C Squared, an offshoot of the True Romantic column, is a series in which I invite couples to share stories about themselves, their experiences in love, their problems and pleasures and romantic rituals.
C Squared stands for the concept of couple comparison: A couple talks to me about their relationship and I use their stories to write about mine. Couple-hood times two. C Squared is also a way to describe the kinds of couples I’d like to know: Complicated couples, creative couples, cross-cultural couples, etc.
As a writer, I am always the subject of my artistic experiments. Being vulnerable in public is what I do. For my C Squared profile subjects, that is generally not the case, and so I will do my best to be protective of them. While I may ask my featured couple difficult questions, I will always subject myself to harder ones. Just remember: Love’s hard; be true.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about trust.
It’s the beginning point of love, that one essential thing that cannot be broken. And yet: What is trust, really? Who would you trust with your heart? Who would you trust with your life? Is it your lover? Your wife? Your doctor? If you were tipping off a ledge, and could choose one person to catch you, who would it be?
In matters of trust, this week’s featured C Squared couple, Adam and Anna, inspires me.
Adam is 43 years old and was raised in the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. At 16, he was in a car accident and broke his back in four places. He has been a paraplegic ever since.
Anna is 46 from Washington, DC and Rehoboth Beach, DE, and was married twice before she met Adam.
Adam and Anna met in June of 2012 and have been married since May 2014. They found each other online, both seeking kayaking partners.
I was interested in getting more exercise and I figured I might be able to kayak since it wouldn’t require the use of my legs. Anna had posted something about looking for assistance to move her kayak down from her roof rack a couple of mornings a week. I thought explaining that I wouldn’t be much help in getting her kayak down was a funny way to introduce myself so I wrote to her.
While their relationship interests me for lots of reasons, my first thought was about trust. Maybe I’m projecting my own problems onto Adam and Anna—actually, I am definitely projecting, and that’s the point of these C Squared profiles—but it seemed to me that trust might be a problem for them as a couple. For Anna, having been married and divorced twice, it might be hard to trust marriage. Not hard to trust in Adam, necessarily, but in the institution of marriage itself, in the binding agreement of marriage—which can be the most wonderful legal contract you ever sign, or it can be a medieval instrument of torture that should go the way of the garrote.
When I asked Anna about having the faith to get married a third time to Adam, she said:
I was the problem—by and large—in my previous marriages, not my former husbands. While I can say that I don’t think they were good matches in any event, I was the one who was not trustworthy in those relationships, not the men… What I did have is a lot of shame—about who I’d been in the world, about my own past and serious mistakes I’d made, about lies I’d told, about my family, about the way I’d lived my life, about failures of mine.
Anna says that trust isn’t a problem now. She trusts Adam completely.
He wants what is best for me and always has my needs/wants in mind. Trust, to me, is knowing that the other person is going to hold you in their heart when they take action of any kind.
While Adam says that there aren’t “any ways or types of trust I have in Anna that I wouldn’t if I weren’t a paraplegic” he also says that he does feel
vulnerable, and I am happy to feel vulnerable with Anna. Although my feeling vulnerable usually relates to emotional vulnerability, there is one circumstance where it is definitively physical. When we are in the water together, I feel quite vulnerable physically. I can’t swim anymore because of my injury and when we are in the water I rely quite a bit on Anna.
It’s a beautiful way to think of trust: One person holding the other in the water, shouldering the current, keeping the beloved afloat.
My ex-husband, a man I have introduced as The Magician, broke my trust in the first months of our relationship. I was an aspiring novelist and although I hadn’t published anything yet, I’d kept a journal since I was fifteen. At twenty-seven, I had thousands of pages bound in fifty notebooks, which I kept in an old red suitcase under my bed. One day, The Magician saw the suitcase and asked what was inside. I was in love with The Magician, and would have given him anything he asked for, but these notebooks were off limits. They were the only sacred space I kept in my life. They were private.
Come on, he’d said. I’d like to see what you’re writing. It will make me feel closer to you.
But that kind of ‘closeness’ was not what I wanted. That kind of closeness seemed like an invasion of my soul.
No, I said. Please. Don’t ever read them. I mean it.
Then one day I came home from class to find The Magician sitting on the floor of the apartment, the red suitcase open, and my journals spread out around him. He didn’t try to hide what he was doing. He didn’t even apologize. He put down the journal he was reading, looked up at me and said, “You’re back early.”
Later, I burned those journals. I shredded them up, page by page, and burned them down to ash.
When Anna holds Adam in the water, it is a sacred moment of trust. I imagine them together, the saltwater making Adam’s body buoyant. Anna’s hands are under him, keeping him above the waterline. She is taking his life in her hands; he has placed it there. If, in a moment of neglect, in a moment of thoughtlessness or inattention, she lets go, Adam will sink under the surface of the water, his body falling deep into the cold darkness, and he will die. This, for me, is trust.
If you would like to be featured in C Squared, please send a bio of you and your partner, a photo, and a short paragraph describing what makes your relationship C Squared material to [email protected].
Rumpus original logo art by Max Winter.