I love John Gottman’s work on betrayals in general, but especially in relation to non-sexual betrayal, or what many of you might call emotional betrayal. He makes it super simple to distinguish between what is platonic and what is not. This post relates a lot to last week’s post on conditional commitment, in which I mentioned it may be beneficial to have a healthy dose of curiosity when it comes to female/male phone contacts on your husband’s or wife’s phone. But as always, the dose makes the poison. You cannot constantly be going through your partner’s phone as this is a sign of mistrust. Trust and commitment are the two supporting walls of any relationship.
“Trust and commitment are the two supporting walls of any relationship.“
So then, how do we make this simple? Well, we have all heard of the term ‘work wife’ or ‘work-husband’, however, similar relationships can be carved with gym mates, hired hands, baristas, and so on. They all start off innocently, but when the conversations start to move into shared personal stories or intimate conversations, this is when the red flags should go up.
I love to teach by example, so let’s set the stage. Steven and Michelle are attending Steve’s work Christmas party. Michelle and Steve are having a conversation when suddenly, his attention goes towards the entrance. In walked an attractive woman who you later learn is Jocelyn, a colleague working alongside Steve on a current project. Not soon after, Steve introduces you to Jocelyn. In the conversations that ensued, you become surprised that Jocelyn seems to know a lot about your family. She knows about your son’s graduation gift, the babysitter’s name, your dog’s illness, and the name of the nursing home where your mom is newly residing. Then, without first asking, when Steve grabs drinks for both of you, he brings Jocelyn gin and tonic and apologizes that they were out of white wine. W…T….? More awkwardness occurs through the night that makes it impossible for you to overlook. Call it women’s intuition or just plain ‘weirdness’.
On the way home, you straight-out confront Steve about the depth and level of personal information that has been exchanged. Steve minimalizes it and tells you that you are grossly over analyzing things and you need to calm down. That, ‘this is exactly why I don’t talk to you about female colleagues because you go completely nuts’ and ‘get your head on straight’. He wants to change the subject, rather than discuss how this level of intimacy could have transpired. Rather than making Michelle feel safe and loved, he makes her feel like she ‘wants to cause a fight’.
So, what were the ‘red flags’ from this scene? When and if you sense dishonesty or betrayal from your partner, this is what to look for:
- Quick dismissive attitude towards you.
- You have never previously heard him mention her name once in his work conversations.
- Lack of curiosity as to why you might be feeling or thinking this way.
- Compassion towards you because he senses the hurt feelings and distance from him.
- Turning the conversation on YOU rather than on HIM.