Facing Hard Truths

“Being alone may scare you, but staying in a bad relationship will damage you.”

Think about that.

I realize it’s not the kind of thing we want to think about. But it’s the kind of truth we need to think about.

There are costs to staying and there are costs to leaving. And sometimes we need to stop and weigh those costs up.

The first question to ask yourself is:

“Is there any hope that the relationship will change? Real solid hope? Hope which has evidence attached it? “

And perhaps there is. In that case, hanging in there, deciding what we will and won’t accept – and why – could well be the right thing for us to do.

But what if that isn’t the case? What if the person we are in a relationship with is refusing to change? Either because they don’t think they need to change, or because they simply refuse to get the help they need?

That is a difficult scenario.

Yes, things were wonderful at some point in the past – otherwise we wouldn’t be in this relationship right now.

There will also be some really special, treasured memories.

And the likelihood is, it hasn’t been bad all the time.  Sometimes things have been fine, perhaps even good …. But “fine” or “good” isn’t the whole story.

And you know that.

Which brings us to the second question:     

“What will my life look like if I stay in this relationship? One, two, five or ten years from now? How will it affect my self-worth and self-esteem? How will it affect any children we have?”

There is a stability and predictability in sticking with the status quo. It’s a known quantity.

And change is difficult. It brings so much uncertainty with it.

And if we think about leaving there are some very difficult questions to confront like: Where would I go? What would I do? How would I manage financially? What if I don’t meet anyone else? Do I even want to meet anyone else?

And there are no easy answers. We are dealing with unknowns.

But these are hard realities that we need to think about.

Each creates a different future, and a very different life.

Ask us – Are you partly to blame if your partner cheated on you?

In this post we will briefly answer a question that was asked by one of our clients. Here is today’s question:

I’m sick and tired of people saying that I must share at least some of the blame for my husband using porn and having online affairs. This is so hurtful me because I honestly believe I tried to be a thoughtful, loving wife. I really did. And I had no idea he was involved in all of this. Am I right to feel this way?”

Yes, you are right to feel this way. These comments are hurtful and undeserved.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard it said: “It takes two tango” … or that both people must have contributed to an affair. But that isn’t always the case.

Let me start by saying, here-and-now that, no: It doesn’t take two to tango.

There are some very caring and committed partners, who truly share none of the blame at all. Of course, they weren’t perfect – for none of us are. We all have our weaknesses and flaws. But there are plenty of spouses who are lovely, decent people. They truly love their partner and they treat them well. And yet they are betrayed and lied to by their spouse. Did they deserve this? No, they did not.

The cheater alone is responsible for this.

We each make our own decisions in life.

Also, in my work as a counsellor, I have talked to plenty of women who didn’t know their husband was addicted to porn, or who had absolutely no idea that another woman was trying to lure their husband away.

In fact, often these women were trying hard to please their husband. They bought new lingerie. They suggested new things. They made themselves available, despite being ignored or brushed off by a partner who had kept turning them down. They made that extra effort. They tried their very best.

But let’s assume, for a minute that the spouse was difficult to live with, or was emotionally unavailable, or was uninterested in sex (or in a different kind of sex). Does that give the partner permission to cheat?

Surely the appropriate thing would be to talk things through. Or maybe to go for couple counselling. There are other options. Other choices. Other possibilities. You don’t have to cheat, or go online.

Also, if your partner’s loyalty depends on you meeting certain criteria, what will happen the next time he or she is sick, or stressed, or tired, or doesn’t want to have sex – for whatever reason? Or what happens the next time one or both of you are caught in a busy cycle, and the stress of life is starting to push you apart? Does this mean “being committed” no longer applies? I’m guessing most people would say “no” to that question.

Because isn’t that whole point of commitment. Doesn’t being committed mean “I can trust and rely on you all the time, and under all circumstances?”

Yes, people change … and sometimes one partner may decide they want to leave the relationship. However, if that happens, wouldn’t the appropriate approach be to be honest about what you are thinking and feeling, and to talk it through together … like mature adults who respect one another? Cheating is not the appropriate response.

So, no, your partner’s cheating was not your fault. And you’re right to be hurt by the accusation. You have been betrayed and traumatized, and you deserve support, not accusations and attack.

I Didn’t See it Coming …

Of course you didn’t see it coming.

This was never the way it was meant to be.

And if you’re beating yourself up because you didn’t see the signs, I hope this post will help you see that this is not your fault. You acted as you should in intimate relationships.  They’re based on love and trust. On being real and vulnerable.

In summary ….

1. Betrayal only happens if you give someone your trust … And healthy close relationships are based on mutual trust.

2. It’s the nature of trust to tend to take things at face value. In fact, we’re preprogramed to trust our attachment figures – caregivers when we’re children, and spouses when we’re adults.

3. We expect more from the people who are close to us. We expect that they will care about our feelings and well-being. With strangers there is mimicry. A balanced give and take. However, this is a low bar in intimate relationships. You expect a whole lot more, and you deserve a whole lot more.

4. A partner who is cheating, or withholding information, is usually working hard to try to keep up the façade. In most situations, they don’t want you to know. So, they’re trying to deceive you, and to hide the truth from you.

5. There’s a good chance that your partner was being nice to you, even when they were lying, and they had a secret life. The reason? To try to throw you off track, and to appease their guilty conscience.

6. Often the betrayer will live out their ‘other life’ in ‘another world’ completely. One you nothing about.  For example, they may access online sex, or conduct an affair on a secret different cell phone; with a new email account; when you’re out of the house, or away for a few days; when they’re out of the house, or away for a few days.

So I hope you can see that were not simply naïve. And the last thing you should do is to criticize yourself. Your partner took advantage of the trust you put in him. You acted in the way a loving, faithful partner would.

You Know Who You Are

I want to say thank you to the rare few individuals who walked beside in my darkest, bleakest times.

Who listened. Really listened. Without offering advice

Who told me this was normal, and I really wasn’t crazy.

Who let me rant and rave.

Held the rawness and the pain.

Who didn’t ever judge me.

Understood my brokenness.

Who loved me constantly and – always – unconditionally.

Who held a light up for me when the blackness pulled me in.

You know who you are.

And I truly want to thank you.

Your kindness made a difference.

You have helped me to survive.  

Why does Betrayal Kill your Desire for Sex with your Partner?

After betrayal, it can be hard to enjoy (or to even want to have) sex with your partner. You can feel there’s a wall that you just can’t break down. What are some possible reasons for this?

1. To really let yourself go, and enjoy having sex, you first need to feel safe and secure with your spouse. However, if they’ve cheated on you then it’s hard to feel safe.

Even if happened a long time ago.

Even if it wasn’t an actual affair, and your partner was addicted to online sex.

The fact, is we don’t feel safe anymore. And that makes it hard to be spontaneous now.

2. Related to this, if you’ve experienced betrayal then it’s likely you’ll feel some anxiety and doubt around having sex. There will be lingering questions: “Why wasn’t I enough?” “Am I pretty enough? “Is he happy with me?” “In his mind, is he judging and criticizing me?”  

Anxiety and safety can’t co-exist.

3. Sex has now changed from being a tease and a game, from something that is fun and which turns you on, to something with requirements, and a rating scale. (At least in the mind of the one who was betrayed).

4. When it comes to sex, we really want to feel desired. And we’d previously believed they had eyes for us alone. But, if our partner’s looked elsewhere, then we don’t feel we’re desired. Their actions sent the message that they wanted something else.

5. Eroticism is fuelled by curiosity, by a sense of the unknown, and of mystery. However, if we discover the unknown is betrayal by our spouse, then then this mystery and intrigue aren’t appealing any more!

6. If you contract an STD because your partner chose to stray, then self-preservation will prevent you wanting sex. There’s as instinctive response to protect your life and health.   

7.  Also, if your partner has deceived you, and has deeply damaged you, then abandoning yourself may now feel impossible. This resistance that you feel, and the lack of true desire, can be your body’s way of showing you your value and your worth. It is saying “Only give yourself to somebody who cares.”

Ask Us – Will I Ever be Able to Trust Again?

In this post we will briefly answer a question that was asked by one of our clients. Here is today’s question:

I am afraid to trust again. My husband was betraying me behind my back for years, and I had absolutely no idea. So, my question is how can I know it’s safe to trust another man.? I’m afraid that I’ll be duped again.”

When we’ve been betrayed, especially if it’s multiple times, or over a long period of time, then it absolutely natural to fear trusting again. It’s also natural to be afraid that you might miss something important – because you were successfully deceived in the past. It’s sad but it’s very understandable. Your fears here are normal, and are actually very healthy.

Let me beginning by saying : What you did in your previous relationship was right.

You were right to trust your ex-husband. We are meant to trust the people close to us. We can’t go through life constantly looking over our shoulder, or constantly checking to see if someone is trustworthy or not. It would be exhausting to live like that … And we would be very unhappy and insecure.  It’s not a good way to live.

The fact that your husband betrayed you is terrible. I can’t emphasize that enough. You should have been able to trust him. Period.

However, I want you to know that just because he was untrustworthy doesn’t mean all men are untrustworthy. I’m guessing that on some level you already ‘get’ that – because I imagine you already know guys who you think are trustworthy. It’s just that you’re afraid … Because it happened to you … And it was devastating …. And you’re not sure you could survive that kind of pain again.

It’s good that you desperately want to take care of yourself. You need to protect yourself.

I’m sure you also know that all relationships involve a leap of faith. No-one is completely knowable, and none of us has a crystal ball. We can’t have absolutely certainty about how anyone is going to behave in the future.

To a certain extent all relationships are a gamble. For all of us.

However, you can choose to engage your rational mind in the decision-making process. You can step back and try to objectively weigh up whether a new guy in your life really is who he presents as being. You can also ask other people for their input, as well.

And don’t be afraid to trust your intuition. It is looking out for you! Listen to any doubts you have.

Take them seriously.

Check them out.

Perhaps they are alerting to something important. But perhaps it’s also your fears that are speaking when you begin to feel wobbly and anxious. If that’s the case, thank them for wanting to protect you. Then, tell them you’ve done due diligence, and this man really does seem to be different from your ex-husband. 

Give yourself time. It’s a process. But if you’re willing to take things slowly, you may find it’s worth it in the end.

Trust is an active responsible engagement with the unknown. It is always a leap of faith.” – Esther Perel

Can Trust be Rebuilt?

Ultimately, the worst kind of pain does not come from your enemies, but from those you trust and love.”

What is necessary for trust to be rebuilt after you’ve discovered that your partner has betrayed you?

To be honest, you may never fully trust them again – and it won’t be the same kind of trust as before. However, there is still a place for hope. Often progress can be made. But the following are essential for rebuilding trust:

1. The betrayer must have made a total break with the affair partner, or be actively getting help for a sex addiction (if that is the cause of the betrayal). They should also have someone they’re accountable to, someone they check in regularly with. This must be someone you (the betrayed partner) trust as well.

2. The betrayed partner must believe in their heart that the offending partner is wholeheartedly and freely choosing them again. They have to really believe that the choice is genuine, and that their partner is unlikely to change their mind on this.

3. Related to this, the betrayed partner or spouse must really feel that ‘you love me’; ‘that you love me more than anyone, or anything, in the world’, and ‘you can’t bear the thought of life without me.

That is, the decision to hold on to the relationship cannot be because the betrayer:

– doesn’t want to be exposed,

– or to lose their reputation,

– or to lose the respect of their family or kids,

– or to lose the family home, or a lifestyle they enjoy.

4. The betrayer must take full responsibility for what they did. They must convey a deep and genuine remorse for hurting you, and for totally wrecking your life.  They can’t ‘half get it’, downplay it, or push some of the responsibility onto you, or anyone else.

5. They need to really get what this has done to you. This is quite different from being overcome by feelings of shame. Feelings of shame are often self-focused. They actually prevent us from getting inside our partner’s world, and from fully empathizing with their pain.

In fact, we can get so totally consumed by feelings of self-loathing and self-rejection, and shock at what we did and who we became that we can’t be there for anyone else.

However, the betraying partner has to ‘get’ what they have done, and broken, devastated and desolate you feel. This is absolutely crucial.

5. Part of processing and coming to terms with betrayal includes going over the same ground, and asking the same questions again and again.

For trust to be rebuilt, the perpetrator must remain patient and understanding, and be committed to not reacting to what is said (which could be hard at times!)

Also, they must honestly and fully answer any questions you have – and even encourage you to probe even deeper.

That is, they have to give you the time and space you need to process the betrayal – which could take some time! This is especially important in the initial months.

Some Questions to Consider if You’ve Been Betrayed

It’s difficult to know what’s the right thing to do after you’ve learned that your partner has betrayed you. Should you try again, or should leave and walk away? Not all relationships can (or should) be saved. And deciding the right course is extremely difficult.

Really, this is a decision that only you can make. And it’s wise to take your time, and decide what’s right for you. Don’t let your friends and family influence you too much.

So, what sorts of things should you take into account? Below are some questions that might help with this decision:

1. Is your partner willing to do the work you view as being crucial for recovery (both his recovery and your recovery)?

2. Do you feel he really ‘gets’ how hurt and traumatized you are? Does it upset him to see the pain suffering he’s caused? Or does he seem detached, and unaffected by your feelings?

3. Actions count much more than words. This is absolutely crucial. What exactly is he doing to show he’s different now? What steps has he been taking to deal with the temptations?

4. Do you feel this Is this enough? What else would help to rebuild trust?

5. Do you still want him in your life? This is a really crucial question. Even if he works on changing you might feel that it’s too late. Perhaps you can’t respect him after everything he’s done.

6. Do you enjoy his company? Would you miss him if you parted?

7. Can you imagine being close and intimate again? Perhaps you cannot picture having sex with him again.

8. What are the benefits of staying in the marriage? (You have a history together; your lives are deeply intertwined; you want to stay together for the sake of the children; you want to stay together because you actually still love him, and so on.)

9. What are the benefits of leaving the marriage? (You don’t have to deal with trust related to him possibly betraying you again; it would be easier to deal with all the fall-out on your own; you don’t want to be with someone who hurt you so badly; you would rather start again with someone else, and so on.)    

10. If you look back at your life 10 years from now, what different scenarios can you envisage? Which of those is the most likely to be the real scenario? Which would you choose, and why? Do you want to take a risk, and why? Do you think it’s wise to take a risk, and why?

Other readers may be able to add some other questions that could help you decide the right pathway for you.

But whatever you decide, please be kind to yourself, and make sure that any boundaries are respected and adhered to.