NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Coping with Secrets and Lies in Your Relationship

Couples often come to couples counseling after one of them discovers secrets, lies or betrayal by his or her partner. Once trust is breached, it's difficult to restore it without the help of a licensed mental health professional who works with couples.

Secrets and Lies in a Relationship

Clinical Vignettes
The following stories are examples of couples who struggled with betrayal in their relationship and came to couples counseling to work on these issues. All examples in this post, as well as all other posts, are composites of actual cases with all identifying information changed to protect confidentiality.

Larry and Barbara:
Soon after they got married, Barbara discovered that Larry had significant credit card debt that he had not revealed to her. Barbara felt betrayed because they had talked about their personal finances, and she thought they had each shared all the important information that each needed to know. It wasn't until they wanted to buy a house that Larry, who felt very ashamed of his debt, revealed that he had poor credit. After that, Barbara wondered what else Larry might not have told her. When they began couples counseling, they were barely talking to one another and their marriage was spiraling down. However, over time, with Larry working hard in couples counseling to regain Barbara's trust, they re-established communication, and they were able to salvage their marriage.

Maureen and Cathy:
Maureen and Cathy moved in together after dating for two years. Soon after they were living together, Maureen sensed that Cathy was not being honest with her about Cathy's relationship with her ex. Maureen knew that Cathy maintained a cordial relationship with her ex, Mary, but she soon discovered (by looking at Cathy's cell phone bills) that Cathy was in contact with her ex a lot more than Maureen realized. When she confronted Cathy about it, Cathy became angry that Maureen was snooping on her. Maureen became furious that Cathy led her to believe that she and Mary only had limited contact, when, in fact, Cathy was talking to Mary several times a week.

Cathy denied that anything romantic was going on any more between her and Mary, and Maureen believed her. But Maureen felt betrayed that Cathy lied to her. Cathy countered that she felt Maureen wouldn't understand that Mary was going through a difficult time and she wanted to be supportive of her. When they came to couples counseling, each of them was polarized in their position. Maureen was ready to walk out on their relationship, but she decided to give it a last-ditch effort in couples counseling.

 Shortly after they started couples counseling, Cathy came to understand that lying to her partner was a betrayal, regardless of how much she thought Mary needed her. She realized that she had to put her relationship first and she was genuinely remorseful. Maureen, in turn, realized that she shouldn't snoop on Cathy. A few months later, Cathy set appropriate boundaries with Mary. When she saw Mary, she either saw her with Maureen or she let Maureen know that she was spending time with Mary. Both Maureen and Cathy learned to regain trust in each other.

John and Bill:
John and Bill were together for 15 years when John discovered that Bill had recently begun having secret chats in online sexual chat rooms. When John confronted Bill about his activities online, Bill was very contrite. He insisted that he only engaged in sexual fantasy online, and he never met any of these men in person. John was so stunned and angry by Bill's behavior that he didn't know what to believe. 

He felt betrayed by Bill's secrecy, and he thought about ending the relationship. But Bill convinced him to go to couples counseling to deal with their problems. While in couples counseling, Bill told John that he felt neglected by him sometimes, and he liked the attention he got online in the chat rooms. Rather than acting out, Bill learned how to express his feelings to John. He came to see that secretly participating in online chats was a form of infidelity. Over time, John forgave Bill and they were able to strengthen their relationship in couples counseling and re-establish trust.

Getting Help in Therapy
Dealing with secrets, lies and betrayal in your relationship and regaining trust can be very challenging.

If you and your partner are having a difficult time regaining trust in your relationship as a result secrecy, lies or some form of betrayal, you could benefit from couples counseling with a licensed mental health professional who works with couples.

About Me
I am a licensed psychotherapist and couples counselor in NYC. I have helped many couples to work through problems in their relationship.

To find out more about me, visit my web site: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, you can call me at (917) 742-2624 or email me.