How Can I Trust My Judgment After An Affair?
As people process a betrayal there is often a point when they wonder aloud how they could be fooled so easily? Spouses say “I completely trusted my partner”. Yet as couples attempt to repair their relationship the next wondering that surfaces is “How can I trust my own judgment?” “Can I trust myself to care for my needs, in this relationship, moving forward?”
As a therapist, this particular question has been at the front of my mind for about a year because I think there must be a better answer, something more valuable than the old adage “Time Heals all Wounds”. Certainly time does provide a perspective that we don’t have in the moment of betrayal but this important question can always be addressed more fully.
I spoke with Terry Real, a celebrated Marital Therapist, trainer and author from Massachusetts. He suggests that people need to acknowledge that a relationship will walk the path of harmony, disharmony and repair. He suggests to live in a naïve state is a common ailment. It really aligns with our Hollywood sense of relationships. He suggests that all relationships will establish harmony, stumble upon moments that will breach the harmony and then, if it is to continue, will repair and move forward.
So for me his thoughts suggest that we assume too much safety exists in our relationships. On the other hand, it is that trust that allows the relationships to carry on in our daily lives. It seems unthinkable to continually be in a state of mistrust. The more signs we have that we are in a committed relationship the more strongly we believe we are secure. Some of us marry, buy a home together, have children and integrate our lives with our significant other. This also suggests that we have much to lose if we were to breach our agreement of fidelity.
In therapy, I hear partners say they have devoted less attention to their other and have allowed themselves to take the perspective that their spouse is uninteresting or no longer suitable and legitimize a fledgling sex life to the inevitable plight of fatigue and responsibility. Our experts explain this transition as a “developmental stage” of life where we are to focus on our work, kids and home. While these shifts in our focus from partner to family, adventure to predictability seem normal they are perhaps misrepresenting what actually is happening to our relationships.
During a conference in Boulder, Colorado this past Spring, Esther Perel, celebrity marital therapist, Author and Speaker said something like this… It is often not the gaze of another that people who betray seek, it is the fresh reflection of the other that allows them to see themselves as alive and interesting. She would also say it is the predictability of life that threatens the erotic which keeps a relationship strong.
I think it is in this measure of personal aliveness that we can learn to trust ourselves. Can we observe our partner seeking our gaze as means to feel alive and dynamic? When we see this on a regular basis and we see our partner seeking our attention we then may be able to have a higher degree of confidence and a stronger sense of security in our relationship.
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