience.

A silence. A connection to something that feels big to me.

A something that leaves me believing in the magic of how improbable, yet possible, everything is in this world.

If someone lets go of all else, and believes.

The Showman (A Dribble*)

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Photo credit Allison Bedford

They meet beneath a tree.

She doesn’t care about the pieces of him that they get. She wants to see his face without filters. Without the shine and polish. Minus the studio lights.

There’s a pureness to him she never expected.

And a layer of dirt she wants to taste.

 

*A dribble is a writing of exactly fifty words.

He Looks For Me in the Sails

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By Alexander Baxevanis (Flickr: Sailboat & Sunset) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I want to be the sails.

I want to unfurl myself into the wind and be caught up and set free. I want to see all the things, travel to all the places, meet all the people.

I want the only sound to be the rushing, whipping force of moving forward. The only thought through my mind that of where I land. What’s ahead. I want to be focused only on me, the sails, and getting better at steering myself into the storm. I want to feel lightness against brutality and the freedom that comes from holding up against the wind.

But really, I’m the anchor.

I’m heavy with doubt and every chain is built from leaden thoughts of why I shouldn’t and how I can’t.

I sink.

I’m holding myself down, and anyone who might be on the journey with me at any given time. I’m the anchor that keeps us still, stagnant. While there may be rocking now and then when the sea kicks up, the wind can’t take me anywhere but in circles.

He’s the steady crewman.

Hands on his hips. Shaking his head now and then, but generally with a cocked eyebrow and lips always on the verge of smiling. He’s the one who claps his hands together and rubs them for a bit as he eyes the situation and springs into action.

He pulls me up, hand over hand, out of the muck I’ve sunk myself into at the bottom of the sea. Makes sure I’m back on board, even if I’m just curled up at his feet coughing up water.

Then he raises the mast, unleashes the mainstay, and steers into the wind.

Even if he’s warily eyeing the storm.

Even when he’s worried he’ll be tossed overboard.

He holds on, steady and true. Because no matter how low that anchor sinks, and how much I think I’m wrapped up in its chains . . . somehow he still believes I’m the sails.

When he looks for me, he looks up. Eyes squinting against the sun, sure that he’ll see me there in the wind.

I love that he looks for me in the sails, even when I’ve slid off to sink into the sea.

This Is Not Marriage Advice. Sort of.

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By Jeff Belmonte from Cuiabá, Brazil (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The season for bridal showers came when I was younger. That rush of marriages taking place every few months. Friends and cousins and co workers all at that age where they start tying the knot.

With it come the bridal shower invites. At least, where I’m from they did. Is that a regional thing? You’d all gather around with your gifts and sip mimosas (or beers, depending on the crowd) and inevitably a journal or index card would get passed around the table for you to write down your best advice for the couple.

I was, during that season of my life, frighteningly unqualified to be handing out relationship advice.

I still am.

The difference is, now I know it. Back then I wrote little quips like Never go to bed mad and Always make time for one another.

Which, yeah, is valid. Sure.

Brilliant advice? No. It’s not.

Because that shit they can figure out on their own.

There’s no advice I would offer to couples today if asked. I can only offer my perspective. I can only share what’s worked for me in my current relationship. None of it worked in any previous relationship I had. All of it is particular to me and my husband. But I think perhaps people can extrapolate from it some juicy nuggets they can chew on, digest, and crap out some helpful morsels of their own.

(That sounds so gross. Sorry. Analogies aren’t always my thing.)

So there’s the first thing I’d share: Stop asking for advice. Because what works for one couple may be disastrous for another.

Also, the person you’re with today is not going to be the person you’re with years from now. Not because I’m fatalistic and believe you won’t stay together. But because people change. Yourself included. It’s natural.

It’s also scary.

There may be times you look at the person beside you and ask if you even recognize him or her any longer.

Does it matter?

The better question, for me, has always been Do I want to take the time to get to know this person? If the changes he’s shown haven’t changed the kindness or the humor or the tenderness that I so love and value in him, then it’s me I need to confront. Not him. It’s my aversion to change I need to examine. The same applies to him when I change.

You’re going to argue and it’s going to hurt. A lot of the time it won’t even be over what matters. You’ll be dealing with a sick child or a lost job or money trouble or all three and more, but it’s the laundry on the floor that will cause the big blow out. It’s hard though, in the heat of the battle over whether or not it’s a big deal for your partner to just throw the goddamn laundry in the hamper versus whether it’s a big deal to just pick up what your partner was too fucking distracted to care about and throw it in since you are already on your way to the hamper if you really feel so fucking passionate about it, to remember that your partner is as stressed as you and needs you to maybe hold some space for him.

You’ll want to throw things at the wall.

Remember that the more peanut butter there is in the jar, the bigger the dent it will leave in the sheet rock. Just saying. I mean, that’s what I’ve been told. Let’s move along.

You’re not perfect.

You’ll do things like scream for help while you cling to a wooden beam after falling through the ceiling of your kitchen because you didn’t know you could only walk on the beams in the attic. And he’ll come running and unwrap you from the wires tangled around your legs, help you down with a gentle hand, and dust you off while checking to be sure you are injury-free before calling your mother to laugh over it. Meanwhile, when he trips down your porch steps as you are both walking out to the car, you’ll spend your entire thirty minute drive with him next to you watching as you struggle to laugh in silence with tears streaming down your cheeks and your O-ring struggling from the strain of trying to hold in all those guffaws.

It’s ok though, because he isn’t perfect either.

Sometimes he’ll make you feel you’re not enough and sometimes you’ll make him feel like he has no voice. You’re both going to make each other feel lots of feels. Some of them, if you’re lucky, will feel so damn good. Some of them, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, will hurt.

There’s never a win or lose.

Except for this . . . if you both find ways to make the other feel loved enough that it carries you through the times when you feel otherwise. When you feel less than. If you both still hold onto that . . . you’re winning.

I have no advice.

I only know that it matters when he’s the calm one in the room. It matter when I pack his lunch. It matters when he reaches back to hold my hand as we’re walking. It matters when I encourage him to chase his dreams. It matters when he does the same.

There is no magic guide book that will help you navigate this, or any other relationship. But it helps to find the things that matter to you both.

I sort of can’t wait for the next bridal shower invite.

I’ll be looking for them to pass around the journal or hand out those decorated index cards. I’ve reached the point in life where I know that the flowery sayings are just that. They’re nice and pretty, but ultimately will end up as dry and fleeting as a flower in a vase.

No, I won’t write out any quips or advice. Instead I’ll share a story filled with laughter and heartache, highs and lows, pain and joy. It’ll be all about me and my husband and our life and the particulars, most likely, will never apply to you and your relationship.

But the hope?

That always applies.

Sometimes I Just Want to be Right

Like when I ask him a question and he says he already told me the answer.

When did you tell me that?

When I called to ask you about that other thing, he answers. 

Which is wrong. More wrong than saying Courtney Love had all the talent in the relationship.

He didn’t tell me during that conversation. He called and asked me for a password. I told him I’d have to look it up and text it to him. He thanked me and we hung up.

Clearly, he’s wrong.

So we end up in a bit of a spat over whether he did or didn’t tell me the information he claims I should already possess. (He didn’t.)

But he’s right. It doesn’t matter how absofuckinglutely sure I am that I’m correct. He’s equally as sure he’s correct.

That right there is one of the most difficult things about being married (or in any other type of relationship/entanglement.) Having to back down from being right when you know, you fucking know, how right you are.

Because sometimes it’s not about something stupid like the example above. Often it’s the two of you trying to navigate life together while also working and maybe raising kids and trying to achieve goals and worrying about a metric shit ton of things that could derail all your dreams. It’s two individuals trying to make a partnership work.  

It’s two people moving through life as a cohesive unit but also fiercely holding onto their sense of self.

Sometimes I just want to be right.

So he backs down. 

I forget that he does that. In the heat of the moment, when I’m pissed he’s arguing with me, I forget about all the times he backed down. All the times he knew he was right but walked away anyway. I forget until he does it again and I’m reminded we both get our moments of basking in the smug.

Sometimes I just want to be right.

Then I remember that even when we argue, we don’t call each other names. We don’t put each other down. Aside from that time I threw the peanut butter at the wall, we’ve never forgotten that respect for each other is more important than being correct. We can dig our heels in and tug back and forth and still love each other at the end of the day. 

Sometimes I just want to be right. 

Until I take a breath and realize that sometimes being wrong just means I love him. And he loves me, too.

I know because he’s wrong way more than I am.

Kidding!

(Sort of.)