I've been thinking a lot about betrayal. As a couple and sex therapist working with the trauma of sexual and emotional infidelity, it is easy for me to be sidetracked into seeing infidelity as the primary form of betrayal. This is a narrow lens within which to view betrayal. I want to expand the lens and consider the many other forms of betrayal that impact on our intimate relationships.
Right now, I offer you an opportunity to consider your own value system concerning intimate betrayals.
Tick off No/Yes if you think this is betrayal or not:
1. withholds sexual activity from me.
2. constantly criticises me.
3. uses our joint finances secretively.
4. uses our joint finances unilaterally.
5. withholds affection from me.
6. withholds personal relevant past history from me.
7. withholds time from me through overwork or socialising separately.
8. does not keep religious commitments.
9. withholds emotional closeness from me.
10. is always angry with me.
Emotional withholding feels as searing a pain as sexual withholding.
Let's linger over "withholding sexual activity" as a form of intimate betrayal. On meeting, crushing, courting and falling in love and fascination with each other, sexual activity is (or should be) rampant, urgent and mutually reciprocated.
Unless you agree to a committed relationship based on friendship, platonic and open to outside sexual relationships, universally you feel entitled to ongoing, even frequent, sexual activity as a mainstay of your relationship.
The pain begins as a slow disappointment, especially for men in heteronormative relationships. They are taught that they have a higher drive than women, so gear themselves to accept a low level of sexual frustration – and resort to masturbation as a way of avoiding infidelity.
But how many nights, months and years of "not tonight, honey" is acceptable? Surely at some point, these men are entitled to feel that they have been betrayed by the woman who is withholding expected sexual play.
And the reverse is true: a woman who commits to a heteronormative man expects hard, ready-to-go-all-night-long-three-rounds of manhood. For sure, this is an unrealistic expectation. However, she feels deep betrayal when he does not erect, and does not seek out medical intervention to attend to his sexual difficulty, and deprives her of the sexual activity and satisfaction for which she longs.
How about the lesbian couple in which one asks her partner two years into the relationship to be penetrated vaginally by a strap-on dildo. Nothing unusual here. She then openly begins to watch heterosexual porn – also nothing unusual here – and finally brings home a man to penetrate her. Not unusual either. Remember, we are all so fluid in our sexual orientation.
Intimate betrayal is a pain unlike any other, striking at the core of our capacity to trust and feel safe within the sanctity relationship promises.
However, her partner feels betrayed, since she signed up for an exclusive woman-on-woman sexual relationship. Emotional withholding feels as searing a pain as sexual withholding. Simply and essentially, people want the three A's: acknowledgement, affection, attention. Withholding these basic emotional cornerstones of a relationship feels like a breaking of a promise.
Isolation, loneliness and a stony heart follow this neglect. Imagine never receiving a compliment, a hand on your shoulder, or having a partner who lacks attentiveness as you share your daily stories.
If you've ever felt any of these betrayals by a lover in a committed relationship, you know all too well that intimate betrayal is a pain unlike any other, striking at the core of our capacity to trust and feel safe within the sanctity a relationship promises.
Tips To Avoid Intimate Betrayal:
1. Be honest about your emotional and sexual needs as they arise.
2. Find creative means to manage sexual disparities.
2. The risk of being honest is better than the pain that will follow dishonesty.
3. Have financial agreements in place – violation of finances cuts deeply.
4. Gender equity must be the foundation upon which any relationship is laid. Agree upon this, or get out, as you will be setting yourself up for abuse if you stay.
5. Have realistic expectations about your own sexuality as it fluctuates over time and age. Share them with your partner, rather than turning your back and making him/her feel betrayed.
6. Verbal aggression, criticism or stonewalling towards your partner are betrayals – a sign of disrespect and indecency.
7. Commitment, whether it is for a few hours or a lifetime, implies presence with another, sexually and emotionally. Think hard before you make this commitment
8. Feelings of entitlement violate intimacy and ultimately destroy trust.
Contact me to further discuss betrayal.