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Esther Perel, the influential psychotherapist, has worked with thousands of people who have struggled with betrayal.
In her book, The State of Affairs, she includes the raw conversations she had with couples dealing with infidelity in her therapy sessions.
In one of Perel’s sessions, she asks a man who was cheated on in his former marriage if he’s been able to trust again.
“I’m still hurt, deep inside,” he says, “but I have lived and loved again. People thought I would be f*cked up forever and unable to truly trust. They are partially right, but it’s more that I trust differently. Before, I trusted too much and was naïve. Now I realize that even the best people can’t always get it right and end up acting out. We are all human and anyone is capable of doing what she did, even me.”
I stopped in my tracks when I read his answer. I actually had to close the book and reflect on that conversation.
You see, we’ve all been hurt. We’ve all been betrayed in one way or another. And we’ve all pondered whether we should trust people again or not.
If we choose to trust, we might set ourselves up for disappointment, and if we choose to build a shield over our hearts and never trust again, we might miss out on the opportunity to experience the vibrancy and potentials that love has to offer.
And sometimes we can’t help but to fully trust again. It appears as if our traumatized memory formats itself and our childlike, flimsy hearts believe that this person could never do anything to jeopardize our romantic bond.
Maybe the answer to this puzzling turmoil is simpler than we think. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a black-or-white situation. Maybe it’s what’s in-between.
We don’t have to blindly trust someone, and we don’t have to shut them out either. Blind trust, as Perel’s patient said, means naïvety. And avoidance is illusory. It’s not that we don’t have to trust people again—it’s just that we need to trust them differently.
I think this man’s words have deeply connected with me because, not so long ago, I have come to the same conclusion: we’re human. We’re prone to acting out, and anyone is capable of betrayal. The only difference between a loyal person and an unfaithful one is the choice they make when they are tempted.
As humans with an endless set of emotions, we can’t choose to not be tempted. But we can choose to not act on it.
That said, looking at relationships from a realistic point of view might reduce the intensity of our painful feelings if we were ever betrayed. We are allowed to feel hurt. We are allowed to feel dejected. We are also allowed to shift our black-or-white mindset and see things as they are.
There aren’t “certain” people who are prone to cheat. Anyone is prone to cheat, and it’s about time to come to terms with this (maybe) ugly truth.
Trust that “even the best people can’t get it right.”
Trust with awareness.