BY: T. Franklin Murphy | November 2016
Betrayals are not only sexual. We can betray intimacy by divulging details, violating trust, and painting our partners as devils in disguise.
The intricate weaving of emotions, connection and vulnerability in relationships create a difficult maze to navigate. The unforeseen crossroads baffle our wisdom and send us scurrying for guidance and support. But flinging the mud of a partner’s imperfection against the walls of a listening ear must be done with care (or not at all). Under the guise of seeking support, we may be destructive. Careless partner bashing betrays intimacy, deepens divides, and secures stubborn positions rather than constructively seeking answers.
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Sharing intimate details of disagreements to bolster support misses the mark. When we repaint disagreements with a one-sided landscape, most listeners will be sympathetic, supporting the limited non-compromising position. The guidance from a wise friend is a powerful resource; but when tainted by presentation that villainizes the partner, we aren’t seeking guidance; we’re seeking sympathy, supporting our closed-mindedness, and softening the guilt for disloyalty.
If divulging relationship secrets doesn’t widen our understanding, resolve issues, or provide moral support to work through difficulties, our careless bantering violates trust, further deteriorating the relationship. The meager rewards of partner bashing come at the cost of betrayal. An interesting study found that outside communications about relationship struggles were more effective for older couples while often destructive for young couples. Perhaps with maturity the advice sought and given focuses on repair rather than villainizing. Further studies on the differences in content between the different age groups would be enlightening.
Discussions with close friends may shed light on the darker aspects of our personality; but only when we listen openly. A few defensive reactions to constructive advice shut the spigot, limiting the future flow of unfiltered wisdom. A friend, without the emotional investment in the relationships, may wisely see an issue with more clarity.
Biased views confuse complex choices. Relationship issues rarely are as simple as wrong and right, clearly defining one partner good and the other bad; both positive and negative aspects apply to both sides. By blindly accentuating our positives but ignoring our negatives, deceptively paints us as innocent, and as wrongly victimized by a punk partner. We justify our role in conflict while magnifying the wrongfulness of our partner. Unless we open ourselves to constructive criticism, friends kindly oblige to support the tainted views. Often, to protect our erroneous views, a friend’s acceptance of our self-justifying stories becomes essential for continued friendship; the friend warning of possible personal contributions is ditched. How dare they be honest!
"Unless we open ourselves to constructive criticism, friends kindly oblige to support the tainted views."
When enmeshed in conflict, our biased views confuse the path necessary for resolution. We wander down the same dead-end streets; stuck in pride we lose the resource of outside wisdom. Those less involved may see through the smoke, offering helpful insight, but only if we listen.
With support and desire, struggling relationships can improve, bringing peace to our beleaguered souls. As we seek healing, viewing personal involvement with skepticism, we may escape the limiting veils of maya, blinding us from the actions essential to create the intimacy we seek.