Relationships and marriage are hard! There are some obvious things that would break a relationship, such as physically cheating on your partner, or you and your partner having radically different values, or maybe one wants kids and other is decidedly child-free.
Cheating is one of the most common betrayals that people talk about when it comes to relationship-enders. And cheating is horrible, I agree. The trust that is broken and likely irreparable, the emotional betrayal of it. But cheating is only one of many different types of behaviors that are a betrayal to your relationship and the commitment you made to your partner.
This article in Psychology Today addresses how to own up to any betrayal, cheating or otherwise, with good advice such as acknowledging your actions before they find out another way, being honest, answering questions, and knowing your intentions.
Here are 8 other ways to betray your partner and your relationship, that you may not realize are just as damaging, if not more than physically cheating on your spouse.
1. Putting your wants and needs above your partners
Relationships are about partnerships and equality, but there is also a saying that “love is putting the other person first.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Researchers call this “compassionate love”—recognizing a partner’s needs and concerns and putting them ahead of your own. “It’s not just making people feel good,” says Harry T. Reis, a University of Rochester professor of psychology, “It’s a way of communicating to the other person that you understand what they are all about and that you appreciate and care for them.”
When you start to forget about the other person’s needs, or start to put your own needs above your partners, you will begin a gradual decline in your relationship. Yes, your needs are also important. But your consideration should be about your partner’s needs and how both of you work together to meet each others wants and needs. Over time, losing the focus on your partner and only focusing on yourself will spell disaster for the relationship — especially if your partner is still putting your needs above their own. This is a breeding ground for resentment.
Watch out for this. Loving someone isn’t about just saying the words, it’s about showing it through actions.
2. Taking your partner for granted
When you’ve been with one person for a long time, it can be easy to stop thinking of that person as a separate individual person, and just a person who is part of your family. When you stop trying to be romantic, stop dancing, stop saying “I love you,” or stop saying please and thank you, you’re taking your partner for granted.
If your partner is feeling unappreciated, resentment can occur over time. If you stop helping clean the house, or don’t help with the kids, or don’t recognize and appreciate your partner’s contributions to your life, you will eventually get to the point of having a roommate, not a loving partner. This is a betrayal that gains speed over time. It happens little by little. One person stops recognizing and thanking and appreciating the other partners work, and the other partner begins feeling overworked, under-appreciated, and this breeds resentment.
Take the time to remember every day why you love your partner, help your partner, and listen to them. And always say please and thank you!
3. Emotional cheating
“An emotional affair is essentially an affair of the heart,” says marriage therapist Sheri Meyers, “All of this [flirty texts, deep emotional connection, telling them things about your partner or things you wouldn’t tell your partner] drains energy from your primary relationship.”
Of course you can still have opposite-sex platonic friendships, Sheri explains, “Just be sure you’re not taking attention away from the closeness you should be nurturing at home.”
Emotional affairs are as damaging, if not more damaging, than a physical affair. Physical affairs are often not emotionally involved, and are easy to cut out if you’re trying to repair your relationship. Emotional affairs can be incredibly difficult to end, and many people will “mourn” the loss of this very close friend, a person they have been receiving emotional support from. Emotional cheating can irreparably damage a relationship and all trust very quickly.
4. Not standing up for your partner
You and your partner should be a team. When someone makes fun of or denigrates your teammate, you should stand up for them. It doesn’t matter if it’s your friend, a colleague, or your mother. When you married your partner, that person became your closest family. If your mother calls your spouse names or thinks they “aren’t good enough for you,” then it is your responsibility to stand up for your partner. This is the person you’ve chosen to spend your life with. You wouldn’t allow someone to talk nastily about your children, so why would you allow it for your life-mate?
Check out https://www.reddit.com/r/JUSTNOMIL/. It is full of real life stories about marriages and relationships that have crumbled due to in-laws interfering with their relationships, and spouses who don’t stand up to their family for them.
On the other hand, it could just as easily be outside the family. A friend may say something against the way you and your partner are raising your child, a colleague who complains about their wife all the time tries pointing out negatives about yours. Your significant other should be your partner in every sense of the word. You should stand up for your partner, and be a united front with them against the rest of the world.
This is the type of betrayal to your partner that most people don’t recognize as one. But by allowing people to speak against or badly about your partner, you become complicit in the crime, and this is something that will tear a relationship apart over time.
5. Lying to your partner — even about stupid things
In this article by Lisa Firestone, Ph.D, she discusses Deception and the Destruction of Your Relationship. While she does talk about the ethics of infidelity, Dr. Firestone states “Lying to someone, especially someone close to us, is one of the most basic violations of a person’s human rights. Whatever one’s stance is on open versus closed relationships, the most painful aspect of infidelity is often the fact that someone is hiding something so significant from their partner.”
Lying is never okay. Being caught in a lie will destroy your partner’s trust, and if you’re lying and hiding things from the person closest to you, why are you in that relationship in the first place?
She concludes with this: “An ideal relationship is built on trust, openness, mutual respect and personal freedom. But real freedom comes with making a choice, not just about who we are with but how we will treat that person. Choosing to be honest with a partner every day is what keeps love real. And truly choosing that partner every day by one’s own free will is what makes love last. So while freedom to choose is a vital aspect of any healthy and honest union, deception is the third party that should never be welcome in a relationship.”
6. Using your partner’s vulnerability/insecurity against them
There are many types of abusive and controlling behaviors out there, which would be a whole article on it’s own. One I want to focus on is more subtle: manipulation.
Skilled manipulators are experts at rationalizing their behavior and their attempts to control you. Someone might say “I’ve been cheated on before and that’s why I don’t want you to have any male friends.” It sounds like a rational thing to ask, except that no one should control who you’re friends with, and the person would be trying to use their insecurity against you. World of Psychology continues, saying “Consideration is shown with love while manipulation is ruled by guilt.”
Eden Strong, the author of the WoP piece and another article on the same topic for Yahoo, discusses how one tactic of good manipulators is to use your own insecurities against you. The person will constantly point out what you’re doing wrong or something they know you are sensitive about, and talk about how they could have done it better, and how you can be better, but only with their help.
Knowing these signs and seeing a partner use your weaknesses or insecurities against you could and probably should be a dealbreaker in a relationship.
7. Distancing yourself emotionally
Neglect and distraction can lead to distancing oneself emotionally, creating a gulf between partners.
Marriage and family therapist Stan Tatkin discusses emotional distance in his book Wired for Love, which delves into people’s different attachment styles. He describes emotional distance and some consequences, saying, “Emotional distance is characterized by a lack of an emotional, spiritual, or intellectual level connection with your partner. [sic] When your partner does offer a response, it’s remote, guarded, lacking in intimacy – perhaps because of a fear of intimacy. Emotional distance can indicate an impending physical separation; in fact, intimate partners may develop certain defense mechanisms to protect feelings and protect themselves from pain in their intimate relationships.”
When you’re in the same room physically, but not connecting to your partner anymore, you’re putting distance between you that can lead to the end of the relationship. Neglecting your partner, becoming easily defensive over little things, valuing the time with your friends and colleagues above time with your partner, or being distracted by work and other issues that you aren’t sharing with your partner are all signs of emotional distance.
8. Pressuring your partner to change
You should be absolutely clear on this: you should be with someone for who they ARE, not who they could/should/might someday be. That’s not how people work! Smokers know that smoking is terrible for them, but they can’t quit because YOU want them to, they can only really successfully quit when THEY want to. That’s how changes work. Overweight people know they should lose weight for their health, but telling us to do it doesn’t make me do it.
You can’t make someone change. “My partner would be perfect if he just listened better/cleaned more/had different political views!” It’s a simple truth of life that you can only change yourself.
Trying to force someone to change against their will, even minor things, can spell the end of a relationship. Healthy communication and compromise should be the backbone of a relationship, and will allow people to make gradual changes on their own, if they want to. As this great article on Elite Daily points out: “More likely than not, you want to change them for the wrong reasons – selfish reasons.”
Featured photo credit: Stokkete via shutterstock.com