The following is the transcript of this podcast episode.:
Jodi: Hey Everyone! Thanks for tuning into this special episode. We’re delving into a topic that every woman asks herself at some point – either consciously or subconsciously – about a new or potential romantic partner …Can I trust him?
Of course, every man asks himself the same question about the woman he’s seeing. Today’s episode is focused on the woman’s point of view. Now, trust is one of the critical building blocks of every romantic relationship and pretty much every relationship we have in our lives. Without it, the foundation of a relationship will crumble.
Unless you have someone in common with the guy you’re interested in, or who’s interested in you, it’s on you to play detective and piece together the clues that will help you answer that question.
The episode before this one is a great example of a woman doing exactly this. Lexi talked to Jerome for six nights in a row before they went out and obviously she picked up a lot of clues about him. And then when they met, she picked up a whole slew of different clues, starting with her surprising discovery that he didn’t look at all like his photos on Tinder. Maybe what happened to her sounds familiar to you?
My guest on this special episode is Gail Weiner. I’m super excited to have her come on the show to talk about trust and dating, and be our guide as we explore how to detect clues at the starting point of a potential relationship, which these days usually consists of online profiles, early communications – texts, emails and phone conversations – and the first date you go on.
Gail Weiner is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Relationship Coach who has been in clinical practice for over 3 decades specializing in helping women and couples thrive.
She’s the founder of Datewise, which is her dating coaching practice. Gail has designed a process that combines the insights of therapy with the action based tools of coaching, so that her clients gain the self-awareness, skills and healing that empowers them for lifelong intimacy. Gail’s also a certified writing coach who helps women craft compelling online profiles.
She’s taught Human Sexuality graduate courses, leads women’s groups on Empowered Dating, she’s been interviewed about relationship issues on Voice of America and numerous podcasts, and speaks widely on the psychology of women’s empowerment and I’m thrilled that she’s a First Date Stories Featured Contributor.
Gail, welcome to the podcast.
Gail: Oh, thanks so much. It’s great to be here.
Jodi: I’m so glad that you’re joining me so that we can talk about this really meaty and important question and topic. Okay. Let’s get right into it. So that we all have the same baseline understanding and are coming at this from the same place, help us understand, what makes up trust?
Gail: I think there are two parts. One is the words, and two, the actions. So what you want in terms of verbal communication is honesty and how can you tell if someone’s being honest while you can’t always absolutely know for sure, but you want to be looking for, are they forthcoming with information, are they consistent and believable in what they say without a lot of internal contradiction, the way they describe things seems reality-based and understandable. It’s a warning sign if you’re spending a lot of time trying to fill out their story. So it makes sense or making lots of excuses to yourself about why he wasn’t being clear. Those are the words you’re looking for – honesty, and secondly actions.
And then, of course, you want reliability. Does this person generally do what they say they will? Or if for some reason they weren’t able to, do they communicate well? Are they sincerely regretful? And do they try to make it up to you? In other words, they took their word seriously and they want you to be able to take their word seriously as well. And so if something comes up where that wasn’t possible, then they pay attention to it and try to make amends. And I think this goes for any relationship, whether it’s romantic or platonic or familial, honesty and reliability are what comprise trust in any relationship.
Jodi: Okay. So then let’s move into the romantic realm. Are there different characteristics or traits or aspects of interaction with other people that are unique to romantic relationships?
Gail: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s so much more mutual reliance in a romantic relationship. There’s physical safety. They have access to your body and your sexuality in ways that other people don’t. If you end up being in relationship, financial safety around investments and planning, retirement, et cetera. There’s sexual fidelity and keeping to an agreement, whatever your agreement is and being transparent about it. and meanwhile, you’re likely to be sharing, living space, leisure time, health habits, social life, your kids, their kids, and making long-term plans about every aspect of your life together. There is no other relationship I can think of that has that level of interdependence in adulthood.
Jodi: You were pretty much saying that trust permeates all aspects of a relationship, a romantic relationship.
Gail: Yeah. And the need to be able to trust this person is so much greater because if they let you down, there’s your life on the floor.
Jodi: What you’re saying makes the conversation we’re having really relevant to everyone because at the outset of dating somebody, if you can pick up clues that they are not to be trusted for some reason, then you save yourself the heartache that could overtake you down the line. So let’s talk about clues. Let’s talk about “trust clues,” we’ll call them that, that we should be on the lookout for as we are starting to meet new men. One of the ways that we’re evaluating whether we want to meet men these days is by checking out their online profiles. And there’s a whole slew of things that people share in their online profiles or sometimes they don’t share much at all. So are there some common trust clues to look for in the way a guy describes himself or represents himself in his profile?
Gail: Yeah. I think a lot of women who’ve spent any time at all online, dating sites will recognize some of these phrases. One of them is no baggage, which I always think is kind of hilarious. I understand that phrase to mean that this guy can’t really deal with your feelings or his own. No baggage means come to me with your history wiped clean, which of course is impossible. But it’s basically a sign of low emotional intelligence.
I think another sign to look for is the profile will speak very little about his internal experience. And when it does, it’s superficial and simplistic. A sign that someone will probably not be a good partner is he overvalues independence. He may use that word more than once. And other words like “separateness” and “self-sufficiency,” often with a lot of pride. He may say he’s looking for a woman who’s independent, also that’s important to find out more about. What does that mean to him?
He may also describe activities that you would do together, but not spend much time at all about the relationship he wants to have. Nothing about how you would count on each other. Nothing about how you would develop closeness over time. Nothing about the emotional quality of the life that you might share together. It’s very, very externally and activity focused. Those are all poor prognosticators for how emotionally trustworthy this man is capable of being.
He likes things to be easy versus growth-full. A phrase like “no drama” might show up or “I’m a simple guy.” A lot of you have probably seen that phrase. And lots of talk about “fun,” to the exclusion of other types of satisfaction. So, those are warning signs in a profile that someone will probably not be emotionally trustworthy.
Jodi: Are you saying that if you see a profile where a guy says, “I love to hike and bike and ski and play chess,” and he doesn’t share much else about himself that that is a warning sign, he might have an issue with trust?
Gail: If that’s all he talks about, that would be a yellow flag for me. If he has photographs where he’s always alone or all the photos are action-based, I would quickly want to find out what else there is to his internal life and if he pays any attention to his internal life. Because if he doesn’t pay attention to his own, he will be unable to respond very well to your inner life.
Jodi: Help us understand what you mean by internal life, please.
Gail: Is he interested in overcoming challenges? Is he aware of things that are difficult for him, ways that he’s been limited in the past, but wants to move beyond those limitations? In other words, does he have any capacity for introspection and self-awareness? Is there self-deprecating humor? Can he describe the traits that he wants in you that have to do with your emotional and psychological capacities rather than what you look like or what activities you’d like to participate in?
Jodi: Got it. So like you said, self-awareness and having perspective on who he is and being able to verbalize that are important traits in someone. And if they don’t have that, it’s possible that they may not be one to trust long-term.
Gail: Right. Because essentially, what you’re looking for is someone who’s psychologically healthy enough to have a long-term happy relationship with. And so you’re looking for someone who has certain traits that that sort of qualify them to be a good partner long-term.
Jodi: We’ve talked about trust clues that one can garner from online profiles. So let’s say we get past the online profiles and now at the stage of texting or emailing or like Lexi, who I talked about, having phone calls with a guy who we’re interested in, but haven’t met in person yet. So those early types of exchanges. What sort of trust clues should one look for in the way that the guy is communicating early on before you meet face to face or virtually?
Gail: Yeah. Well, I mean, he’ll respond in a reasonably timely way, not make you wait five days or respond in three minutes one time and five days the next. There’s some sense that you can count on him to show up, even in this small but crucial way in the beginning.
Jodi: Timeliness and consistency. Is that what you’re saying?
Gail: Consistency. Thank you. That’s the word. He responds to what you ask him. He shares at a reasonable level of detail based on the stage of the relationship you’re in. He doesn’t just ignore questions that you ask him. And of course initiating questions about you. You obviously want someone who is capable of caring about you and who has an active interest in wanting to know who you are. If you’re scheduling a video chat again, similarly, in terms of being a reliable person, there’s a clear communication about when and how you’re going to get together and they show up.
If it’s a Zoom call, they show up when it was scheduled and they look like they’re ready to have a conversation and make a decent impression on you. And if not, again, they give a reason without you having to prod. They are appropriately apologizing and they attempt to make up for it. So again, all of that has to do with, “Can he put himself in your shoes and does he care about your feelings?”
Jodi: “Can he put himself in your shoes and does he care about your feelings?” Those are huge.
Gail: Yeah. And you can see it early on through this kind of process.
Jodi: All right. So let’s say emailing and texting is all going well and the trust clues are all giving the green light. Now we’re moving on to the actual first date, because you can’t hide when you’re in person. You can hide a bit about yourself via email and texting and so on, but when you’re there face to face, you’re seeing things as they are. You’re seeing the person in the flesh. So let’s delve into what trust clues to look for on a first date.
Gail: Okay. Let’s take the really easy ones first. Physical, let’s take the physical signs. So looks similar to their picture on the profile, height, weight, age, more or less what you would have expected. They keep to the plan, time, place, and appropriately attired more or less for the activity. They make appropriate eye contact. They have engaged respectful body language.
And by that, I mean, if you’ve ever been with someone on a date who yawns or rolls their eyes or glances at their phone or their watch a lot or spends a lot of time seemingly distracted by other people, especially other women. Or when you’re walking together, they don’t walk next to you. It’s two steps ahead or two steps behind. All of those of course are signs of disengagement and avoidance of intimacy. And clearly, that’s a really bad sign on a date or in a relationship.
And then there’s the appropriate level of touching or not touching based on what’s customary and what your nonverbal signals are to him. Can he pick them up? And that’s another way of saying, “Does he respect your boundaries?” Those are all big issues around whether someone could be a trustworthy partner.
Jodi: I know from my own experience and from what other friends and I’ve talked about that if you’re out with a guy and he’s not looking you straight in the eye or he’s not walking by your side, you sometimes wonder, “Is it me? What’s going on here? Does he not like me? What is this about?” And we have a tendency to put it on ourselves that his behavior is a reflection of how he feels about us. I think what you’re saying is, not necessarily, it is how he behaves in general with others, and how he’s wired. Am I hearing you correctly?
Gail: I think it can be either one. He might be socially unskilled and not able to be civil and participatory and then say thank you very much, but I don’t think we’re a match at the end. So he’s showing you in all of these indirect ways. Yes. It could be that. Or he just could be someone who is avoidant and awkward. Bottom line is, is that someone you’re interested in being with? Or is that someone who you want to check in with about their experience?
Jodi: What do you mean by check in with about their experience?
Gail: “Hey, it seems like you’re not that engaged in this conversation. Is there something going on or is there something else you’d rather talk about? Or am I saying something that you’re having a problem with?”
Jodi: So casually kind of point it out in a way to get under what’s going on.
Gail: That will tell you a huge amount about the person and about what’s happening in that moment. Whether or not they’re able to answer you honestly, you will learn a lot about who they are, and therefore, be much better equipped to make your next set of decisions about what you want to do with this possible relationship.
Jodi: Okay. So that all has to do with conversation. Are there other trust clues related to conversation that you think women should be on the lookout for?
Gail: There are so many. Let me see if I can pick a few of the most important ones.
Jodi: I’m going to start out with one, because you wrote a terrific blog post about this that’s published on First Date Stories. It’s a topic that women are always wondering about, which is, “Why does he only talk about himself?” So what does that say when a guy is only talking about himself? How does that relate to trustworthiness?
Gail: It’s the kind of behavior that is easy to misinterpret. There are a lot of men who do it as almost like a fallback position. They think they’re supposed to entertain you. They think that you want them to show signs of being confident. They think of the date as a performance, rather than an interaction, which doesn’t mean that’s how they’ll necessarily be in a relationship.
But that is a way a lot of men respond to the pressure of a first date. So for example, you can say, “I’m open to any questions you’d like to ask about me,” if there’s a pause that allows you to insert that. Or a phrase like, “Oh, I’d love to tell you about,” or, “I’m curious if you’d like to know about blah, blah,” or you can be then more confrontational if none of those things work. But confrontation can be soft and direct at the same time.
For example, “I’m noticing that so far the conversation has been mostly about, let’s say, your work and I’m wondering why we haven’t gone on to other topics,” or just, “I’m wondering why,” or, “I like listening, but it doesn’t work so well for me to only be in that role.” And then you can see what he says. So you could say, “It felt hard to shift the focus of this conversation. I’m wondering why.” Give him a chance to respond.
You can say, “What were you hoping to get from our time together?” Which is a little more confrontational. And if nothing works and you just find that he’s utterly immovable, then obviously you’re free to say, “It doesn’t feel like there’s much room for me in this interaction, but I thank you for your time and wish you well,” and get up and leave. In other words, I would really encourage you to spend less time in your head, trying to correctly interpret who he really is underneath this awkward or offensive behavior, and actually engage with him on the topic that’s of concern.
Jodi: Be present and empower yourself to ask the questions that are on your mind.
Gail: Yeah. The way he responds to that, again, will tell you just a huge amount about his emotional capacity.
Jodi: Okay. That is really interesting. And I think women everywhere could get answers to why is he only talking about himself if we just asked.
Gail: He might feel cut short. He might feel embarrassed or defensive or get hostile or deny it or a million other things. But the point being, it’s not really your job to be the most agreeable woman who ever walked the planet. Your job is to be present, emotionally available, communicative, and to find out who the guy is.
Jodi: Let’s shift scenarios here from a guy who only talks about himself to someone who actually is more of an inclusive conversationalist. what clues should we be looking for as relates to trust with that sort of person?
Gail: I mean, some of these things are really obvious and some of them perhaps less so. So of course you want to be with someone who can listen to you, you feel heard, you feel they care about your comfort, your ideas, your desires. They seem open. They respond to questions, which are reasonable questions directly. They’re not evasive. They don’t minimize. They’re not defensive or hostile.
These are all signs of someone who’s securely attached, securely emotionally attached, which means for someone to be able to do those things well, they have to believe that they’re lovable and that they’re going to be accepted by most people. They’re not concerned about the off chance that you won’t get them. And so they speak freely. They ask freely based on their authentic curiosity about you and they speak freely to you about their life. Those are signs of someone who has a secure attachment style and who therefore has the capacity to be a great partner for you.
Jodi: There’s got to be some things also some trust clues to look for that would put trust in question.
Gail: Absolutely. Let’s say you ask him a question and he seems kind of evasive or you express an opinion and he seems to jump to agreement prematurely or overly enthusiastically, you might be talking about some difficult situation that he’s had in the past or currently and he kind of minimizes it or pretends it’s not really a problem or he gives you contradictory messages about it that makes you feel that he’s uncomfortable with talking about a challenge.
You are looking for someone who recognizes that challenges are part of human life and they’re not ashamed that they’re in some situation that is not resolved yet. Like they don’t have to be on top of every situation the second it happens. They allow themselves and therefore they will allow you to be in a state of discovery and to allow for your growth and for their growth in response to a challenge. Those are healthy ways of relating to things that are difficult.
Jodi: Are there other clues that are yellow lights type clues that if you experienced this, this could be an issue?
Gail: There’s a bit of personal taste involved in this one. But I would pay attention if he starts to make plans or does it more than once where he’s making the decisions and doesn’t ask you or include you in the decision-making. It’s one thing to want to give someone a treat or a surprise, something new, something that he can kind of gift you with that you haven’t participated in creating.
There’s a role for that. But if you start to notice that he’s going to pick the great restaurant and he’s going to pick his favorite wine for you, and he, “This, you’ve got to try this dish because really, you know, blah, blah, blah,” and you start to feel like where’s the room for your input, that’s clearly a problem.
Leadership is one thing. Some women want a man who shows certain kinds of leadership qualities in a relationship, but it should never ever be at the expense of respecting you or your opinions and desires being a crucial part of what happens between you. And the research shows that relationships where decision-making is the most mutual are the relationships that are the happiest long-term
Jodi: I think that makes total sense because we’re looking for a partnership and partnerships involve both people being involved in charting the course of the relationship.
Gail: Right. And if there’s a little difference that comes up between you, a small problem, about some aspect of making a plan, carrying the plan out, whatever happens at the place where you’re meeting up, obviously you want to see how do they handle problems. Can you talk through differences? Honest admitting that he didn’t understand something or, “Oh no, it’s raining now.” Can he handle things in stride as part of it? But also if there’s something problematic that comes up between the two of you, can he take responsibility for his part and work it through to a conclusion that both of you feel good about?
Jodi: I’m sure that our listeners know a lot more now about how to answer that question, “Can I trust him?” Because you and I have had this conversation. If they want to continue the conversation, but have it directly with you, please share how listeners can find you and what sort of services you want offer.
Gail: I offer a complimentary one-hour consult on the biggest romantic challenge that you’re facing right now. And to schedule that consult, you can write me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can schedule it at www.datewisenow.com. I offer groups and empower dating and I work one-to-one in ongoing sessions with people, weekly sessions on Zoom. And I also, as you mentioned earlier, love to work with people to create a very compelling, authentic, original profile that can get the attention of the kind of men that they’re looking for.
Jodi: Fantastic! Many ways in which you can help women find their way towards lasting love. Thank you, Gail, so much for coming on the show and sharing your wisdom about trust and so many other aspects of the human experience so that listeners can answer that question better, “Can I trust him?”
Gail: It was my pleasure. I really enjoyed talking with you about it.