Is it Possible to Really Trust Someone?

Trust…what does this word even mean?  According to, 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.

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.

Sacrifice or Settling?

Sometimes it can be hard to know if you are making a healthy sacrifice in a relationship or settling for something you shouldn’t.  Everyone has differences and every relationship requires sacrifice.  It is good to know yourself to figure out whether you can make a change in yourself to make the relationship better or whether you should look for someone who doesn’t need you to change.

For example, often extroverted people get in relationships with introverted people.  Opposites attract right?  Well to make a relationship work between these two will require some sacrifice.  Extroverted people by nature have a lot of good friends.  They tend to act very friendly even with semi-strangers.  They get bored with hanging out at home and like to schedule lots of social activities.  An introverted person by nature has only a few close friends.  They don’t act friendly with people unless they know them very well.  They mostly like to chill at home and feel stressed when a lot of social activities are scheduled.

You can see how this may cause some problems.  An introverted person may feel like “one of many” or not special to their extroverted partner.  They see their boyfriend or girlfriend hugging and talking to everyone and may feel left out.  They may also come off as jealous because they don’t want their boyfriend or girlfriend to go out all the time or because they make comments about how their boyfriend or girlfriend flirts too much.  They may tend to follow their extroverted partner around at parties where they don’t know anyone.  This may make the extroverted person feel smothered or guilty because they have to entertain their partner all the time.

In order to make this work both people have to make sacrifices.  If you are an introvert, you have to be able to trust your partner to go out without you.  They need their friends and other social contacts.  This doesn’t mean they don’t love you.  Their needs are different than yours.  You would be content to spend a lot of your time with them and very little time with your few other friends.  This is not the case for your boyfriend or girlfriend.  They may want more time with their friends.  You will also have to be willing to go out more than you would like.  Also be aware that your extroverted partner is going to be friendly to everyone around them.  This doesn’t mean they want to hook up with everyone.  If you can feel more secure in yourself and the relationship, it may make it easier for you to watch your boyfriend or girlfriend talk to anyone and everyone.

If you are an extrovert, you  have to be willing to engage in more down time.  Your introverted partner isn’t trying to keep you home because they don’t trust you.  It’s because they need more quiet time to recover from the stress of school or work.  They love having one on one time with you as well.  You may think if your introverted partner just had more friends or activities in their life they wouldn’t “need” you so much.  This isn’t true.  They don’t need you, it is just that when they let someone get really close to them, they want to spend the majority of their time with that person.  They don’t need or want to have more friends, or fill up their time with tons of activities.  If you cherish your independence and time with other friends, try to find other ways to make your introverted partner feel special.  Understand that it may be hard for them to watch you be so friendly with everyone.  They need to work on feeling more secure, but it helps if you can do a few extra things to help them know how much you love them.

Sometimes relationships like this can’t work out.  For some people it is too much of a sacrifice or they feel they have to change too much to make the other person happy.  Get to know yourself and know what you can and can’t handle in a relationship.  It is okay to admit you may need someone who is more like you in this area.  What one person can be flexible with and tolerate, another person can’t.  No one can tell you when your settling in a relationship.  It will become obvious if you start to build up a lot of resentment.  The above example is just one way couples are different.  Some people who are laid back and impulsive are with someone who is very organized and plans way in advance.  This couple will have to make other types of sacrifices.  I always say, “If it isn’t one thing, it will be another, no relationship is perfect.”  You may be able to be with someone who is opposite in one way, but can’t handle being opposite in other ways.  That is whole point of dating…to find out what works and what doesn’t.

Just remember the key is trying to understand where the other person is coming from.  Understand they may not be doing something to you just to drive you crazy.  It may just be because they are different than you and therefore, have different needs in a relationship.  It may help you to come out of your comfort zone and try different things.  If you are in a relationship with someone who has opposite characteristics, try to learn from them and appreciate the differences.  Hopefully it won’t be too hard to compromise.  However, if it becomes too difficult or stressful for you to be in the relationship, admit that and do your best to move on from there.

Was I Raped?

You think you would know if you’d been raped right?  Not necessarily.  I’ve had women come in for counseling because they felt a friend or acquaintance took advantage of them, either while they were drinking or while they were feeling vulnerable.  They either felt they couldn’t say no or felt pressured by the person they thought they could trust.

Acquaintance Rape happens a lot more often then being assaulted by a stranger.  Over 77% of women report being sexually assaulted by someone they know.  Of those 77% only 2% will actually report the assault.  Why do you think so many women refuse to come forward?  Sometimes it is out of fear.  Sometimes it’s because the woman blames herself for getting into the situation.  Sometimes the woman feels she didn’t say no forcefully enough.   A lot of the time, women will minimize their feelings and try to tell themselves to just forget what happened.

The following situation is an example of why sexual assault isn’t always so black and white.  A lot of men and women are friends with each other.  One night a woman runs into one of her male friends.  She is upset, and he offers to listen and give her some advice.  She starts crying and opening up about what happened with another guy.  She tells him she feels rejected and unlovable.   Her male friend offers comfort and support.  He may start to hug her and rub her back.  It starts to get late and he asks her to stay a little longer so she won’t feel lonely.  They hang out and talk some more.  He starts to cuddle with her and before she realizes it they are kissing.  She says she should leave, but he convinces her that the other guy is stupid for rejecting her.  He tells he thinks she is beautiful, and he would never do that to her.  He continues to touch her and she gives in.  Soon most of their clothing is removed.  She starts to push him away again, but he resists and continues to hold and touch her.  He tells her not to worry, he’ll treat her right.  She feels guilty for letting things go this far.  She also feels she owes him for listening to her.  They have sex.

The best outcome of this scenario is the next day she feels bad about giving in and having sex.  She feels she consented in the end because she didn’t say no.  She may confront her friend and tell him she regrets her decision and doesn’t want to have sex with him again.  She may or may not ever choose to open up to him again when she feels upset or vulnerable.  She may also have lost some respect or trust for him, but doesn’t feel traumatized by the event.

The next best scenario is the next day she feels bad about giving in and having sex.  She regrets it, but doesn’t feel strong enough to say anything to him.  She may act like it never happened.  She most likely will avoid talking to him when she feels so upset and vulnerable.  She has lost trust and respect for her friend.  A distance grows between them.  She may feel a little upset about the event, but tells herself she has lived and learned.  Next time she will open up to a girlfriend or talk to her guy friends during the daytime when she feels a little safer.

The worst scenario is the next day she feels sick to her stomach when she thinks about what happened.  She feels violated.  She regrets not saying no more forcefully, but feels he should have known she wasn’t there for sex.  She wishes he would have listened when she tried to stop him earlier and pushed him away.  She not only has lost trust and respect for this male friend, she now feels like he is a predator who only listened to her so he could get sex.  She feels traumatized by the event and can’t stop thinking about it.  She is very emotional and doesn’t know what she should do now.  She is very afraid of seeing him again.  Will anyone believe her?  She may start to blame herself and tell herself all the things she should have done.  She most likely won’t report it.  She will go on to blame herself even though somewhere inside she knows she was sexually assaulted by her friend.

Research funded by the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that  1 out of 5 college women will be sexually assaulted.  September happens to be the month when most sexual assaults are reported.  School has just begun and many college students are experiencing their freedom for the first time.  Students go out with their friends and blow off stress from the week.  Some may drink and end up in situations similar to the one above.  The next day they may feel they were assaulted, but don’t report it because they blame themselves for drinking too much.

Unfortunately, sexual assault can happen in all different types of situations.  However, they all leave the person assaulted feeling very vulnerable, scared and alone.  A lot of guilt is also embedded into these situations.  I used the above example to show that rape isn’t always black and white.  Different people are going to feel differently after experiencing similar situations.  However, your feelings are not wrong, whether you feel just slightly uncomfortable or horribly traumatized.  Everyone is different, and your feelings are more true than the details of how it happened.  No one can tell you that you shouldn’t feel something.

If you do feel traumatized, it does help to talk about it.  Processing your feelings can help you move through them.  This will make them less powerful in your mind and help you learn to not blame yourself.  You won’t “get over it”, but it may help you not think about it all the time or have nightmares about it.   I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but I do know that women have worked through this and felt they were able to take their power back.  If you are continuing to struggle, please see a counselor or someone non-judgmental who won’t tell you how to feel, but help you process your feelings no matter what they are.

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.

The EX Factor

How many of you wonder about your girlfriend or boyfriend’s ex?  For a lot of students I talk to this can be a huge issue in the relationship.  Especially if your partner still talks to his or her ex.  How should you handle this?  What is okay to ask or talk about?  What if your partner doesn’t want to open up or talks about their ex too much?

When you are first dating you can get very caught up in the moment, and all other people kind of fade into the background.  You might not even care who their ex was because you feel so in love and untouchable by anything negative.  Sooner or later it becomes a reality.  Either you run into them by accident, see a random pic, or hear someone else talk about a memory involving the love of your life with their ex.  No matter how the subject comes up, it eventually hits you that there was someone else before you.  Someone else they may or may not have loved.  Someone else that  may or may not still love them.   Someone else they may or may not have had sex with.  Someone they may or may  not still think about or still be friends with.  It can also drive you crazy wondering about how they broke up and why.

Maybe you’re lucky and this is the first serious relationship your girlfriend or boyfriend is in.  It can be a huge sigh of relief to not worry about who came before you.  However, most of you probably have to deal with an ex or two or ten in your current relationship.  Here are few suggestions to navigate the touchy subject of the EX.

Sometimes people are too open.  They have no filter so they share all the gory details from their previous relationships.  It can make you wish you had a delete button in your brain.  They may not realize how much they are talking about their ex.  You have every right to let them know how its making you feel, and ask them to turn it down a notch.

However, many people tell me that their partner is reluctant to tell them details about their ex.  This can be frustrating because it makes you wonder why they are holding out on you.  Some people may argue that they are more private and don’t like to share.  When it comes to being in a relationship some things need to be shared.  If you can’t open up about certain things, then maybe you aren’t ready to be in a serious relationship.  Here are few things I think are important to ask about the ex.

You should know how many serious relationships your boyfriend or girlfriend has been in.  It is also a good idea to ask how long each relationship was and how long it has been since their last break-up.  You don’t need to get all the details of the break-up, but you should know who broke up with who and why.  You also don’t need to know the number of sex partners they’ve had (even though they may share anyway) or any sexual details (please stop them if they start to share these), but you do need to know if your current partner ever had sex in their past relationships, especially for STD reasons.  You can also ask what your partner’s  current status is with their ex.  Do they still text or talk to them?  Do they still hang out?  Are they still friends on Facebook?  Stuff like that.

Do you have the right to ask your partner to stop being friends with their ex?  To be honest, most people are not able to maintain a healthy friendship with an ex.  Especially if you’ve had sex in that relationship.  Once a line is crossed, it is hard to go back.  There is a knowledge there and certain feelings that you should make an effort not to tap into because it can lead to dangerous ground.  I know people have done it successfully, but it is rare.  In those circumstances your partner needs to be willing to have their ex become friends with you as well, and all lines of communication have to remain open.  One on one get togethers with their ex or private conversations that you don’t know about will ultimately break the trust in your relationship.

I also always tell students to remember that their current partner comes first, not their ex.  There is a reason you are no longer in that past relationship.  If you choose your ex over your current partner you will cause major problems to arise.  Not that your partner should always get their way, but you should be respectful of their feelings.  What if your ex is part of your whole group of friends?  Make sure the boundaries are strong.  Only see your ex in those group situations, and don’t spend the whole night talking to just them.  You can be nice and friendly without being too friendly or flirtatious.  Watch your body language as well because you can bet that your current partner will be watching!!  Again, if you aren’t mature enough to handle this, you may have to stay away from group get togethers when your ex is around.

Talking about the ex isn’t ever the easiest thing, but certain things need to be said and dealt with to make your current relationship as healthy as possible.

First Love

First love in college?  Really?  Well if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender then yes, this is very possible.  I know even for heterosexuals the first time they may fall in love with someone won’t be until college.  For students I talk to who identify as LGBT, college is a time of discovery and possibly having that first long term relationship.  Some people don’t even come out until after college, but for the ones who have come out, college can be a crazy time trying to navigate the waters of a relationship.

Of course, in a lot of ways, LGBT relationships are very similar to heterosexual relationships.  There are some extra factors to consider with this population.  I find that a lot of LGBT students state they have felt lonely in their junior high or high school years.  They may have had lots of friends, but rarely any love relationships.  They also state that going out with someone of the same sex the first time can be intimidating.  The world is full of heterosexual couples.  I have never had to grow up in a world where I see all these couples and they are different than my dream of what a couple looks like.  When I was young and had my first boy crush I didn’t look around me and see all these girl/girl couples.  I’m sure if I had I would wonder to my young self, “What is wrong with me?”  Especially if I look at my parents relationship and saw that they were both dads or both moms and I want to be with the opposite sex.  I can see how it would be confusing.  Then to finally live out the dream knowing it was different from the majority would be a little scary.

It isn’t easy to be different.  At my wise old age of 37 I can see the value of being different, but when I was 13 I didn’t want to be any different from anyone else.  This is the world some of my LGBT students have grown up in.  So a first real relationship with someone you are super sexually attracted to can be overpowering.  That first relationship holds so much weight.  A lot of LGBT students tell me their first love was with someone who has either been “out” longer than they have or has had previous relationships.  Most of the time they fall in love with someone who has more experience than they do.  At first, this is great.  They are introduced to a whole new world and it is very exciting.  The problem comes when the person experiencing love for the first time falls harder than their partner.  As the months go by, problems can add up.

A lot of students talk about the fear of losing that person who introduced them to a whole new world.  You have finally found this relationship you’ve been dreaming about and can hardly believe this person is attracted to you.  You find the person who probably felt the same way you did growing up, and that is rare.  However, you may feel they don’t need you as much as you need them.  This may cause you to be more jealous of their friends, especially if they are the same sex.  Jealousy develops because it is hard to be confident in a first relationship.  You don’t feel experienced enough so you wonder if someone else will catch their eye.  This can be a valid fear.  I’ve heard that some people like to experiment sexually for awhile after they come out.  You may wonder if your partner is having other sexual relationships outside of your relationship.  If it is your own mind playing tricks with you, start to work on your self-confidence.  There are ways to improve your own self-esteem so it doesn’t sabotage your relationship.  Your partner is going to get tired of trying to reassure you all the time.  You have to believe this person wants to be with you until proven otherwise.  Try to trust your partner and believe in yourself until you have concrete proof that they are stepping out on you.

Maybe you see certain signs that point in the direction of cheating that puts your guard up, or you know they have cheated in the past.  When this happens it can be hard to deal with.  This isn’t an easy conversation to have.   You may want to let your partner know of your fears, but be careful.  If you come off as too accusatory or angry you will only cause them to be defensive.  However, don’t just let it go if you you’ve witnessed things you are uncomfortable with.  It may be easier for people in the LGBT community to settle in relationships because of the fear of not finding someone else.  Even heterosexuals have this fear, and it is well known their pool of potential partners is larger.  Don’t let fear of not finding someone else keep you in a bad relationship.  It can be hard to let go of that first love, but dating and relationships are a way of finding out what you like and don’t like.  You rarely strike a jackpot on the first try.

If your partner is pulling away for some reason, holding them in a death grip isn’t going to help the situation.  If you are unhappy, try not to stay longer than you should out of fear of not finding anyone else who will love you.  There are plenty of great gay and lesbian couples who have found true love and now in a few states even able to get married.  Don’t give up hope.  Maybe that first love will work out, but if it doesn’t, keep looking for that next door to open.  Every relationship teaches you something about yourself.  Take that information and use it to your advantage in the future.  Maybe the one you are destined for hasn’t even made their way out of the closet yet.  I know a lot of LGBT students who become depressed over being alone so often.  I know that sucks, but try to find time for friends and focus on other areas of your life until another great person comes along.  Also, know that college is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the rest of your adult life.  There will be plenty of opportunities to meet new people after college.  It can be hard to watch all the couples around campus and feel you are the only one alone, but trust me, you aren’t alone.  If you are feeling depressed after a break up and have no one around to open up to, please seek out a counselor who can listen and give you some support.  Break ups, especially losing your first love, can be extremely difficult.  Hang in there, it does get better.

In Love with an Addict

I remember what it was like to be in love with an addict.  In my case he was wanting to quit, and I was going to help him.  Of course I didn’t know how bad it was.  Like most addicts, he minimized or denied most of what he was doing.  I believed him because I’m an honest, trusting person.  I got caught up in a rollarcoaster of happiness and disappointment.  I became addicted to wanting to save him.  Leaving the relationship was nearly impossible at first.  It took several tries, great friendship support and few counseling sessions to get me to finally leave.

I hope to give some good insight to those who may still be struggling in this type of relationship today. First, the hook.  I believe people who are addicts have learned or already have a natural tendency to be excellent liars.  I got into the relationship under false pretenses.  He led me to believe he only smoked occasionally.  This made sense because at first he seemed ambitious and fun to be around.  He had goals, was getting his Master’s Degree and seemed to have a very loving family who lived down south.  I didn’t realize how much I was being manipulated.  I really did believe that he liked me and wanted to be drug free.  I also didn’t realize how long, how often, how much, and how many different types of drugs he was using.  I was sucked in by the lies.

After a few months I became familiar with his mood swings.  When he was depressed he would tell me how much he needed me and that I was the reason he wanted to do better in his life.  It is easy to see through all that crap now, but at the time I needed to hear that from someone.  I realize now that if my self-esteem had been stronger, I probably wouldn’t have fell so hard for his lines.  When he was happy, it was so great to be around him.  He would stay drug free for a week, maybe two and I would get my hopes up.  Then the depression and the admission that he had yet again slipped back into old habits.  Little did I know how much he was using behind my back as well.  He was good at hiding it.  I was also naive and didn’t realize all the signs I would notice today.

I see very clearly now how my weaknesses, not just his, played into this whole relationship.  For a long time I blamed him for everything.  I didn’t want to admit that I was co-dependent.  I was finally able to admit the reason I stayed around so long is because I felt empty without him to worry about.  He became my life.  If you asked how I was doing, it would depend on how he was doing.  If he was having a good day or week, so was I.  My purpose in life was to help him.  I realize now, that I have a lot to give the world, whether I’m in a relationship or not.  I also know very well that no one can save anyone else.  I was trying to control his life, and he led me to believe for awhile that I could.  However, all along, he was in control of his destiny and I was just along for the ride.

Being in a relationship with an addict is an allusion.  There is no relationship because addicts are selfish and their partners are usually too selfless.  There is no equality, honesty, trust, or real love.  He was using me, and because of reasons stated above, I was using him.  He may have had moments when he honestly wanted to quit, but they were fleeting.  He wasn’t ready, and I couldn’t make him ready.  He needed to be able to quit for himself, not for me.  That was one of my many mistakes and misguided beliefs.  Sometimes, love doesn’t conquer all.  He needed to love himself before he could love me, and I needed to do the same thing.  We were both missing something.  He looked to drugs to fill the void, and I looked to him.  It didn’t work.  This relationship taught me a lot.  I lived and I learned!

If you are going through something like this, know that you aren’t stupid and you aren’t alone.  It is easy to fall in love with someone when it seems at first that they need you so much, but remember that you can’t rescue them.  You can support them if they decide to change, but you can’t make them change.  You can throw their drugs or alcohol away.  You can hide their porn or lock up their money so they can’t gamble.  They will still find away to get what they want if they want it.  Their addiction comes first.  No matter what you want to believe, they can never put you first if they have an addiction.

It is also true that a person in a relationship with an addict usually puts the addict first and becomes dependent on saving them.  The most important thing to learn is to put yourself first.  You are important too.  That was a big lesson for me to learn.  I know now that I can only control and save myself.  You are just spinning your wheels if you’re focusing all your effort on someone else.  Taking care of yourself isn’t being selfish, its being responsible.  I couldn’t be in a healthy relationship if I didn’t take care of myself.  I would drive my husband crazy.  The best gift you can give your partner is to be a confident, well adjusted person.  Life is a balance.  I found I can take better care of others if I’ve first taken care of myself.  Just because I focused on myself didn’t mean I couldn’t be there for others.

I hope you will remember that as well.  If you want to save anyone in this world, save yourself.  Then you will be able to help the people who really want help.  You know how I know when someone really wants help?  They are willing to go see a professional.  If they think they can do it themselves or have convinced you that they only need you, they are lying about wanting to really change.  I know it won’t be easy to leave, but it may be the only thing that will get them to change.  If they always have you to rescue them, it may make things worse.   I also know some people will never change.  Please focus your energy on what you can control, and try to let go of needing to save anyone else except yourself.  For more information, please see this website:  Co-dependents Anonymous  or see books listed on my page: Great Books on Sex and Relationships.