“Most of the clients I see who have found their partner cheating have done so through text or emails and sometimes Facebook. I don’t believe these methods of communication are making more people cheat – they simply make it easier to get caught. They also make it easier for distrusting people to check up on their partners.
Some people can’t stop doing it and become incessant checkers. “I have come across quite a few clients who check their partners’ phones. They are normally women and it usually happens after they have been cheated on – their trust has been broken and they have anxiety about it. Whether this is the case or not, a person checking up on their partner is almost always about insecurity and self-esteem issues.
“In cases where they were cheated on by a past partner and their current partner is innocent, it creates an unfair situation. I’ve seen couples where the man is completely faithful and yet he is constantly being checked up on. Sometimes when the woman isn’t able to overcome her anxiety, it can create a wedge between them and cause the breakdown of the relationship.
“Other times I’ve seen completely faithful guys turn into cheaters, simply because they have been accused of it so much. They get to the point where they think that seeing as they are getting so much grief about it, they may as well do it. In those cases it’s sad to see that her fear of him cheating on her actually causes her worst fear to come true.
“When your trust has been broken it is difficult to trust again. It’s really about making a conscious decision to trust someone. You have to ask yourself, ‘What does transparency look like in a relationship? Does checking each others’ phones show transparency, or insecurity?’ Anxious checking up on each other doesn’t have a place in a transparent relationship.
“As a therapist it’s my job to enable the paranoid person to choose to trust again. One way of doing this is making her realise that if you are looking at someone with distrust in your eyes, everything will look suspicious. If we examined our own emails for suspicious content we would find it... anything can sound like flirting if you want it to. If you go looking for proof that your partner is flirting, you will find it.
“I encourage the couples I work with to try to catch their partner being good, rather than being bad. Trying to catch your partner out is always going to cause a fight because nobody likes to be scrutinised. No good will come of it.
“At the same time, if someone is an incessant checker because they are in a relationship with someone who has already cheated on them, I would side with them on that. Having your trust broken is a difficult thing to overcome. The cheater needs to understand that they have created this paranoia, so they can’t start lashing out about their partner checking up on them.
“If someone is an incessant checker and they have never been cheated on, it normally means they have very low self-esteem. They are probably worried that their partner might find someone more appealing if they don’t keep watch. I’ve seen people drive their partners away with this jealousy – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. So be aware: if you’re a nosy, prying, privacy-invading person, your lack of trust could eventually cause your partner to cheat.
“If a couple comes to me with this situation I would say their relationship is on shaky ground. I say to them, ‘Stop. Either stop the incessant checking or stop the relationship. It’s not worth being in a relationship that you can’t trust.’
I read a Greek myth about Cupid where he said, ‘Love cannot exist where there is no trust.’ I agree with that. If you can’t trust your partner, there are four options: end the relationship and find one you can trust; choose to trust your partner again; choose to stay put and be quiet about your distrust; or get help to get your trust issues fixed.”
Kennon Rider is a professor and a marriage and family therapist. Make an appointment with him at the German Neuroscience Centre, DHCC (gncdubai.com, 04-4298578).