When Trust is a Relationship Issue

Dear Neil:  I am currently trying to salvage my relationship with my girlfriend of four years.  I have caused a lot of hurt to her (drinking related), but for the last seven months I have been trying to show her that all of the bad things are gone.  She says she can’t go back.  I love her deeply, yet it took getting to this point to have finally owned up to my issues and to do something about them.  Is there a way for her and I to work this out?  There is still a lot of love there, but I have been pushing and pushing on the “us” issue and I think I may have pushed too hard.

Fearful in San Francisco


Dear Fearful:  It’s hard to believe someone who has repeatedly hurt you now saying that all the bad things are gone.  Most people have a BS detector that would caution them about what words to believe and what words to be cautious about.  You’re going to have to show her, not tell her, that you are in recovery—and that your hurtful behaviors are really behind you.  That is what you can do. 

But you could ask her what she would need from you in order to give the relationship one final chance.  If she refuses that invitation, she’s no longer yours.


Dear Neil:  I have been married for 43 years in a relationship that I believed was based on trust, openness, love and respect.  The following incident has led me to believe that this may not be so.  My husband assists in a volunteer organization.  Apparently allegations were made by some members of this group against other members, and my husband was asked to help resolve the issue. Initially he told me nothing of this, until he could no longer conceal the amount of time it required.  He then rather reluctantly outlined the issue, but advised me he would not reveal the names of the people.  I asked why he was not comfortable confiding in me and why all correspondence was being hidden.  His explanation to me was that it was better for me if I didn’t know anything. 

I am a lost to understand why he would not confide in me and ask me to respect the confidentiality required, and why he did not value my views on the subject.  The sad conclusion is that after 43 years, he does not trust me, my views are of no value and he does not need my love and support.  I am unable to move on.  He will not admit that this is a trust issue, and he feels he has handled everything correctly.  Please help me to forgive him, restore my trust in him and feel better.

Old Wife in New Zealand


Dear Old Wife:  Keeping private sensitive information confidential is honorable and shows integrity.  It is not mistrusting or unloving.  Many people—doctors, nurses, psychotherapists, marriage counselors, police, judges, attorneys, lab techs and so on—are privy to facts that could hurt someone’s standing in the community, or destroy their marriages and/or families.  It’s their job to steadfastly protect people’s privacy and confidentiality. 

Your husband keeping all this information confidential is not a rejection of you, for you are not entitled to know this sensitive information.  Your husband is only attempting to act with honor and integrity, and it would be a huge mistake for you to make that a problem in your marriage.  Try looking at how to make your marriage warmer and closer, and how you could improve your own self-esteem.

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