Thursday, October 11, 2007

Trust (and fidelity)

Apparently, something about being deployed brings out the writing in me. I've only been here 24 hours, and already I've been inspired again.

I was enjoying* my first re-deployed dinner at the chow hall, in the company of two of my crewmates (with whom I have previously worked.) Somehow, our conversation turned to the relationship I had with my ex-wife and the reasons it failed, and my general (but apparently unshared) perspective on trust. Allow me to explain:

Shortly after 9/11, I was ordered to the Persian Gulf in preparation for the inevitable conflict in Afghanistan. I arrived in Bahrain where I was subsequently enrolled in a class. After graduating in two weeks, I would then join the Marines for the invasion of Afghanistan through Pakistan.

The class convened in the afternoons and ran until about 9PM. My classmates were four others with whom I had closely worked, served and had fun for years in both deployed places and stateside. Two of them, notably, were women.

I and the two other guys shared a flat, and the two girls shared a flat directly above us. After class, everyone always ended up in the Boy Flat where we cooked dinner, made drinks, played Spades and PlayStation, bullshat and just generally had a good time.

I had been married for over five years at this point. Now, for the sake of this argument, I ask that you stipulate the following:

~ I had been faithful.
~ I had always been faithful.
~ I had never done anything to lead my ex-wife that I had the propensity for being unfaithful.
~ It was understood that I am faithful.

Late at night, either I or my ex-wife would call the other to share the day's activities and generally express our love and appreciation. Invariably, she would hear in the background the activities of my male roommates and female friends. Again: things like Spades and cooking dinner.

Progressively, she lost her mind in a jealous rage (cliche, I know, but it fits.) She refused to accept the conditions of my flat. Specifically, that there were women present. In respect and consideration of her feelings, I rationally, calmly and empathetically explained the situation. Summary: that we were all just friends enjoying company in the few weeks we had before heading off separately into war zones in which we would, among other things, work seven days a week for the foreseeable future.

It was for naught.

Mind you, Nichole had friends who were men with and with whom, I'm sure, she had occasion to hang out with on occasion. Because she had my complete trust and utter faith, I never had problem with this.


I would be remiss if I didn't consider my relationship with S in this context. Unlike Nichole, S had a 'flirty streak' that I may have touched on in this blog. I recall one particular incident that gives context:

I was in Georgia attending a class when I received a call from S. She had planned on going out with coworkers that night in D.C -- this I already knew. However, one of her coworkers, a man named Dan (a subject definitely touched on in this blog) and with whom she would be drinking that night, would be going early that next morning to Anne Arundel county for a meeting, and... "would it be okay if he just stayed over" that night, in order to cut the drive in half (we lived in Gaithersburg).

I told S that, admittedly, I was a little uncomfortable with the idea, but -- swallowing my own insecurities -- I was okay with it, because I had trust in her and had faith in our relationship.

(Of course, I would later learn that I had made a huge mistake.

My dining coworkers (one female, one male) both agreed that, in essence, I am an idiot.


My beliefs in this matter are primarily centered around equity. That, in the context of a deep and committed relationship, I give my trust to my partner, and that in turn, I expect the same. Of course, all this flies out the window as soon as trust has been broken, or if one of the two has cast doubt on their own ability to remain faithful.

Nonetheless. The male coworker with whom I was dining gave me this example: suppose he's deployed (which, perhaps not coincidentally, he is, and his wife back home -- you know the one -- taking care of the kids, the home, going to work, going to school, all of the million things that go on in Real Life that are real responsibilities and just suck when you have to do them alone... wants to go to the movies with her friend, who's a dude. My position: okay. I'd have faith in my wife and her judgment. My coworker's position: not a chance in hell.

The female at my table related a story: she'd recently called her husband and told him that she'd just worked out in the gym tent with another male coworker, (we'll call him) John. Her husband asked, "Alone, or with someone else, too?" To which she replied, "Oh, Ted was there, too." He was okay with that. Because there were two guys with her. If it had been just one, apparently, he'd have had a problem with it. She told him, "That's why I love you." Because he got it... the "rules" or some shit. She would have been disappointed had he been comfortable with just the one guy.


Can't a menage pop out just as easily as a little one-on-one? Where's the end of the line of extrapolation? What if she was the only girl among a group of a dozen men? How is that less threatening than just one? And how does he get off sitting here at dinner with an admittedly attractive girl and joke about his giant dick all the while insisting that his wife back home couldn't go to the Farmer's Market with another man?

I questioned --endlessly-- both of their ideas of trust, faith and judgment. Neither accepted my argument that it takes two to tango and both insisted on some ill-defined concept of "temptation."

To hell with that. Am I naive? I am passionate about this concept -- this concept of trust and equality and NO hypocrisy... but, admittedly, two of my significant relationships have failed... both around this issue: one in that I couldn't convince my then-wife of its merits, and another in that my faith with my then-girlfriend was misplaced... so perhaps I should abandon the idea in favor of "I'm not you and you're not me."


*Enjoying is relative. In this case, I did not expect the Parmesan Chicken Patty to result in explosive diarrhea.


jess said...

it seems that your philosophy rests on the idea that we are all responsible for our decisions and actions. i don't think that's naive at all. i think it's wanting the best from people.

that said, i think *most* people are like your peers. they are more about rules. which never really work. it seems to me that the more you constrict or try to rule someone's nature the more likely they are to rebell against you. does that make any sense?

SweetEscape said...

"Can't a menage pop out just as easily as a little one-on-one?"

Generally things don't happen between people who are in groups of more than two (honestly, how often has a threesome ocurred when two people of the same sex do anything with someone of the opposite sex?) which is where the sentiments that it's "better" for her to have worked out with two dudes instead of just one comes from. But with that said, I totally agree with your argument that it takes two to tango. It takes two people who have complete and utter faith and trust in one another to make a relationship work, just as it takes two people to cross that line of infidelity and ruin his/her relationship.

By the way, I'm glad to see your safe and back to blogging! :)

Lisa said...

I take people less at face value than I used to, but I tend to trust until you show me that I shouldn't. Jealousy and mistrust, I think, have more to do with one's own insecurities than the behavior of the other person. Even though you learned later that she wasn't exactly trustworthy, I don't think it was a mistake to trust her in that situation, or really any other, until she proved to you that it was. I'd have said the same - sure the coworker can stay over. You either trust people or you don't, and I think going through life with mistrust as your default is a hard, sad way to live.

startingtoday said...

Justin -

I have been struggling with my own trust issues as well, lately. Experience tells me there are certain types of people not to trust. It is hard to let that go. And even when people do things to make you question your trust in them, it's still a decision - do you trust them or not? Because to constantly wonder what the other person is doing and if you should be trusting them is an exhausting way to live.

I've been having some trouble with this.

Snoqualmie said...

This is why the bond between you and I has never died.

We think exactly alike.