Trust Me: Learning to Have Faith in Marriage

On moving day, I awoke after only three hours of sleep. The first thought that went through my head was, ''David and I are moving in together today.'' David, my boyfriend of eleven months, lay asleep beside me, his breath heavy and trusting. I quickly pulled on shorts and a T-shirt, stumbled over piles of books, dishes, clothes and shoes (all of which should have been packed already) and let myself out the front door. I walked through the familiar streets for over an hour, already nostalgic for a neighborhood that in a few short hours would no longer be my turf. I felt a confused mixture of fear and excitement, dread and hope. As the child of a troubled marriage and finally a rancorous divorce when I was eighteen, relationships are not easy for me. Love, although it brings me great joy, is always coupled with a fear of inevitable failure. This morning, as I scuffed along the streets, I tried but just couldn't shake my feeling of doom.

From a pay phone I called my father. Often, when I'm having a meltdown, I'll call my dad -- usually, he offers some good advice, and he always succeeds in talking me down from my emotional cliff's edge. As soon as he answered, I blurted out, ''Daddy, I'm making a huge mistake.''

''But you've been planning this for months,'' he said.

''I know.''

''Well, what changed?'' he asked.

''I don't know.'' Silence. ''I want to celebrate this move, but I don't know how to.''

''Yes, you do, Caitlin. Buy flowers, make dinner, make love. Honey, you can do this.''

''Okay,'' I said, embarrassed by his suggestion of making love, but also comforted by his delicate acceptance of my adulthood. ''I'll try.''

I let myself back into the apartment and found David taping boxes together and beginning to dismantle my bookshelves. ''What's going on, Caitlin?'' he asked

''I'm just feeling a little bit stressed out,'' I offered. ''Moving is stressful, you know?''

He looked at me seriously. ''Do you want to do this?'' he asked.

''Yes. I do,'' I said. But I wasn't sure.

For me, in relationships with men, fear predominates where love should reside, lack of trust where trust should be a foundation. A few weeks before the much awaited and planned move, David said simply that he could not move in with me if I could not trust him. He added that I shouldn't move in with someone I couldn't trust anyway. I wished deeply at that moment that I could tell him categorically that I do trust him, that it never occurred to me not to, but we both knew that trust doesn't come easily to me. How can I trust when the thing I wanted to trust most -- the safety of my family -- fell apart? It seemed to me that if my parents could be unfaithful to each other, anyone could be. How could I say that I felt sure in my soul's core that David would not betray and hurt me? Although I wished deeply that I could convince him that I would banish all of my fears as soon as the boxes were packed, I could not. What I did tell him was that I promised to work on it, that I hoped for change, and that I desperately wanted to trust in him.

Moving day passed in a blur of boxes and sweat. That night, with bruised shins and sore muscles, I let my cat out of her carrying bag, brushed my teeth and fell into bed next to David. I curled my body around his. In his sleep, his arm reached out, draped heavily around my back and pulled me in tight next to him. Three weeks after our move, I panicked. One night I got off early from my job waitressing. As I was walking home, I realized David didn't expect me for another three hours. With each step, I felt anxiety mount in my chest. I wondered what I would find him doing when I arrived home. The graphic possibilities racing through my brain were anything but trusting. As I climbed the stairs, I did so stealthily, dreading what I would find when I opened the door, and full of self-loathing that my mind had spiraled into such a gutter of unfounded fear. When I opened the door, there was David sitting on the couch eating macaroni and cheese and watching TV. He was happy to see me, of course, and glad that I was home early.

Recently, I asked David why he loved me. He said he finds me beautiful, gentle, kind, loving, honest and intelligent. But mostly, he said, ''I love you because I feel we've built something together.'' Suddenly I could see that we have indeed built a relationship, one that I can celebrate. Although I'm not confident my days of feeling a sense of inevitable hurt are over, lately I've felt calmer, more present in the moment I'm living with David. As our apartment slowly becomes a home, I feel a sense of peace wash over me when I open the door, see my cat run towards me, and hear David shout ''Hey, darlin''' from the living room. Almost without knowing it, I'm letting myself begin, somewhere down deep, to trust. It feels good.

About the Author
Caitlin Shetterly is a free-lance writer, actress and waitress who lives in New York City.

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