Most betrayed partners carry the burden of the same secret fear: that it is some lack in them that has caused their significant other to seek sexual experiences outside of the relationship. The fear goes something like this:
- If I were thinner, had bigger breasts, was taller, had tighter thighs, were younger, had a prettier face…then he would not be looking at pornography on the Internet.
- If I had sex more often, had been willing to be more experimental, had said yes to that threesome, had participated in using pornography…then he would not be having sex with random strangers.
- If I were a better husband, paid more attention, earned more money, was a better leader…then she would not be involved with these other men.
Sound familiar? Sexual betrayal triggers pre-existing doubts and insecurities. We immediately begin to fearfully wonder if perhaps it is our fault that our partner went outside of the boundaries of our relationship. This fear gnaws at us and though we desperately want it not to be true, deep inside ourselves we wonder.
Our surrounding culture does not help us with this issue. Television, the Internet, movies and songs all still return to the age old theme that it is the woman’s fault if her man strays. I cannot count the number of clients who have told me that when they finally had the courage to tell someone, a friend, a pastor, a family member, the first question they were asked was how much sex they were providing. This culture of blame increases the shame for betrayed partners and the feeling that they are in some way responsible for their significant other’s behavior.
Getting grounded in the reality that you are not responsible for your partner’s behavior takes some time. We are usually able to grasp this principle intellectually first, but it takes a while for it to travel to our hearts and begin to feel true. The good news is that the thoughts we choose to tell ourselves determine how we feel, not the other way around. Twelve step fellowships use the slogans ‘act-as-if’ or ‘fake-it-till-you-make-it’ to put this principle into action. The idea is that when you change your thinking and behavior, eventually your feelings follow.
To put this into practice, you can make a conscious choice to believe that you are not responsible for your partner’s behavior and to live out of that truth. If you live out of the lie that you have caused the betrayal, that lie will feed your insecurity and drive you to behaviors that are not helpful. If you live out of the truth that you are a delightful, lovable, valuable individual and you have not caused the betrayal, you will be better able to choose your response to things rather than react. Pretty soon, you will feel the stability and freedom of knowing that the behaviors are separate from you.