Trust Is Overrated

by Frost on February 16, 2012

What is Trust? Dr. Phil tells us it’s the most important part of a healthy relationship, but I’m not so sure.

Is Trust the belief that your partner is honest and faithful? Most would say yes. But then, what if I were to install a GPS tracking device on my wife which relayed her coordinates to me 24/7? Or interview her with a lie detector every night when she got home? In either situation, I would know with 100% certainty that she was being honest and faithful. But I don’t think Dr. Phil would approve.

So we can see that trust only counts if it is irrational. Seeking to confirm or refute a partner’s honesty with evidence – say, by going through their phone, email, stalking them, etc, is actually a sign of mistrust.  Real trust is when you catch your girlfriend out for dinner with an ex, or your husband starts getting calls late at night from that tart secretary of his, and you believe the innocent explanation hastily offered up.

Traditional societies don’t have this romantic idea of trust. They send Chaperones on dates, they don’t allow their wives and daughters to go somewhere alone with a strange man, and they have social conventions in place demanding that women avoid even the appearance of potential infidelity or promiscuity. They don’t trust – they verify.

Now, it’s generally a good idea to be suspicious of any ideas that came out of the western world post-WW2, and I think our romantic, Dr. Phil-esque idea of the all-importance of trust fits this criteria. let’s evaluate the idea of trust from that most useful of perspectives: Cui Bono?

The answer is, the same people who bono from the myriad other social and cultural innovations introduced during the sexual revolution: Alpha males and promiscuous women:

- It’s girls night out! We’re just going to dance! Come on, don’t you trust me?

- It’s grad trip, me and the girls are going to Cancun! Come on, don’t you trust me?

- Honey, that girl is crazy! I don’t know why she keeps calling me. Don’t you trust me?

- Baby, you know I just go out and flirt a bit, nothing more than that. Don’t you…

And so on.

According to our culture, if you’re a regular dude with a regular girlfriend, and you understandably don’t want her going out and getting hit on by guys who are more desirable than you – you have trust issues. You are the one in the wrong. Most people in most eras would consider it a no-brainer that you are not OK with your girl going out with her girlfriends, traveling alone, or otherwise putting herself in a position where she can easily and covertly cheat on you. But in 21st-century America, anything less than complete, unfounded faith in a person’s fidelity is socially unacceptable.

Similarly, if you’re a girl dating a man with options, you would be a fool to trust him unconditionally. And yet, you’ve been primed you to go on the defensive if a man accuses you of not trusting him, regardless of how valid your mistrust might be.

Some observations on this from my personal experience:

1) If a girl is traveling alone or with girlfriends, she will almost certainly cheat on her boyfriend without a second thought.

2) If a girl is in a club with her girlfriends, she will probably cheat on her boyfriend if your game is tight.

3) If a girl is anything less than 100% satisfied with her relationship, there are men who she would have sex with behind your back, if the stars align and the chance is there.

And keep in mind, I am not some one-in-a-million guy who can seduce any woman you put in front of me: I am just a decent-looking guy with sloppy game. I’m not the coolest or the smoothest guy in the room. Still, I’ve banged quite a few cute girls with boyfriends or husbands in my life.

And men, we’re even worse. Chris Rock is a wise man:

So now we see the idea of Trust, stripped of its pretensions and laid bare in front of us: Just one more piece of social conditioning to ease the transition from the outdated western ideal of monogamy, to our natural, tribal state of polygamy and soft harems. The sword of Trust can be used to shame the beta men who wish to protect their wives, and the alpha females who wish to monopolize one desirable man.

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So what to do, now that trust is seen for what it is? Abandon it? Abandon love?

Not necessarily.

We can still love, without trust. We can choose mates who seem ‘trustworthy’ in the sense that they don’t give off the tell-tale signs of the slut/player. We can structure our lives to minimize the chance that our partners will violate our (rational) trust – don’t feel obligated to let your significant other to go on their weekly girls/boys night out, get those kids paternity tested, and so on.

We could also just inject ourselves with GPS trackers, and have a central database make all of our sexual activity publicly available. I’m partially kidding, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see traditional communities – say, Mormons and Muslims – doing something like this in a decade or two.

I take my relationships one day at a time. I refuse to have expectations for the behaviour of girls I date, and I encourage them not to develop any expectations for me. My eventual children will be paternity tested, and I’ll do my best to protect my rights to them and my assets in the event that their mother(s) go off the deep end.

Trust? I’ll save mine for my lawyer, my Swiss bank manager, and a DNA testing lab.

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