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.

Sex With The Ex

Weak moments…many people have them when it comes to their ex’s.  Since it seems to be almost impossible to delete them off your Facebook and out of your contacts on your phone, it is too easy to hit them up for sex when you have a lonely or drunk moment.

It is logical to want to stay away from someone you just broke up with.  However, break ups are rarely ever logical.  Emotions are messy and it can take awhile to extricate someone completely out of your life.  Unless one half of the couple is resolute on never speaking to the other half ever again, sex is very likely to happen.

Why?  Because loneliness sucks!  Your mind tells you that at least your ex is familiar territory.  Sometimes there is an underlying agenda of wanting to get back together with your ex.  Sometimes it is just about wanting sex in a weak or stupid moment.  Other times, you just don’t want them to be having sex with anyone else, so you make sure your still offering it up.  You may not exactly want to get back together, but you aren’t ready to let them go either.

Whatever reason you are using to still hook up with your ex, just know that it could make things a lot more messy in long run.  First scenario, you are still in love with your ex, but your ex is no longer in love with you.  Yes, they may agree to have sex with you which makes you feel good in the moment.  However, after that moment passes you feel even more alone.  It can make you miss that person more and hope that maybe you might get back together.  You may think you can keep it casual, but deep down you know you’ll freak out if you find out they are seeing someone else.  Unfortunately, this is how this particular scenario usually ends up.  One day your ex will find someone else, at that point, they are probably going to have an easier time turning you down for sex.  When you find out they are in fact seeing and having sex with someone else you are going to go through the break up pain all over again.  The hope of getting back together is gone and it can be pretty devastating.

Second scenario, you are wanting to have sex with your ex to keep them from having sex with someone else.  This may or may not work in reality.  Remember, you are no longer together.  This means they aren’t cheating on you if they are having sex with someone else during the same time period they are still having sex you.  If it comes out that they are sleeping with other people besides you it is going to cause you to feel very angry.  You will want to start a fight that you don’t really have a right to start.  They don’t owe you anything after a break up.  I know they SHOULD have told you they were having sex with someone else, but they don’t HAVE to.  You may still feel like they cheated on you because they weren’t upfront.  However, remember many people lie in order to have sex.  Don’t be surprised that your ex is doing the same thing.

Third scenario, you just want a random hook up because you are feeling lonely or too drunk to care.  Maybe you don’t have a hidden agenda.  You have emotionally moved on, but the prospect of having sex with your ex is too strong to pass up.  This seems simple and at first doesn’t reveal any complications.  However, what do you think the chances are your ex is on the same emotional page as you when it comes to your break up?  Lets guess…about 1%.  I haven’t done a study, but I feel that is a pretty good guess.  So don’t complain when the texts and phone calls start up the following day.  You may have just opened a door that should have remained shut.  Now you have to deal with the emotional fall out all over again because they are hoping to see you or hang out again.  Remember, you aren’t the only one involved in this game, be prepared for drama when you don’t respond to their text or Facebook message the next day.

Last scenario, you are in a new relationship, but feel like hooking up with your ex for old times sake.  Think again!  This is cheating and don’t think your ex won’t try to mess up your new relationship because they are too mature for that kind of drama.  You are taking a very big chance that all will stay quiet and on the down low.  If you are in a new relationship then that hopefully means you have moved on.  Stay moved on or decide not to get into a new relationship yet.  The mature thing to do is be faithful, instead of expecting your ex to the mature one by not updating their status as “hooked up with ex last night”  on their Facebook page.

No one is perfect and it is hard to move on after a break up.  I know having sex with your ex is common, but don’t give up on trying to set better boundaries with them.  It is possible, and deep down, you know you either want more from your ex or they are wanting more from you.  Remember, short term pain for long term gain.  I always tell students that they can handle a lot more than they think they can.  Which means you can get through that lonely moment and feel proud of yourself the next day that you didn’t give in.  In the mean time, if you do mess up, just remember a day will come when you will be moved on.  Live for that day and don’t give up trying to make that day sooner than later.

I Want You to Hurt Like I Hurt

Pain is the gift that keeps on giving.  No matter how you try, you just can’t get rid of it by throwing it at someone else.  Yet, many people seem to keep trying anyway.

I recently read a story.  This guy falls in love and moves in with his girlfriend.  Soon after he finds his girlfriend having sex with her ex-boyfriend.  He goes crazy, beats the crap out of the guy, screams at his girlfriend, grabs some stuff and leaves the apartment.  He becomes bitter and angry.  He now doesn’t trust women or relationships.  For awhile he only uses women for sex, but doesn’t get involved deeper than that.  He doesn’t acknowledge how hurt he is, he only acknowledges that he is pissed off at the world.

In time he meets another girl.  However, this time is different.  This time he feels more than just a sexual attraction.  He starts to fall in love with her.  This is when he should finally be able to let go of his past anger, learn to trust again and live happily ever after right??  Well, as we all know, life just isn’t that easy.

He doesn’t acknowledge how afraid he is of being hurt again.  He doesn’t admit he still has unresolved pain and anger from his ex.  However, it comes out in his actions.  He starts breaking up with his new girlfriend for no reason.  Then in moments of panic, he begs her to come back.  When things start to go well, he finds a reason to start an argument.  They continue the cycle of breaking up and getting back together.  He knows he is in love with her, but doesn’t know how to withstand the vulnerability that true love brings to a relationship.  He believes if he is a jaded and bitter jerk then he could never get hurt again.  He continues to push her away even though she begs him to take her back.

She finally moves on because she can’t handle his hostility any more.  She starts dating someone new.  He realizes that he pushed her away with his negative emotions from his last relationship.  He wants her back, but doesn’t feel he can ruin what she has now to ask her to come back to him.  He starts to analyze why he pushed her away when he truly did love her.  He starts to heal the wound that has been haunting him and realizes he wasn’t avoiding the pain by being a jerk after all.  He was still in pain even though he was trying to push his pain onto someone else.  He now knows he ruined a really good thing because he couldn’t get past the betrayal from his ex.

He runs in to her a few months later and admits to himself that he has continued to think about her every day.  He doesn’t tell her this, but he does tell her he still loves her and misses her.  He asks her if she is happy.  She says that she is content in her new relationship.  He realizes she is still in love with him.  She starts to kiss him and he knows he could have sex with her if he wanted to.  He stops himself when he realizes he would be causing her to cheat on her boyfriend and he doesn’t want to bring her further into his negative emotion cycle.  He doesn’t really want to hurt her current boyfriend the way he was hurt by his ex.

He knows that her current boyfriend, even though he isn’t making her overly happy, is providing commitment and emotional stability that he wasn’t able to provide.  He tells her that although he had no problem breaking up his own relationship, he couldn’t break up hers for his own selfish reasons.  He admitted that he was terrified of hurting her again.  Even though he wanted to be with her, he couldn’t reassure her that he wouldn’t push her away again.  She told him she understood, even though she was sad, and left.

He wasn’t able to ask her to leave her current boyfriend, although this is what he hopes for.  He had to let the one girl he truly loved go, and he isn’t sure if she will come back.  In the mean time, he finally broke down and cried about all the pain he had been going through and holding back.  He finally wasn’t ashamed to show how he was really feeling.  He was learning that he had hurt a lot of people because he got hurt, and this wasn’t the way he wanted to continue to deal with his pain.  He hopes that one day he will be more trusting and vulnerable in a relationship.  He hopes the girl he pushed away will come back someday.  Until then he will continue to be single, take care of himself, and improve those areas he struggles the most with.

It is torture to live with pain.  As counselor, I have learned that if someone dumps a pile of crap (pain, anger, hurt) in front of you, you have three choices in how to deal with it.  First, you can pretend the pain isn’t there.  You can ignore it or try to forget it ever happened.  In time, most people will need drugs, alcohol, sex, food or other distractions to help them stay in this type of denial.  Pain has a way of sticking around even if you try to continue ignoring it.

Second, you can pick it up and try to throw it at someone else.  Many people try to give their pain to others and feel justified in doing it.  Pain can make someone very irrational.  The only catch is, it never really goes away.  It stays with you, only now you’ve spread it out farther than yourself and others are suffering as well.

Third, you can put some boots on and start wading through it.  Facing the pain and moving forward is the only way to truly get through it.  I believe you don’t really “get over” things.  However, I do believe you can get through things.  It isn’t easy to face your pain, but it is worth it.  You can handle it, because you are stronger than you think.  You also don’t have to dwell on your past to deal with it either.  It’s just being able to acknowledge it and feel the pain that you haven’t let yourself feel before.  The pain does lessen in time if you let yourself actually feel it.  You can choose to deal with it alone, or ask someone you trust to help you through it.

Also, realize courage isn’t the absence of fear.  Courage is knowing what you fear and being willing to face it anyway.  If you fear pain, then I hope you will have the courage to face it in your future.

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.

Rumors Are Ruining My Life!

You don’t mean to, but you overhear people talking about your friend’s girlfriend or boyfriend.  They saw what?  With who?  Last Friday?  At Steve’s party?  You suddenly feel outraged and want to immediately tell your friend.  Suddenly a rumor is started…

Sometimes rumors are spread with innocent or good intentions.  However, it can be devastating if you don’t have all the facts straight.  Lots of arguments and break-ups happen because someone started spreading misinformation.  What makes it worse is many couples don’t feel entirely confident with themselves or the relationship, so any hint that someone is cheating can cause a lot of drama.

Sometimes rumors are spread with evil or bad intentions.  Camera phones and social media have made it even easier to get revenge or ruin someone’s relationship without trying too hard.  If your boyfriend or girlfriend is talking to someone of the opposite sex even just to say hi, it can be caught on camera and uploaded to Facebook in 2.5 seconds.  Someone with intentions to screw up your relationship can post the picture so you can find it easily when you log on to your Facebook page.  The logical part of your brain says not to worry, but the emotional side of your brain can’t help but panic and wonder if your boyfriend or girlfriend is possibly cheating on you.

Rumors start whether you want them to or not.  People talk and social media makes it even easier to spread crap around.  So how should you handle it if it happens to you?  First, consider the source.  Is your source an eye-witness?  If they are a friend to you and they were an eye-witness, then the information may be more credible.  However, before you jump to crazy jealous land, slow yourself down and remember you still need to talk to your partner.  If you love them, they deserve to be able to share their side of the story before you allow yourself to go all Jersey Shore on them.  Why waste a bunch of energy if you don’t have to?  There will plenty of time for a freak out if you come to the conclusion that the rumor is true.

If your source is a friend, but they weren’t an eye-witness, try to find out who was there to confirm the rumor for you.  Do your best to get your facts straight before confronting your boyfriend or girlfriend.  Your friend may be trying to help you, but if they only heard something second or third hand, it still may not be reliable information.  Again, remember to not let yourself freak out until you’ve heard the whole story.  The whole story includes your partner’s version.  You will hurt your partner and your relationship by jumping to conclusions.  It is easy to overreact to a rumor.  Work on being more confident in yourself and in your relationship.  It takes time and effort to work on being more confident, but it also takes a lot of time and effort to worry about something that probably isn’t true.

If the source is someone who wants to get with your partner or doesn’t like you for other reasons, you should be very skeptical.  Most likely the information coming from this source isn’t true at all.  Stay calm and try to find out more information from a more credible source if possible.  If that isn’t an option, then continue to stay calm while you relate the details of what you saw or heard to your boyfriend or girlfriend.  Try to keep paranoid accusations out of the conversation because this will only make your partner defensive.  Try to be factual with the information and then listen to what your partner has to say about it.  Hopefully they will be able to put your fears to rest and you can move on with your life.

What if the rumor turns out to be true?  Well now it is more acceptable to be upset within reason.  It doesn’t give you permission to be emotionally or physically abusive to your partner.  It is devastating to find out your partner has been cheating, but do your best not to make a horrible situation even worse.  Realize that you do have some power to decide which direction your relationship is going to go in.  You can break-up and start to move on by yourself, or you can give your boyfriend or girlfriend another chance.  Either choice is going to be hard.  If you decide to give them another chance you will have to find a way to deal with your hurt and angry feelings.  Many people choose to stay but don’t let go of the anger and resentment.  This will only kill your relationship slowly over time.  You will need to find a way to forgive and trust again for it to work long term.

Rumors can be very deadly, but you don’t need to let them ruin your life.  Remember it is easy to overreact to something you hear.  Try to keep yourself from jumping to conclusions.  Rumors are often not reliable and it is worth the effort to find out more information before letting yourself get so upset.  Anger is a powerful emotion that sucks a lot of energy.  Energy you desperately need.  Try not to waste it on something that may or may not be true.

Sometimes you have to live with the fact that you will never know the whole story.  Sometimes it is a matter of he said/she said.  If in doubt, believe your partner.  You chose to love them for a reason.  Rely on the history of  the relationship to decide what further action to take because history has a way of repeating itself.  If your partner has always been faithful, try not to let your fears get the best of you.  Work on that confidence to keep you from causing unnecessary drama.  Trust me, if the rumor was true, it is only a matter of time before things will start to add up to confirm your fears.  If it becomes obvious for other reasons that your partner is cheating then you can deal with situation.  Until then, hang tight and don’t let others rob you of your happiness.

Once a Cheater Always a Cheater

True or False?  Is it possible the answer could be both?  I think so.  I do believe some people out there will always take the opportunity to cheat and not think twice.  They can’t commit or tell the truth to save their life.  However, I do think some people out there make a huge mistake that may be out of character for them.  Afterward, the shame and guilt is enough to keep them from ever making that same mistake again.

So, how do you tell the difference?  I think looking at the overall character of a person and their past track record is important.  As some of you may know, I’m an avid reader.  Right now I’m reading a book by Anita Shreve called “Testimony”.  The basic plot of the book is that three teenage boys, who are eighteen years or older, have sex with a fourteen year old girl at their boarding school.  Someone else videotapes the incident, and the book is about the fall out of being caught.

Cover of "Testimony: A Novel"

Cover of Testimony: A Novel

Two of the three boys are very different in character.  One boy, James, is known for getting into trouble in the past.  He was already expelled from one school and is trying to finish up one more year in order to get into college.  He likes attention and expects things to come easy for him.  The other boy, Silas, appears to be reliable overall.  He has been awarded a scholarship and works hard at school.  He is also a great athlete.  He has never gotten into trouble and has a long term girlfriend.

After they get caught the story goes on to narrate from each person’s perspective.  Silas is very distraught and ashamed.  He feels horrible about ruining his future and hurting his girlfriend.  He realizes now that one night can erase all the hard work and energy you’ve put in for years.  He is very remorseful and is determined to learn from his mistake.  James blames the victim and doesn’t take any responsibility.  He minimizes the incident and believes everyone is making too big of a deal out of it.  He doesn’t admit he is part of the problem, so he is less likely to change.

If this book wasn’t fiction I would bet money in Vegas that Silas would never cheat again and James would.   As a reader it is easier to feel sorry for and forgive Silas than James, even though both boys did something horrible.  This isn’t always true in real life.  Sometimes it is hard to tell who really feels sorry and won’t do it again, and who is still lying even after getting caught.  I do think that actions speak louder than words.  This is usually the only way you can know if someone is being honest.  Anyone can apologize and swear they will never do it again.  Only a few can actually follow up those words with actions that show you they really are sorry and want to prove to you it will never happen again.

If you’ve been cheated on, I suggest looking at all the other things in your relationship to tell you whether you think they will do it again.  Has this person treated you well for the most part in your relationship?  Are they respectful of you and give you their time and attention when you need it?  How are they with other people in general?  Can you count on them for other things in your relationship?  Do they follow through with what they say they are going to do?  If the answer is no, it could mean the cheating is just the tip of the iceberg.  If you have a lot of other issues in your relationship, the cheating could be only one symptom of many things wrong in your relationship.   If the answer is yes, it may be worth it to give them another chance.  If this act was completely out of character for them and your relationship seems to be pretty stable otherwise, then there may be hope.

Sometimes people aren’t aware of what they are capable of.  I’ve heard some people say they would never cheat.  However, the right situation mixed with certain emotions can put anyone in danger.  None of us is perfect.  Once it’s happened to someone it makes them more aware.  They may choose to not put themselves in certain situations with a false sense of security.  Pain and loss are the toughest teachers.  Some of those lessons are never forgotten.  Seeing how their actions can really hurt and effect others can be enough to make some people a lot more careful in the future.  This makes it possible to build trust back.

Then there are the people that don’t take responsibility in the first place.  They blame someone else or they minimize everything.  They say to themselves and everyone else, “It was only one time.  It wasn’t that big of a deal.  It didn’t mean anything.  I was drunk.  He or she came on to me.”   All those are excuses.  I love when people say, “It didn’t mean anything”.  Like that is helpful.  Something that doesn’t mean anything isn’t hurtful!  The act of cheating does mean something, and it can help build trust back in the relationship if the person who cheated can figure out what led up to it.  Even if it is just to discover how vulnerable they are in certain situations or when they feel certain emotions.   If someone doesn’t know why it happened in the first place or blames someone else, how can they promise it will never happen again?  They can’t!!  The person who can’t own up to it has a greater chance of lying to you again in the future.

Anyone who chooses to stay with someone after they have cheated is taking a risk.  Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.  You aren’t stupid for giving someone another chance.  Only time will tell, and if they hurt you again, you have the choice to leave at that point.  No one else can tell you when it’s the right time to leave a relationship.  Everyone is different, and most circumstances are different.  Trust your instincts.  I do believe in my heart that once a cheater, always a cheater isn’t always true.  So, try to look at the relationship as a whole to help you decide if you want to stay or go.

Don’t Drink & Text!!

You know you’ve done it!  Then afterwards you swear to yourself that you will never do it again.  Yeah right!  However, I’m thinking of starting a new campaign anyway against drinking and texting and texting while tired!  Those combinations just don’t work well.  Who wakes up to reread a text they wrote from the night before and says, “Wow, I’m a genius!”?  Not too many.  Most of the time students usually say to themselves, “Wow, I’m an idiot!  I can’t believe I sent that”.

Even if you haven’t been drinking, sending someone a text late a night usually spells trouble.  What you would never do at 2pm sounds pretty brilliant at 2am.  Why is that?  Your guard is down when your tired or if you’ve been engaging in extracurricular activities.  The judgment part of your brain that usually tells you to stop before doing something stupid isn’t at its peak after a certain time at night.  When you stay up late because your bored, studying, or even partying, it makes you vulnerable to those thoughts and feelings you’ve been able to keep under control the rest of the day.

How many of you text your ex in the early afternoon because you miss them and want to hook up for a few hours?  I’m guessing very few.  How many of you text your ex after at 11pm, midnight, or 1am to see if they’re awake and want to hook up?  I’m guessing a few more hands went into the air.  Maybe you think alcohol gave you the liquid courage you needed to take a risk.  In reality the alcohol, or even just being over tired, shuts down the part of your brain that thinks through the possible consequences that will only occur to you again the next day when the sun is shining brightly into your bedroom.

Even if you didn’t actually hook up, you still sent a text that you now wish you could suck back through cyber space.  It’s now out there that you are still thinking about this person.  Maybe you feel embarrassed or mad at yourself for giving your ex an ego boost.  You know when you get a drunk text there is a part of you that feels good.  It can be offensive or annoying, but it can also feel empowering.  This is why on the other end the person is cringing the next day.  It sucks to show vulnerability.  All I can say is that you are not alone.  This is an all too common phenomenon.  Texting puts that wall up and makes people feel bolder than normal.  If you actually had to call the person and hear their voice at 1am you may not have been so bold.  Even with alcohol flowing through your veins.  Texting makes it too easy to make those embarrassing mistakes.

So how do you solve this problem?  I wish there was an automatic lock that shut down your phone after a certain time of night.  Short of that, there really is no easy way to stop it.  You can try to make sure you go to bed earlier and get enough sleep.  I would also suggest not drinking, that may definitely cut down the embarrassing moments.  However, I know you can’t go to bed every night at 10pm or have someone guard your phone all the time.  Just be aware that your phone, with all its cool capabilities, isn’t always your friend.  Also, be aware that you will make a few mistakes.  I think the only way to stop is after you’ve made a few too many mistakes and are feeling the pain.  Once you’ve reached a certain pain threshold, then even liquid courage isn’t going to coerce you to send a text you’ll later regret.

Not all drunk or tired texts are going to be painful.  Some might even be cute or hilarious, but when they are painful and embarrassing then the memory of that is what’s going to help you in the future.  No one likes it, but pain is a good reminder of what NOT to do.  If something hurts me, I most likely will try to avoid it in the future.  If I keep repeating something, either it hasn’t been painful enough or too much time has gone by and the pain has faded away.  At some point though, the memory of pain is going to block out any voice in your head that thinks it’s a good idea to send a text to an ex, or someone else you shouldn’t be texting, in the middle of the night.  I wish you didn’t have to go through the pain or any other negative emotion, but so far I haven’t met a better teacher in the world yet!  In the meantime, I’m sending out the message that drunk texting is not the best idea!

What Was I Thinking??

Why is it that some things seem so smart in the moment but later you think to yourself, “Why the hell did I do that”?  The brain is a complex organ that never ceases to amaze me.  When it comes to sex and relationships the brain does things even crazier in my opinion.  I have had a lot of people come into my office and ask me why they did something that seemed so out of character for them.  Most of the time this question centers around cheating.  I have had many students ask me why if they love someone are they attracted to someone else or wonder why they are tempted to seek comfort from someone who isn’t their partner.  The answer isn’t always black and white or very simple to answer.

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 all lovey and fun all the time.  You have moments of anger and disappointment with the relationship and with one another.  It is in these moments that all hell can break loose in a relationship.  Some people will find that they did something impulsive in a moment of anger or frustration that will alter the course of their relationship if it ever became known to their partner.  The temptation to turn to someone else can be very alluring when you are angry with your boyfriend or girlfriend.

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 that action you took.  When the dust settles and your anger goes away then the love for your current partner comes back.  This can make a person feel very selfish and guilty for cheating either emotionally or physically while they were angry.

The crazy thing about the brain is that it forgets that 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.   I like to write, so I tend to write down my feelings and then rip them up so no one will read them.  I also like to run or walk to get rid of my frustration.  Sleep also helps me a lot.  There are a lot of healthier ways to deal with your feelings rather than turn to someone else.  Once I’ve dealt with my feelings then I can make better decisions about what to do about my relationship.  Is there something I need to discuss or do I need to work on letting something go?  The answer is usually more sane when I wait for my feelings to calm down.

I 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 recommend not 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 them than for your friends or family to do the same.  If you can’t resolve your anger, it is better to leave than to cheat.  Reaching out to find some comfort or love from someone else may seem like a good idea in the moment, but you may end up really regretting not waiting to see how you feel once that anger fades.  Deal with your feelings before making any decisions that may have a huge impact on the fate of your relationship.  The biggest thing to remember from this post is not to trust what your brain is telling you when you’re angry.  Anger usually makes us more stupid, not smart!

Weiner Addiction

Okay, I couldn’t pass up the headline from the last couple of days about Representative Anthony Weiner.  What is interesting to me about this story is that Rep. Weiner stated that his wife knew about his online behavior before they were married but was under the assumption that he stopped once they got married.  However, the whole world knows now that he did NOT stop the behavior.

As a counselor I hear about this a lot.  Students or former clients of mine have admitted that they went on porn sites or sent and received naked pictures of themselves to people when they were single.  They also admit to thinking they would be able to stop the behavior once they were in a committed relationship, but find they can’t stop.  Some come into counseling because they are worried their partner will find out.  Some people come into counseling because their partner did find out, and in an attempt to save their relationship they agree to see me.

A lot of people I see are surprised that they weren’t able to control their urges to go into sex chat rooms, look at porn, or send naked pictures of themselves.  They almost always admit that they love their current partner and don’t want the relationship to end.  They almost all admit as well that they wouldn’t be happy if they found out their partner was going into chat rooms, sending naked pictures or going on porn sites behind their back.  They realize they can stop for a while but at some point the urge comes back to continue the old behavior.  I explain to them that this usually happens because of a couple different reasons.

One, it is a stress reliever.  Flirting online with someone creates a fantasy world.  It is an escape that helps a lot of people deal with stress.  When you are single it isn’t hurting anyone else and it is a good way to unwind without using alcohol or drugs.  It also helps single people feel less lonely.  This is why it is hard for people to understand why someone would continue this once they are in a good relationship.  They shouldn’t feel as lonely or sexually frustrated, and most of the time they don’t, but the escape is still a stress reliever.  Talking to your partner can be helpful, but sometimes a relationship adds stress.  Sometimes people avoid talking to their partner about their stress and pretend everything is fine.  When this happens it is then easy to turn to sex on the internet as a form of relaxation like you did in the past.

Second, it is an adrenaline rush.  Taking a risk and sending a naked picture to someone can get the blood pumping.  It can be a turn-on to send a naked picture to your boyfriend or girlfriend, but you lose some of the risk and excitement involved.  In yesterday’s post I talked about it being very tempting to be able to get away with something.  I think it is even more of an adrenaline rush to send naked pictures, sneak into chat rooms or porn sites while hiding it from your partner.  This can become very addicting in the sense of the rush you feel when you get away with something you shouldn’t.  Something that was exciting when you were single is even more exciting now that you are in a relationship.  Some people avoid taking risks, but others can easily become addicted to it.

So, what do I tell the people who come in to see me that are going through what Representative Weiner is going through?  I reinforce to them that at first it is going to be easy to resist.  If you watched Rep. Weiner on television you know that he is horribly embarrassed at this moment and feeling deeply regretful.  Those feelings will carry people going through the same thing a few months and they won’t be tempted at all to send any naked pictures.  At some point though, the feelings of embarrassment and regret will fade.  Most people in this position will be tempted again when their partner’s guard is down and their stress is back up.  It could be months or a year down the road, but at some point they will be tempted again.  Having awareness about the patterns of behavior is a huge step to avoid future temptations.

When temptation does arises, I encourage people in this position to have other ways to reduce stress.  If you are a natural risk taker, find ways to take risks that don’t put your relationship in jeopardy.  You have to replace the behavior with something else or your brain will betray you to get what it needs.  I also recommend finding ways to connect to your partner and being able to communicate to them when you are feeling stressed.  If you have been tempted to hide problems from your partner in the past, I recommend being more open in the relationship.  Both partners need to be aware that this problem won’t just disappear.  It will get easier in time, but there may be times when it is hard to resist.  If your partner is willing to forgive you and stay in the relationship it is very helpful if they understand that it is easier to resist temptation if you can talk through those rough moments with them.  Working through it together can help you get through them without falling back into old habits.  Some people have had their partner keep them accountable by checking the history on their computer or opening up their phone and phone bill to them if needed.  Admitting that you can’t always control your urges is so helpful.  When you think you can handle everything on your own is when most people get into trouble.

As a disclaimer, I am not stating the Representative Anthony Weiner has a sex addiction.  I am not diagnosing him.  I also haven’t diagnosed many of my former clients with a sex addiction just because they struggled with sex online.  Just like some people don’t have an eating disorder, but they definitely have issues with eating, I believe it is the same way with sex.  You can have sexual behaviors that definitely harm your health or relationship, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have an addiction.  I only want to make a point that a lot of people who start something when it seemed harmless as a single person have a hard time stopping later when they thought it would be easy.  I think awareness is the key so I’m using Representative Weiner’s story as an example of why this behavior happens even if a person is in a great relationship.

Sneaky Sex

What is it about getting away with something that makes it so fun?  Is it that we feel powerful or in control?  Is it because it makes us feel smarter?  Or is it because of the challenge?  Something about taking a risk gets our blood pumping.  For whatever reason, I believe having sex when you aren’t supposed to makes it that more dangerous which makes it that much more of a turn-on.

When something feels forbidden, it seems more alluring to us.   People also do this with food.  The things they tell themselves they shouldn’t eat are the things they sneak when no one else is looking, but feel guilty about it later.  People hate to be told they can’t have something.  If there is someone they know they shouldn’t have sex with, now that person is the only thing they can think about.  Lots of people report that doing something on the sly and sneaking around makes for some really hot sex.  This is why a lot of times an affair can be an illusion.  It isn’t based on reality.  A lot of people will argue and state that a lot of people are now dating someone they cheated on their ex with.   I agree, sometimes, people are in the wrong relationship to begin with when they meet a great person.  Instead of breaking up with the wrong person first, they cheat.  After a certain amount of time or after getting caught they finally leave one relationship and move on the next.  However, most of the time, this is not the case.

The illusion of sexual chemistry while having an affair can fade if the relationship becomes real.  Once you no longer have to sneak around to see each other, the sex can lose its edge.  You may find many other faults with this person you didn’t see while you were sneaking around.  A lot of people report cheating again because they want to capture that feeling of having illicit sex.  Having sex with someone they are in an actual relationship with just doesn’t measure up to the sex they have when there is an element of risk and the danger of getting caught is involved.  Some people even become addicted to this type of sex and are never satisfied in a normal sexual relationship.

Most of the time I hear stories about people who are in love with their partner but are still tempted to cheat.  They meet someone they have sexual chemistry with and can’t let it go.  Stolen glances, touches and kisses lead up to a lot of built up sexual tension.  It is something about sneaking those glances, touches and kisses that make a person want even more.  They’ve gotten away with it so far.  The challenge can be too much for some people to walk away from.  They may have a great sex life with their current partner but still be turned-on by the sneakiness of the situation with another person.

I also truly believe most people think they are smart enough to get away with cheating.  They think they won’t get caught and their egos tell them what they are doing is okay because no one is going to get hurt.  For a while most people do get away with it because their partner is unsuspecting.  However, over time mistakes get made and once your partner becomes suspicious, it is really easy for them to catch you in a lie.  Technology these days makes it easier to cheat, but it also makes it easier to get caught.  There are ways of finding proof of an affair that never existed before.  Emails and texts can be tracked and brought back even after being erased if you have the right resources.

The risk may not be worth it.  If you have a great relationship, don’t let the temptation to get away with something draw you away.  Many people report having regrets after they cheated and got caught.  They admit they were caught up in the moment and weren’t considering the consequences.  Most people admit wanting to work things out in their current relationship and don’t leave their relationship for the person they cheated on with.  The element of sneaking around may heighten the sexual experience but most people will say it isn’t worth it once they have to deal with the fall out of their actions.  It may be wiser to find other ways to spice up your sex life with your current partner.  Find ways to make it fun and daring without having to step outside of the relationship.  Have sex outside or in a semi-public place.  Bring in different sex toys if you need a change.  There are ways to challenge yourself and take risks with sex without having to cheat.  Try being more creative and not falling for the easiest mind trick in the book which is always wanting what you can’t have.