In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim addresses trust issues in marriage and how to deal with a spouse who doesn't trust you.
The main issue in our relationship is that my husband chooses to believe that I have cheated on him when I haven’t. I have been faithful to him. I hardly ever leave the house. I work from home and have given him no reason at all to think this. People have said to me that usually the accuser is the guilty one, but in my heart I don’t believe he has cheated on me either. I just don’t know what to do anymore. How can I get him to trust me and stop being afraid of this all the time?
You can’t really fix this on your own. Your husband will probably need some professional help to deal with his control, fear and trust issues. I will tell you a few things that may help you to understand where it's coming from though. Most people, who have deep trust issues, have experienced one or more of the following, which have created deep wounds at the subconscious level. See if any of these sound familiar.
- Did he have a controlling, fearful, inconsistent, angry parent that didn’t make him feel safe?
- Did he experience the loss or betrayal of a parent or loved one?
- Did he have a parent who was distant, cold or unloving?
- Did he have a loved one with excessive anger or control issues?
- Does he have some deep, unresolved self-esteem issues, poor body image, or rejection in childhood that has stayed with him?
- Was he controlled by a parent and does he project his fear of being controlled onto you, even though he is the one who is controlling?
Some people with these kinds of childhood problems end up with conditions like narcissism or borderline personality disorder. (You may want to read about these conditions and see if the symptoms sound familiar.) If your husband has a problem like this, nothing but professional help is going to change things.
If he refuses to get help and continues to be controlling, distrustful or angry, you will have to decide if you can live with it or want out.
If the situation is not quite that serious — or in the meantime while you are waiting to get help — here are a few things experts say you could do:
- Be an open book. Be totally honest about everything you do (and unafraid to be that way). Let him have total access to your cellphone, email and social media. Let him know that you have nothing to hide and no fear about him seeing everything you do. The less scared you are, the more calm you will create in your home.
- Stay in trust that your value is infinite and absolute, and doesn’t change based on what he thinks, says or does. You are bulletproof and good enough all the time, no matter what mood he is in or how bad he sees you today. Your value doesn’t change! This will prevent you from being hurt or getting defensive. Let everything bounce off. I know this is hard to do but it is the only way to not get pulled into his drama and anger.
- Stay calm and cool. It’s not a fight without two participants. If you are unafraid and calm it will be no fun to fight with you. You must stay bulletproof no matter what he says. When he accuses you, say, "You can choose to believe that but it doesn't make it true. I stand by my love for you." Remember that every mean comment is a projection of his pain. It is not really about you. He is miserable and scared and doesn’t want to own it alone. Seeing this situation accurately will help you not get pulled in.
- Remember life is a classroom to teach us love and we always marry our greatest teachers. This is a chance for you to learn to choose love over defensiveness — at a really serious level. You must start seeing past the blame and accusations and see the wounded, scared soul that he is. When you see each comment as today’s lesson to teach you to be calm and loving, you will show up with more love for him. This mature response may calm him down, too.
- Don’t take his distrust personally. It is not really about you. It is about his subconscious insecurity. He has some serious fear and self-worth issues and they aren’t about you. You can try to reassure and validate him, but at the end of the day you cannot be responsible for his issues or fix them. He has to do that. Keep asking him (calmly) to join you in some marriage counseling. Tell him you really want a better, happier marriage and "everyone is doing it these days." This is true, more people than ever are reaching out for professional help. Marriage counseling doesn’t have the stigma it had in the past. Explain to him that asking for help is a sign of his strength, not weakness. (As I said before, if he refuses to get help, you will have to decide if it’s your perfect journey to stick it out or leave.)
- Don’t cast him as the bad guy because of these trust issues. You both are souls with infinite absolute value — the same value. He is just scared — he is not a bad person. Make sure you choose to see both of you as the same, struggling scared students in the classroom of life, doing the best you can with what you know. See him as a equal and remember that you have issues and flaws, too. If you always choose to see him as the same as you, you won’t talk down to him, which would make him even angrier.
- You may want to consider burying the past together. Get two pieces of paper and each of you write all the things that your spouse has done in the past that you still have pain and hurt about. Put those lists in a shoebox and bury them in the backyard. (Bury them deep.) Make a commitment not to bring those issues up ever again unless you first go dip the box up. Unless you are willing to do that, you can’t bring those issues back. This helps to facilitate mutual forgiveness for many couples.
You can do this.