In 1997 psychologist Dr. Arthur Aron explored whether intimacy between two strangers could be accelerated by having them ask each other 36 increasingly more personal questions. In 2015, Aron’s questions went viral starting with New York Times journalist Mandy Len Catron, who used the 36 questions in a self-experiment and did indeed fall in love with a stranger. That made me curious if this set of questions would be a good dating tool and what other applications they might have.
What happens in our brain when we fall for an untrustworthy person? Trust is the natural default setting of our human brain and the hormone oxytocin plays a role in all of this. So how do we increase our success rate when we have to decide who to trust and who is lying, deceiving or manipulating us?
As humans we crave nothing more than a deep intimate connection with another person, yet, we are at the same time often deeply afraid of reaching out and entrusting others with our fears and needs. We receive our wounding in relationships and our deepest healing also happens within the boundaries of a safe, exclusive, committed and intimate relationship. How can we help our partner to reach out, and how can we find the courage to be vulnerable ourselves?
The less aware a couple is of appropriate boundaries with others, the more likely it is that one partner will slip into an affair. When a love affair happens, the unfaithful partner has built a wall to shut out the marriage partner and has opened a window to let the affair partner in. After the affair, the walls and windows must be reconstructed to be in line with the “safety code” every relationship house requires.
Most unfaithful partners deny the affair at first. They try to assess how much the partner knows and how much they have to tell. They are usually afraid that admitting the whole truth will make things worse. The opposite is the case. Dragging out admissions are comparable to driving long distances on a flat tire. Delaying the repair can cause irreparable damage to the wheel and axle. Denials or half truths cause the same damage to the relationship.
Some of the conventional wisdom about what causes affairs and how to repair relationships are assumptions or myths. Some of the statistical facts in regards to infidelity are surprising and thought-provoking. While some of the myths lead to judgments and are very hurtful for the affected couple, the facts help us to be compassionate with ourselves and others in a situation of betrayal.
Once we have decided to stay in a relationship after a betrayal, how do we rebuild the broken trust? Whenever there’s been a betrayal there are problems on both sides and both people need to take responsibility for the part they’ve played. That is not a fault finding mission but a team effort of unpacking unexpressed feelings and uncovering unmet needs. If we are able to work through a betrayal together and have made the necessary changes, the relationship usually ends up being stronger than before.
When there are trust issues in a relationship, the question arises if the trust can be restored. Mistrust can provide an excuse to leave a relationship if we had already been thinking about ending the relationship. It all depends on what the relationship was like before the betrayal happened. Before deciding to heal and restore the broken trust, the author Mira Kirshenbaum recommends that you ask yourself several questions.
While you can’t have relationships without disappointments, you cannot have a solid love relationship without trust. Any upsetting surprise or discovery that makes us feel vulnerable, hurt or unsafe can be experienced as a betrayal and break of trust. One way in which trust issues enter a relationship is when there are significant differences between the partners in background, personality or preferences. Another risk factor for mistrust is a situation of unequal power. The worst trust killer is when one partner is less open than the other.
The passengers on the bus watched sympathetically as the attractive young woman with the white cane made her way carefully up the steps. She paid the driver, and using her hands to feel the location of the seats, walked down the aisle and found the seat he’d told her was empty…