Since about 2005, we have seen a tremendous rise in the number of people coming to our office presenting with trust issues in their relationship. The reality is that today’s technology makes it easier than ever to hide what you’re doing from your partner. Today’s trust issues run the gamut from:
- physical affairs
- emotional affairs
- hiding text messages
- hiding Facebook friends’ message (or un-friending your spouse or significant other)
- hiding cell phone call lists
- hiding emails
The hallmark of all of these is that you are experiencing strong positive feelings from interacting with someone else, and you are keeping the contact a secret from your partner. You’re aware that you’re doing something that would upset them if they knew about it.
Trust issues are particularly pernicious because they cause your partner to shut down and defend themselves against further hurt. They destroy the safety that is the foundation is a healthy, loving connection – and that allows you to be open and vulnerable, and therefore create a deep, solid connection. And when trust is repeatedly violated, it’s like ripping off a scab that hasn’t fully healed – it’s raw and painful, and the road to recovery gets that much longer.
Why do people cheat? Some people are suffering from a serious problem such as sexual addiction or compulsivity. But most people don’t hide or lie because they are sex addicts, or evil people who want to hurt their partners. Often these type of relationships begin rather innocently, with a co-worker that you spend a lot of time with, or an ex who still wants to be “a friend.” Other times the person guilty of the infidelity is frustrated in their primary relationship, and feels hopeless about their situation ever changing. So they find the companionship of someone new much easier, fun, and spontaneous than dealing with the difficult issues of a long-term relationship.
The problem, however, is that wherever you go, there you are! You will re-create your intimacy issues with whoever you are with, sooner or later. The next warm body or friendly smile goes through the same predictable stages that any committed relationship goes through. In truth, affairs only succeed on a time-limited fantasy level. For that limited time, it can seem as if you’ve met your soul mate who will make you happier than you’ve ever been. But it’s an illusion partially driven by the situation. Once the relationship is subjected to some degree of reality, the bubble bursts and the consequences of your actions are often harsh and immediate.
So if you’re contemplating any form of infidelity (and don’t kid yourself that hiding emails, cell phone calls or texts is not a form of cheating), think very carefully. You just may be initiating the most hellish nightmare you, your partner or your children have ever been through. I’m not saying this as a judgement but merely as a reality-based consequence of having heard hundreds of these stories over the years. Violating trust is serious business that usually negatively affects many more people than you could ever imagine when you made the decision to go in that direction. Every form of infidelity eventually crashes against the inevitable onslaught of reality.
Most people do not think rationally before and during some type of infidelity, yet that’s precisely what you need to do. Infidelity often has a very strong addictive quality to it, so you need to make a conscious decision while you still have a choice – before you enter the addictive stage. If you’re stuck or frustrated with your current relationship, get help and learn how to resolve your issues. If you still feel you are incompatible, end the relationship, and deal with your loss before you move onto someone new.
If you feel your partner is engaging in this type of behavior, seek help for yourself. Get a reality check. This type of situation can wreak havoc with your mind, and you may find yourself saying and doing things totally out of character, driven by the immense hurt and betrayal that you never thought you’d feel when you fell in love with this person. The good news is that if you and your partner are willing to look deeply into what got you into this situation, the end result is often a much stronger, healthier, communicative relationship than you ever had before. But it’s a very painful journey to get there…and there are much less traumatic ways to get to the same end.