You are currently browsing all posts tagged with 'trust'.

Dear Christine, Angry in Ann Arbor

  • Posted on December 24, 2017 at 9:22 am

Dear Christine

About two months ago my partner went to First Wednesday (at Rosie O’Donnell Bar) with some friends. I couldn’t go because I had to work late. Anyhow, the group met a new young woman who is just coming out as a lesbian. After getting to know this person, the friends and I are seeing something just a bit off about her. My partner, however, has taken quite a shine to her. I think it’s a crush even though this person is 18 years younger than her. I’ve told my partner that I am not happy about it and she says I’m wrong about the crush and she just sees someone who needs her help. There has been quite a bit of communication between them and I’m angry. Do I sit quietly and let this play out? Do I have a choice? We’ve had some heated arguments about this with no resolution. Just when things seemed so great!

Thanks, Angry in Ann Arbor

Dear Angry, Many couples I work with never really have a complete conversation about what the boundaries are in their relationship. They might agree if one of them “cheated” that the relationship would be over. But rarely is “cheated” defined clearly. They might also agree if one “hits” the other, it’s over. But what level of abuse is intolerable?

Women have close emotional relationships with friends and that can lead to “emotional cheating” which may not involve any physical or sexual contact, but can lead to a sense of violation for the partner (you). In this day of social media, people can have long distance affairs through text, FB, DM, Snapchat, etc, etc and never be in the same state! And long term relationships have suffered and even ended from such “emotional cheating.”

Your partner may be in denial about her crush and has reframed the interaction as helping her friend. You can’t “make” her see the emotional violation. You can keep flagging it and discussing boundaries and what consequences follow. You may not have included this sort of behavior as being a violation of your couple’s boundaries, but you can now. And then you need to let her know this is your new non–negotiable. And tell her the consequence of crossing a non–negotiable. And let her decide whether or not she agrees. Worst comes to worst, you may end up ending your relationship over this, if you two cannot see eye–to–eye about what is a boundary and what is a violation. I worked with a couple of lesbians together 20 years, who always agreed that if either one was going to cheat, they would respect the other enough to call and tell that one “I’m not coming home tonight.” One saw her partner fall in love with a younger woman at work over 3 months time. She tried to talk to her partner about it and was rebuffed. Then that call came one evening. The partner left at home was done and made it clear that their relationship was over. After a month, the other partner came to her senses and asked to get into therapy to repair their 20 year relationship. They came to a couple of sessions, but the one used therapy to be clear with the other that a non–negotiable was violated and their relationship was over. They sold their house and went their separate ways.

Another couple would stay in therapy and try to figure out where their relationship went south and mend the issues that allowed for one to become emotionally involved with someone outside the relationship. So, you need to do what is in integrity to you. Suggest neutral support, like a therapist, to help you two communicate with each other through this. Schedule time together as a couple in which you can talk seriously, but also time to have fun, too.

Christine C Cantrell, PhD
Licensed Psychologist

Abandoned in Adrian

  • Posted on June 27, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Dear Christine, I was with my partner for 7 years. We had a child together with her as the birth mother in our 2nd year together by a Donor we choose together.  The plan was to have another child with the same donor and me as the birth mother.  I’m devastated  that two years ago the love of my life cheated on me and left me. What has become even harder is the fact that now she won’t let me see our son. At first she agreed to shared parenting.  I haven’t seen my son in a year now and she doesn’t seem to care that it’s killing me. I’m hoping to convince her that allowing our son to continue to see me is in his best interest.  I don’t want him to think I abandoned him but I’m afraid by now he is forgetting me. Can you speak to the effects it may have on a child when one parent denies another visitation. Also, should I let go or continue to fight?  As much as it hurts, I want to do what’s best for my child. Thanks, Abandoned in Adrian PS my next question is, how can I ever…

Truth-Teller in Trenton

  • Posted on May 1, 2016 at 7:03 pm

Dear Christine,  

I don’t understand why people lie. It’s always been one of my biggest pet peeves and maybe I’m too firm on this but I generally find the offense unforgivable.  To me the truth always works better so I don’t get it.  Now, I’m in a place where I’m hoping I can forgive but I’m so torn.

My boyfriend who I’ve been dating for 8 months has just gotten caught in a big lie.  He got fired two weeks ago for not passing a drug test at work.  Yes he smokes marijuana a little and I don’t care about that.  I never realized they drug tested at his work or I might have advised him to stop his habit but the lie is that he didn’t tell me he got fired.  He even pretended to go to work after he was let go.  I only found out because he told his mom who accidentally told me because she assumed I knew.

It might not be an outright lie, maybe more of an omission but I’m really struggling with what to do.  The dishonesty is something I find hard to get past. Can I ever trust him?  Thanks,

Signed Truth-teller in Trenton

Dear Truth-Teller,

Yes, that’s a big lie of omission, to hide the fact that he was fired from work for failing a drug test.  I’m guessing he hid that from you because he knew you don’t like lying.  However, he’s not making very mature choices and they aren’t very good for his career or his relationship with you.

You need to think for yourself about what you need to have, what you must have and what you cannot have, to make a relationship work.  Make a list of those non-negotiables and communicate them with your boyfriend.  Both of you telling the truth, avoiding lies of omission, might be at the top of your list.  Being employed might be another.  There’s no right or wrongs here.  It all depends on what you need to feel emotionally secure in an intimate and committed relationship.

Dating is the time to get to know each other and find out if you share enough values, goals, needs and communication and trust to build a relationship that has staying power.  Falling in love is the easy part, but if you don’t communicate your non-negotiables to the person you fall in love with, you end up getting involved with someone who will break your heart.

Ask your boyfriend to make a list of what he needs in a relationship too.  What are his non-negotiables?  Does he feel you set the bar too high and he cannot possibly meet your relationship non negotiables?

Lying doesn’t build trust and the only way to repair trust is openness and communication, as much as you both need.   Consider couple’s therapy to have a neutral third party help you both discuss your needs, feelings and the fallout of this lie.

Good luck, and feel free to write again and let me know how you two are doing.
Christine C Cantrell, PhD


Sneaking Around in Southfield

  • Posted on December 6, 2015 at 5:00 am

Dear Christine, 

I am a 37 year old lesbian who has only been deeply in love one time when I was 23.  She loved me too and it was so intense.  She had a lot of pressure from her family and religion and eventually broke my heart and hers and she left me and married a man.   I have tried to move on and I just haven’t been able to feel that strongly about anyone else.  Recently I met someone who I could see myself growing old with.  There is love and comfort although not the same deep passion I once felt.  I am on the verge of having a good life with a good person and then,  “the one” finds me out of the blue.  She is married, has 3 kids, super active in her Baptist church, and apparently has never stopped thinking about me either.   She will not leave her husband, tell her family or let on to anyone at all that she still loves me but wants to see me “privately”  We did spend one amazing afternoon together and the passion is still there.  Unlike her, I can’t keep the wife and have a mistress. I know this sounds nuts and in my mind I know the right answer is to not be tempted by empty promises.  Do I choose a life sneaking around to have the love of my life in bits and pieces, or do I choose safe and comfort even if I may never feel the intense kind of love again.   I seriously think I may make the wrong choice.  Thanks for listening and if you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear from you. 

Signed, Sneaking Around in Southfield


Dear Sneaking Around,
Wow! Look what you have created!  Yes, you are in charge of your life and you can make your life work for you the way you want, or you can drift from one happening to another, being victim to other people’s actions.  You didn’t expect your ex to reappear, but here she is, creating earthquakes in your otherwise calm life.

How wonderful that you have had that incredible passionate love experience at least once in your life.  That’s an amazing feeling, but you know by this point in your life, it never lasts.  It is hormones, chemistry, timing and is fleeting.  It’s also a lot of projection:  putting your hopes and dreams of the perfect relationship on a human being you don’t know well who is frail, contradictory and has faults that you are not seeing or acknowledging yet.  The Japanese call it “love psychosis” and if it lasts 3 years, that’s unusual.  During that passion, you have an opportunity to form a deeper emotional connection with that person from shared values, trust, honesty, openness and vulnerability and mutual goals.  Or the passion fades and the relationship cannot be sustained.
So, your choices at this point are:  What sort of relationship do you want?  Passion that is hidden?  Being someone else’s mistress? Cheat on your partner you are growing old with?   Trust your ex who broke your heart  and promises nothing of substance now?  Honesty with friends and family who care about your happiness?  Or sneaking around, taking whatever crumbs of passion your ex has for you, all the while keeping a huge secret from your partner, and everyone else you interact with?  And if you choose your ex, what happens when her husband or your partner learns the truth?

It’s all in your hands.  Who you choose reflects your values and your character.  Be fully yourself and be confident in your choices.  Write me again and let me know what you decide.
Christine Cantrell, PhD


Snooping in Springfield

  • Posted on September 28, 2015 at 9:03 am

Dear Christine,

My girlfriend hardly ever uses the computer so I guess that is how I first got suspicious.  We’ve lived together for 3 years now and I was the one who suggested we maintain respect for each others privacy. When she first moved in she started opening all the mail even if it was just addressed to me.  I have nothing to hide but I didn’t like the feeling so we talked about boundaries and since then have been doing fine.  “Mary” I’ll call her Mary but that’s not her name, hardly ever touches her computer at home since she’s on it all week at work.
For the past few weeks she has been on it all the time.  So, I got to wondering why and I snooped when she wasn’t home.   
She has been talking to a former girlfriend and it’s mostly catching each other up on their lives over the past years.  There is some talk of their past relationship and trying to hide it from parents and other friends before they were out. 
This ex lives out of state somewhere it seems and they’ve talked about a potential trip to visit in the future.   I’ve found nothing to prove that the intention is to get back together and even if I did I wouldn’t be able to confront her because of our agreement to respect privacy.  She hasn’t told me she’s emailing an ex even though I did make a comment asking why she’s always on her computer at home. 
Do I wait it out? Do I tell her I snooped?  Should I stop snooping? 

Signed, Snooping in Springfield


Dear Snooping,

This someecards sums up your problem pretty well.  You were the one with the privacy issue, and yet you are the one breaking the agreement.  If this information you gained is truly insignificant, then let the whole issue go, and resolve to not snoop again!

If it is significant to you, then it’s time to have a conversation with “Mary.” The only way to create a foundation of trust is to be trustworthy and honest. Mary probably suspects nothing, unless you are acting guilty around her. Snooping is how reporting is done.  It definitely can crack open doors for you to push on.  You can orchestrate this snooping into Mary eventually telling you why she has been on the computer so much lately.  And then you can have a discussion about boundaries about being friends with/travelling with your exes.

Or you can confess to Mary that you had hinted around, asking her about her extra time on the computer, stoking your curiosity and your snooping. Confession is good for the soul.  However, then Mary knows a truth about you that may be uncomfortable for both of you to acknowledge.  No one is perfect, and perhaps what Martin Amis writes is a deeper truth:  “Are snoopers snooping on their own pain? Probably.”

Search your soul and see what you need to do for you, and for Mary and for the relationship.  Perhaps this is a reminder that you need to have more frequent honest conversation.  When your fears get the best of you and you snoop, sometimes it backfires.  Learn from this, do whatever you need to, to let it go or make amends, and then move on.  Take care,
Christine Cantrell, PhD, Psychologist