Dear Neil: My husband thinks he saw me actually having sex with his best friend. This did not happen. I have always been faithful to him. He won’t go to see anyone because he “knows what he saw,” and seeing a therapist won’t change anything. He’s having all the painful reactions a spouse would have if it had really happened. He thinks I’m a coward because I won’t own up to it. What are your thoughts about what I should do?
Dear Denver: Your husband could be using your alleged infidelity as an excuse to withdraw from the marriage, or he could be trying to create more power for himself in the marriage because you “owe” him. He could be attempting to leverage this issue in order to get his way on a completely different negotiation or disagreement the two of you have, or it could be that he is trying to cover up something he he has done, and is thereby distracting you by putting you on the defensive.
It’s also possible that he has a paranoid personality disorder, or at least has tendencies in that direction. Someone who is paranoid has a pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others; suspects that other people are exploiting, harming or deceiving him; is reluctant to confide in others; is preoccupied with unwarranted doubts about the trustworthiness or loyalty of others; persistently bears grudges, and is unforgiving of slights from other people.
Reassure your husband of your fidelity. If that doesn’t work, ask him what he would like for you to do (other than admitting infidelity) in order to put this issue behind him and trust you again. If that doesn’t work, you’re going to have to decide how much of this you’re willing to put up with.
Dear Neil: Last year things between my wife of 21 years and I fell apart. My infidelity early on in our marriage caused me years of her mistrust, and she has recently said that she has never forgotten it. While we were separated, I met a really nice lady, and we started a relationship. I was honest with her and let her know that I was still in love with my wife.
Well, my wife came back and said she wanted to see if we could work things out. I jumped at the chance, but broke the other woman’s heart. My wife now wants to know who I’ve been with while we’ve been separated . I feel if I tell her, our chance of getting back together is gone. But I don’t want to lie either. Should I tell her? She already suspects something, and I don’t lie very well. I almost lost my job when we separated, and I don’t know if I can emotionally handle another separation.
Hurting In California
Dear Hurting: You have to weigh the price you think you would pay if you told her about the other relationship, versus the price you would likely pay if you didn’t tell her and she found out about it on her own. If you do tell her, immediately offer to renew your vows to each other, and specify you will be monogamous and faithful in those vows.
By the way, she also may have had another relationship while the two of you were separated.