Pretty much everyone who is in a committed relationship agrees that if they found out their partner had sex, even once, with someone else it would be a challenge to move past it and stay together. That’s the big one-event shake up that most people assume is the beginning of the end if not the marker for the end itself.
While both of us would be nonplussed if the other had an affair or one-night-stand, there are three patterns that we’ve even fallen prey to that we know could be (almost) silent killers for us and probably any other couple.
1. Withholding attention.
You’ve heard about “ghosting” right? Pretty extreme and most people wouldn’t dream of doing it to the love of their life, and most of us would notice pretty quickly if we were being ghosted.
But there are so many ways of withholding attention that aren’t even intentional. Preoccupation – you know, like with your phone, or the television (we don’t have one of those, but the internet is a close runner up.) Or maybe just preoccupation with your own thoughts – we’re both prone to getting lost in our heads, in the clouds, or in time. Or shutting down – crawling into the shell of self to process, to stew, to ponder, or just to hang out and relax.
Even if it’s not intended to hurt, when you withhold your attention from your partner, your lover, that person who is in your life because they get off on being with you, you’re committing a “micro-aggression” toward that thing that keeps you together.
And if you are withholding attention as a way to prove a point, or strike back, stop that right now. Everyone needs to withdraw and unplug but don’t retreat in order to get even. Hurting someone emotionally always leaves a mark.
2. Withholding trust.
Everyone brings past relationships into the current dynamic. Whether those relationships were with spouses, lovers, friends, siblings, parents, authority figures, or the Grinch next door, they create patterns of trust, and lack of it.
None of those patterns are about your partner, but they certainly affect your partner. We’ve navigated land mines and dungeons of trigger wires and green-eyed monsters until we can guess when something is a “this is about me not you” kind of thing, but when either of us senses a lack of trust it can still range all the way from a minor road bump to a steep hill.