Around Valentine's Day, no-one wants to think their partner may be thinking of someone else. However, research suggests that modern monogamous relationships have never been more likely to see one or both partners stray from home, with some statistics showing over 50% of people are likely to commit at least one act of infidelity in their lifetime.
Affairs are rarely about the wronged person in a relationship, and are almost always the product of low self-esteem in the adulterer. This means that if both partners maintain good self-esteem, and strong and consistent communication and support to the other they can protect their relationship as best possible.
However, there are clear questions to ask yourself to assess if your partner is in the downward spiral that leads to infidelity.
Does your partner recognise and respond to your emotional state?
This is a critical question that underpins many poor communication practices within relationships - after all if someone cannot even see how you are feeling, how can they begin to understand your needs, and respond accordingly.
Your partner is empathic and emotionally available, meaning they are statistically less likely to cause pain to you, and more likely to be honest.
Your partner is not able to support you in the way you need, so talk openly and without judgment about this, or face the likelihood of more pain in future.
Does your partner come from a loving background?
People are the product of their environments, and even those who appear resistant to outside stimuli are still strongly impacted by their developmental years. This means that simply by considering, and crucially not judging, our partner's family upbringing then we can understand how key role models in their life have imparted wisdom, self-esteem and morality.
Your partner is statistically likely to reflect the values of their family upbringing, meaning they are likely to hold honesty and trust in high regard, making them far less likely to go behind your back.
Your partner's emotional core may be damaged, leading to a potentially harmful lack of self-esteem, which can manifest itself in a lack of respect for those who love them. Talk to your partner about their past, and how it makes them feel today, and what they would have changed if they could have done so. You can then figure out how to make changes together for the future.
Does your partner always try to see things from your perspective?
Empathy is a critical part of a person's morality code, as it allows the person to appreciate all of their actions have consequences. However, many people struggle to do this, and are distracted from considering their partner's viewpoint, potentially leading to bad ethical choices within the relationship.
Your partner can consider how you would feel if he/she did something to impact upon you negatively, and can therefore understand what their dishonest actions would do to you. This means your partner is likely to possess a higher likelihood to be honest with you, and not do anything that would cause pain.
Your partner may be prone to bouts of selfishness and reduced self-esteem, and is statistically more likely to be dishonest. If this applies then one of the most effective ways of boosting your relationship today is to both engage in active listening, where you focus on putting yourself in the shoes of the other when listening in a conversation.
Does your partner stonewall you?
When a conversation starts to get heated, as it does with every couple in every relationship from time to time, some people block participation in the communication. Generally speaking, this is a signifier of poor self-esteem by the blocker, and furthermore suggests a lack of respect from the blocker to their partner.
Your partner is likely to be suffering from self-esteem issues, which if left untreated will almost certainly cause pain to themselves and to you. From this pain, dishonesty and distrust is the usual byproduct, as the stonewaller backs themselves into a corner from which they feel they can only emerge from through dishonest means. Sometimes this can manifest itself in the form of seeking intimacy outside of the relationship.
Britain foolishly used to pride itself on dealing with trauma with a stiff upper lip, but this is no way to deal with emotional pain, and the best solution here is to engage in couples therapy with a professional specialist, who can help unpick some of the blockages that are holding up good communication.
Your partner is open and giving, and can communicate well their frustrations and feelings. This means they are more likely to not let small things build up into bigger problems, and so less likely to seek the comfort of another.
Does your partner put you down and pick at your flaws?
They say that misery seeks company, and that is never more true of someone with low self-respect - they don't know how to love themselves, and therefore struggle to truly love someone else. The easiest way of doing this is for a person to try to reduce their partner's self-esteem down through critical words and actions. The natural extension of this is that the person picking fault lowers their respect levels towards their partner, as deep down they can't believe that they are worth loving, and if this person is loving towards them then they are of low value. This is one of the most common causes of relationship betrayal.
Your partner is causing you pain, whether you realise it or not. If firm action isn't taken to address this then this pain will be furthered, leading to dishonest behaviour, including potential infidelity.
Your partner may not be aware they are doing this, so the first course of action should be to talk this through clearly with them, demonstrating examples, but not in a judgmental way. For example, state facts in a calm and considered tone of voice, like "Yesterday you made fun of my weight, when you know I am sensitive about this, which caused me pain. Please can you be mindful of what you are saying in future, as I don't want either of us to hurt the other in any way?" If this heads-up doesn't do the trick, then couples therapy should be strongly considered.
Your partner appreciates you for who you are, and has a high degree of respect for you. This should manifest itself in strong levels of trust and honesty, making your partner far less likely to cheat on you.
Does your partner give you regular, heart-felt compliments?
Compliments are a slight anomaly when understanding if there is dishonesty in a relationship, as a good relationship should see both partners providing plenty of affirmative communication to the other. However, we usually see a direct increase in the number of compliments paid to an unknowingly-cheated-upon partner, when the adulterer tries to overcompensate.
Your partner values and admires you. This is a critical part of any successful relationship, and has been considered by some studies to be the most important element, as it brings together the respect that the complimenter has for both themselves and their partner. As long as they are heartfelt, then your partner is far less likely to be in a headspace where infidelity is even an option.
Your partner either has low respect for you or struggles to communicate. If the former, then radical action should be taken, or pain will occur with 100% certainty, and couples therapy is for you. If the latter, then you can be the change you wish to see here, by helping to show them how to communicate best to you. I recommend the Gary Chapman book, 5 Languages of Love for this, as it helps you both identify the best ways you receive love, so you can adapt the ways you give it.
Does your partner provide you with thoughtful surprises?
When we hear the word 'gift' we often think of tangible presents, but in most successful relationships gifts are given every day, and are very rarely found in boxes. They are acts of service, supportive behaviours, or simply kindnesses. It's the thought behind these every day surprises that carries the meaning, as it demonstrates a person has considered the needs of their partner, which is a fundamental cornerstone of mutually respectful relationships. These kind of partnerships very rarely end in adulterous ways.
Your partner respects you. This is the most important part of keeping a relationship on track, and the likelihood of them cheating on you is very low, as they work to keep you together.
Your partner is either lacking in respect for you, or struggles with empathy. Either way, this will cause you pain, and they are far more likely to go behind your back when the lack of emotional intimacy reaches breaking point. If the former, then I strongly suggest couples therapy. If the latter, then there is a good chance they are unaware of how to change, and you can help them understand your needs better through good open communication.
Dr Becky Spelman is a TV psychologist with a Harley Street practice at www.theprivatetherapyclinic.co.uk
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