“You’re cheating on me, I know it.” For many men and women in romantic relationships, this statement is all too familiar. Being accused of something false is not only shocking, but hurtful and leaves the accused person with a huge decision about how to react. Do you defend yourself, ignore it, or try some other crafty reaction? What was once a safe, committed relationship is suddenly a paranoid trap.
Many significant others report being blindsided by the paranoia of their partner, but there may have been subtle clues that the paranoia was forming.
– “Where did you get that new perfume?”
– “Who is Bill from work?”
– “You really like sex, don’t you?”
– “What did you do while I was visiting my parents?”
These types of questions might be more than just a partner’s curiosity when followed by unfounded accusations.
Paranoia vs Jealousy
The difference between jealousy and paranoia in a relationship can be tricky. Jealousy is being afraid to lose someone you care about deeply. A moderate amount of jealousy in a romantic relationship is natural, and can even signal how meaningful the relationship is to an individual.
Paranoia in a romantic relationship is unwarranted jealousy accompanied by actions of obsession, mistrust, even delusions. The unfounded nature of paranoia can feel like the partner is on a witch hunt – searching for clues and connecting pieces of information illogically. A new book you are reading, the smell of a towel, the conversation you had with a friend, and a new clothing purchase could all be linked together by a paranoid person to indicate cheating or betrayal.
What to Do About Paranoia in Your Relationship
At first the non-paranoid partner tries to explain or justify their actions. This usually does not work, because logic does not combat paranoia. Ignoring the paranoia is not effective either, because the paranoid person’s concerns, although unfounded, are not being taken seriously.
The only way to stay in a paranoia affected relationship is to label it for what it is, and for the paranoid person to take ownership of the paranoia. This may require therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Paranoia will not get better on its own, like some minor case of the sniffles.
The good news is most paranoid people already know and will acknowledge that they experience mistrusting others regularly. This means there is somewhere to start the conversation into this difficult subject.
Many couples experience mistrust and paranoia in relationships. Over the next few weeks I will explore how paranoia can affect both the paranoid person and the receiver of the paranoia, along with how to effectively cope with the issue to stay together or end the relationship if needed.