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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Do what you say, say what you mean.

Remember these lyrics from The Fixx?
(One Thing Leads to Another)

Why don't they
Do what you say, say what you mean
oh, baby
One thing leads to another
You told me something wrong,
I know I listen too long but then
One thing leads to another

I know in the past I've talked quite a bit about rules but this really isn't about rules at all. It is about feelings and trust.
In our lives every day we take people at their word. The person in the coffee shop or restaurant making a recommendation. Someone saying something as simple as "I'll call you later". Even recognizing the flashing turn indicator on another car implies a level of trust. Okay, maybe expectation on that last one. But even then, doesn't the expectation include a level of trust?

What I'm focusing on today is the level of implied trust you have with an SO. The trust and understanding that is built up over time. More importantly, how is that trust maintained or how easily might it be eroded.

For example:
-Your SO says "I don't really like Rickie much." But the next thing you know they head out to the bar to hang out with Rickie for several hours.
Or. . .
-Your SO says "I am really not much of a drinker." Then they go out and get ripped with some friends.
Or. . .
-Your SO says "I like Lucy but I would never sleep with her." But then they do.

Note: I'm not talking about lying here. I'm not talking about the person who purposely misleads. I'm talking about people who make valid statements at the time they are made but change their minds later. Or maybe they make a much stronger statement initially than they meant to make. Either way, for the purposes of this article, I'm not talking about people purposely lying or being deceitful.

Obviously these aren't rules, they are your SO's feelings. And of course, they are able to change how they feel. There are also exceptions, such as the usually light social drinker tying one on some night. Most likely your SO saying one thing and doing something else once in a while isn't a big deal. We have all seen the person with the left turn blinker on who makes a right turn instead.

But what happens when saying one thing and doing another becomes more frequent than just once in a while? Do you start losing trust in the person or do you just begin to take what they say with a grain of salt? Do you get angry or upset? How does it affect your relationship?

I think when someone makes a statement such as "I like Lucy but wouldn't sleep with her" they are creating an expectation. Maybe I have a concern about them sleeping with Lucy but after their statement I keep my opinion to myself. It isn't necessary for me to speak up because they have already eliminated my concern, right? But then what happens when they do sleep with Lucy? Suddenly my concern is not only alive again, the chance to avoid or address my concern ahead of time is gone. Possibly my concern is trivial, but it is also possible it is enormous. Maybe Lucy has an STD my SO didn't know about. Maybe she is married and my SO didn't know.

In the past when I've been in a relationship and realized the other person isn't doing what they say to the point it starts to erode my trust I try and have a conversation with them about dependability. I need to know what they say is what they mean, and they will do what they say. It isn't that I don't want them hanging out with Rickie, getting ripped with friends, or boffing Lucy. It is that I want the opportunity to speak up, ahead of time if possible, when I have a concern. It isn't that I want to pin them down on every little thing, or feel justified in punishing them if they don’t do what they say. I simply want the ability to accept what they say without second guessing their words.

Another thing I will do is take some ownership. When they say "I like Lucy but wouldn't sleep with her" instead of keeping my mouth shut about my concerns I will voice them anyway. At least that way if my SO changes their mind and does sleep with Lucy they were fully aware of my concerns ahead of time.

So what do you think? When your SO makes a general statement like those mentioned have they created an implied expectation? Is it a big deal if they change their mind and never let you know? Do you let it slide once in a while but not if it happens frequently?

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