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Faithfulness Fears and the Love Cure

Mini-love-lesson  #200

Synopsis: In some surprising and different-than-usual ways, this mini-love-lesson addresses the problem of what to do when someone is troubled by fears that their spouse, love partner, special other is not being faithful.  Included are what to do before you do anything else, the role of healthy self-love, not letting fears take you over, using more and different love relating skills and the importance of self-disclosure love.

Fears to Face and Fight

Are you afraid your special other is secretly now, or going to get involved with someone else?  Do you fear maybe they are in love with somebody else, may be having sex with somebody else or even several other somebodies?  Are you apprehensive that they are planning to leave you for another who maybe has qualities you secretly fear you do not have?  Might it be that your beloved is more attracted to somebody more attractive than you, better at love or sex, or life, or something you are not even aware of?

Are you suspicious about their time with friends, their fellow workers or that they might be spending time with an old flame, an ex or someone you know nothing about?  What is going on when your beloved is spending time away from you?  Or when your beloved is with you are they longing or lusting for another?

There is so much you can fear, suspect, worry about, be threatened by, feel insecure about, have anxiety over and generally drive yourself crazy with.  What are you to do?  How can you get to a dependable, true safety and sense of security?  Should you just try to dismiss these fears if you can, confront your beloved with accusations, spy, be more controlling, restrictive and possessive, repeatedly third-degree question them, hound and/or beg them for constant reassurance, or what?

In my practice I dealt literally with hundreds of couples and individuals where infidelity, cheating, adultery, etc. was an issue.  I counseled even more where these things were a worry and cause of anxiety.  I shall be a bit braggadocios.  I am happy to say that the vast majority of those situations were worked out rather well, often for all concerned including the others sometimes involved.  What I discovered dealing with these aching and struggling clients was that focusing on healthy, real love made the big difference in most of these very agonizing, complicated situations.  So, what follows are some of the love cure particulars that helped the most and are best done before you do anything else.

You Must Include a Strong, Healthy, Self-Love Focus!

Struggling with the kind of fears we are talking about can be very undermining of your self-love including your self-esteem, self-confidence, self security and your all-over sense of worth. (“Self Love – What is it?”)  It is very important you work to keep your healthy self-love as you struggle with fidelity and relational fears.  Otherwise, your fears can take over, distorting your perception and cause you to make a lot of serious relationship mistakes.

Time again, I have seen fears of a lack of faithfulness have a frequently, unrecognized, serious, component problem.  That component problem is twofold.  First, there can be a preexistent, long-standing lack of sufficient healthy self-love.  Second, the lack of self-love gives rise to an inability to accurately examine oneself and one’s own contributions to what is really causing or contributing to the fears about faithfulness.

Without sufficient self-love, there can be a subconscious mindset in the person feeling the fear that works something like this.  “Secretly I think I’m not good enough to be really loved by my beloved.  That means I don’t have the attraction-power to hold or keep my beloved.  If that is true, my beloved is bound to want and get attracted to somebody better than me.  They’re bound to be looking for somebody with qualities I don’t possess enough of.  Maybe they already have somebody else.  Maybe I’m already about to lose them to somebody else.”  At that point, creeping and then flooding into conscious awareness is a growing sense of anxiety-ridden-insecurity and fearfulness.  Out of that comes a driving, sometimes obsessive, need for reassurance and the return of relational safety.  That in turn, then drives all sorts of often self-sabotaging fear-related behavior that seldom gives much relief.

The nature of the fears usually has a lot to do with the areas we secretly feel inadequate or conflicted in.  If we most fear sexual infidelity, our area of secret weakness is probably sexual.  If we fear losing out to someone more attractive, we may not see ourselves as attractive enough, and so forth.  Facing and examining our fears actually may tell us something about where we do need to improve but denial can make us blind to that useful insight.

Not Letting Our Fears Take Us Over

Sometimes our secret sense of inadequacy is more global or total.  That can give rise to very broad ranging and ever varying fears of infidelity.  Sometimes when that happens, the lack of healthy self-love can be so complete that a person becomes fully convinced their beloved is having an affair and fully believing their fears are definitely true.  Sometimes no amount of evidence to the contrary or reality checks can convince us to believe otherwise.  When this is the case, several profound, destructive and dangerous problems can arise.

Fear of infidelity can cause people to start spying on their beloved, invading their privacy, being increasingly controlling, possessive, blaming, obnoxious and unloving.  This, of course, is self sabotaging, counterproductive, anti-love behavior and exactly the opposite of what is needed.

In counseling sessions, I don’t know how many times I heard things like “he or she accused me of cheating so often I finally decided to go ahead and do it”.  That is how self-fulfilling prophecy mechanisms work – you fear something so much, you don’t know you are doing it, but you are making what you fear happen.  Fear-based behavior can crowd out love-based behavior and result in exactly what you fear most.

Profound, secret insecurity about one’s own power of attraction and worthiness can either result in or stem from the serious mental illness often called paranoia.  One of the syndromes of paranoia involves slowly, increasing crazy, fear-based fantasies of infidelity which the sufferer believes are real.  That can lead to destruction of the marriage or romantic relationship which actually sometimes gives temporary relief to the sufferer.

Rarely, it also can result in the sufferer physically abusing and even sometimes killing their spouse or love partner and then themselves so as to at least be with them in death.  Some think people who are prone to the fatal attraction form of false love are strangely attracted to just the sort of people who suffer from this deadly form of paranoia.  I have treated people where indeed this did seem to be the case (see “Fatal Attraction Syndrome – A False Form of Love”).

More and Different Love, Not Less, As the Love Cure

After self-examination and self love work, there is a second area usually needing attention.  It is not whether or not your beloved actually is being or wanting to be unfaithful.  Before getting to that issue, let’s look at the issue of love-relating and the quality, quantity, nature, and skills involved in your love-relating.

You see, you can have lots of real love and feel lots of real love for someone you love.  However, that is a very different thing from how well and often you do the relating of your love.  It is not enough to know you love someone for it to do you and them the good it can do.  You have to relate it or actively send and receive it, preferably with skill and coordination ( see “Love Is Natural – Love Relating You Learn”).

Occasionally it seems we can subconsciously sense poor or insufficient relating of love and the poor or insufficient interrelating with love occurring in a relationship.  That can arrive in our conscious awareness as a vague fear that gets interpreted as a fear of losing our beloved to someone else.  With that interpretation, we can mistakenly focus on defending ourselves against outside threats that do not really exist instead of improving our love-relating actions.

To avoid that mistake, ask yourself these questions.  How well and often am I, and are we, relating our love?  Have my ways or our ways of showing our love dwindled in quality, creativity, freshness, depth, intimacy, closeness, sincerity, power, realness, appreciation, or many other ways?  Am I or we custom tailoring and making special our love-relating?  Are we making and remaking our ways of love-relating current with who we are today, or are we a bit behind and out of date with what is current for both of us in today’s life?  How do we need to do our love-relating differently and better?

The Incredible Importance of Self-Disclosure Love

Many who have fidelity fear issues try to sneak up on the problem by just being better lovers, sex partners, more affectionate or nicer, but they do it secretly and without the necessary self-disclosure.  Doing those improvement things is good except that it may lead to missing the real issues involved and also the intimacy and closeness that realness can bring.  It also avoids team-working the issue together which usually is much more successful and love producing.
Of the eight major ways to show love directly, self-disclosure probably is one of the most important for fixing fidelity fear problems. (“A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love” and Recovering Love book).

This means that in loving ways you self-disclose that you have fears and insecurity concerning your own attraction power and your ability to keep your beloved from wanting someone else.  You ask if they think you and both of you are relating in and with love well enough to keep things faithful and sufficiently safe from outside threats.  You do that directly because those two things are at issue whether you consciously know it or not.

Thus, you bravely expose your insecurity and risk being chided, misunderstood or ignored, or just possibly lovingly dealt with and respected for your bravery and realness.  Do not hide your fears and try to look more okay than you feel, but do not overdo it either.  Also, self disclose that you as part of this love relationship may need new, better and different relating-work alongside the work of your love partner because, that too, turns out to be almost always a true need in the relationship.  Do not blame, accuse, find fault with, guilt trip, beg or be defensive.  Do good listening as you internally do good self-love.

Now, after working with all that you may be ready to lovingly ask if your fidelity fears have any basis in reality and, if not, could you please have some sincere loving reassurance anyway.

If you do hear that some form of unfaithfulness has or is occurring, do not totally despair, turn into a condemning parent, or retreat into being like a severely abused and hurt child.  A timeout is okay if needed.  The question to ask, and face, is what do you both want to do about it.  To work that out, couple’s counseling with a therapist experienced in dealing with faithfulness, affairs and cheating issues is highly recommended.  You also might want to look at the mini -love-lessons titled “Infidelity and Love”, “Infidelity & the Love Messages That Block & Stop It”, “Adultery and No Divorce Love”, “Forgiveness – A Much-Needed Love Skill” and “Forgiveness in Healthy Self-Love”.

Help spread the word.  Knowledge about love-relating helps.  Tell someone about our Mini-Love-Lessons and this site.  Okay?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: What do you think about the fact that most couples stay together after one, or both, have an affair, and they report they are glad they did, while most couples who break up over an affair are not?

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