June 1, 2007
Volume 35
Issue 22
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Saturday, Dec 15, 2018



Ask Michael
Relationship woes
by Michael Raitt, MA, LMHC - SGN Contributing Writer

Michael, my girlfriend and I have been together for just over a year. I don't trust her because I think she is having an affair on me. She gets phone calls and texts from other people and she won't tell me who they are. I get very frustrated and I am afraid of what I'll find out. How can I trust her? What could I have done to cause her to do this?

Michael: Thank you for your email. I know the issues of trust and possible infidelity in a relationship is very stressful. I understand your feelings of frustration and the fear of finding out that someone you care for has betrayed you.

Infidelity creates a lot of hurt. People end up feeling taken advantage of and betrayed. The first thing to know is that there is nothing you have done to cause her to do this (if she is having an affair). Nobody makes anyone go outside the relationship. People who are having an affair do so because of something within them. Sometimes the person having the affair will try to make it seem like she was pushed to have the affair but that is not the case. People who commit infidelity have to come to terms and take responsibility for their own actions. If there is a problem within the relationship, it should be dealt with within the relationship and not by going outside the relationship and having an affair.

Trust isn't something you can get from someone. Trust is something you build within yourself. When someone has trust within, they commit to a set of behaviors that reflect their character and personal ethics. They know they won't dishonor that commitment by acting in a way that is counter to what they have committed to. For example, regarding fidelity, when someone says they won't cheat because of values they hold, they are nurturing trust within. When two people with these values come together, then you have a relationship without infidelity.

Another part of trust is when you trust that you can take care of yourself. If you find out your girlfriend is cheating on you, you have to trust that you can handle yourself and look after yourself. You may have to get into counseling, end the relationship, work things out - the choice is yours. Have trust that you will do what is in your best interest to keep you safe. I wish you the best of luck and hope you both sort this out.


Michael: Thank you for doing this. I've read some of your other stuff and you have good common sense. I hope you can help me here. My boyfriend and I are always arguing and it gets ugly. We try to talk and then get angry at each other and we get no where. How do guys communicate in a relationship?

Michael: Thank you for your email. Communication is an ongoing challenge for many of us in a relationship. We need to work things out and sometimes it seems to get worse when we try to talk about things.

There is research out there talking about the "physiology" of anger. When our heart rate goes up above 95 beats per minute (and this happens when we are angry, scared, anxious), the auditory center of our brain is less efficient - we don't process through the use of our hearing as well. That's why you often hear couples say, "you aren't listening to me" when they are fighting. When this happens, it is futile to continue the conversation.

Make a commitment with your boyfriend that when either or both of you are "getting upset", that you agree to stop the conversation and continue it another time. This is not an excuse to ignore the conversation. Rather, it is a way of relaxing so you both can hear each other when you resume talking.

I always encourage couples to listen for "assumptions" and "intent". An assumption is when you assume you know what the other is saying or meaning. For example, when one says that he wants to spend an evening on his own and the other assumes that the first is angry, it can lead to an argument.

"Intent" is when one applies purpose to something someone else has said. When one says, "I want to stay home tonight" and the other says/thinks, "you are just trying to stop me from seeing my friends", one has attributed a purpose that may not be there. This, too, can cause friction and arguments.

Couples can clear up misunderstandings that come by applying assumptions and intent through asking a lot of questions: is this what you really meant? This is what I think you are saying, do I understand it properly? What part am I missing? Take a stance of curiosity and ask questions that come to mind.

Another pattern couples sometimes fall into is "trying to win". When you take the position that, "I have to win this debate/prove my point/make it go my way", the other often feels frustrated and cornered. This will usually lead to fighting and resentments. Communication isn't about winning and it doesn't mean you have to agree. It is about hearing each other and coming to a solution that is agreeable to both parties.

Check out some of these ideas and see if any are applicable to your situation. Make a commitment to practice communicating differently. Changing communication patterns can be done and requires continual practice. Good luck.

Michael Raitt, MA, LMHC, can be reached at 206-325-4113, by email at or by visiting

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