Building a relationship is like watching a movie. Opening scenes are where the characters meet and start to learn about each other. This is where conflicts develop. It’s also when they start building trust. The characters have to share some small amount of trust to start overcoming those conflicts. A series of conflicts build tension and resolutions get more difficult to achieve. The more conflicts that are resolved, the more trust builds between characters. In the end, most movies have a Happily Ever After moment where the biggest conflicts are resolved and everyone leaves smiling. So how does this apply to a relationship?
It boils down to suspension of disbelief. This is very important in science fiction and fantasy movies. And let’s face it, some of our relationships look like an alien v. troll remake. The movie has to make sense based on what we know of science for a sci-fi film to keep us interested. As a writer, I know that if I establish a certain amount of gravity that disallows hovering or floating in the first couple scenes, I can’t have somebody floating through their house in the middle of the movie. It’s not possible with the gravity I’ve already shown you. It breaks you out of the story and then you don’t trust me to follow my own rules through the rest of the movie.
If you’ve seen a movie (or maybe several movies) by the same director/writer/producer that has had that effect on you, will you go see any more of their movies? Do you trust them to play straight? If you believe they are just going to continue the pattern, why should you trust them? What about another director/writer/producer who may produce similar movies? Will you trust them to stick to script or will you assume they will break your belief in the story line?
In relationships, once you see a pattern of people who break your trust, you start to doubt people will play nice. You develop a belief that everyone will hurt you, everyone will break your trust. So what happens when you meet someone new? Cue opening music, enter new character. Your initial conflict is already in place because you think this person will hurt you, too. You have a wall of disbelief that the new person has to overcome just to get a passing glance during the opening credits. Let’s assume we make it past the credits and get into a few more scenes. We have more conflicts. You have to suspend your disbelief if the movie is to proceed. The new character has to have a chance to prove themselves worthy of your trust.
The next time you meet someone and the opening credits start rolling, keep an open mind until the new character shows you who they really are. I think the band Saliva said it pretty well:
“…just sit back and relax and let me have your head for a minute. I can show you something in it that has yet to be presented”