Everyone knows that successful relationships thrive on the foundation of trust. Love cannot exist without trust, is the conventional wisdom, yes?
Twenty-eight-year-old Martin Mugambi from Embu equates staying in a relationship without trust to driving a car without an engine.
“You can choose to enter and stay in the car but it will take you nowhere,” he says.
The way he sees it, love and trust should go hand in hand. You may choose to love someone you do not trust but that relationship will not grow as love lasts only if there is trust.
But is this the absolute truth?
While the greater majority shares similar sentiments in regard to love and trust, some people in relationships see the two as separate emotional bonds. They see loving without trusting as a possibility, a challenging affair, but a possibility nonetheless.
When 33-year-old Mariam Masinde* met her husband eight years ago, she was well aware of his philandering ways. She knew right at the beginning that he wasn’t worthy of her trust, at least where other women were concerned. In fact, when she began dating him he was in another relationship.
They had a shaky courtship and when he finally wed her, unlike most newlyweds, she didn’t go into the relationship expecting him to change. She chose to love him as he was, knowing that she couldn’t trust him. “I love him and I don’t think that I can love anyone else this way,” she claims.
Six years into their marriage, she says that he has almost always been seeing someone else on the side. “I know this for a fact but I do not intend to quit my marriage. We have love and it makes up for other things in which he may lack,” she argues.
She admits that she sometimes experiences bouts of pain and sadness and has had to fight the urge to spy on him many times but she maintains that her marriage is otherwise fulfilling.
“He loves me and he is a good father to our children. What he chooses to do away from home shouldn’t ruin what we have. Love is a choice and I choose to love him every day regardless,” she argues. She sees her being able to separate love from trust as emotional maturity.
Away from cheating
Extramarital affairs may be the major but not the only source of mistrust in a relationship. Karen Mukami’s* husband cheating on her is the last thing she would worry about.
She has been married six years and says that for the first five, she felt completely secure with her man. All along, he ran what appeared to her as a successful business and she only found out a year ago that it has been a masquerade for an illegal business. She only found out by default and she says that knowing the truth shook her.
“It was a big blow that he had kept this from me for so long. I’m the person that he is supposed to be closest to. It took me a while to take in the fact that he had been lying to me all these years. I felt like I didn’t know him,” she shares.
Though he later apologised to her and even offered to close the business, she says that she cannot trust him anymore. “But I don’t doubt what I feel for him. I love him deeply,” she says, echoing Mariam’s sentiment that one can indeed love without trusting.
What the experts think
David Kinyanjui, a marriage therapist based in Limuru, admits that for varied reasons, people choose to stay in relationships that lack trust. He, however, disagrees that such a relationship can be fulfilling for either partner. He maintains that trust is a vital ingredient of a healthy relationship.
While a couple may opt to stay in such a union because other things bind them together, he cautions that such an arrangement breeds pain for both people involved in the long run.
“It is hurtful even for the one that is being accused of betrayal, especially if he or she is innocent. Similarly, showing mistrust towards your significant other may give them the impression that you are feeling guilty for your own misdeeds then projecting this to them,” he says.
In his view, trust creates a sense of security and intimacy in a relationship which allows both parties not to withhold intimacy. Bringing in children into a relationship that has no trust is bound to have a negative impact on their wellbeing.
Children tend to be very intuitive and such a child is more likely to have trust issues in their adult relationships.
(* Names have been changed to protect identity)