Therapy in Philadelphia / Fear of Infidelity: every couple, at some point, faces the fear of infidelity. No matter how strong the relationship, each of us has grappled with the green-eyed monster – and its evil twin: feelings of worthlessness. So how does one approach the subject of cheating without coming across as jealous, suspicious, or overly needy?

The first thing to remember is that your partner has probably had fleeting moments of insecurity about this very issue as well, so starting an open conversation at a time when you are in an empathic frame of mind is a good place to begin. Have you and your partner talked about what you each feel defines cheating? You may be surprised to find that your lover has very different ideas about this than you do. It’s amazing how many varied definitions of infidelity there are, and how individual the range of those definitions is. What a person defines as cheating does not simply differ along gender lines, but is as unique and varied as each person, and also varies within the boundary of each individual relationship. Clearly, in your discussion of infidelity, it’s crucial to listen to your partner with an open mind, without judgment of each other’s definitions. If either of you are uncomfortable with what has been said, then be sure to explain your reasoning without apologizing for your value system.

The goal here is not to have the same opinions on infidelity as individuals, but rather to discover each other’s differences and similarities on the subject, and then to reach an agreement on where to set boundaries for your relationship. If you find you have fundamental disagreements on this issue, then this may be a good time to seek professional help, before your relationship is actually compromised by a breach of trust. At that point, there’s a lot of suffering to deal with, and the healing process is no quick fix.

Though the conversation about your fear of infidelity may not be an easy one, it is a very important one to have for the health of your relationship. It’s interesting how many couples are afraid to broach the subject of infidelity with their partners because they are afraid that, in doing so, they may seem to lack trust in them, or come across as untrustworthy themselves. Actually, the opposite is true: by opening a discussion of infidelity, including your fear of infidelity, with your partner, you are laying the groundwork for solid trust between the two of you and a deeper intimacy as well. So many couples run into trouble because they base their actions toward their lover on assumptions about them and their beliefs. Trust is only truly created through communicating honestly, being willing to see your partner for who they are, and discovering the unique viewpoints and experiences that they bring to the relationship.

This is a conversation that should be ongoing throughout the course of your lives together, as individual growth and stressors will effect the nature of your relationship through time. Each person in the relationship will grow, and the context will change with that growth as well. Major stressors, like the loss of a parent, milestones of aging, or the birth of a child can leave one or both participants in the relationship feeling particularly vulnerable and needing more reassurance through more constrained boundaries, or just additional verbal and sexual responsiveness from the other partner. Because of the evolving nature of the relationship, it is essential to revisit important topics, and reexamine your own and your partner’s value systems to make sure that the boundaries that you have both agreed upon remain relevant and meaningful for both of you. So what’s the deal then…nothing in a relationship is set in stone? It certainly is much easier to think of a primary relationship as something static and fixed, but, unfortunately, this view of partnership is a great way to head down the road toward disaster. In fact, the relationship itself can be thought of as a third entity, because it is, indeed, a living, growing thing which two people create together and that grows and changes to become something separate from the individual people that contribute to its life. But though a partnership between two people is a fluid rather than a stationary thing, its strength and longevity does depend on the firmness of its foundation. And one of the main building blocks of any strong relationship is trust. By talking to your partner about infidelity, and exploring together the parameters of your relationship, you are giving yourselves a chance to increase the strength, stability, and satisfaction of your bond.

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