I recently read a note entitled “Why I Suspect My Partner is Cheating on Me” on a social media site. It asked readers to answer the question, “What do you notice that is different about your partner that leads you to believe they are having an affair?” No one answered, but naturally, a discussion of this nature is right up my alley. If you want the short-version of my answer, it is, “Who cares?” For the long-version, keep reading.
A key to a healthy, productive relationship is not learning how to spot the signs of an affair; it is to stop worrying about it. That is hard for most people to do, because most of us believe “infidelity” hits close to home. The problem is that we often link our self-worth and value to the actions of our partners. Conventional relationship thought says something to this effect: “If my partner has an affair, it has to do with how valuable she perceives me to be. So, if she cheats, then 1) I’m not valuable, or 2) she has no values and needs to get out.”
If you have been a Frank Love reader for a while, you know that I have written several blogs about monogamy, or lack thereof. You know that I question that wisdom of using the term “cheating” at all when it comes to relationships (see “Assumptions, Judgments and Lack of Imagination – Part I” and “Assumptions, Judgments and Lack of Imagination – Part II”). You also know I believe that what our mates choose to do has little to do with us; it has only to do with their desires and values, which may change over time (see “How to Deal with an Untrustworthy Mate”).
So, for this blog, instead of looking at what cheating means, let’s look at what it does when you are suspicious of it. The fear of being “cheated on” puts a heavy burden on you and can tire your relationship. Simply put, worrying about whether your partner is having an affair could begin to deteriorate your feelings for him/her, and vice versa. You might start putting up walls in anticipation of getting hurt or even get angry. And with all that worry on your mind, chances are pretty good that it will affect the way you interact with and treat your mate, possibly making you less attractive. Remember, your partner needs to like you for the relationship to work (see “Relationship Balance: The Key to Doing What You Want and Keeping Your Friends”).
Personally, I can do without another worry. Instead, I have detached my self-perceived value from my partner’s fidelity. One has nothing to do with the other. This isn’t a lesson that I learned the easy way. Many years ago, I was in a relationship with a young woman who began having sex with one of my friends while were still intimately (though not exclusively) involved. This hurt. In an effort to keep my self-worth intact, I made up a story that I thought would keep her close to me. It was a mess. By trying to save my self-worth, which I based on her actions, I behaved in a way that made other people see me in a negative light, which hurt my self-worth. I was mortified and I decided then that I would never let jealousy and anger rule me again.
And finally, I remind you that fear or discomfort are ways that our psyches inform us that we are not prepared to deal with a situation. So, instead of worrying about it happening, prepare yourself for it. In your heart and mind, pretend that the “infidelity” you fear has happened or will definitely happen. Remember that it’s not about you. And practice dealing with it as though it did not matter. Get past the “hurt” and “pain” by working with and on yourself.
Why might people suspect their partners of cheating? Simply put, because they are scared of what that would say about them. Change the conversation, fortify yourself, and the fear will go away. And in the end you will most assuredly by a more Powerful Person in a Partnership.
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January 24, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Don’t they say that if you keep focusing on something and put energy on it you might end up getting it ? Might work in that field too ! Keep looking for indications that your partner is cheating and you will probably get that result! Beatrice, somewhere on a train in the South of France heading for the mediterranean area !
January 24, 2012 at 11:46 AM
I believe that emotional withdrawal comes first
January 24, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Sometimes it makes sense to worry about things that are real.
Monogamy: How Important is It to You? | Frank Love on Relationships
December 22, 2012 at 7:53 PM
[…] it. Some say nothing but quietly plot the general havoc they would wreak if their partners should cheat – everything from running their partner’s name through the mud, to taking them to the […]