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.

Am I Dating a Master Manipulator?

Have you ever met someone and everything just clicked right away?  But then a few months down the road you ask yourself, “Who is this person”?

In the beginning of a relationship most people put their best foot forward.  They make sacrifices they wouldn’t normally make because they are so excited to be in this new relationship.  This is normal.  At first you may watch that basketball game even though you don’t like it.  Or you may go to church with that person even though you haven’t been to church in years.   Most people want to make that other person happy and it is easy in the beginning because the relationship is exciting and new.

As time goes by people usually settle into the relationship and you may share that you don’t prefer to eat seafood or like to go backpacking in the wilderness.  Those changes aren’t so dramatic.  The longer you are in a relationship the more you find out about each other and realize both of you will have to make sacrifices at some point.  No two people are exactly alike.

But there are people out there who will pretend to be just like you in the beginning of the relationship.  The person I am describing is capable of mimicking anyone they approach.  They often convince others that they are just like them.  They are very persuasive and can read people really easily.  They are adept at sizing people up by watching nonverbal cues and reading people’s faces.  They use that information to get close to you and you may feel like this is the first person who really “gets” you.  They seem to understand you so well that you feel like they have been able to see inside your heart and soul.  When in fact this is not the case.  They are just very good actors and should try their luck out in Hollywood.  However, before you know it, you’ve fallen in love.

The blissful part of the relationship may last a couple of months.  By this time you have become very attached and may even feel ready to be with this person forever.  Then all of a sudden they seem to change.  They may become mean at times, impatient, or refuse to do things they used to do.  They may stop calling you back, be late for a date, or not even show up.  This is when the roller coaster begins.   You feel mad, betrayed, upset, hurt.  You text them constantly to find out what is going on, but they don’t respond.  Then out of the blue they text you back or call.  They may try to convince you that you’re overreacting.  At first, just hearing from them is enough to forget how mad you were, so you may agree that you overreacted and blow it off.   Those feelings of love coming pouring back into your heart and you forget about your hurt feelings.   A week later, it may happen again that they don’t text you for a day and then tell you they left their phone at their friend’s house.  You believe them and all is well again.

Over time this happens more often.  Instead of being nice for a week, its only for a day.   You start to hold onto the anger longer.  When they realize it isn’t going to so easy to smooth things over, they’ll start to apologize and promise to  make it up to you.  They then usually become so attentive that you end up forgiving them.   It is so great when you’re together it convinces you that you’ve turned a corner in your relationship.  However, it never lasts.  When they are not with you, you wonder what they are doing because they ignore you.  When you finally see them again, they are so loving and kind you feel like an idiot for ever doubting them.  The fighting may increase, but the intermittent reinforcement of their attentiveness and promises of love keep you hooked.

It takes a very long time to break off a relationship like this.  Even though all your friends and family will start to hate this person, you feel like you know another side to him or her.  In time though, you will wonder if anything they’ve ever told you was true.  It is hard to say.  Were they being real when they were telling you how much they love you and giving you a lot of attention?  Or were they being more real when they were ignoring you and putting you down when they were mad?  There may have been times when they were genuine, but it was so inconsistent that you may never know the true answers to those questions.

They may have loved you in their own way.  They may have been sincere in that moment when they apologized, but when that moment passed, that sincerity was gone.  It is hard to trust someone like this.  They have a hard time following through with anything, not just relationships.  They usually pick the loyal, kind, giving types of people to hook up with.  You are not stupid for being a loyal, kind, giving person.  Just be aware that not everyone is as genuine and as unselfish as you are.

In most cases, these relationships eventually implode.  They will end up hurting  you so much over time that you eventually do end up leaving for good.  It can be hard not to blame yourself.  Remember, most of the time they KNEW what they were doing and preyed on your vulnerable emotions.  Eventually your heart will heal and then you can use what you learned to be more aware of these patterns in the future.

One thing I see as a red flag is someone who is too complimentary.  If someone barely knows me and continues to tell me how great I am or constantly tells me how great I look, that is a red flag to me.  You have to really know me to be able to compliment me genuinely.  However, this works because it is very hard to resist someone who seems so into you.  The other thing is they love the chase.  Resisting them sometimes eggs them on.  It is a red flag if a person doesn’t eventually give up if you tell them you aren’t ready for a relationship.  Or at least listen to you and give you some space.  This person seems to become more aggressive in their pursuit to get you to date them.   These two things are very common in manipulative people.  Please be aware that if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

The one last thing you can do to safe guard yourself from a person like this is to become more confident.  If you feel good about yourself, you won’t be so vulnerable to someone who compliments you all the time.  If you are confident being single, then they won’t have that edge when they pursue you so aggressively.  You’ll be able to resist and they will go find someone easier to manipulate.

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.

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.

Is it Possible to Really Trust Someone?

Trust…what does this word even mean?  According to dictionary.com, the word trust means the following:

1.  reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
2.  confident expectation of something; hope.
3.  confidence in the certainty of future payment for property or goods received; credit: to sell merchandise on trust.
4.  a person on whom or thing on which one relies: God is my trust.
5.  the condition of one to whom something has been entrusted.
 

Of these definitions, I like the second one the most.  Confident expectation of something; hope.  If you trust someone, you are hoping they won’t let you down.  You expect them to be there for you.  You rely on them.

It seems totally stupid to give someone the benefit of the doubt.  It’s sad to me that in order to protect yourself, you have to make others work to earn your trust.  You can’t just blindly give someone the benefit of the doubt, or you may live to really regret it.  I’m a person who used to trust people pretty easily.  I’d been hurt by friends growing up, but never seriously betrayed.  However, I eventually came across a couple of people who really did a number on me emotionally because of all their lies.  I started to believe there was something wrong with me that I got so taken advantage of.  Now, after working with so many people the last decade, I can see it happens to many of us at some point.

So what do you do after you’ve been hurt so bad?  Let’s say you’ve just been cheated on.  The person you loved and trusted has betrayed you in one of the worst ways.  How do you get past that?  How do you trust again?  These are difficult questions to answer even though I get asked these questions often.  I would say you can look at it two different ways.

In one way you realize you have no control.  There are people out there who will lie just to get what they want.  This isn’t your fault and doesn’t make you a stupid person.  Some people are so patient about it.  They do take the time to win your trust, and then they flip on you.  There is no way to guarantee that someone you start to trust won’t betray you.  We all have to take this risk when we let people into our lives.  When it happens it will be devastating and you will feel very hurt.  You will have to grieve the loss of the person you thought you loved and come to terms with the fact that you may never know what was true and what wasn’t in the relationship.

In another way you do have control.  After you’ve grieved the loss it’s time to take charge and figure out what you could have done differently.  You can’t change the past, but you can use it to be smarter in the future.  Take this time to look back with your 20/20 vision and analyze what happened.   Don’t blame yourself or put yourself down.  Be practical about it, and look for the little signs you missed.  Note those things that you had an instinct about, but ignored at the time.  These are what I call red flags.  If you choose to be honest with yourself about things you missed, you will be more likely to dodge that bullet in the future.  I no longer wish that I hadn’t met those few people who really lied me.  I’m now thankful for all that they taught me.  They kept me from making bigger mistakes in the future, and I learned to trust my judgment again.

I hate cliches’, but I do believe that “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”.  Also, smarter, if you are willing to deal with the issues.  Some people I see tell me they keep meeting the same kind of people and get hurt over and over again.  I believe this usually happens because they didn’t take the time to really grieve the loss or look at what happened in the relationship in-depth.  Instead they chose to circumvent the grief by jumping into a new relationship right away and pushed away thoughts from the past instead of analyzing what happened.

I know it sucks to cry over someone who really hurt you.  You feel they don’t deserve your tears.  However, you do deserve to let yourself feel hurt no matter what the circumstances.  You gave them your heart when you trusted them and now it’s going to hurt that they are gone.  It’s okay to be sad and angry.  Deal with those feelings instead of trying to ignore them.  I also know it doesn’t do any good to dwell in the past, but figuring out what happened isn’t dwelling.  It is using the information from the past in order to prevent it from repeating itself.  Instead of trying to forget about it, try to force yourself to look at what happened so you can learn from it.  It won’t be easy, but it may save you from a lot of pain in the future.

If you are going to be in relationships with others, you are going to have to learn to trust.  You have to learn to trust your own judgment and trust that not everyone is out to get you.  You can’t be in a great relationship if you don’t have trust.  Trust is about confidence.  Confidence in yourself as well as others.  It doesn’t do you or your partner any good if you always have to check up on them or fear that they are always going to leave you .  The more confident you are and the more trust you have in your partner, the less control you have to have in the relationship.  Relationships require you to  give up some control.  If you need 100% control over your life, then stay single!  Letting others in is a risk.  Usually it is well worth it.  Just be smart about who you let in.  Again, try to learn from the past if you do get burned, and don’t give your heart too easily just to avoid loneliness.  If you take your time, you will find there still are a few trustworthy souls out there.

A Note to Those Who Have Cheated

It seems like everyone cheats.  Unfortunately thinking like that can cause people to minimize the pain someone feels when they are cheated on.  The reality is that  if you want to repair your relationship after you’ve been caught cheating, it won’t be easy.  You may want to hurry up and move past it, but it helps to see things from your partner’s point of view sometimes.  Here are some things to be aware of…

First, just because your girlfriend or boyfriend doesn’t break up with you after you cheat, doesn’t mean they forgive you immediately.  In time, this should be their goal, but it isn’t going to happen right away.  They are going to feel all sorts of things after they find out.  Underneath the anger, they will feel humiliated, disgusted, disappointed, scared, betrayed, confused, not good enough, jealous, depressed and hurt.  Those emotions are powerful.  Try to understand that it will take awhile for them to process those feelings.  I don’t agree that they should use those emotions to “get back” at you, but be aware that those emotions are there and will affect your relationship for awhile.

Two, don’t expect them to not want to talk about it.  Your instincts may tell you to push them away because what they have to say will be hard to hear.  It won’t be easy to talk about what happened again, but if you become too frustrated when they bring it up, it will start too look like you’re trying to hide something.  The hard part of trying to work things out after getting caught is that you just want to move on.  Your brain wants to forget about it and try to “start over”.  Trust me, your partner wants to forget about it, but it will be harder for them to push those thoughts away.  You may have to rehash the same story several times.  You may feel harassed or impatient during the whole process, but if you really want to stay in the relationship it will be worth it.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that there are some details I don’t think are wise to share or rehash again and again.  Your partner may want to know specific sexual details that aren’t a good idea to share.  It will only make things worse.  However, you do need to let them talk about their feelings and allow them to bring it up if they need to.  It will drive them crazy for awhile and if they keep it all bottled up inside, it will only come out to haunt you in other ways.  If you can be open to listening it may help them move through their feelings faster.  I think it’s better to face something head on then try to hope that the problem will just disappear.  If you truly love this person and know you made a mistake, do your best to listen and be willing to answer the same questions over and over.

When should your boyfriend or girlfriend finally let it go?  That is a great question.  First of all, I don’t think people really let things go.  It is more like they get through things or learn to deal with it in time.  Don’t expect them to just forget it ever happened, however, their goal if they want to stay with you is to learn to forgive and trust you again.  How quickly that happens depends on them, but it also depends on you.  If you handle things the right way, you will help speed up the process.

The best way to handle getting caught or telling your partner that you cheated, is to be upfront about it.  Do your best to NOT MINIMIZE what happened.  This means, don’t down play it, say it was nothing, or pretend it only happened one time.  If it takes months to sort through all the lies because you aren’t completely honest right away, it is going to delay the process of your partner getting through it which will make life more frustrating for you as well.  Rip off the band-aid all at once and be honest from the start.  This means swallowing your pride and doing your best to be humble about what happened.  Also, DON’T BLAME the other person.  This will make it harder for your partner to trust and respect you again.  Think about it, if it wasn’t your fault, then you really can’t guarantee it won’t ever happen again right?  Taking responsibility and admitting what you need to do differently in the future will go a long way in repairing the relationship.

I’ve said this before in another post, but you also have to open up your life to your partner for awhile.  No hiding your phone, your email or Facebook from your boyfriend or girlfriend.  They are going to be suspicious for awhile and rightfully so.  Let them know you don’t have anything to hide and this will speed up the process to getting your relationship back on track.  It may become frustrating at times.  When you feel impatient, try to remember all those feelings your partner may now be going through and give them the time they need.  It will become obvious after a few months if your partner is unwilling to work through their pain or move forward.  At this point, you have the choice to leave the relationship.

Sometimes there isn’t anything you can do to make it right.  Your girlfriend or boyfriend may try at first to make it work with you, but in the end, they may not be able to deal with it.  If you’ve done everything you can to try to repair the damage, then don’t blame yourself if your partner isn’t able to move forward.  You could be the perfect person in the relationship at this point, but some people have a hard time with forgiveness and trust due to their own reasons.  Sometimes one mistake can ruin everything you’ve worked hard to achieve.  It sucks, but it does happen to some relationships.  If your partner is not able to work it out with you, know that you can make positive changes for the next relationship.  If you don’t want this mistake to define you, learn from it and do your best not to make it again.  We all  have to live and learn.  Sometimes we can mess up and have a chance to make it right.  Sometimes, another person doesn’t give us that chance.  Focus on what you can control and hopefully that will help you make future decisions.