Trust is an unspoken part of a relationship: how do you cope when your partner betrays you?
Funny thing trust! You rarely think about it when you fall in love. It’s an unspoken part of the package. The message comes loud and clear…………. you are THE special person, the centre of their world. Your happiness and well being is of primary concern and you can bask safe and secure in that knowledge. Until the unthinkable happens; you find out she’s having an affair with a colleague or he’s gone on yet another binge dropping, as per usual, all the responsibility on you.
The ground of trust is shattered. What do you believe when lies have been told over and over again? Is she really working late? Is he really sober and tired as he told you or is he hiding a bottle yet again? Do I sign up to a Detective Agency or put the kids in the car, grab the family silver and decamp to my mother’s for the foreseeable future?
Some life lines to hold on to.
The thing about maturing in trust is figuring out who you can trust and with what. I have a brilliant car mechanic but I wouldn’t trust him with my secrets. I have some wonderful enduring friends that I wouldn’t trust to service my car. Learning to assess where to entrust our inner and more practical needs is part of life’s journey.
Mistrust can become toxic and take over the good as well as the bad. Living with a problem drinker for many years I often fell into the destructive pattern of black and white thinking. “You are a liar. I can’t believe a word you say. I feel like I will never trust anyone ever again.” Of course my feelings were very raw and painful but as I look back with more detatchment the truth was that I could trust very little when the bottle was around but in other areas my husband was remarkably and consistently honest.
This situation need not be as out of control as it seems. Please hear me clearly here. I AM NOT DENYING THE PAIN YOU FEEL. I have been there! But; (and it is a big but!) take a moment to steady your emotional feet. Don’t let this situation lose even more ground than it should. Try to be clear about what has and hasn’t happened. Take stock and try to bear in mind your alcoholic may still be a competent wage earner and great fun to be around when he is sober. Your unfaithful partner may still be a brilliant parent and care deeply about the family which will probably put them in deep conflict. All of these factors need to be considered. This is very hard in the heat of the moment which is one of the reasons I am writing this article. Having agonised with hurting couples in my counselling room I know how easy it is to go into knee jerk reactions.
Why should I give him any respect or care? Good question!! But let’s look at this way. Anger and revenge in some circumstances is very understandable but also can be unproductive and in many cases genuinely counterproductive. If the person you love is at this present moment hooked into the passing (but very potent) excitement of an affair you may feel like killing them but in the heat of the moment try not to kill your marriage at the same time!! If you love them and want them back it may be wiser to focus on the bonds of love you had rather than rehearsing endlessly the area where trust has been broken. In the same way, a constant litany of the failure of your drinker to behave properly may be true, but hold up a mirror of guilt and shame to an alcoholic and they are likely to retreat back into their drunken world of denial where uncomfortable words stay safely buried.
Isn’t that excusing bad behavoir?
Absolutely not!! Of course all these issues need to be processed and some challenging decisions made. That goes without saying. However; it is a curious fact of emotional life that if we focus on what is still good, right and functional we facilitate an atmosphere where perspectives can change and the ground of love reclaimed.
In closing, both because I have worked this through with clients as a therapist and seen it in my own life I would say this . I believe ultimately that love is more powerful than anger and revenge. As I have been writing this article I have remembered my own strong feelings of pain, loss and desolation in seeking to come to terms with deep betrayal and disappointment . So in no way do I want to be trite and appear uncaring BUT there may be more hope than you could possibly grasp or understand right now. Relationships do survive addiction or unfaithfulness and can even become deeper and more enduring. My heart goes out in compassion to you whatever you are facing right now. But hang on in there. Change can happen and very difficult situations come right again.
If you feel betrayed and would like to find out what help and support is available go to Bottled Up where you will find others in a similar position who are dealing with the issues.