Welcome back to my series on infidelity! We’re entering part three of preventing infidelity, the last segment in prevention. If you haven’t yet, go back and read my previous posts on infidelity (HERE). Off we go.
In my last post we talked about some communication tips for preventing infidelity. These were mirroring and figuring your shit out. Pretty simple, strangely effective. Learning to communicate through the rough patches in your relationship can help you build a stronger relationship together. Unfortunately, there’s someone knocking on the old door of regret, and his name is bad news bear. You’ve communicated into your rough patch, but you’re not able to communicate your way out of it.
Being unable to communicate yourself out of a problem could mean a few things.
- You need some outside assistance
- Your relationship has hit a wall, it’s not meant to go onwards
- You and your partner are no longer equally committed
- This is a problem that cannot be fixed
- This is a problem that should not be fixed
- BONUS: You need to try a little longer (See: Triangular Theory)
You need outside help
Do you know why there are so many therapists? psychologists? counselors? life coaches? psychiatrists? We’re so inept, people. We’re not taught how to deal with anything important. Wrapped deep in our skull is a small child, rocking back and forth, dripping in grey matter. Sometimes that’s a good day. Outside assistance in the form of someone trained to know how to deal with your bullshit is, at times, essential in figuring out what to do next. A psychologist can’t tell you what to do, but they can help you work through some difficult problems in order to think more clearly. A couples counselor can do this with two people, or with individuals. They can also structure communication time so you’re less likely to stray away from the path to salvation/forgiveness/makeup sex. If you and your partner are struggling to communicate through a particular issue, try seeking out some help.
Your relationship has hit a wall
A relationship ending is not the same as a relationship failing. Some relationships are meant to last for a few months, some are meant to last for a few years. They provide us with a partner, opportunities for growth, love, companionship, but they are not necessarily meant for forever. In fact, every relationship you have will end until one doesn’t.
This is of course depressing, horrible, painful, maybe worse than being broken up with. You both want the relationship to continue but as hard as you try, you can’t seem to make it go forward. That’s because the structure of your relationship has not been afforded a forward. There is no more path. I’ve seen this kind of relationship expire before and it’s usually one of the more painful ends to a relationship. When both partners are confused as to why they are unhappy, they become snarky, and resentful, looking for something or someone to blame. Ultimately the couple that ought to have split long ago stays together until their mutual confusion combusts into a mutual anger and then, finally, they can leave.
You and your partner aren’t equally committed
Sometimes two people aren’t equally committed. One person is looking for a casual relationship and it becomes something more serious. One person might be interested in marriage and the other might never want to get married. You may have entered the relationship on equal footing but now one person may be placing more time and commitment into a different part of their lives – their career, their schooling, their friendships. You may no longer feel respected in your relationship. Attention might dwindle. If you and your partner are not equally committed to one another and your partnership, one partner may expend more energy to make up the difference. Enter: resentment, exhaustion, sadness, anger.
There is a problem that cannot be fixed
Sometimes problems can’t be fixed. The wound has festered before you’ve had the opportunity to confront it. You have differences too stark to be compromised. You’re left with two options: suffer through the insanity of your unhappiness, always trying to find that one key that unlocks the problem, or … leave, and find acceptance in the fact that not every problem can be fixed.
There is a problem that should not be fixed
A problem that should not be fixed is different than a problem that cannot be fixed. A problem that should not be fixed is one that disrupts both partners if it’s fixed. The partners may not be compatible and want one person to change to solve the problem.
Example of a problem that should not be fixed by you: Your partner spends all day in his dirty underwear playing video games surrounded by empty cans of mountain dew – one of which you’re not entirely convinced isn’t actually urine. This guy needs to fix his own life.
Example of a problem that should not be fixed at all: You’re studying to become a doctor and your partner is sick of your late nights and minimal free time. They tell you that their feeling neglected and you need to spend less time at the hospital. Your partner needs to stop drinking the cray juice.
You need to try a little longer
One of my favorite theories of love is the triangular theory of love.
There are three components to the triangular theory of love:
At any point in a long term relationship, you may experience a combination of these three components.
- Non Love: The absence of all three
- Liking/Friendship: Intimacy
- Initiated Love: Passion
- Empty Love: Commitment
- Romantic Love: Intimacy/Passion
- Companionate Love: Intimacy/Commitment
- Fatuous Love: Passion/Commitment
- Consummate Love: Passion/Commitment/Intimacy
All couples strive for consummate love. This is the “perfect couple” that still looks at one another passionately, still loves one another intimately, still acts as a partnership daily. In a longterm relationship (10, 20, 30+ years) a relationship may shift between these different kinds of love. In a marriage of 60 years it may not be uncommon for a several year span of companionate love, where it seems the intimacy has gone but there is still passion and commitment. The goal for all couples is to always strive for, and always return to, consummate love.
In the case of a disagreement or an unhappiness in a long term relationship, it may be beneficial to consider sadness as a useful emotion. There is a certain amount of sadness that one should expect to have. This allows us to more fully appreciate the happiness. If you feel you are unable to work out a problem with your partner, don’t feel the pressure or need to solve this problem immediately. Give yourself a breath, and give yourself time to truly think about the problem. Why does this influence you so deeply? How does it influence your partner? Can you grow like a tree around the problem and continue moving forward?
I hear you. What the hell does this have to do with infidelity? Well, everything. Communication and unhappiness are the foundation for why people are unfaithful to their partners to begin with. We let the things that bind us to our partners burn away and it leaves us feeling lost. Working hard with your partner will benefit you in the long run, even if it seems a little redundant at times. There will, certainly, be periods where everything is perfect. A good relationship should strive for more perfect moments than imperfect moments.
A lot of this reflects ones state of mind and how they perceive the things happening around them. If you find yourself frequently agitated with your partner, what is it that is bothering you that is making you react in this way? Instead of seeking out comfort, or passion, or intimacy, or a feeling of partnership with someone else, (“cheating”, “infidelity”, “the easy way out.”) try the school of hard knocks and give yourself the suffer sweats. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Give it all you’ve got. If it still doesn’t work out – well, that’s another post altogether, and one we’re not here to talk about.
On the next post: What is opportunity (in being unfaithful), how can we avoid it, should we avoid it?
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