For those of you who have never been rock climbing, the bilayer is the person who handles the line that supports the climber. It’s a very important role since, without that person to feed the line to the climber and make sure the catch is engaged and anchored, the climber could get hurt or even die if he or she slips. Essentially, climbers put all their trust in the bilayer.
Oftentimes, in my therapy work with couples, I would see a lack of trust in so many forms – either with loyalty, belief and support in one another, and with certainty as I refer to it – a knowing that the partner will be there without fail.
Most people like to move through the world knowing someone (or several people close to them) has their back. Your primary relationship should have this attribute.
Issues creep into a relationship when there is an uncertainty about the presence of a trusted, unfailing partner. I recall an indoor rock wall experience I had with my husband. I, of course, chose the safety of the bilayer role first and he climbed the wall. The straps securely enveloped his manhood – not a favorable position. I watched him for a while and then began to check out the daredevil on the ceiling. Almost on cue, my husband’s hand slipped off the wall and he came zinging down, plummeting toward me. I jerked the brake on the line, and cringed as my husband flailed in pain (recall the manhood enveloping straps). I had failed him – and, if we were on a real mountain, he might have been seriously injured. This is not unlike real life, because when you fail someone who is depending on you ... it hurts them.
So just as in this living example – if you fail to be there, to keep a secret, to stand up for them, or any other plethora of things that life hurls at a person/couple – the result is the creation of doubt. Doubt causes instability in a relationship, a weakness in the wall, so to say.
The one thing that repairs that weakness or doubt is to show your partner again and again that you can be trusted to “have their back”. Time and repetition are crucial.
Human beings (much like other animals) associate positive and negative emotions with others. Every day we, as couples, interact with one another and create such emotions. Keep this in the back of your mind throughout the day... Did I create a positive feeling in my partner or a negative one in regards to my ability to be there for them today in whatever way they needed? Too many negative interactions or situations where you have failed them will cause imbalance and mistrust.
If you’re wondering if my husband has been rock climbing with me lately, the photo here pretty much says it all. Here I am on the peak of an Arizona mountain… ALONE. Mind you, with a hippie type, free spirit instructor who failed to show me how to repel or use the new gear until I was desperately in action hanging over a large rock at the peak of the mountain. I went zooming out of control down the rocks sans helmet. For a moment, it all took my breath away and I jolted to a sudden stop dangling over the canyon – 007 style – swinging, head first, toward the walls of the cavern. My hippie instructor yelled down for me – panicked that I had been physically injured – but luckily I was not. Mentally, well, that’s another story. There is no chance in hell I was ever going rock climbing with this guy again.
Let’s go back to the feeling I had when the hippie instructor failed me and I found myself in a parallel situation to the one I put my husband in at the rock wall …the tables were turned on me. Now I can have empathy for his experience and , from that, I have an appreciation of his feelings. I appreciate the importance of being there without fail – not always in this life or death kind of way – but sort of. One of the things that keeps our relationship “alive” is that I know his love and support for me is unfailing. Many situations in life come about and I need to have the reassurance that I can depend on him above all others. The same goes for him being able to depend on me.
The takeaways from all this: Remember we will avoid fear at all costs – remember to never leave your partner fearing that you won’t be there in their moment of need. You are your partner’s safety net, the one they depend on no matter what, and you are their “go to” person. Security is a basic human need. The way you contribute to their sense of security is very important.
So, will we rock climb together again? Yeah, of course – actually in marriage we do that every single day. Of course there will be times I may accidentally let go of the line – or he will – but I still wouldn’t want anyone else as my climbing buddy. Oh, and there’s nothing wrong with a good helmet – just saying.