You want to be trusting, and you understand that you and your partner have to maintain faith in each other to enjoy a healthy relationship. But those nagging suspicions keep reappearing. They might have something to do with faithfulness and fidelity. Or maybe you have questions about your partner’s actual financial situation or job. Or it could be that you’re skeptical about what your partner has told you about his or her past, about how he or she spends time, or about some sort of legal problem.
Regardless of what the exact issue is, it never feels good to suspect that the person you care about is not being completely honest with you. If you find yourself in this kind of situation, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help get clear on what you know and what you don’t know, as well as what you should consider in terms of how best to respond to these feelings.
Is There a Chance that I’m Worrying for Nothing?
The first step in dealing with your concerns is to ask yourself whether your worries might stem from your past experiences or if you are possibly being a bit paranoid. In other words, before you decide that you are being lied to, consider whether or not you are being completely objective about the situation.
For example, have you been burned in the past by someone who wasn’t honest? Could the wounds from that old relationship be producing false fears and worries about your current partner? Or have you noticed that you have a tendency to worry about issues like this? Were there times when you were accused of being paranoid or over-sensitive? If so, that doesn’t mean that what you fear now isn’t real; but it does mean that you ought to ask yourself some tough questions. As is so often the case, self-awareness is where the truth begins.
Then, once you’ve been as honest as possible with yourself, you can ask the next question:
Are my Doubts Justified?
It may be that you’re seeing some legitimate signs that seem to justify your concerns: suspicious charges on a credit card bill, frequent hang-ups when you answer the phone, unusual working hours that don’t quite seem right, facts that don’t add up, an unwillingness to let you meet certain friends or family members. If signs like these begin to crop up more and more, then you owe it to yourself and to your relationship to take them seriously. It’s actually very irresponsible not to examine them or to turn a blind eye toward what seems suspicious.
So if your fears seem legitimate, explore them by thinking about what you already know. One of the best places to begin is …
Has my Partner Given me Reason to Doubt him or her in the Past?
If so, then you’re right to be concerned at this point. If what you’re noticing now seems to be part of a real pattern of dishonesty, then, again, the responsible thing to do is to address it in a meaningful way. But on the other hand, if your partner has consistently earned your trust in the past, then filter these new concerns through the trust you two have always enjoyed together.
Regardless of your answer to this question, it’s probably time to stop holding your fears inside. So ask yourself:
Should I Communicate my Doubts to my Partner?
Most likely, the answer to this question is yes. Otherwise the questions and fears will continue to nag at you, holding you back and serving as obstacles to love and vulnerability. After all, you won’t want to fully join with another person and move forward in your relationship if you have doubts about that person’s honesty. So you need to either allow the other person to explain and put your fears to rest or get to the bottom of the situation and discover the truth. Leaving questions regarding trust and honesty unresolved can erode a relationship and set a precedent that makes it seem that ignoring or denying dishonesty between the two of you is acceptable.
Once you’ve talked things through, you can decide what to do next. If you discover that your fears were based in reality, then you have to it’s time for the really big question:
Am I Willing to Forgive and Move Forward?
Obviously, certain breaches of trust are so serious that you simply can’t (and shouldn’t) move past them. They simply become relationship killers, even for a healthy relationship. On the other hand, there are often times when an extremely difficult moment between two people ends up actually strengthening the relationship. Having to deal with significant struggles can bring a couple together and deepen their understanding of each other and can help them refine what love means in their relationship. They can learn better ways to communicate as they work hard to receive and offer each other healing acceptance.
But keep this in mind: Forgiveness doesn’t mean that there’s no accountability or that you set up some sort of “anything goes” approach to the relationship. In fact, as a result of all that’s taken place between you, it’s even more important that you establish and agree on clear boundaries regarding how you’ll treat each other and interact in the future.
Which leads to the final question …
What Kinds of Changes Need to be Made?
If you decide to stay with your partner despite everything, then it’s important that you communicate your needs, demands, and expectations. Explain what changes need to be made in the relationship, and be very clear that you want things between the two of you to be based on integrity, trust, and honesty.
And by the same token, if you’ve determined that no actual breach has occurred, but that the whole thing was simply a big misunderstanding, it can be helpful to use this experience to communicate ways the two of you can continue to deepen your trust in each other and how to handle situations like this in the future. For instance, you might set up some ground rules about calling and checking in when you’re apart, simply to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Or maybe you both agree to be more open about certain matters, including when fears about the relationship begin cropping up again. The point is that regardless of what has or hasn’t actually happened, you can both commit to protecting each other and to prioritizing the relationship from this point forward.