Trust Me

If you knew

When your trust has been betrayed then it’s natural and instinctive to ask yourself the question, “Should I trust this individual?” Perhaps this is a question you are asking yourself now.

And I’ve often heard it said that ‘nothing’s certain in this world’. We have to take a chance. In life, there are no guarantees.

I understand this point. Be we don’t always blindly trust. We try to be as certain as it’s possible to be. And there are checks and balances in every area of life. These help to keep us safe, and they provide security.

For example:

  • Restaurants must adhere to health and safety regulations.
  • Our different health professionals are required to train for years, and they’re closely supervised before they practice on their own.
  • If we smell gas in our home, and we suspect there is a leak, we want someone who’s certified to check it out for us. We don’t just ask a neighbour or a family friend.

How do we build trust?

1. There’s a quote I came across in a great podcast recently which highlights the components that make up healthy trust. Here’s what it said:

Trust is an active responsible engagement with the unknown.”

This draws attention to the fact that trust is not just an emotion (athough it may include gut instincts and some powerful feelings, too.)

Instead, it’s based on checking out whatever needs to be checked out. And this will likely vary, depending on the person. (For example, was your partner using webcams, or an online dating site, or did they see a prostitute, or have countless affairs? All of these require different checks and balances.)

And you’re absolutely right to want to have safeguards in place. We need to feel secure, or it’s impossible to trust.

2. A second quote I came across is somewhat similar to this. It states:

Trust is the ability to tolerate the unknown.”

Tolerating the unknown is going to be more challenging if you trusted him before, and you were lied to, and deceived.

But even if you’ve moved on, and you have a different spouse, the trauma of the past will still affect the way you feel. We bring our history with us into new relationships.

In both these situations, it’s a choice we have to make … to tolerate the fear that is attached to the unknown. It’s ‘mind over emotions’ when we first decide to trust. But, hopefully, we’ll find that this gets easier with time.

And that’s if we decide that it is wise for us to trust ….

The Girl on the Train

she was so used to lies

Trust is about listening to your gut instincts. It is weighing up the facts, as you believe those facts to be. We do this from birth onwards. In all areas of life. We do our best to work out who and what we can believe.

In The Girl on the Train (by British author Paula Hawkins) we are faced with a conundrum related to belief. We aren’t sure if the narrator is someone we should trust. We get the sense she’s cagey, and is unreliable.

For example, we know Rachel gets drunk, that she has blackouts and tells lies. Hence, she could have been mistaken when she tells us what she’s seen (a crime that we’re drawn into, and we also want to solve.)

And there are more reasons to doubt her – for she’s jealous of the life her ex-husband has formed with his new baby and young wife. A family Rachel’s stalking for a large part of the book.

But maybe Tom’s too charming, and he’s not the man he seems. There’s hints of an affair, and of a darker, scary side.

Perhaps he’s not trustworthy? Should we start to question him? We feel our head is spinning. We don’t know what we should think.

I won’t reveal the ending. You might want to read the book. But this highlights a struggle and a very basic truth …

That life is complicated if we don’t know who to trust.  

If you have been gaslighted by a person in your life – who said your intuitions and your judgments were all wrong – you’ll know how very hard it is to figure out what’s real, to always feel uncertain, and to question everything.

How do I know I can Trust Him Again?

when trust is broken

This is one of the most difficult questions. And it’s not really one we can answer for sure. If he did it before, he could do it again. Which is why you’re afraid – as there are no guarantees.

So how can you assess if the change is genuine – and he really is committed to being different now?

1. Let’s start by stating the obvious. There has to be a sense of genuine remorse, and a genuine desire to put things right. What is your gut really telling you here? It is often hard to know, or to trust yourself.

Do you think he’s genuine? What makes you think he’s truly changed? Be concrete and specific. Try to list the different things.

2. Your partner should communicate he owes you a huge debt. In fact, he owes you a huge debt that can never be repaid. And the focus of his life (at least at this point in time) should be making up to you for all the heartache he has caused.

3. Is he willing to be honest and accountable? Is his life an open book? Has he put some checks in place? Are those checks sufficient to give you peace of mind?

4. Does he let you ask him questions – even though they make him squirm? Is he willing to be honest about everything he’s done? If he’s cagey or evasive, or he hides things in the present – then this is a red flag, and it should sound a warning bell.

5. Has he looked at all the reasons why he did the things he did? (This will usually be done with a counsellor.) Has this led to major changes in the way he lives his life? Be concrete and specific as you try to list those things.

6. Has he identified his triggers? Does he know what he can do when he feels he’s being tempted, or he’s feeling vulnerable?

7. If he’s had slip ups or falls since Discovery Day, did he tell you on his own, or did you find out for yourself?

8. How has he changed in his relationship with you? Do you feel you’re more attached, and more connected as a couple?

9. Has he lied or been dishonest in any way at all (since you found out the truth about his secret life)?

10. Can you identify the differences in who he is today? What makes you think the change will stick? Do you believe he is trustworthy?

When we want things to be better it is tempting to ignore any hints or indications that might sound a warning bell. And perhaps things are Ok and there’s no need to be concerned. But maybe check it out. Don’t just assume things will be fine.

It All Comes Down to Trust

courage is doing what is right for you

Scenario 1

When I took my new car for a service last year, I left some money lying in the empty drink holder. Just some coins and loose change that you might need for a toll.

When I went to get the car, I saw the coins had disappeared. I suspected what had happened but I let the matter go. It was only a few dollars and, of course, I could be wrong.

When I went for my next service, I left coins there again. And when the car came back there were no coins to be found.

It wasn’t a huge thing but it had undermined my trust.  I found another garage. It was time to make a change.

Scenario 2 

I had a lovely dentist who I’d seen for many years. I rarely needed work done. Just the odd filling replaced.

But then this man retired, and a new one took his place. I needed root canals, and crowns – or so this dentist claimed.

I didn’t quite believe him. It was such a turn around. I found another dentist for I needed peace of mind.

Scenario 3

I made a life commitment when I took my marriage vows. I promised to be faithful, and I chose to trust as well. I didn’t think to worry, and I took him at his word. But then my world was shattered when betrayal reared its head.

A sex addiction’s awful. It destroys relationships. This isn’t cars and fillings. It’s your life and it’s your heart.

Rebuilding is a nightmare for you’re stalked by constant fear. And any trust is fragile for you can’t erase the past.

I could have left my marriage. I was anxious all the time. Rebuilding’s very risky and there are no guarantees. And truth is fundamental. There’s no future without this.

It takes a lot of courage to take that risk and trust.

The Effect of Lies and Secrets on the Partner or the Spouse

When trust has been shattered and you’re in a state of shock, you won’t be your normal self for quite a while. In fact, you might not recognize the individual you’ve become.

But, as I’ve said before, you are not unique in this. You’re not a crazy person, and you haven’t lost your mind. These reactions are all normal when a trauma has occurred. You’re battered, bruised and bleeding so expect to spew out grief.  

And if it’s any help … you will find yourself again. But it will take some time. So, prepare yourself for this.

In the meantime, know that it’s common to experience symptoms like:

  • A huge roller coaster of emotions
  • Unpredictable states of mind
  • Irrational and extreme thoughts and reactions
  • Feelings which suddenly bubble up, intensify, and spill over
  • Anger and rage
  • The desire to make your partner pay
  • Wanting absolutely nothing to do with your partner
  • Suddenly wanting to have sex with your partner
  • Being afraid of losing your partner
  • Being afraid of facing a future without your partner
  • Shame, self-hatred and self-loathing
  • Plummeting self-worth and low self-esteem
  • Feeling ugly; hating your body and looks
  • Feeling rejected and alone
  • Thoughts of self-harm, or suicide
  • Relentless feelings of worry and fear
  • Anxiety attacks and panic attacks
  • Obsessing over what has happened
  • Feeling driven to constantly ask questions, and find out all you can about your partner’s secret life
  • A powerful wish to withdraw from people and life
  • A complete numbing of all emotions
  • The inability to concentrate, focus, and to think clearly and rationally
  • The inability to plan and to make decisions
  • Confusion related to the past, who your partner was, and the life you built together
  • Confusion related to what you want, and what is the right thing to do (both now and in the future)
  • Insomnia and broken sleep
  • Changes in appetite
  • An inability and unwillingness to trust anyone and anything.

Although it’s really hard – don’t give up, and don’t lose hope.  The clouds will slowly break and the pain will start to ease.  For now, accept these feelings, be gentle with yourself, and make self-care a priority.

How Could I Not Have Known?

I’ve just started reading Malcom Gladwell’s recent book “Talking to Strangers”. Amongst other things, this book looks in depth at how top agents can work for years beside other agents – with amazing reputations – only to discover that they’re really double agents.

How can this be? How could they be deceived?

Gladwell would argue that we shouldn’t be surprised. And here are some reasons he cites for this:

1.Gladwell says that we all function in a truth-default mode. That is, we are wired to believe that we’re hearing the truth. Hence, even if something seems to be a bit off, we generally quieten our apprehensive thoughts as we’re primed to believe the reassurances we get. This is simply a function of being a flawed human. A suspicion or some doubts will not be enough (and we may well be suspicious and be plagued by many doubts).

2. Indeed, we only stop being deceived when the facts become so clear that we cannot explain them away anymore. The truth is just so stark that it cannot be denied. We have now crossed a threshold where we’re triggered out of doubt. This is summed up well in the following statement[1]:

Belief is not the absence of doubt. You believe someone because you don’t have enough doubts about them … Just think about how many times you have criticized someone else, in hindsight, for their failure to spot a liar.  You should have known. There were all kinds of red flags. You had doubts … But the right question is: were there enough red flags to push you over the threshold of belief? If there weren’t, then by defaulting to truth you were only being human.

3.The threshold for snapping us out of our default (to believe what we’re hearing, and accept that it’s the truth) is actually very high. It takes a very long time to accumulate the doubts, and then the evidence, that can trigger this deep change. Instead, we naturally accept all the reasons we are fed which seem to explain away the inconsistencies.

When you start to realize this, then perhaps it’s not surprising that we’re so deeply shocked – and are even traumatized – when we learn that a partner has a sexual addiction.

Also, trusting those we love and are vulnerable with, is actually innate, and has clear survival value.  Hence, breaching basic trust has deep and lasting consequences. It will be hard to give your trust to another individual. And if you’ve been betrayed then you’ll know how true this is!    

[1] Gladwell, G. (2019). Talking to strangers: What we should know about the people we don’t know. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Should I stay or should I go now?

Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go, there will be trouble

And if I stay it will be double

So come on and let me know

Should I stay or should I go?

These well-known lyrics by the Clash sum up the anguish in the heart of every betrayed person who has learned that their partner has a sexual addiction.

On one hand, you love this person, and you can’t believe it’s true. You thought you had a stable and secure relationship. And you thought that you were happy and would always be together.

On the other hand, you’re dealing with the horror and the lies, the callous breach of trust, and the deliberate deception.

Then add into that mix some powerful, turbulent emotions. The inability to think and reason rationally. And the feeling that you cannot trust your heart or intuition.

Part of you is just so angry (or perhaps so terrified). You feel you have to leave, to turn your back and walk away. And yet there are good memories, and some cherished hopes and dreams.

But do you want to end it? Is there something you could save? Could you rebuild what’s broken? Could your partner ever change?

Robert Weiss, a well-known specialist who works with sexual addicts, gives wise advice to partners who are struggling with these questions.

Because you feel as if you’re on a roller coaster ride, where powerful feelings hit you, and completely overwhelm, he recommends you don’t make a decision at this time.

You can sleep in different bedrooms, or can live in different homes. But waiting for six months will take the pressure off yourself. It will give you time to work through how you feel and what you want. You’ll still be hurt and bleeding but will have a clearer mind.

And when that time is up, you might believe that there is hope. You might see that your partner is remorseful and has changed.

Or, you might be too afraid to take a risk and try again. It might be you can’t trust because the pain is just too deep.

Either way, you’ll have had time to let the fog clear from your mind. So wait awhile, be patient, and delay major decisions.

Am I Addicted to Sex?

It is hard for anyone to admit that they’re an addict, or even to admit that it’s hard to just say “no”. We all like to believe that we still are in control, and can choose to turn our backs on the habits we have formed.

And that is why it’s helpful to fill out questionnaires. They make us stop and think, and to look at the cold facts. The following can help if your partner or your spouse is willing to take stock of their attitudes to sex. Perhaps it has a grip that they must face and admit.

Note: The questions below were developed by Sex Addicts Anonymous to help individuals assess whether or not they might have a sex addiction.

Instructions: Answer the following questions by responding YES or No.

  1. Do you keep secrets about your sexual or romantic activities from those important to you? Do you lead a double life?
  2. Have your needs driven you to have sex in places or situations or with people you would not normally choose?
  3. Do you find yourself looking for sexually arousing articles or scenes in newspapers, magazines, or other media?
  4. Do you find that romantic or sexual fantasies interfere with your relationships or are preventing you from facing problems?
  5. Do you frequently want to get away from a sex partner after having sex? Do you frequently feel remorse, shame, or guilt after a sexual encounter?
  6. Do you feel shame about your body or your sexuality, such that you avoid touching your body or engaging in sexual relationships? Do you fear that you have no sexual feelings, that you are asexual?
  7. Does each new relationship continue to have the same destructive patterns which prompted you to leave the last relationship?
  8. Is it taking more variety and frequency of sexual and romantic activities than previously to bring the same levels of excitement and relief?
  9. Have you ever been arrested or are you in danger of being arrested because of your practices of voyeurism, exhibitionism, prostitution, sex with minors, indecent phone calls, etc.?
  10. Does your pursuit of sex or romantic relationships interfere with your spiritual beliefs or development?
  11. Do your sexual activities include the risk, threat, or reality of disease, pregnancy, coercion, or violence?
  12. Has your sexual or romantic behaviour ever left you feeling hopeless, alienated from others, or suicidal?

If you answered yes to several of these questions, we would encourage you to seek out help.

To Tell or Not to Tell? That is the Question.

One of the most difficult questions people ask is “Should I tell the children or our families, or should it just remain between the 2 of us (my partner/ spouse and me)?”

There is no easy answer to this very troubling question. It is something you must think through, and weigh up, for yourself. Also, it is something I would urge you to consider carefully. Don’t give into the pressure to make your mind up NOW. In my opinion, it is better to be hesitant and cautious than to make a rushed a decision which you regret later on.

Here are a few factors to bear in mind as you contemplate what might be the right choice for you:

  1. Once the story has been shared it cannot be ‘unshared’. If you and your partner recover from this, and manage to build a completely different life, other people won’t forget and it may influence how they see you (both).
  2. Although you can choose to turn your back and walk away, to end your relationship, and find someone new, the person who betrayed you will always be the dad or the mom of any children you have had, and raised, together. This is a crucial point to bear in mind. If you disclose everything that your partner has done it will likely affect their relationship with him (or her), and possibly affect it for the rest of their lives.
  3. It’s worth considering the age of your children. For example, what’s appropriate to share with a 16-year old will not make sense to a 6-year old. Also, timing is important as children get stressed too. They have exams, school anxieties, and numerous other issues. Is this the right time to drop a bomb like this? If you decide you’re going to share it, pay attention to the timing.
  4. Are the children at risk? This is a very important question to ask. Hopefully the answer to the question will be ‘no’, and you can take that out of the decision-making process. However, if you’ve any doubts at all, then you must have the courage to face them honestly and openly. You must protect your children, no matter what the cost.
  5. If you decide to tell your children (however old they are) they are going to need support, and may want to talk things through. Ask yourself: Do you have the reserves to deal with this, or should you maybe wait until you’re less traumatized? Also, they have the right to share how they feel with other people. Hence, it may mean that your family and your social group find out.
  6. You might feel like a fraud if you choose to remain silent. You might feel you’re colluding and are sharing in a lie.
  7. What if the children learn the secret later on, or if they learn from someone else, and they argue ‘it’s not true’? Just think about how shocking that would be for them. They may also think that you’ve deceived them as well, and this could influence their relationship with you.
  8. It could be argued it prepares your older children for real life. Your children may be struggling with the same kinds of things, and this could be a way to talk about its seriousness, or to help them with a battle they are facing on their own.
  9. If you’re open with your children (and especially adult children) it may remove some of the shame and the stigma that surrounds a sexual addiction or dependency. Also, a secret can be powerful and can hold a person hostage. If you choose to be authentic, you might find that you feel freer.
  10. It can lead to more support and accountability. If a partner who’s addicted is committed to being free, then others can encourage them to stay true to themselves, and to keep on working to maintain the ground they’ve gained. Also, the spouse or partner can receive greater support as they seek to come to terms with the devastating news. However, you will need to assess if your family and your friends will genuinely support you, and will want the best for you. Sadly, others may be glad when they learn about your struggles – and this could simply add to the pain you’re carrying.      

As I said at the beginning, there is no simple solution. Peoples’ situations differ. It requires careful thought. And if you feel dazed and confused wait a while; there is no rush. You can always choose to share when you are ready, and are stronger.