When we think of betrayal in a relationship, it's normally in a bold, almost cinematic situation—an affair, a one night stand in the heat of a fight, maybe even walking out in the middle of the night. But the truth is, many betrayals are far more subtle—and they’re usually anything but glamorous. Sure, there’s the betrayal when you run into the arms of someone else, but there’s also the more pedestrian, day-to-day betrayal that happens when you move away from your relationship and your partner emotionally over time.
And it's important to understand all of these different betrayals because even the most seemingly innocent forms can still slowly eat away at your relationship. Here's what you should look out for.
Not all infidelity in a relationship is physical. There are a lot of behaviors that easily pass the benchmark for infidelity that doesn’t involve any touching at all—in fact, infidelity doesn’t have to have anything to do with sexual attraction or even another person.
Financial infidelity is a major form of betrayal that isn’t spoken about enough. While it’s healthy to have some independence financially—and you shouldn't feel the need to tell your partner every time you buy yourself a t-shirt or a coffee—more secretive financial behavior can be incredibly worrying. Especially if those secrets involve debts or spending that impacts your partner's financial security or credit, it’s a breach of trust that simply isn’t OK.
Another form of non-physical infidelity, one that resembles more traditional infidelity, is emotional cheating. Developing an emotional dependency on another person, especially when that replaces your emotional connection with your partner, can be just as destructive of betrayal as cheating. But then again, having friendships is healthy—and sometimes the line between innocent friendships and emotional infidelity can be difficult to discern.
Normally if you're attracted to the person, imagine having an affair with them, or find that the connection is having a negative impact on your relationship, you’ll know that you’re dealing with an emotional affair rather than an innocuous friendship.
There are other forms of betrayal that may not reach the level of infidelity but can certainly do a number on your relationship. Some of them are deliberate, while you may not even notice yourself doing some of them. But you need to be mindful of when you’re being disrespectful to your partner because these small betrayals have the power to erode your relationship over time.
One of those ways can be divulging personal information about your partner—specifically information that they wouldn't want others to know. This is a difficult balance because, on the one hand, you have every right to talk to your friends, blow off steam, and get advice. But if it’s something so deep and personal to your partner that you know they would never want anyone else to know, then that’s something you should keep close to the chest.
One of the trickiest positions you may be put in is managing your relationship with your partner’s friends and family—this is an area where you may end up clipping into betrayal without any malicious intent, but because you feel stuck. For example, if you know your partner has a difficult relationship with their mother, but their mother tries to win you over or shares information about them, or drags you into a conversation where they want you to divulge personal information, you may have to work hard to respect your partner's boundaries.
Another important group to be aware of is people who you're attracted to or flirting with. Divulging private information about your partner or sharing secrets more generally can also cross a line, especially when it’s to someone that you’re attracted to or you know your partner dislikes. In fact, it's often the early stages of an emotional affair.
The truth is, while some betrayals are universal, every relationship is full of individual agreements you’ve made to each other. Some of them might be explicit, some of them might be tacit, but in a partnership, there are endless agreements and understanding. So if you agreed to take more time off of work but then refuse to, that is a betrayal of trust. So is taking advantage of your partner, being critical of them, and becoming complacent—because it’s a betrayal of the emotional foundations that a relationship is built on. So be aware of what your relationship has always looked like, what unstated dynamics you've created, and make sure that you're respecting those expectations.