• Infidelity: In the Eye of the Beholder

    Infidelity: In the Eye of the Beholder

    Are you guilty of infidelity? While the conventional definition of infidelity is an intimate act with someone who’s not your partner, there are many other things that can damage trust. Whether or not sex is involved, you can — perhaps unintentionally — cause an attachment injury with severe consequences for your relationship.


    An attachment injury occurs when a partner betrays a trust to the point that it registers as a trauma in the nervous system. Whether you’ve crossed that line depends entirely on the couple and their individual understanding — verbalized or not — about the boundaries of their relationship. A mismatch between your expectations and those of your partner are a common source of such injuries.


    Are you and your partner okay with flirting with others? For some couples, this isn’t a big deal. For others, it could be a deal breaker. Secret communications and emotional affairs can also cause partners to feel betrayed.


    Sharing the intimate details of your relationship — whether there’s a romantic intent or not — can cause major harm. As a therapist, I’ve heard injured partners say, “If it was only a one-night stand,” or, “I could deal with it if it were just physical.” Sharing intimate details of your relationship can deeply wound your partner, who may perceive that you’re bringing what is sacred between you to another person.


    If you realize that you’ve crossed a relational boundary and you’re questioned about it, you may be tempted to lie. That lie can cause more damage than the actual violation: “It was bad enough that he discussed our sex life with a coworker, but the hardest part is that he lied to me when I asked him about it directly.”


    There’s a way for both partners to make sure they stay on the right side of their shared boundaries. First, have a detailed conversation about what’s acceptable and unacceptable in your relationship. There are couples who are not sexually monogamous but who have other “no-go” zones reserved only for their romantic partner. While the conversation may be uncomfortable, don’t leave any gray areas unexplored, as those can lead down a slippery slope.


    If you find yourself in a situation where you’re not sure if you’re about to cross a line, ask yourself two questions:


    1. Would I be doing this if my partner was standing here?
    2. Would I be doing this if this person was another sex or a sexual orientation I’m not attracted to?


    If you’re still unsure after answering those questions, don’t do the thing you’re questioning and discuss it with your partner. Expand the understanding of your relational boundaries, as they may evolve over time.


    If an infidelity results in an attachment injury in your relationship, I recommend that you see a qualified therapist who works with infidelity and the resulting trauma. If you’re the one who violated the trust boundary, it doesn’t matter if you see it as small or insignificant. Your partner may still feel traumatized. An effective therapist can help you reduce pain, prevent further injury and repair your bond.


    If you need help with an attachment injury you have suffered or caused, you can contact me through my website, CouplesTherapyOrlando.com, or by calling me at 407-579-2070.

    Therapy services available via Telehealth.