Beliefnet

Dear Thomas,
Last night my boyfriend brought me dinner. The juice from the food was leaking, so he found a Walgreen's bag that was in his truck & put the food in it so it wouldn't leak on the seats. I took the food out of the bag and noticed a receipt that showed he had purchased a pack of condoms at 12:02 am. I was very hurt & sad, I couldn't stop crying.

He was denying that it was his (he said it was his friend's). All I can do now is cry because I've been through this once before, with the father of my son--and we were together for 11 years. The same thing keeps happening to me but with different men. I am feeling like all men are dogs. I don't want to go around feeling like that. I don't know what to do right now because all the trust is gone out of the window. I can't trust nor
believe anything he tells me now. Will I ever get my trust back?
--Betrayed

Dear Betrayed,
Every relationship has the potential for betrayal. So, yes, in that way, all men are dogs, and all women, too. The probability of betrayal may be greater when the people involved are young, immature, uncertain about what they want, and, perhaps unprincipled.

In many relationships, one of the parties carries most of the weight of being the betrayer, and the other the betrayed. You sound as though you are completely identified with the one who gets betrayed. But think for a moment--is there nothing in you that might potentially betray your partner?

One party also tends to carry more power in relationships, at least on the surface. Sometimes the weak-looking one is actually the one who controls the relationship. Or, if the power isn’t shared fairly evenly, the weaker one might always be worried about being betrayed, because betrayal is an emotional assault.

The painful fact is that sometimes we betray each other. It doesn’t mean that we’re bad people, but it does mean that someone gets hurt. If one person is by nature weak and insecure, he or she might always be worried about being betrayed. So one solution is to do whatever is necessary to feel more secure in the whole of your life. Feeling good about yourself generally, having a decent job, having admiring friends, being creative—there are many concrete ways to invite more security into your life. And each one of those can be an important step toward worrying less about being betrayed. It also better prepares you to deal with betrayal constructively, without collapsing and becoming cynical about relationships and people.

Don’t split the betrayer/betrayed pattern into you on one side, your partner on the other. Realize that you, too, could betray someone one day because of your passion or plans or because you can’t see any other way. Having a more complex emotional position like this can really help.

If, after all this, you discover that the particular person you’re with seems to have no interest in loyalty and faithfulness, be strong and find someone who is more mature and more prepared to settle into a lasting union. Wait for the kind of person you want. But while you wait, work on your life. Make it more interesting so that people will need some security from you and will be motivated to share the emotional power with you. And get to know a dog: They’re not all so bad.

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