Trusting Iris

Posted on March 19, 2015


I got to visit France for the first time last year.  My wife and I traveled with my sister and my brother-in-law.  I like traveling with them.  Part of that, of course, is that we all get along well.  The other part is that my brother-in-law loves to plan the trips (where we will go, what we will see and do, how we will get from point A to point B).  When I am in a foreign country, this really takes the pressure off.  I can just be happy go lucky and not have to worry about anything.  Somebody else knows what is going on.

For this trip, Ray brought along his GPS device.  It was helpful in navigating the country, but not 100% accurate.  Since iphone owns the Siri voice, we decided that the woman on GPS device was Siri’s not quite as competent sister, Iris (that’s Siri spelled backwards).  Iris always felt that her family favored Siri and that she just could not compete.  No matter what she did, how hard she tried, or how much she accomplished, it was always, “Siri, Siri, Siri.”  Iris is still very sensitive about this.  Consequently, we tried not to compare her to Siri or to shame her when she made mistakes (e.g. One time we were on the main road and Iris kept having the impression that we were on a little side farm road next to the main road.  She kept trying to find a way to get us back to the road we were already on.).

I have been a comparatively late adopter of smart phones.  There are two reasons for this.  First, I am cheap and the cost of the data plan always seemed excessive.  It’s like the cost of getting a pet.  It isn’t the acquisition cost that gets you, it is the ongoing cost.  Second, I had a smart phone five years ago and the battery life was so poor that I couldn’t get through the day with it (and I don’t use it that much).  But this is the third millennium, and I finally got another.  I got the Samsung Galaxy, and I am impressed with the improvements in the battery life.  This also means that Iris and I are working together again.

So last week, I attended a seminar on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  If you live in San Diego, you might appreciate the geography here.  The seminar was at the Embassy Suites across from University Town Center (UTC).  On Thursday evening, I had clients at Mission Valley following the seminar.  The seminar ended at 5pm (and they don’t mean 4:55) and my first clients were at 6pm.  Now without traffic, these two places are only about 15 minutes apart.  With traffic, who knows?  You might question my wisdom in making this schedule, and I could not really argue the point.  As I have sometimes observed, most of my wounds are self-inflicted like that.

If you know the geography, UTC is right off of I-805.  To get to Mission Valley, the obvious route is take I-805 to 163 to I-8, exit Texas St. and you are at our office.  I took a seminar last October in the same place and it ended up taking me an hour to get to the office in traffic.  This time, I decided I should ask Iris.  Iris told me it would take me 39 minutes in heavy traffic and directed me to head west on La Jolla Village Drive in the direction of I-5.  This is well out of my way.  I have to ask myself, “How much do I trust Iris?”  I mean, she is right more often than not, but I really do not want to be late for a client appointment.

I took the leap of faith and headed west on La Jolla Village Drive.  While I am sitting through long lights making my way in the direction of I-5 and then seeing the backed up traffic when I got to I-5, I really was questioning Iris’ judgment (and my own for following her).  As it turned out, I got to the office in 37 minutes in the aforementioned heavy traffic.  Props to Iris.

Iris, of course, is just a voice on a computer program.  Whether I trust her depends upon how much I trust her programming.  Let’s talk about trust in human relationships.

Trust is a critical component of relationships.  To my thinking, there are a variety of meanings to the word “trust” as it is applied to relationships.  Trust can mean 1) confidence in your decision making, 2) assurance that what you tell me is true (or at least you believe it to be true), 3) belief that you will act in my/our best interests, 4) faith that you will be a safe haven for me and will not use any of my vulnerabilities against me.

The first aspect of trust is about trusting each other’s judgment.  I usually hear the complaint from husbands that “she doesn’t trust me” in regard to decision making.  Like so many things in life, I think that this is not binary.  That is to say, it is not that either I trust you or I don’t, but that there is a continuum of how much I trust your judgment.  It is like when I was in banking and bank officers at different levels had different approval limits.  I trust your judgment up to this limit, beyond that I would like some consultation.  In banking, there are levels above which one person cannot make the decision alone.  I think the same exists in healthy marriages.  Every Christmas there are car commercials where one spouse is surprised to find a car in the driveway with a big red bow on it.  If my wife surprised me with a new car, I would feel totally violated that a purchase of that size was made without my consultation (and I would never do that to her).  John and Julie Gottman have written about “accepting you partner’s influence” as an aspect of a healthy relationship.  That also applies here.  The more you are willing to accept influence from me, the more I feel that I have a voice in decision making, the more I trust your judgment.

Second, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  This is a biggie.  “White lies” can be a very dangerous thing in marriage.  For both genders, it is important not to lie or withhold the truth from your partner.  As a help to men, let me say from experience with many couples, that when your wife finds out that you lied or withheld the truth about something, it undermines everything.  If she finds out you lied about one thing, everything gets called into question.  If you said you were working late, but you were actually out with friends, she is going to wonder, “What else don’t I know?”  It is only a very little hyperbole to say that the jump goes from there to “Do you have another wife and family on the side?”  You want to be able to have the default setting on your relationship to be that what my partner tells me is true, and my partner is not hiding anything.  If you lose this, it is not just a ripple effect, but a shockwave through the relationship.

Third, will you act in my/our best interests?  In relationship, we are all somewhere between thinking in terms of our own benefit and thinking in terms of our partner and the relationship.  While there are certainly minor things that you will do just because you want to, it is important that these don’t undermine your partner’s belief that you have his or her back.  It is important to a marriage to build a relationship in which each of you can know that your partner will act in the best interests of you and the team.

Fourth, trust is about emotional safety.  In marriage done well, you know things about each other that no one else knows.  The essence of intimacy is vulnerability.  The essence of vulnerability is allowing you to know where I am sensitive, how I can be hurt.  This is a sacred trust.  When you get in a fight, if you use this knowledge to wound your partner, you become unsafe for your partner.  Your partner may decide “I will never allow myself to go through that emotional pain again.”  When this trust is violated, a level of intimacy is lost.

Trust is foundational to marriage in all of its forms.  Value it.  Build it.  Protect it.  When the going gets tough, it will be critical that the trust is solid.