Several years ago I had the feeling my partner was having an affair. When I questioned him, he told me I was crazy, insecure and possessive. During that period of our relationship, he did a lot of screaming while I did a lot of crying.
Did he cheat on me? I couldn’t prove it, and he insisted he was innocent, so I stayed in the relationship.
Since then, I’ve heard many similar stories from people who desperately want to believe the best about their partners. Sometimes they justify, “it was only an emotional affair.” Sometimes they fall back on The No Proof Excuse.
In the end, the result is the same: Someone ignores his or her intuition and turns the other cheek. Throughout the process, these victims question themselves, their motives, their sanity and their sense of security. They might seek counseling to help get over their “issues” and be better, more trusting partners. All the while, the other half of the couple is free to continue working late, hiding his/her phone and enjoying weekly 6-hour “dentist appointments.”
As a result of my experience, I spent a lot of time reflecting on that dark period in my partnership. Eventually, I decided I’d been asking the wrong question.
The issue isn’t “Is my partner cheating?”
A more appropriate inquiry is, “Does this relationship meet my needs?”
I should’ve asked:
Do I feel loved?
Do I feel safe?
Do I trust this person?
Does s/he respect me?
Do we communicate effectively?
The list will be different for everyone, but I think it behooves us all to have such a list. In order for a relationship to be healthy, we need to tune in to ourselves and determine our individual level of fulfillment. Why do we have a tendency to push our needs aside and wait for someone else to commit a socially (un)acceptable sin before we entertain the idea of cutting the cord?
I suppose I know the answers: We don’t want our intuition to be right. We don’t want to “fail.” We don’t want to “lose.” We don’t want to look bad. We don’t want the kids to feel bad. We don’t want to bring shame to our families and communities.
On the surface, those are all noble reasons to stay put and not make a fuss. But are they really? Isn’t a marriage with no respect more of a failure than a marriage that doesn’t last Forever? Aren’t the kids going to feel even worse when they realize they were the reason Mom and Dad kept themselves miserable? Are we really so selfish as to think our actions can dictate how outsiders feel about themselves?
There comes a point when silence and sacrifice become suffocating and suicidal. If you don’t stand up for yourself and your needs, who will?
A marriage shouldn’t survive at the expense of its participants.