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Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,
How essential is trust in love? Does trust equate to love? I’ve read from books that when you love someone, you trust that person completely. Does that mean that if you start losing trust for your partner, your love for that person is gradually lessening? That is my experience with my wife.
We live in a time of glib memes, mantras, and endless lists of “how best to…,” as though serious issues can be dealt with in a few dozen words, and the same size (solution) fits all. However, each of us is unique and each couple is unique, so facile answers to profound problems can be singularly unhelpful.
In our November 2 column, we cited Dr. Robert Sternberg and his Triangular Theory of Love. Prof. Sternberg suggests that the three critical components of love are passion, intimacy, and commitment, and that different combinations of these produce different types of love.
It should be noted that these elements exist on a spectrum; they can be present to a greater or lesser degree, and just as importantly, they can wax and wane over time.
When two people decide to get married, they usually intend for their union to be for life, especially in a country that does not recognize divorce, and so at least some form of commitment is present. Typically passion will also be an important factor at this stage, which is not to say that it necessarily evaporates over time, but that it evolves.
The fervent passion of newlyweds is after all rather different from that of a couple married for 50 years. Intimacy, the third critical component, is something that if encouraged can grow over time, enabling a couple to love each other more and more deeply even as physical passion may wane.
Trust is an important part of intimacy. It takes different forms: for example, a willingness to bare one’s soul to one’s partner and/or a resolution to “cleave together, forsaking all others.” Trust is also on a spectrum and can be built up over the course of time. It can be offered unilaterally, but generally, reciprocation is required if significant self-revelation is the intention.
Miguel, you do not say what form this lack of trust takes. Maybe you have revealed things to your wife that she has not treated with the confidentiality that you expected, or has used them against you in a mean-spirited way. Alternatively, maybe your loss of trust is related to her infidelity, or the breaching of some other fundamental covenant of your marriage, perhaps to do with children or religion.
Whatever the issue, you need to decide whether what has come between you is capable of resolution or not. Resolution requires some flexibility, and so if negotiations start with one party unwilling to compromise in any meaningful way, prospects of a positive outcome will be dim, to say the least. If however there is sufficient desire to achieve a mutually acceptable outcome, then there is hope.
Please write again if you have more questions.
All the best,
I am glad that Mr. Baer shared Sternberg’s Triangular Theory as the paradigm with which to answer your questions, To me, it is THE best analysis for regular people like us, who do not theorize or make a living being armchair theorizers about love, who feel something is missing in our relationship and want to know if it is possible to regain or to enflame something that was never there to begin with.
Allow me to answer your questions more specifically:
How essential is trust in love?
Since the love you speak of is that between you and your wife, I presume what you want to know is how important trust is in your relationship. Let us start when you got married, where commitment is the major factor. Because you love her (or felt you loved your then-bride), you are willing to commit your life to her. A good start would be “love” at the fatuous level (commitment and intimacy, but no passion) or romantic level (passion and commitment without intimacy), because passion and/or intimacy can grow as your marriage strengthens.
In my clinical experience, a marriage of five, even three, years can become one where companionate love (intimacy and commitment, no longer any passion) or even friendship (intimacy alone) is enough for one spouse. If both can live with this, terrific!
If, however, both/one seek/s passion outside the marriage, they must navigate what is acceptable and what is not within their marriage.
All you want is not to devolve into an empty relationship where all you have is commitment not even to each other, but to the façade of marriage, because, for example, you are a politician who needs to have a happy home with a happy spouse to attract votes, or a hypocrite who wants to avoid a bad reputation.
Does trust equate to love?
No, trust is not equivalent to love, but is certainly necessary for love to exist.
If you start losing trust for your partner, is your love for that person gradually lessening?
Not necessarily. Unfortunately, there are people willing to stay in a relationship without trust, rationalizing that they love their spouse. But who wants to play detective manhid (as if they didn’t care) for the rest of their married life?
I strongly suggest, dearest Miguel, that you work to rebuild that trust. But you can only do that if your wife is willing to; otherwise, it is best to move on.
Someone once said: A relationship without trust is like a car without gas. You can stay in it as long as you want, but it won’t go anywhere! I wholeheartedly agree.
All the best,