Sexual infidelity is the headline grabber when most people think about betrayals in love relationships. But, everyday breaches of trust slide under the radar and can erode even the strongest of relationships.
A small lie about a purchase, a slight exaggeration about a job promotion, a cover-up about a forgotten birthday—each takes a bite out of trust and is a form of cheating. Most of us are disappointed by a love partner as a result of an everyday event far more often than we are made angry or jealous by a serious and dramatic betrayal. Little cover-ups count.
For example, Jeff maintains his friendship with Glen, an old army buddy, in utter secrecy. His wife, Dorothy, has always disliked Glen, a run-around, and has asked Jeff not to see him. Jeff has agreed but is undeterred. “I find a way,” he says. “All Dorothy knows is that I’m working late, running an errand or something. We go for a drink, hang out together, that sort of thing. If I told Dorothy, she would raise the roof, so why aggravate her?”
What else does Jeff hide to avoid confrontation with Dorothy? And what if Dorothy were to discover Jeff’s deception?
Ken and Janice, who have lived together for the past few years, are on the verge of splitting because Janice contends that Ken “never lives up to his word.” Here’s what Janice had to say about some troubling events: “I can’t believe anything he tells me anymore. I ask him if he’s taken care of the rent this month, and he assures me he has. The next thing I know, the landlord calls me and asks me about the rent. Or I ask him to do me a favor. He agrees and then doesn’t come through.”
Ken’s choice of conveniently “yessing” Janice serves to help him avoid near-term confrontation at the expense of his long-term credibility. Janice justifiably feels cheated as a result of Ken’s lies.
Count the ways
And what about the love partner who smokes? It’s not only about second-hand smoke being a health hazard. One day the smoker is likely to get sick. The non-smoking partner will be severely impacted both emotionally and practically. Who will care for a sick partner, a sickness that may have been preventable?
Isn’t the smoker letting down his or her partner by voluntarily putting him or her in a potentially difficult situation? After all, walking away from a sick partner is likely to be painful. Is the smoker cheating, at least, on the unstated vow to be your best for yourself and your life partner? When we make a love commitment, we become a team, and implicitly, it is also a vow to continue to grow and evolve as individuals.
What about the love partner who is not becoming all he or she can? Is the love partner who is letting his or her appearance deteriorate cheating on that vow? What about the partner who is critical, rather than supportive, in hard and not-so-hard times? And the partner who is slacking in his or her career? Or the partner who doesn’t comply with medical prescriptions and health care suggestions?
All of these breaches will impact the relationship. It’s not just about an individual letting him or herself down; in a love relationship, it’s also cheating the partner.
Kill the termites
Trust is the bedrock of any love relationship. It is the bloodline of romantic passion. “Subtle cheating” is like psychological termites. Each small bite may go unnoticed, but eventually, the foundation will weaken. Addressing these forms of cheating is a win-win. It betters each individual and makes relationships more open, uninhibited, and passionate.
Joel Block is a psychologist and author of The 15-Minute Relationship Fix: A Clinically-Proven Strategy That Will Repair and Strengthen Your Love Life.
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