Trust and Confidence In Relationships

 

Are you “stalking” your boyfriend or girlfriend on Facebook?  Waiting for them to put their iPhone down so you can check their texts??  Confidence is something I find lacking in a lot of people I’ve met.  Especially in relationships.  People are always second guessing their decisions or wondering what the other person is thinking.  I hear a lot about Facebook status.  I have students who will tell me what their boyfriend or girlfriend’s status is and ask me what I think that means.  Facebook and technology in general are great, but they also can have a negative impact on people’s confidence.

Often I have people who talk about who their boyfriend or girlfriend are “friends” with on Facebook.  Every post is analyzed to see if that person is interested in someone else.  It takes a lot of energy to stalk the internet and be a creeper on people’s Facebook pages.  It might be better to use your energy to improve your confidence or deal with the trust issues you may have.

There are a couple of reasons it is hard to trust.  One, because you may not believe in yourself.  I know people who think they aren’t good enough and are afraid their boyfriend or girlfriend will leave them.  It  causes people to over analyze every interaction their boyfriend or girlfriend has with the opposite sex.  Two, you may have been betrayed in the past.  If someone’s ex cheated on them, it is going to be hard to trust in the next relationship.  It also adds to feeling not good enough.  Three, your boyfriend or girlfriend could be making another person more of a priority in their lives.  This is a gray area, but sometimes opposite sex friendships can cross boundaries.    If a boundary is being crossed, it could lead you to feel less trusting.

The truth is that you are good enough.  In a relationship you only control 50%.  That is the risk of getting involved with someone else.  You could get hurt!  If you want to avoid being hurt, stay single.  All you can control is being the best person you can be in the relationship.  Being close to perfect won’t guarantee that person won’t leave, cheat, or in rare cases, die.  It could happen even you are the best girlfriend or boyfriend ever.   But YOU are the only person in the relationship YOU can control.  If you treat that person well and give them all the love you have, then they would be an idiot to lose you.  If someone doesn’t want to be with you, let them leave so you can be free to find someone who does.  Don’t settle for someone who doesn’t really want to be with you.  The rejection does suck, but when you know you have put your heart and soul into the relationship, you can be confident that you weren’t the one with the problem.  Sometimes you find people who can’t commit, find it easy to lie, or haven’t grown up yet.  It is hard to live and learn, but I find every relationship experience we have teaches us something.  I am a wiser persophonen for being hurt a few times.  Those mistakes then lead me to the right person.

It is hard to trust.  The only alternative to not trusting is to control someone.  Controlling someone usually makes that person resent you and want to spend even less time with you.  If you are feeling insecure in your relationship be careful that you aren’t becoming controlling.  It will only ruin your relationship and you will lose the person you are trying so hard to keep.  The more trust you have in someone, the less control you must have.   If your boyfriend or girlfriend has broken your trust, you have a couple of choices.  You break up with them or you forgive them and find ways to repair the trust.  Most people will give someone another chance, but they don’t forgive and they don’t work on repairing the trust.  This leads to a controlling relationship.

Is it worth the effort??  If the person is truly sorry, they will find ways to prove to you they are now an honest person.  If they aren’t truly sorry, it will happen again and you will have another choice to make.  Just remember, if someone cheats on you or lies to you, that doesn’t mean you are the problem.  If you think you are part of the problem, find someone who can help you work on the things you want to change.  Otherwise, be confident and move on!

Signs Of Cheating

It’s hard to be sure if someone’s cheating, but protect yourself: Be vigilant, and pay attention to your mind and spirit within the relationship.  But, at the same time, be careful not to let anxiety lead the way because unnecessary paranoia will just drive the one you love away.  It is important to be confident in your relationship.  Insecurity can lead you to want to see things that aren’t there.  However, there are certain signs of cheating or lying that you can be more aware of in your relationship.

Here are some red flags that may signal that your significant other is cheating: 

Changes in Your Sex Life-  At first you may notice your partner wants to have more sex than usual.  This can actually happen when someone is beginning to cheat because they are turned on by this new person they’ve met.  It is sad, but true, that they may be thinking of this person and feel more sexual.  In time, if they actually start having sex with this person on a continuous basis, you may find your sex life comes to a sudden halt.  Unless your partner has super human powers, they can only have so much sex.  So, if they’re getting it from another source, you might notice.  Whether or not they are actually cheating with another person or they have a porn addiction, a decrease in sex signals possible issues in the relationship.

Jumpy Cell Phone Habits-  In a perfect world, we’d be open about sharing our correspondence with our significant others.  Most of the time, we trust that we don’t have to worry about who is texting or calling them.  But, if you notice that they’re getting protective and/or nervous when they gets calls or texts, it may be cause for alarm.

Gushing or Talking About Someone Suddenly-  You know that exhilarating feeling you get when you meet someone new and exciting?  You want to tell the world about him or her.   If your partner  begins talking a lot about a guy or girl they recently met, you may want to have your radar tuned in.  It may sound just friendly at first, but if this person keeps coming up in conversation, you may want to see if your partner is willing to let you meet this person they find so fascinating.  If they are reluctant, there may be more going on.

Disconnect-   Even though relationships ebb and flow naturally, if you’re sensing that your partner is pulling away from you, then there may be someone else.  Emotional disconnect should be investigated regardless of whether it’s caused by cheating.  There’s a problem if they aren’t laughing or seeming as passionate as usual.  It’s hard to spread love/passion between two people, so the person who used to have it will feel it slipping away if it’s being given to someone else.

Pulling a Houdini-  If your boyfriend or girlfriend is disappearing, traveling, or unavailable by phone to the point where you are starting to wonder, then they could be cheating.  Also, these times tend to take on a pattern because it’s tough to synch up schedules, especially in secret.

Friends Acting Strange-  Their friends will certainly remain loyal to them in most cases.  They will not let you know what’s going on, but they will definitely be racked with guilt, and their behavior may change slightly when they are around you while protecting their friend’s secret.

Caught in Lies About Other Things-  If you catch your partner in a lie, your trust will naturally be damaged.  Don’t hold a grudge — forgiveness is a good thing.  If they consistently break your trust, it’s can start a pattern of behavior that may lead to cheating.  Do yourself a favor: If they keep lying, whether these lies are big or small, seriously reconsider your reasons for wanting to remain in the relationship.

Done It Before-  Know your partner’s history.  It can be a red flag if they cheated before, but definitely consider the context.  If it was at the end of a bad relationship and they didn’t have that pattern with other boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s, you may not want to panic.  If someone is upfront with you that they’ve made mistakes in the past, maybe give them a chance — but make it a long probationary period before you let your guard down.  If they have cheated several times in one relationship, or cheated in several different relationships, you may want to open your eyes to the reality of the situation.  Especially if you find out from someone else, or they tell you after you catch them lying about something else.  Not being upfront, is a huge red flag.  There are people out there who simply can’t or won’t be faithful in relationships.

Trust Your Gut-  Don’t ignore your sixth sense.  People are gifted at sensing when something doesn’t feel right.  Whether or not there are red flags in your relationship, if something feels off, don’t ignore this feeling.  Usually that feeling is right, and something intangible may urge to look further into the situation.

Should You Confess to Cheating?

I read a post on Sexy Tofu’s blog about whether confessing to cheating is always right thing to do.  I thought she had some good insights and made some good points.  I decided to copy her post and share with you her thoughts on this topic:

I’ve written before on infidelity; It’s a big “no no” in my book—which, in case you were wondering, probably closer resembles a dog-eared trashy paperback than a manual on ethics.  But I’m going to get into ethics now.  Bear with me.

Most of us already know that when it comes to emotions, not everything is in black and white.  We all have feelings, and these feelings can make a bigger mess than a two year old with a white wall and a box of crayons.

However, if we want to get ethical, are there shades of grey when it comes to right and wrong?  Are moral standards based on the eye of the beholder?  Does right and wrong change situationally?  Is a hero still a hero if he only saved that little boy from the well because he knew he would be showered in praise?

Oh man, that was some rapid fire questioning.  Back on track.  I think that cheating is always the wrong thing to do.  If you’re unhappy or unfulfilled in your relationship, get out of it.  Don’t cheat.  But no one can be right all the time, and so let’s consider what happens after you have cheated.  Most would consider that the “right” thing to do would be to tell your partner.  Come clean.  You’ve already been unfaithful, let’s not double the offense with dishonesty.  Right?

I think it depends on both the situation and motive behind your confession.

As for situation: How big is your offense?  If you meet with an old flame or a stranger and share a fleeting kiss, a one time mistake completely regretted, is that something worth uprooting your partners’ self esteem and your relationship?  Some would say no, and others would say yes.  You made your bed, now lie in it—crumbled relationship and all.

What if you’ve cheated but plan on leaving anyway?  Is it better to just leave and save your partner a bit of dignity (being left is bad enough, being betrayed and left is even worse), or should you tell them before you go?
What if you’re a habitual cheater?  That sort of dishonesty is often a personality trait; someone who tends to veer toward the hedonistic side of things.  Should Sir Tryst A Lot come clean while someone who kissed a stranger at the bar should keep their lips sealed?  Does it matter the level of offense, or is a cheater a cheater a cheater?

And as for motives, what if in your confession you lift your own burden of guilt only to place it on the shoulders of your partner?  You may feel better, but they all of a sudden feel betrayed and hurt. And anyone who has ever been cheated on knows that even if you KNOW the offense had nothing to do with you or your actions, you cannot help but take it personally.  It will make you insecure, even if only momentarily.  It’s insanely difficult, even for the most logical and mature of us, not to turn betrayal inward.  And on top of the pain you put on your partner, the relationship will suffer, trust will have to be rebuilt, if possible.  So in this light, is it always right to be honest?

I think the righteousness of a confession can also depend greatly on the motive behind the confession.  A friend of mine recently brought up the concept of acting out of love vs. out of fear.  Not to get all new agey on you, but I think that could have a lot to do with what makes coming clean the right or the wrong thing to do.  Are you telling your partner because you love them truly, because you’re truly sorry, and you want to correct your dishonest behavior and rebuild? Or are you telling them because you’re trying to remove your own guilt, which some may argue is a product of fear.  Or on the other end, could you argue that in staying quiet, you are acting on fear–the fear of your partner leaving you if they find out what you’ve done?  UGH I know this stuff has some merit but I really can’t talk about love and fear without thinking about Donnie Darko.

Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion

So let’s take this into pop culture, shall we. Recently to the horror of all those Twihards, Kristin Stewart admitted to cheating on R-Patz (nose wrinkle) with the MARRIED director of Snow White and the Huntsman. However she only admitted to it after some photos of her and director Rupert Sanders surfaced. Stewart regrets it, Sanders regrets it, lots of tears all around. But neither of the offenders came clean without the pressure of being found out, which makes their admissions completely fear based. Double fail for this shady lady.

Catching a Cheater with a Spy App…Good Idea?

If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know I love watching 20/20 and Dateline NBC.  One of them recently aired a show about cheating in relationships.  Each of the segments focused on different aspects of cheating.  One of the segments focused on a spy app for smart phones.  It made me think.  Is it a good idea to use this technology to spy on your boyfriend or girlfriend’s cell phone activity?  I did some research and here are some pro’s and con’s from my perspective on this issue.

First, I googled spy app for cheaters.  I found quite a few websites.  One was about using a legitimate app or you could possibly download viruses.  It also stated that there is no such thing as a free app that will spy on someone’s cell phone.  If your looking for a spy app for a smart phone, you should look at these tested and proven Apps to Catch Cheaters listed below:

The apps that you actually pay for and that will actually help you monitor another persons cell phone activities are not free apps to catch cheaters, but they can help you catch someone cheating by:

  • Allowing you to monitor their call logs and to see who they are calling and when.
  • Permitting you to access their voicemail to listen to voicemail messages, even deleted ones.
  • Admitting you to read their text messages and to see who they are texting and what they are texting about.
  • Enabling you to see their web browsing history on their phone.
  • Allowing you to record calls if you need them as evidence.

Technology sure has come a long way.  It is very true that technology has made the opportunities to cheat on someone much greater.  I now realize that technology also works the same way in reverse.  There are now a lot more ways to catch someone cheating on you.  I found the story below when I was googling spy apps.  Here is this person’s story for why he chose to use this app.

Cheating is always hard to accept. In fact, the most common reaction upon finding it is denial. Because it feels like a personal failure, it takes a conscious effort to accept it. However, we can not do something about it and move on with our lives unless we accept it first.

I think that’s what I found most useful about using a spy app.  Until then, I was not able to be subjective about it.  Even when my closest friends told me about my wife’s unfaithfulness, I refused to believe them because they could always be wrong or subjective about it.  However, it’s very different to be forced to face facts by something as mechanical and cold as a computer program.  After that, there is no way you can consciously bury your head in sand anymore.  Sure enough, the spy app showed me that she was having an affair with her Spanish teacher who wasn’t a teacher at all.

I ended up getting a divorce and now I’m starting a new relationship with someone else. I plan to do things right this time. And no, I don’t plan to use a spy app with her. One of the things I learned is that while the spy app helped me in the past, it’s not healthy to keep it using forever. It’s a bit like medicine, you use it until you get better, and then you move on.

I realize in this story, the person is married.  People may feel more justified spying on a spouse, rather than their girlfriend or boyfriend.  I used it anyway because I think some of the points are good.  I do know that it can be hard to be honest with yourself when it comes to someone you love cheating on you.  It is easy to be in denial and believe what you want to believe.  This could be helpful to people who know in their gut their significant other is betraying them, but just don’t want to believe it.  The person above used the information and left his spouse.  Cheating isn’t necessarily a death sentence to a relationship.  Many couples work through it and build back trust.  People can change.  Being caught can bring on a lot of shame and embarrassment.  A person can realize they made a huge mistake and move on from it.  Having this information in black and white may help both parties come to terms with reality which could help them move forward.

I also like when the person said he didn’t want to use the spy app with his new partner.  He didn’t need it to be able to trust in his new relationship.  I agree, a spy app is not an answer for those who have trust issues.  It could actually fuel a paranoid person’s thoughts and allow them to become much more controlling.  This app is probably more helpful for people who are too trusting.  If you have trust issues, you have to work on that separately.  No app in the world can replace confidence.  It takes work to build confidence and trust in yourself as well as others.   Even if the person above chose to stay with his wife.  He would have needed to take the spy app off her phone and begin to really trust her again.  It is the only way to build a healthy relationship.

The truth is if you are thinking you need to use this app, you already in an unhealthy place in your relationship.  Really evaluate if that is because you have trust issues that need to be resolved, or if your partner is doing something that just doesn’t add up.  If your radar is up and you know in the back of your mind you should be worried, then maybe this app could be helpful.  Either way, if you are not in a healthy place in your relationship, you’ll need more than technology to fix the problem.  The only thing technology can really do is identify that a problem truly exists.  After that, it’s up to you to put in the hard work to be able to move forward in a healthy way.  My advice is to think long and hard before downloading a spy app, and if you do, use it to be able to move forward in a positive way, not to get revenge.

Is Sexting Safe?

I wrote a post over a year ago called Safe Sexting.  I thought it might be smart to reiterate some of the things I said in that post plus add a few new things to think about.  Sexting has become very popular among younger people, and probably some older folks too.  People have told me it is a new way of flirting.  However, you can do some pretty stupid things with a smart phone these days.

Students have asked me if I think sexting is a good idea.  It really depends.  In some cases, it is a very stupid idea.  If you don’t really know the person you are sexting or sending naked pictures to, then it can get out of hand pretty quick.  If this person lives on the other side of the world, it may be relatively safer.  They don’t know any of your friends and family and it is a lot less likely that what you said or the pictures you sent could come back to haunt you.  However, if you just sent off a few pictures of yourself to a person you just met in your anatomy lab, be prepared to have their friends looking at you like they’ve seen you naked.  Chances are, they have.  Colleges and universities are like small communities.  People talk and others around you may know more about you than you think.

Another thing to think about is WHY you’re sexting with someone.  Some students have told me they feel pressured into it.  They start out just flirting with someone else through text, but then it quickly becomes sexual.  They tell me they want this person to like them so they continue to say suggestive things through text.  The next thing they know, the person is asking for a naked photo.  Sending this person a naked photo because you just want to get them to like you isn’t a good reason.  You should engage in sexual behavior because it is your choice and what YOU want to do, not because it is what someone else wants you to do.  Do what you feel comfortable with.  Don’t do something to impress someone or make someone else like you.

Be yourself.  If you aren’t overtly sexual in person, don’t pretend to be through text.  This person may then expect you to follow through with some of those sexual suggestions you made when they see you in person.  If you don’t feel comfortable following through, you shouldn’t be making the suggestions in the first place.  It is important to be confident about your decisions.  If you don’t mind being more sexual both through text and in person, then go ahead.  However, if you don’t feel comfortable than feel confident enough to say so.  If you say no and the other person stops texting you, it is a pretty good indication they only wanted to use you for sex any way.  If you want more than sex, it’s better to be disappointed now rather than later.

Is it smart to send naked pics to your boyfriend or girlfriend who you love and trust?  Maybe.  You could be with someone who you know loves you and would never betray you.  However, I’ve heard plenty of horror stories, so please think twice before sending that naked photo off into cyber land.  Once you send that picture you lose all control, so it is still a big risk.  Relationships break up all the time.  This would be a perfect opportunity for your now ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to get back at you.   The so-called love of your life could save that picture and when they feel angry or upset with you, they may send it to anyone and everyone you know.  Who knows where it could end up after the two of you decide to break up?

Also be aware that if you are in a committed relationship with someone and you are sexting someone else, that is considered cheating.  You can cheat with technology very easily.  Even if the person lives across the world, doing anything behind your boyfriend or girlfriend’s back, is considered deceitful.  You may also want to remove those photos that friends have forwarded to you if you are in a relationship.  If your boyfriend or girlfriend finds a naked photo on your phone that a friend passed along, that could still look very bad for you.  Keeping it on your phone even though it was sent from a buddy of yours, is not considered a smart idea.

Another not so smart idea is sending naked pictures of yourself to someone who doesn’t desire to receive one.  This person is NOT going to consider you irresistibly sexy if they receive unsolicited texts or pictures of a sexual nature.  It is usually a huge turn off.  Don’t just assume someone is willing.  Ask the person if they are okay with it before sending anything sexual.  If that person says no, be respectful.  It is also not a turn on to beg someone for sexual material either.  NO means NO.  If you proceed after this point it is considered sexual harassment.

If you want to be a little smarter while sexting it is a good idea not to send any pictures with your face also in the photo.  Some people say it is a little less likely that you will be able to identified in case the picture gets out to others.  Yet, remember, many famous people have been identified in naked photos even though their face wasn’t in the picture.  You may also want to set some ground rules before you engage in sexting as well.  Let the person know how far you want to go.  You may want to tell them upfront that you don’t mind flirting sexually, but you don’t want to receive or send any naked pictures.  If you aren’t ready to have sex with this person, it is also a good idea to let them know up front that you like to flirt, but don’t plan on meeting up with them at 2am to hook up.

I said this in my last post, but I think it is worth repeating.  As a counselor, I recommend you educate yourself before engaging in sexting with anyone.  It may seem fun, harmless and safer than having sex, but there are still consequences that can be devastating.  Be aware of all the risks before deciding what is best for you.  If you are over 18 it isn’t illegal to send sexual material over your phone to someone else that is over 18.  You have to decide what you are comfortable with and be strong about setting a clear boundary with others who are trying to engage you in this behavior.  If you start something and then feel uncomfortable, stop and let the other person know.  If they won’t stop, find a way to block them from your phone if possible or report them for harassment.  Be smart and be safe!

 

The Heat of the Moment

Why is it that some things seem so right in the moment, but later you think to yourself, “How the hell did that happen”?  Living in the moment has it’s upside.  It can be fun to be spontaneous and carefree at times.  However, in the heat of the moment some people make choices they really live to regret.  A lot of the time I have students come into my office who are upset about cheating on their boyfriend or girlfriend in a moment of anger.  Why is it so easy to seek comfort from someone else even though you know you’ll probably regret it later?

Our emotions have a lot to do with why we act certain ways at different times.  If you have been in a relationship for more than a few weeks you know that it isn’t always always perfect.  It is normal to have disagreements and not always get along with the one you love.  You will have moments of anger and disappointment with the relationship and with one another.  It is in these moments of anger that you can easily veer off track.  The temptation to turn to someone else can be very alluring when you are angry or frustrated with your boyfriend or girlfriend.  Then, it’s only one more step before you’re doing something impulsive that can alter the course of your relationship if it ever became known to your partner.

Sometimes people don’t necessarily have sex with someone else in that impulsive moment, but they may have texted some things they now regret or said something to someone else that would be seen as a betrayal to their partner.  If you are feeling angry or upset it is very easy to convince yourself that you deserve to have this little bit of comfort, or that your partner deserves to hurt like you’re hurting.  You can justify any action in the moment. It is only later when you feel calm or less angry that you may regret the action you took.  When the dust settles and your anger goes away then the love for your current partner comes back.  This can make you feel very selfish and guilty for cheating either emotionally or physically while you were angry.

It is easy to forget that angry or frustrating moments pass.  Anger usually fades with a little time and perspective.  You wake up the next day and decide you still really love your partner and want to stay with them.  What do you do now?  Do you tell them about your momentary mental lapse in judgment?  Do you let it slide and pretend it never happened?  I can not answer this question for you.  I can tell you that you take a risk if you don’t say anything because it may come out to your partner anyway.  I can assure you being caught in a lie is definitely worse than coming clean.  Although, either way, your relationship will never be the same again.  Only you know what decision you can live with in this circumstance.  Of course from the outside, it would be easy for me to say be honest, but I’m well aware that it doesn’t always make everything okay in the end.

The one answer I can give you is this…What is done is done.  You can’t go back and change it.  We all make mistakes we have to learn from and forgive ourselves for.  The brain is just looking to make things fair.  If we’ve been hurt it is easy to justify hurting someone back.  The biggest thing to remember is that life isn’t fair and hurting someone else doesn’t usually take our own hurt away.  Anger is a gift that keeps on giving and usually ends up biting you back in the end.

It is better to deal with your anger in other ways that won’t hurt you or someone else.   If you can remember that your anger will pass if you give yourself some time, you can do things during that time to help you process your anger.  Some people like to write and use their blog or journal to vent.  Other people need physical exercise to work out their feelings.  You can run, walk, lift weights, do yoga, or play your favorite sport.  Sometimes just taking a nap or going to bed for the night will help you feel better.  You may wake up and feel a lot better.  You can also watch tv, play with a pet, or engage in a favorite hobby.  Whatever you do, find something you enjoy and will get your mind off of your anger for a little while.  There are a lot of healthier ways to deal with your feelings rather than turning to someone else.  Once you’ve dealt with your feelings, you can think through what you want to do about your relationship.  Is there something you need to discuss or do you need to work on letting something go?  The answer is usually more logical when you wait for your feelings to calm down.

I also suggest talking to one person of the same sex who you really trust if you are having problems in your relationship. Or talk to a counselor if there isn’t anyone you can trust.  I don’t recommend talking about your relationship with everyone you know when you’re angry because you don’t want to poison others against your partner.  It will be easier for you to forgive your boyfriend or girlfriend than for your friends or family to do the same.  Sometimes your anger won’t resolve itself.  At that time you may need to decide to leave the relationship, even though it may seem easier to turn to someone else and cheat.  However, most of the time, anger is temporary.  In those times, it may seem innocent at first to reach out to talk to a friend of the opposite sex.  Just remember that boundaries can be crossed really easily when you’re angry at your current partner.  It is too easy to want to be comforted or wanted by this person who is “listening” to you.  It seems like a good idea in the moment, but you may end up really regretting not waiting to see how you feel once your anger fades.  Deal with your feelings before making any decisions that may have a huge impact on the fate of your relationship.  It can be thrilling to live in the heat of the moment, but sometimes it can burn you so badly that you don’t recover.

Is it Lying If I Withhold Information?

There is a fine line between withholding information and straight up lying to someone’s face.  Sometimes it isn’t a big deal to withhold information, but other times it is worse than lying.  Here are a few reasons people withhold information:

1.  They think they are protecting someone

2.  They are trying to protect themselves

3.  They feel guilty

4.  They feel insecure or embarrassed

5.  They are normally very closed and private about everything they do

Are any of these reasons valid?  Of course the answer isn’t black and white.  I don’t think someone needs to report to their significant other everything they did, who they did it with, with a time and date stamp to go along with it.  If you’re boyfriend or girlfriend is demanding a play by play of your day, all the time, then there is a trust issue.  You shouldn’t have to share every detail  of your day.  However, it is important to share significant details with the person you love and spend a majority of your time with.  If you can’t open up to the person you are dating you may want to ask yourself, why?

Some people are more private.  By nature some people are more quiet and keep things to themselves.  Being quiet may not be a problem if you really aren’t hiding anything.  If your life is pretty boring and there isn’t much to say, then it shouldn’t cause a problem.  If you are really quiet, you may want to find someone who is okay with the strong silent type.  However, remember that communication is important in a relationship, so try to open up as much as possible to the person you’ve chosen to love and trust.

There are also people out there who have a hard time trusting someone else in a relationship.  It may be hard to open up and tell another person something if you think they are going to betray you, make fun of you, or scream and yell at you.  In a new relationship, look for signs in the person that they aren’t going to use your information against you.  Share small things and observe how they react.  Hopefully you find your new partner is more patient and calm than people you’ve opened up to in the past.  This may help you build your trust or convince you to leave before you become too attached.  It is important to try to build trust or you will have other problems down the line.

Sometimes a person thinks they are protecting their partner by withholding information.  This is usually an excuse, but sometimes it is valid.  If a person is already very stressed, anxious or depressed, it may be hard for them to handle something upsetting.  I tell students all the time in my office, the only thing you can do to get your partner to open up to you more, is to not overreact when they tell you something.  Let them know they can trust you.  If you start yelling, swearing, and throwing things when they tell you their ex texted them, then don’t expect them to tell you the next time it happens.

It is okay to be upset by information, especially if it is hurtful, but it isn’t okay to project your feelings onto someone else by yelling and freaking out even if you are stressed.  If you are too upset to talk to your partner, try to go in another room to calm down before talking about it.  Find a way to get in control of your emotions before you open your mouth and start a fight.  You want to be someone your partner can come to with information.  The better you handle it, the more likely they’ll keep opening up to you about something hard or potentially hurtful.  Trust me, you’d rather hear it from them than someone else.

Although, it isn’t okay to withhold information because you THINK your partner is too emotional or may over react.  You need to give them a chance and not just assume they can’t handle information.  If they have gotten really upset in the past, let them know it makes it harder for you to open up.  If you really aren’t doing anything wrong and they get upset all the time anyway, then figure out if you want to stay in this type of relationship.  It isn’t healthy to stay with someone you feel afraid to open up to.

Then there are the people who don’t share because they feel embarrassed, insecure or guilty.  They are trying to protect themselves in the situation.  This is not a good reason to withhold information, and it is very much the same as lying to your partner.  You aren’t innocent if your ex texts you and you don’t want to tell your partner because you want to keep talking to him or her.  You then effectively start lying to them in many ways.

If your boyfriend or girlfriend does find out, a lot of times I hear the excuse, “Well you didn’t ask me about it”, or “I didn’t think it was important”.  Your partner shouldn’t ask you every day if you’ve heard from your ex or any other specific questions about your day.  You also wouldn’t want them to ask you everything all the time because that means they don’t trust you.  You need to provide information to them when things happen.  If they find out you’ve withheld information, then you should expect to be asked questions all the time.  Which doesn’t help the relationship.  Being open helps your partner realize you don’t have anything to hide.  Your partner shouldn’t be the last person to know about something significant happening in your life if you want the relationship to grow and be healthy.

My advice is to think about your communication in your relationship and if you might be withholding things.  Ask yourself why.  Do what you can to fix that problem if you find it, or it will only end up blowing up in your face sooner or later.

Trusting an Apology

How do you know someone is being honest when they say “I’m sorry”?  When someone has hurt or lied to you it can be hard to trust the words that come out of their mouth.  Sometimes those two words just don’t cut it.  A lot of times people say things but never act on their words.  It is hard to believe someone after so many apologies.  How do you know when an apology is genuine?

A real apology has four parts.  Completing all four parts of an apology helps to show that you really mean what you say.

For example, let’s say I broke your window.  This is a genuine apology.

Part I:  Admitting you were wrong.  “Hey, I want to let you know that I accidentally broke your window”.

Part II:  Saying you are sorry.  “I’m sorry that it happened.  I feel really bad that I made such a mess and scared you that way”.

Part III:  Fixing or repairing the damage done.  “I will call someone to come out and replace your window.  I’ll pay for everything”.

Part IV:  Vowing to not do it again.  “I will not be playing ball outside your window anymore so this won’t happen again”.

Some people can’t even make it to the first part.  They won’t even admit they were wrong.  If your boyfriend or girlfriend can’t even admit they were wrong it will either make you feel crazy or your mistrust will skyrocket.  If you have proof that someone did do something and they won’t admit it, there is a huge problem to overcome.  It will make you wonder how well you really even know this person which usually starts the downfall of many relationships.

Other people only get through the second part.  Your boyfriend or girlfriend will admit they were wrong and they do apologize, but they don’t follow through on trying to repair the damage or vow to not do it again.  Or they vow to not do it again, but skip the third step.  If they skip the third step, odds are great that their vow means nothing.   A person has to make a conscious change for you to really know that they don’t want to hurt you again.

So how do you repair damage like cheating?  Say your partner has admitted what they did and apologized and even vows to never do it again.  How do they complete step three?  It can be done in different ways.  Some people need different things to feel more confident again in their relationship.  Do you need them to spend more time with you?  Do you need them to be more affectionate and attentive to you?  Do you need them to tell you how much you mean to them and be more complimentary?  Do you need them to be more open with their phone, email and social media accounts?

An easy way to know if someone is still hiding something from you is if they become very defensive if you ask questions about their phone, email or Facebook.  If they have nothing to hide they should want to show them to you.  They start to feel proud that they aren’t hiding anymore, and you start to feel more confident because they are more open with you.  It is a win win for someone who is trying to prove they aren’t hiding anything from you.  If they rush  you to “get over” what happened and don’t feel they owe you anything to prove they are now being honest, be very very cautious.  This person is probably still hiding something.

A person who has cheated will not want to talk about it all the time.  It is hard to have it brought up because it is very shameful to those who regret their actions.  However, they shouldn’t be defensive about wanting to show you they are now being faithful.   When I worked in private practice I worked with many couples.  I met with people who have changed jobs so they can prove to their partner that they won’t see the person they cheated with anymore.  Some people have given up  promotions so they don’t have to travel as much for work.   Some people have told friends or family so they become more accountable.  If an apology is truly genuine, they will want to make the changes necessary to win back your trust.  It will also help them keep their vow of not hurting you in that way again.  It is not easy, but it may be very worth the effort to make amends and move forward.

Remember these four steps the next time you realize you hurt someone in any kind of relationship.  If you are honest about your apology, follow through with making changes to repair the damage so it will be easier for that person to believe you when you say it will never happen again.

P.S. Just to let you know.  If someone says they won’t ever do something again, and its a habit, like drinking, doing drugs, cheating, lying, being emotional abusive, or using pornography, be aware that they most likely will need professional help to change.

They need to learn new ways of dealing with things and have someone hold them accountable while they break that habit.   It isn’t as easy as depending on you to help them change.  If they are willing to get help, they are more likely being honest with you about stopping.  If they follow through for 3 months or more, you can start to trust that they are truly making a change.  Three or four weeks of staying sober, being nice, or being helpful doesn’t mean they have really changed.  This is from a decade of experience of working with many people with a lot of bad habits.  Give them a chance, but be prepared for disappointment if they can’t follow through with step three.

The Other Woman

Or you can say, The Other Man.  Either way today’s post is about how it feels to be the person your significant other is cheating with.  Surprisingly I have had a few people come to counseling because they are in this position.  It’s easy to hate and judge this person.  Most people think, “How can you get involved with someone when you know they are in a relationship”?  There are some people out there with evil intentions.  This is true.  But don’t automatically judge without investigating a little further.

So, why do people choose to be with someone when they know they are in a relationship already?  Well let’s start with the most innocent people in this situation.  The ones who didn’t know, at least at first.  I have met with a few people who come in because they have fallen in love with someone only to find out this person is in another relationship.  Some people will leave immediately after finding out they’ve been lied to, but not everyone is so brave.  Some people are so blinded by a person that they give up their morals and values to please them.  They start to rationalize in their own head that they didn’t know so it isn’t their fault.  You also don’t always know what your own partner may be telling them.  They may think your partner is about to get out of your relationship.  I’ve met with men and women who have been manipulated into thinking that the other relationship is about to break up and they so they wait.  They really do hope and believe it is going to work out for them.  It is rare that it does work out, but hope can have a strong hold on a person anyway.

This also happens to people when they start listening to a friend, co-worker or someone from class talk about your relationship.  If your boyfriend or girlfriend starts opening up to someone else about your problems it can start to create intimacy between those two people.  The person who is at first just trying to be a good friend may start to develop feelings, even though they know your boyfriend or girlfriend is still in a relationship with you.  If your significant other reciprocates those feelings it doesn’t take long for things to develop.  Yes, both people are wrong in this situation.  However, I’ve talked about how emotions can make people do very illogical things.  This is one of those things.  People give into their feelings.  This other person hopes like the person above that your relationship will break up as sad as that sounds.

I know it sounds crazy from an objective point of view.  However, good people can make bad mistakes.  Some people really aren’t trying to hurt anyone.  They really get caught up in their emotions for someone that may cause them to cross lines they never thought they would cross.  The people I talk to come in and are full of guilt.  Many have tried to pull away, but it is easier said than done.  Unless both parties agree to never see each other or communicate again at the same time and remain vigilant about it, things start up again too easily.  If one person breaks down in a weak moment it can be very hard for the other person to say no.  These types of affairs can be just emotional or both sexual and emotional.  They are rarely just about sex.  That is what makes them so hurtful to the person being cheated on.

I also see people who are drawn to someone because they are in a relationship already.  This can happen subconsciously because they aren’t ready for a commitment, so they are attracted to people who can’t commit to them.  They may not think they deserve more so they are okay with being someone on the side.  Again, what they are doing isn’t okay, but their intentions really aren’t to hurt anyone.  Fear or low self-confidence is usually the motivating factor in this case.

I’m not trying to excuse the behavior of someone who is cheating, but I’m hoping to help you understand how someone can end up on this side of cheating and have a hard time getting out of it.  It seems like a person should be able to control who they fall in love with, but like anger, it is best controlled before it goes too far.  This is why I warn students to be careful how much they talk to someone who may be in a relationship.  Feelings can develop even though you meant to see someone just as a friend.  Once feelings go too far, it is hard to be more logical about the situation.  It is easier to walk away from someone sooner rather than later because attachment only grows.  If you are cheating with someone’s partner and feel guilty about it, find someone to talk to who can help you pull away without making you feel even worse.

Then there is the “other woman or man” who is just looking to take what they can get regardless of who is involved.  Some don’t even ask if your partner is in a relationship or don’t care.  They are only looking for sex and don’t really want to know any details about your partner.  Some may know your boyfriend or girlfriend is involved but are too selfish to care.  They only worry about themselves in the moment.  They believe it isn’t their responsibility if your boyfriend or girlfriend is cheating or not.  To be honest, it really isn’t.

This situation is complicated.  It can be easy to throw around blame.  You may think this person went after your boyfriend or girlfriend because they wanted to break you up.  Maybe this is true, but ultimately your partner is responsible for what happens in your relationship and how it affects you. You have choices to make when you find out your partner is cheating on you.  Find out how it started, how many times it happened, who was involved, whether it was it just sex or if an emotional attachment developed and then decide what you want to do.  If you need to get back at your partner then do it by breaking up with them.  If you choose to stay, then find a way to forgive them and build your trust again.  No one can tell you what is best and only you know if you can handle staying in the relationship after your partner has cheated.  There is no right answer.  Just remember to focus your energy on you and your partner and try not to waste too much anger on the other woman or man involved.

Why Are You Cheating?

There are several reasons why people cheat.  Some people feel like it’s no big deal.  They don’t take their relationship seriously and cheat because they feel entitled to.  Some people cheat because they’ve been hurt or neglected by their partner and someone comes along who starts paying attention to them.  They fall into something without intentionally looking for it.  Other people cheat because they truly feel they are in love with two people.  They don’t know how to give up either one,  so they go as long as they can without having to choose.  Then there are other people who become addicted to the high of doing something sneaky.  They love flirting, sexting and sleeping around because to them it seems forbidden which makes it exciting.

Some people aren’t sure why they are cheating.  Is it because they are unhappy in their current relationship but don’t know how to end it?  Is it because they like the fact they’re getting away with something?  Is it because they don’t believe in being faithful or think they can be faithful?  Is there ever a good reason to cheat?  I’ve been asked this question.  I think there are good reasons to want to end a relationship, but I don’t think there are good reasons to cheat on someone behind their back.  However, I realize a lot of people get themselves caught up in something without intending to fall in love or hurt anyone else.

Before I started counseling people I used to be more judgmental about cheating.  I didn’t understand how people thought it was okay.  Today I can see how complicated some situations are.  How it can be hard to get out of one situation before you find yourself involved in another.  I also see how people truly start interacting with someone with no intentions of starting an affair.  How does this happen?

It happens when someone is going through a rough time in their relationship, which all relationships do at some point.  They may reach out to another guy or girlfriend to talk about it.  That person listens, pays attention and is helpful.  An attraction can start to develop and before either person is fully aware, sexual chemistry is flying every where.  Now this person is in dilemma.  They don’t really want to leave their current relationship.  They still truly love their partner even though they’re in a rough patch.  However, they have started to develop feelings for this person they’ve been confiding in.  It can become a huge mess in a very short time.

The reason it is hard to end something like this is because it hard for both people to be strong enough to walk away at the same time.  One person can decide to cut things off because they know what they are doing is wrong.  But when the other person has a weak moment and texts, things can quickly heat up again.  Then maybe the other person decides to pull away out of guilt.  Yet again, the other person reaches out in another weak moment and the person’s resolve to stay away disappears.  Unless both people are committed to ending the affair at the same time, it can be hard to stop.

What usually happens is that one person breaks down and tells their boyfriend or girlfriend out of guilt or they get caught somehow.  Then things blow up and when the dust settles either the original couple works it out or a break up inevitably happens.  It seems so clear from the outside to just avoid these complications and say no to someone who is encouraging you to cheat.  However, emotions are more intense than people give them credit for.  They don’t always make sense, and it can be hard to say no to those emotions even when people know it may lead to major problems down the road.

One way to avoid getting into a complicated situation is to be very careful who you open up to.  If you aren’t consciously out looking to cheat on your boyfriend or girlfriend then be very aware of becoming more intimate with people of the opposite sex, or the same sex if you are gay.  Opening up emotionally to others has the potential to develop feelings and sexual attraction.  It happens a lot to very unsuspecting people.  I suggest opening up to people of the same sex or opposite sex if you are homosexual.  You can also talk to a counselor or someone who has a professional boundary in place to avoid possible complications.

For those of you who are unsure why you are cheating on someone you actually really care about,  stop and think it through.  Is there something missing in your current relationship?   Is it something you really need and can’t live without, so therefore it makes sense to break off your relationship even though it’s hard?  Or is it something you can work though and live with?  Sometimes it is worth the effort to find ways to accept and be happy in your current relationship.  After doing this, it may not be so tempting to cheat in the future.

Life is complicated.  There usually isn’t one crystal clear answer.  Should you stay?  Should you go?  No one knows what the future will bring.  It can be hard to make a choice not knowing what could happen tomorrow.  We all do our best with the information we are given at the time.  Trust me, your life could go in a lot of different directions and still work out just fine.  There is no perfect person and no perfect path to follow.  Just do your best to make informed decisions in your relationships and make adjustments as necessary when new information presents itself.  Also, don’t beat yourself up for past mistakes.  You may find that you cheated when you never thought you’d be the one to do something like that.  It can happen.  Hopefully this post can help you to figure out why it happened so you can avoid it if you want to in the future.