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It's a comment I see scattered far and wide across the Internetverse. In almost any conversation where some guy is complaining about his wife or girlfriend having male friends, inevitably someone else will ask, "don't you trust her?" And inevitably, as sure as night follows day, he will say "Oh, I trust her, I just don't trust other guys."

Which, as near as I can tell, translates into English as "I don't trust my girlfriend." Because the only alternative reading I can see is far more horrifying.

First things first. Let's call this what it is: an endorsement of the belief that what women want doesn't matter.

"I trust my girlfriend." I think my girlfriend wants to be faithful to me, wants to support me, wants to be with me. "I just don't trust other guys." Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what she wants. She's not a man. It only matters what those other guys want.

There are a couple of ways to read this, one of them pretty messed up, the other one even more so.

The first, messed-up reading: My girlfriend wants to be with me and be faithful to me, but other guys don't want her to be. Other guys will trick, persuade, cajole, or convince her to cheat on me. You know, because they're guys and she's a woman. Women are weak of will, incapable of holding out when faced with a determined guy who wants to seduce her.

The second, even more messed-up reading: My girlfriend wants to be with me and be faithful to me, but other guys don't want her to be. They'll just rape her. Because, you know, they're guys, and that's what guys do.

Regardless of the reading, the conclusion remains the same: Ergo, the thing I must do is prevent my woman from hanging out with other guys. Charmers or rapists, it doesn't make any difference if she wants to be faithful to me; they want her, so they're going to fuck her.

And that's a whole world of messed up right there, it is.

Disempowering and infantilizing on the one hand, or implicitly supportive of rape culture on the other—there's no interpretation that makes this idea smell any less bad.

So, I would like to have a word with all you men out there who have ever used this reasoning, thought about using this reasoning, or nodded in sympathetic agreement when someone else has this reasoning. I will try to put this as delicately as possible:

Cut it out. It's bullshit.

"I trust you, but..." is just a way of saying "I don't trust you."

Look, I get it. It's scary to trust someone else. When you do, you're putting your heart in their hands and giving them a chance to let it shatter on the floor. You're hoping they won't drop it, knowing it will hurt if they do. I totally understand how scary that is.

But you can't have it both ways.

If you trust your partner not to betray you, you have to have confidence that she won't even if she has the opportunity to. And if you try to control her to prevent her from having the opportunity to hurt you, you don't trust her.

This is not about other guys or what they want. It's about her.

If you don't think she can say "no" to a silver-tongued bloke with a huge, massive, throbbing bank account, you don't trust her. If you trust her, it doesn't matter what other men's intentions are.

And if you assume as a given that other men who take an interest in your girlfriend will ignore her 'no' and just rape her, there's a bigger problem than her fidelity. Perhaps it's time to stand up, you know? And I don't mean stand up to control your girlfriend. I mean stand up against the notion that it is in any way, shape, or form acceptable to assume that other men will not listen to her 'no' and there's anything normal about that...because there isn't.

"I trust my girlfriend. I just don't trust other guys." Basically, you're saying your girlfriend's desires don't matter.

Is that really what you believe?

My hunch is that it's not. My hunch is what you're really saying is you think your girlfriend will choose to cheat, but you don't want to say it because you understand what it might mean. You don't trust her, and a healthy relationship can't function without trust.

If you trust her, it doesn't matter what other guys want. If you don't trust her, have the courage to own it. But listen, all you other men out there, enough with the "I trust her, I don't trust other guys" already.

You aren't fooling anyone.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 19th, 2016 12:54 pm (UTC)
Do guys who say things like that also have no female friends because--well, THEY can't be trusted to be friends with women without trying to cajole, seduce, etc. them?
Apr. 19th, 2016 10:25 pm (UTC)
Good question, What's good for the goose, it seems, ain't always good for the gander.
Apr. 19th, 2016 05:44 pm (UTC)
Apr. 19th, 2016 08:29 pm (UTC)
Franklin, there is a big issue here that I suspect you misunderstand. I know, because I used to have the same misunderstanding, until a monogamous friend explained this really, really well. Here's what's happening:

In your opinion, the only reason to feel bad about this situation is the underlying fear that something might *actually happen*, one way or another. There is a chance that the partner might end up having sex with someone else, and that's what's triggering the anxiety.

WRONG! That's NOT the case. Even when the perceived chances of something happening are exactly zero, the very situation of "someone else is *thinking* about my partner in a sexual way" triggers strong negative emotions. I know it sounds surprising! I know your instinctive reaction will be "but it just means that deep down, they suspect that the chances are not zero". Don't take that route! It was hard for me to understand as well, because for "naturally" poly people it's difficult to imagine why would someone feel bad about something other people want, even if they won't have it. But yeah, that's how it works. Also, note that it doesn't apply to all monogamous people, only to some.
Apr. 19th, 2016 09:44 pm (UTC)
I think that's true, but I don't think "I am hurt if another person thinks about my partner" really maps onto "I trust my partner but not other people."

In my experience, people who say "I trust my girlfriend, I just don't trust other men" invariably use that line to validate "and that's why I don't let my girlfriend have male friends or talk to other men." A monogamous person who feels pain at the idea of someone else desiring their partner is still tipping the scales into abuse if they use that pain to try to control their partner.
Apr. 19th, 2016 10:05 pm (UTC)
> A monogamous person who feels pain at the idea of someone else desiring their partner is still tipping the scales into abuse if they use that pain to try to control their partner.

Yes, absolutely. Controlling behavior is wrong, whatever the reasons behind it. My friend, for example, is not at all controlling, she was just explaining why she'd be angry if someone flirted with her husband, or even secretly desired him. It's just that the line "it's not you I don't trust, it's her" had always resonated with my friend, because she does trust her husband 100%. And in any case, this is not about him, her emotions are not triggered by anything he does in that situation, but by what the other woman does or thinks.
Apr. 30th, 2018 01:22 am (UTC)
I totally get the whole thing about not letting what other people do get you worked up, especially if you trust them. But what you’re claiming isn’t true, those two statements go hand in hand. If you don’t trust other people, then you’re going to be jealous/auspicious when they start talking up your partner. One follows the other. Even if you trust your partner completely, you can still feel negatively about someone approaching them, especially if that person is displaying pick up artist type behavior. It’s analogous to watching a scam artist try to manipulate someone you care about. Case on point: I was out with my girlfriend and stepped away for a cigarette. I come back and a guy was chatting her up. It turned out to be a friend of an acquaintance, but as I walk up she’s typing her number into his phone. Ostensibly because they were both huge fans of the same band, and he suggested getting a group together to see their next show. It was obvious what he was up to, and his reaction upon finding out I was her boyfriend proved to me his motivations. I was mostly annoyed, but jealousy played a part of course. Even though I trusted my girlfriend, no one is perfect and to have some doubt is only human. As soon as I saw her typing in her number I simply said “wow, you’re actually giving out your number” and then called her out on it after we left. She claimed she didn’t realize he was hitting on her, if you can believe that. I wasn’t particularly threatened by this guy, but didn’t like being put in that position, and I think it’s a completely normal reaction. I even told her that I trusted her, but I didn’t trust him.
Apr. 19th, 2016 08:51 pm (UTC)
No, I don't trust my girlfriend (or partner), I expect they will leave me in the dust as soon as someone shinier drifts by. The only way to sometimes delay this is to drive off the intruders, the rest of the time just be ready to be unexpectedly shelved or forgotten.
Apr. 19th, 2016 11:30 pm (UTC)
Brian, don't think very much of yourself, do you? Sad, really... :(
Apr. 21st, 2016 06:21 am (UTC)
My dad used to say this ... and also about driving... so yes, I picked up on the idea that "this means all men are a threat, just like getting smashed by a truck."
May. 2nd, 2016 02:20 pm (UTC)
Re: scyllacat
same. parents said this to me too (about men and driving ahaha)
Apr. 21st, 2016 02:10 pm (UTC)
And if you assume as a given that other men who take an interest in your girlfriend will ignore her 'no' and just rape her, there's a bigger problem than her fidelity. Perhaps it's time to stand up, you know? And I don't mean stand up to control your girlfriend. I mean stand up against the notion that it is in any way, shape, or form acceptable to assume that other men will not listen to her 'no' and there's anything normal about that...because there isn't.
I can't agree with this.

The amount of men that would rape or otherwise use force to coerce a woman into doing something they don't want is a small ratio: less than 1 in 100, maybe even less than 1 in 1000, but it is still not a negligable risk.

Think of it this way: wouldn't you encourage any woman who's getting involved with someone new to let her friends know where she's going, for her own safety should something happen? Then why would you throw this kind of advice out the window just because she's your girlfriend? That makes no sense at all. And just to head off that argument, my advice would be exactly the same with genders reversed. Coersion and force isn't done just by men.
Apr. 22nd, 2016 04:58 am (UTC)
Sure, there are men in the world who are rapists. I doubt that's really what drives the "I trust you, I don't trust other men" line, though.
May. 16th, 2016 03:54 pm (UTC)
Your disagreement.
The number of men who are willing to coerce women into doing something they don't want as long as you don't call it rape is much, much higher. But I don't think that's what we're talking about, somehow.
May. 26th, 2016 02:20 pm (UTC)
You might want to consider this thought:

Like 'rape prevention tips' that are aimed at changing women's behaviours, saying "I will control the movements and restrict the agency of my girlfriend to prevent her being raped"
rather than "I will stand against rape and make it clear that it's unacceptable"
is effectively the same as saying "I hope some other woman gets raped instead, one who isn't important to me."

I can't agree with that.

Plus, it doesn't really work - rapists tend to be people who are well known and trusted, not strangers.
Aug. 18th, 2016 08:57 pm (UTC)
My girlfriend just went off to college, she seems to make friends with guys fairly easily and doesnt seem to know when they are flirting with her. I can easily say for sure that they are indeed flirting with her, through stories she tells me, and does nothing about it or continues the conversation as tho they arnt trying to get with her in their head. I dont like how she handles these situations like that but I also believe it is not my right to tell her what to do. I trust her but I dont like how she unknowingly continues the flirting. Should I suck it up, or is there an alternative option I'm missing?
Oct. 18th, 2016 11:28 pm (UTC)
My Girlfriend
My Girlfriend uses this line on me a lot, which is why I'm here in the first place.
She has been, disappointingly, only in relationships where she has been used or cheated on. I say disappointingly because now her perception of a relationship is distorted. However, it's quite clear in our relationship that we do not attempt to control each other, she will often ask me to be careful at parties and in public situations, which is fair enough I can't blame her. But the closer the event approaches the more concerned she will become, it will often despite her best interests lead into an irrational argument. The other day we had a pretty long argument about how she can't trust me fully because of her past boyfriends, I then asked whether she thinks I'm different to them which she said "of course, you're nothing like them" and so I said "then why put their actions onto me?"

I understand her fears as they are absolutely warranted, but I feel exactly as you describe in the article, that she doesn't believe that I have the willpower to deny a girl at a party

I have never cheated, nor do I have any intention to
She has never cheated and I hope that she never will
Dec. 7th, 2016 12:31 pm (UTC)
I trust you I just dont trust them
I use this line for the simple fact that my girlfriend has had guys who have forced themselves on her physically , grope or otherwise try anything they want on her
Apr. 4th, 2018 09:23 pm (UTC)
I agree
I have been on the side where a girl has left me for another guy twice. But I solely believe in what this article entails and I feel the ideology should be reciprocated. I trust my girl, despite my past relationships, I trust her to hang with her friends (guys or girls) her family or any social event in which I’m present or not present. I always remind her that, she is given this freedom, once she cheats or does something in the means of being unfaithful, I am done with her. I know my worth and I know that if she decides to cheat or play around, she is not worth my time. And also that if I do give her that amount of trust, I expect the same, regardless of her inability to do so, because it’s unfair that I give this trust to live her life, but I can’t do the same because she has trust issues from her past? No. I am emotionally mature and people just need to grow up if they have the mindset stated in this article. Good post.
Aug. 31st, 2018 05:33 am (UTC)
RE: I agree
Well said
Apr. 22nd, 2018 12:37 pm (UTC)
My situation is different tho. I trust her and the people she hangs out with.
Except this one guy that had sex with her (before we started dating). I moved on from that. Not long ago, he invited her out for hiking, just the two of them, and I was okay with it cause she told me it will be fine. When she got back home and we met up, she told me, that he tried to hit on her and sway her into having sex with him again, and even tried gong into her house. But she said no and I'm extremely happy that I could trust her.

But I can't trust her friend anymore. I talked to her about him and told her how I felt, and she respected my feelings and insecurities. My question is, should I let them continue being friends? Or should I feel guilty of my girlfriend ending her friendship with him?

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )