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“This is an emotional affair!”
I was accused by a reader of an article I wrote inspired by a conversation with a male friend.
“This conversation with this married man…you are giving him the attention, connection, and closeness that his wife is unable to exchange with him because he is giving his emotional energy to you. He doesn’t have to work on developing an intimate relationship with his wife if he has a girlfriend to talk to.”
Of course, my reader had no idea about the type of relationship I have with this person, but her judgement of me reflects the degree of fear and mistrust with which many women live. At its essence, my reader’s quick accusation betrays a lack of self-confidence and self-worth, which I observe in many of us, but it also reveals the level of mistrust of other women.
Seeing another woman as a potential threat to our personal happiness is at the source of competition among women.
It is often passed on from mothers to daughters and stems from centuries of women’s dependence on men to provide shelter, status, and legitimacy. Today, I observe this deeply ingrained attitude even in women who are self-reliant economically and are empowered in many other ways.
To me, such behavior also reveals a profound misunderstanding of what creates a sustainable bond within a couple and displays fear and mistrust inherent in our relationship bonds.
No one belongs to us, and certainly, no other human being can give us that sense of ultimate safety that would calm our fears about life. When we go through life as victims, expecting the worst, life will keep providing us proof of our own beliefs. When we expect to be betrayed, we very possibly will be. Because when we act out of fear and mistrust, we try to manipulate and control, eventually poisoning whatever love and connection may have united us with our partner in the beginning.
There is a lot of confusion we all have around romantic expectations. But this notion that our partner is “ours” is not only false, it is also quite toxic. Women have been battling for generations to stop being viewed and treated as property and possession, yet we still try to capture and possess our men.
The competition between women to seduce a man still comes from that inherited and insidious sense of scarcity, inadequacy, and not-enoughness that has been conditioned into us from childhood. There are still too many women who feel incomplete when they are single. The panic of ending up alone drives us to overlook all sorts of questionable behavior from a man. In our relentless pursuit to be chosen, we forget that we should be choosing, too.
This viewing a man as a prize, as an accessory, as a possession, as a meal ticket has to stop if we want to reverse the unhealthy and increasingly painful ways men and women relate today. There seem to be more men now who view women as gold-diggers out to trap them, rather than nurturing caregivers they may have seen in us in the past. It is no wonder that many men are reluctant to commit to a long-term relationship.
This reluctance of a man to commit feeds the insecurity among women in the dating stages of a relationship. A common fear is that the man continues seeing other women. They worry that the man may meet someone else, someone he likes more, someone who is “better.” But instead of openly communicating “the rules of the game,” women prefer to watch silently how much time their object of seduction spends online, panicking when he does not answer their message immediately. They then prolong their agony imagining scenarios of affairs going on behind their backs, even before any commitment was even discussed.
We don’t like to hear that each relationship, each situation, is co-created by both people involved. It is easy to blame the other for our predicament. When an affair takes place in a partnership, we are quick to demonize others—blaming the partner who had the affair and the person with whom they had it—completely disregarding our own role in co-creating the situation. A partner driven to go outside of marriage may mean that together we have failed to create a safe space where difficult feelings may be expressed without fear of irreversible fallout. The absence of a safe space to talk about anything also reveals that the connection between partners was already broken.
One thing is certain: no relationship can thrive in the atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion. The romantic notion that there exists the One who will fill all our needs is misguided, outdated, and impossible to sustain. No one person can be the whole world to another. We need all sorts of relationships, conversations, and experiences for a vibrant, dynamic, and fulfilling life. It takes a village to raise a child and it also takes a community for all of us to thrive.
Women find themselves living in suspicion of betrayal from their men and other women. Meanwhile, in my conversations with men, I am surprised to find that many of them are mired in self-blame, fear of their spouses, and a tremendous sense of guilt for who they are. In my personal experience, all men who talk to me about relationships are interested in understanding their own partner, and how to repair their own partnership, not to form one with me.
One sure way to kill the sexual charge within a couple is when a relationship becomes that of a suspicious and controlling parent and a rebellious child. In fact, as soon as a romantic relationship falls into this mother/child dynamic, the sexual spark disappears and the relationship loses this essential element. Esther Perel’s famous body of work focuses on the need for space and freedom in relationships in order for eros—the life force—to be maintained. When our inherent sovereignty and freedom are not respected within a partnership, it destroys the attraction and sexual polarity. This leads to a break in connection and breakdown in communication, which further breeds suspicion in one partner and the need to run in another.
Of course, the principal problem underlying our mistrust is that most of us do not believe we are worthy of love. So when we succeed in getting a man to commit long-term, we hold on to him for dear life. With every passing year, women feel the pressure of their expiration date approaching, and with it the unbearable prospect that nobody else will want us after that.
For the majority of women, it is still quite impossible to believe that we can be our own best company. That we may feel whole and complete on our own. Any betrayal that we may perceive, any revenge we may want to inflict on another, is due to our own relationship with our wounded and unhealed inner child and often is an indication that we have betrayed our Self long ago.
Modern relationships have become fear-producing and stress-inducing. The chasing of love from outside of ourselves sets us up for failure from the start. When we understand that our love is ours— and dwells within us—we will understand that we cannot lose it, because nobody can take it away.
The current paradigm of relating is due for a change to reflect the evolving needs of men and women. We can learn to love each other, but not need that love. When we learn to master ourselves and stand on your own two feet, we will not need a partner to complete us.
This means we must learn to view relationships in a new way: no longer as spaces where we can be saved or fixed, or given security, money, protection, or status. They are certainly not to be viewed as solutions for our fears or unhappiness.
Conscious relating is a safe space to grow and evolve, rooted in accountability and freedom. It is where two sovereign beings come of their own free will, attuned to the present moment and not needing assurance of future longevity. Love cannot be forced. The person who may choose to leave us was never ours and needs to be released.
No emotionally mature and self-respecting adult should ever want a partner who stays with us out of guilt and obligation, chained to us by their own disempowerment and fear of the unknown.
Contact me for a free introductory session to learn how to heal your inner child as the prerequisite to building Trust in all relationships.