The Infidelity Blindfold

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“Parker, home wrecker!” Los Angeles Clippers basketball fans chanted at San Antonio Spurs player Tony Parker as he dribbled the ball down the court at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Fans were taunting Parker about his secret love affair with Erin Barry, the wife of Tony’s former teammate Brent Barry. The basketball star cheated on wife Eva Longoria, a well-known actress who found hundreds of text messages addressed to Erin on her husband’s phone. Filing for divorce, Longoria told TMZ in an interview that she “was devastated by the rumors of Tony’s infidelity, that she loved her husband, and is heartbroken about their split.” Unfortunately, Longoria’s story mirrors celebrities and non-celebrities alike. How come women choose to date and marry unfaithful men? Why couldn’t Longoria and others like her see the red flags in their relationship? How do you avoid becoming People Magazine’s next relationship tragedy cover story? Dr. Christyn Nelson, marriage and family counselor and life coach from Newport Beach California gives us advice on how to tell if your man is being faithful.

According to Nelson, when people are with their partner for a long time, the excited “in love” feeling can wear off. She says it is normal to crave attention from someone else, but to act out on these feelings and lie to your partner forever changes your relationship.

“Integrity and faithfulness in intimate relationships has been a huge issue I deal with in my counseling practice for over 20 years. When you are with someone as a partner for an extended amount of time, the excited "in love" craziness wears off, and hopefully moves into something deeper and more meaningful,” says Nelson. “Even if you are deeply committed to your partner, you are still human and will occasionally feel a rush of attention from someone else. But to act out on feelings of flattery and deceive your committed partner is wrong; I see many adults screw this up and regret it. It's an integrity issue: to be "all in" a relationship or have the courage and honor to end it. When a partner cheats, it changes a relationship in permanent ways. You never get back the innocence you had before. Couples can work through it, but it's never quite the same,” says Dr. Nelson.  

Kellen*, a senior at George Washington, was unable to see the red flags of infidelity in her relationship. Similar to Longoria, Kellen and her boyfriend found themselves long-distance, depending on texting and Skype to keep in touch. Friends of hers claimed that they saw her boyfriend with other girls, but she refused to believe it. Her views later changed after finding a series of messages on her boyfriend’s phone addressed to a girl Kellen knew on the swim team. 

“My friends told me that they had seen my boyfriend hitting on and even kissing other girls. Every time I confronted him about it, he told me that I was the one that was flirting with other guys; he told me he would never lie to me. He kept saying that he loved me.. So I trusted him. Later, when I visited him in New York over spring break, he was constantly on texting on his phone. I broke down with curiosity; I went onto his phone and saw messages on his Facebook with a girl, saying how much he ‘missed her’ and ‘could not wait to see her again back in Baltimore.’ I was devastated that someone I loved so much had lied to me. I had been too blind to see it,” said Kellen.

Nelson adds that once a person cheats in a relationship, they are likely to do it again. She strongly suggests trying to openly dig up information on your boyfriend’s past, especially regarding family history, because these pieces of information can serve as red flags. 

“If a person has been unfaithful, it is very possible they will do it again, so buyer beware. Another red flag can be the status of a partner’s parents and their fidelity to each other; infidelity is a habit that is often repeated in families,” said Dr. Nelson.

So if a nagging, paranoid voice in the back of your head suspects that your partner is being unfaithful, don’t just immediately dismiss it. While there are various levels of unfaithfulness, whether emotion or physical, they are all equally painful to deal with. Dr. Nelson says that, while you should have trust in a relationship, you should never ignore your instincts; sometimes, they are true.

“When in a relationship, pay attention to any signs or feelings that suggest your partner is not telling the truth. I personally think it is positive to seek partners with a moral or spiritual code for living their life; if they honor personal integrity, honesty, and faithfulness, they are less likey to cheat. This can be a smart way to save yourself the trouble of a painful break-up,” says Dr. Nelson. 

Looking back, Kellen remembers suspicions that her boyfriend was being deceptive, but always them aside, instead labeling herself jealous. The day she discovered his infidelities in New York, Kellen comments, she boarded a train early the next morning and never looked back.

 “I always felt unsure about my boyfriend’s honesty, even though he repeatedly told me he would never cheat on me. Even though friends warned me of his lies, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and trusted him. Boarding that train back to DC was the hardest thing I ever did, because once I knew I got, on I would never see him again. It was also the best decision I ever made in a relationship,” said Kellen.  

So while you shouldn’t accuse your partner left and right about suspicions, don’t ignore that voice in the back of your head; trust your gut. Do yourself a favor and find out what you can about a man’s background and dating history when entering a new relationship. After all, no one wants to end up as the next relationship tragedy like Longoria or Kellen; no one wants to go through the pain of discovering your partner is unfaithful. Although it is not always evident, it is certainly never a bad thing to protect yourself from possible heartbreak down the road.  

*Names have been changed.

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George Washington University

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