The fall of Issa’s and Lawrence’s relationship on Insecure depicts a common and cautionary tale of what can happen when generally healthy relationships are not protected and nurtured. Most relationships go through rough patches at some point. People feel frustrated or annoyed by each other and aren’t sure how to communicate clearly or resolve their problems. These patches often arise after the infatuation and overwhelmingly positive feelings of new love have worn away. When daily life in a relationship feels mundane and partners take each other for granted. The things that used to come easily – sincere compliments, passionate sex, general admiration – seemed to fade without warning and you’re left wondering what was lost in the relationship and if it’s possible to get it back
Cheating is a common response to feeling unhappy in a relationships. When relationships go through rough patches, many people do not know how to address the issues that arise. Instead of turning towards each other, partners often turn away from each other; avoiding engagement and the hard work of having difficult conversations. Additionally, many people have trouble asking for what they need in relationships and feeling hurt, disappointed, and angry can cause people to disregard their partner’s feelings. These issues can make partners vulnerable to developing inappropriate connections with people outside of their relationship. On this season of Insecure, we saw both Issa and Lawrence cultivate relationships with people who they were attracted to and provided them with the affirmation and encouragement that they were not receiving in their relationship with each other.
The last two episodes of Insecure depicted the agony that couples go through when people are unfaithful. And yet despite how deeply this pain resonates with us, we often fail to prevent ourselves from engaging in similar destructive behavior. In this post I highlight ways to protect your relationship and prevent infidelity.
Nurture Your Relationship
Relationships are easy to nurture in the beginning. When warm-and-fuzzy feelings abound all we want to do is spend time with our partner. We can’t help but show them affection and do nice and thoughtful things. In the beginning of relationships, many people naively believe that the honeymoon period will last forever. Anyone who has been in a serious relationship for long enough will tell you that’s not true. Relationships must be nurtured and cared for over time in order to be healthy. I encourage you to think about the things that made your relationship exciting and fun in the beginning and make an effort to continue to do those things. Sometimes when the spark has faded a bit we need to push ourselves to do things that don’t always feel as spontaneous or natural as they did in the beginning.
How to: Think about the things that you loved about the beginning of your relationship (e.g. long periods of quality time, date nights, cooking together etc.). Identify 1-2 of these things that you would like to re-incorporate into your relationship and initiate those activities.
Protect the Boundaries of Your Relationship
Boundaries are an essential aspect of successful relationships. Some couples agree to more loose boundaries and others prefer more strict boundaries. It is important for partners to have agreed upon boundaries in order for the relationship to feel safe. Once you know that you’re on the same page with your partner about your boundaries, I encourage you to actively protect them. This might mean distancing yourself from a friendship that is becoming flirtatious and pushing the boundaries of your relationships. Or not sharing intimate details of your relationship (especially problems) with large groups of people.
Address Relationship Problems
One of the primary tensions in the first two episodes of Insecure was the problem in Issa and Lawrence’s relationship that they were not addressing. They were in a rut and couldn’t figure out a way to talk about it effectively. I encourage you to do the brave thing and bring up the concerns you have in your relationship to your partner before the problems become ingrained. Through doing couple therapy, I’ve learned that it is much easier to work through problems that are new than problems that have been present in relationships for years.
How to: Outside of the context of an argument, set aside a time with your partner to talk about ways to improve your relationship. Own your contribution to the problems and frame your concerns as requests for how both of you can work to improve the relationship. If the problems are too difficult to work through on your own, consider going to couple therapy.
Be Honest with Yourself about Temptations
It is clear that neither Issa nor Lawrence were honest with themselves about the temptations that their friendships posed. Being honest about people who you are tempted to engage with romantically or sexually is an important aspect of protecting your relationship. It is normal to find other people attractive and that is not a problem in and of itself. However, if you find yourself looking forward to spending time with a friend that you are attracted to, notice yourself dressing up or making sure you look good if you think you’ll see that person you may need to check yourself. I encourage you to avoid situations that could provide an opportunity for you to engage physically with that person. For example, you probably shouldn’t go out to drinks with someone who fits into this category or spend extended amounts of time alone with them. You should also be mindful about sharing intimate information with this person, which could prompt an emotionally intimate relationship to develop. It is much easier to give into temptation than to resist it and the closer you are to the temptation the harder it is to say no. For example, it would have been easier for Issa to say no to going into the studio with Daniel than to say no to having sex with him once they started kissing.
Long-term relationships take work and commitment. Many of the things I am recommending here are hard to do. It is hard to let go of a friendship that feels positive and affirming in order to avoid temptation. If you don’t feel like you can do these things and you are disengaging from your relationship, I encourage you to do the honorable thing end the relationship. Cheating to prompt the end of your relationship is a cop out, it allows you to do something that feels good for you while betraying your partner. I encourage you to respect and nurture your relationship and to leave it if you aren’t able to do that.