Sex and trust are intrinsically linked. That’s why infidelity is one of the most difficult marital problems to overcome.
A lack of trust reduces desire, and makes it harder to be vulnerable or physically or emotionally “naked.” When someone is unfaithful, trust has been broken and is not easily regained.
The key to a marriage surviving an affair lies in its marital history. If at least 20 percent of a couple’s history is viewed as positive by both spouses, they have a better than 90 percent chance of making it.
The Value of Honestly
In an intimate relationship, emotional honesty includes allowing our partner to know who we are. But few of us reveal all our thoughts and feelings about the people we are closest to. When you withhold deep-seated, long-term feelings, you deprive the other person of choice and informed action.
We have a right to know our partner’s intentions and fidelity for emotional as well as medical reasons.
On the other hand, we also have a right to privacy. Even in the most intimate relationship, disclosure of conversations with our therapist, close friends, and relatives should be discretionary.
How Lies Change the Liar and the Victim
When there are secrets, closeness starts to be avoided and certain topics become “off the table” for discussion. This avoidance can be subconscious and take the form of being preoccupied with work, friends, or hobbies.
Dishonesty leads to guilt, anxiety, shame, and an erosion of self-esteem. Managing guilt and shame creates more problems. We hide our true selves, build resentments to justify our actions, withdraw, or become critical, irritable, or aggressive.
The victim often feels confused, anxious, angry, suspicious, abandoned, or needy. They may begin to doubt themselves, and their self-esteem may suffer. Often, victims of betrayal need counseling both to recover from the loss of trust and to raise their self-esteem.
The longer the deception continues, the more damaging it is. Ideally, before revealing the truth to the person we’ve lied to, it’s helpful to have accepted our mistakes; otherwise, our shame and guilt can be obstacles to genuine empathy.
If we’ve forgiven ourselves, we’re in a better position to face the anger and hurt feelings we’ve caused.
Picking up the Pieces
When the truth comes out, it can be a relief. It can help the other person understand unexplained or confusing behavior. At the same time, it can be devastating to discover that the person we trusted has betrayed us.
If the relationship wasn’t working, both partners have a responsibility to speak up and address problems. Although it may be useful to examine our behavior in order to learn from it, we’re never responsible for someone else’s actions or omissions.
There’s a natural desire for explanations. Aggrieved partners begin to review details of events and conversations, seeking overlooked clues and evidence of lies. They may painfully conclude that they and their partner have been living in different worlds.
Even if the relationship survives, there’s loss when trust is broken. As with all losses, our first reaction is denial. Each of us will attribute a different meaning to the facts in order to heal and make peace with ourselves, our partner, and a new reality.
Once an affair has occurred, respect must be rebuilt. Even if you don’t stay married, you still need to go through this process in order to avoid paying the price of the affair in future relationships.
As a Sex Therapist who works with couples, I work to ensure we look at behaviors or events that may be causing distrust. This requires courage to be vulnerable and authentic, but it is worth it in the long run. Together, we can work towards resolving the issues and getting the couple back to the sex life they want.
It doesn’t happen overnight, but trust can be regained in time, and your relationship can become stronger than ever.