How to handle feelings of mistrust.
Do you get that feeling inside your body that “something just isn’t right” in the relationship? Or do you constantly have those annoying and intrusive thoughts run in your mind? “Is he/she cheating? Is there someone else?”
This horrific feeling of worry and mistrust can feel awful and even paralyzing. It can through off your complete mood for the day and make it challenging to focus on your daily tasks.
Let’s take a step back and look at what is going on beneath the surface….
Often in a relationship we find that in the beginning there is an overwhelming sense of connection, happiness, and fulfillment. But then something happens. A few “red flags” pop up, a moment or two of concern, which usually just get pushed aside because of the love and connection. Unfortunately the story doesn’t always end there. For some, and possibly in your case, later on down the road your partner’s stories’ don’t seem to match up or make sense, and a real sense of concern starts to set in.
For many in this situation the investigation then begins…
When we get a feeling that “something else is going on,” the common automatic first step is to do some research to confirm or deny these feelings; to figure out what puzzle piece is missing and to make sense of your life. You might find yourself sneaking to pick up the cell phone, checking the text messages, going online and researching emails, asking 100 questions, or observing every little action of your partner. Does this scenario sound familiar?
You become the EXPERT investigator in this new life career.
A few reasons to why people start the “investigating” role:
- When stories don’t match up, it is natural for us to want to make sense out of our life. Investigating is a way to find concrete items, the missing puzzle pieces, to our life.
- The search is to get validation. Every time you ask for a few puzzle pieces from your partner, all you end up with feeling is empty. The missing links are still missing. We search for validation, to help reassure that you are not going “crazy.”
- Your partner has a history of lying or cheating in the past. Because of the dishonesty in the past, words lose value. You no longer can trust your partner’s words. It is easier to trust what we see, rather than what we don’t see.
- The research is to disprove your fears and get confirmation and reassurance that your partner is completely committed. To search and find nothing will teach you that nothing is wrong.
The investigation often becomes a pattern of behavior, and before you know it your partner’s every action are now suspicious…your fears have gotten the best of you and now make everything look bad.
Rather than endanger your sanity and your relationship, there are a few things you can do to work through this…and keep your sanity intact.
- Ask for Reassurance: First thing is first….ask your partner for reassurance that they aren’t cheating by showing concrete evidence that back up their stories. Give your partner the opportunity to show you there is nothing to worry about. Words don’t work, so be specific to have something concrete to see. Either join your partner at social events, have the phone available for you to review at any point, keeping history on the computer, etc.
- Take a look within. Cheating is not okay in a relationship and should be dealt with ASAP! However, many of us have a past where cheating may have been part of our lives; either in a role model’s relationships, or in our own romantic past. Take a look at your history and see if your insecurities from the past are coming out when your partner simply comes home late. If you have never had a reason to not trust your partner and their stories all match up, then you may want to heal your wounds from the past.
- Get a second opinion. If you are having thoughts about infidelity, and the investigation starts, get an outside eye to see if what you find is realistically something to worry about. Check in with your friends, family, a colleague, or a therapist. Look at the information you have, if you don’t have “actual evidence” that shows that you partner is cheating, a cheating partner might not be the case…or it might.
- Avoid the push. By becoming an investigator and putting your partner under the microscope it can push your partner further and further away (whether she/he is cheating or not). Avoid pushing and prying to get comforted. Instead, open up. Try not to “confront” or blame your partner, but rather discuss why you are feeling what you are feeling, and how it affects your perspective of the relationship. You would not pet a growling and biting dog…nor will your partner try to pet and reassure you when all they see you do is attack and bite them.
- Seek professional help. If you reach out for reassurance and nothing seems to change, you may need to take the next step to seek therapy. I see this issue over and over in my therapy office…either one partner cheating or the other with a jealous streak. Both situations are recipes for disaster and can irreparably damage hearts and the possibility to create a healthy relationship. Either as a couple or individually, a therapist can help you figure out what step you need to take next.
- Concrete Items are Easier to Trust: Words lose all value when trust is gone. You will need to see concrete evidence that can back up your partner’s words in order to feel more secure and less of an investigator. Ask for the backup. If they said they aren’t talking to anyone else, you may want to see phone records and text messages to match up the facts. Concrete evidence is easier to rebuild trust than the words.
Ongoing thoughts and fears that your partner is cheating is no simple issue to handle on your own. It can be emotionally, physically, and mentally draining. If this article relates to you, then you may want to consider taking action on finding a way out of this yucky feeling.
About Jennine Estes, MFT
Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653