A few weeks ago, I was chatting on the phone with one of my best friends while stuck in traffic. I was filling her in on a mutual friend who’s been going through some rough times lately. After a shaky past, our friend’s spouse had finally cleaned up his act… only she was having a hard time forgiving him.
“I feel bad for him,” I said. “He’s working so hard to get in a good place, and I don’t think that she’s ever going to forgive him.”
“You know, I get it,” my friend replied. “Sometimes you try to forgive and you try to forgive, but eventually there’s nothing left. You’re just done.”
“It’s like the trust bank with horses!”
I think it was over at Zen and the Art of Baby Horse Management when I first heard the term “Trust bank,” and it resonated immediately with my relationship with horses. When you’re riding a 1200lb animal with its own brain, things can go haywire quickly. Us equestrians depend on trusting that relationship not only to succeed with going to a show or embarking on a trail ride, but furthermore to safely ride another day. Each time we as riders give our horse an accurate aid, we show our horse that we’re capable and therefore put a “deposit” into the bank. When our horse does something we ask them to correctly, they put a deposit in themselves and the whole situation moves forward harmoniously.
Of course even the best horse and the most capable rider will make a goof. Maybe the rider misjudges a distance, and gets the horse to a bad spot on a big fence. Maybe the horse is scared and spooks at something silly. Those things are going to happen, but a well funded trust bank is what keeps them from being catastrophic. Every time something iffy occurs, horse & rider withdraw from the trust bank. Hopefully those times are few and far between, and the balance stays in the black. The trouble is when there are way too many withdrawals and not enough deposits.
I’ve been there with a horse before. Beckett was a great horse who should have been my dream, but he withdrew from the trust bank too often in its earlier stages. When we started to go into the red, I said enough was enough and moved him forward. He became a lovely horse for someone else, but never could be that for me. I was just done.
Why am I blogging about this now? Although I have made comparisons with horses and relationships before, the “Trust Bank” concept transferring to human relationships never dawned on me until I was talking to my friend. Thinking about it further, I realize that I’ve found myself in an unfamiliar state right now.
In my past ten years with horses, I’ve been the chicken shit amateur who’s afraid of everything. Seriously, when I took lessons in MA after selling Beckett my trainer had to start me on a 15hh Haflinger who took the definition of beginner friendly to a whole new level. Now I find myself coming off my first horse show at 2’9″ with a dependable horse I made myself (with lots of help of course). Simon and I don’t just have a trust bank, we have a trust 401k. We can retire on our trust. It’s solid.
Tim had a lot of amazing qualities during our relationship, and we put in a ton of deposits into the trust bank together. I would listen to friends worry about their spouses flirting with some girl or feeling the need to keep tabs on their boyfriend, and I’d just shrug. With Tim, I never had to worry about him cheating. He fairly reliably did what he said he was going to do, and he typically was where he said he was going to be. Our biggest fights for years were over him not doing the dishes. If cleanliness constituted a trust bank, we’d be in trouble. Instead years clipped by and I had unending faith in my husband until 2015.
His behavior would seem slightly odd or unpredictable, and he’d withdraw a bit from our account. Little things here and there that made me slightly uneasy even though I wasn’t quite sure why. Then the man who I never had to worry about drinking and driving insisted he was fine, and tried to drive us home from a bar. He took down a decorative fence instead of another vehicle, but that was the first large withdrawal from our trust bank… and it wasn’t the last. Of course we all know how things ended, but I didn’t realize until recently how finding him not only ended my marriage but also completely depleted my trust. For the first time of my life when it comes to people, I’m very much in the red.
This leaves me in an interesting spot now. When anyone exhibits any bit of strange behavior, I’ll be the first to throw the “A” word into a room. In my former days on Tinder, some unsuspecting idiot would casually throw out, “Hey you want to come over and smoke a few bowls?”
No. I want to absolutely not do that. There aren’t enough words for me to describe how much I don’t want to do that.
If my friends have to go for the doctor for anything out of the ordinary, I’m probably as bad as their parents when I text follow up questions about their health and well being. When my sister in law was due to have her first child, I had nightmares that she died in childbirth and my brother would become a widower. There have been times when my parents have visited, and I haven’t heard one of them stirring around the house before I got up. My first thought is not, “Oh good! I didn’t sleep too late!” but instead “Hopefully they didn’t die in their sleep.”
Just like it did with my horses, I know the trust bank will fill back up again. Each time one of my friends manages to live through their sinus infection, it gets a little better. I see people going to rehab and getting help for themselves, and my hope gets restored a little bit more. I don’t know how I’m going to be in another relationship, because I’m still trying to climb out of the red negatives into some sort of ground zero. I’m still trying to remember a time when my biggest problems were dirty dishes or being scared to jump 2′.