Dear Neil: When I was two months pregnant, I found out that my husband of six years had been unfaithful with at least three different women that I know of. I was going to take my son and leave him, but two days later I had a miscarriage. I felt like I really needed him emotionally, so I decided to put it in the past.
I got accepted into nursing school, but then I convinced myself that I probably wouldn’t be able to keep up my grades, so I decided not to go. My husband told me that things would change, so he found another job in a different state, and we moved.
We have now been in our new location for three months, and I am really unhappy. I am pregnant again, and I am paranoid that he will be unfaithful again. I sit in this apartment all day because I don’t know anyone, and I don’t work because daycare is so expensive. I constantly relive the details of his cheating. When we’re intimate, I imagine him visualizing the other women. I love him and I want our marriage to work, but I don’t trust him, and I can’t get over the past or the fear that it might happen again. This has seriously taken over my life, and there are days that I won’t talk to anyone, and I just lay at home and cry all day.
We have talked about marriage counseling, and he said that he’ll go if that would make me happy, but I wouldn’t be able to say the things I want to say because I fear it would only make us fight more.
Tortured in Kentucky
Dear Tortured: You are not responsible for your husband’s behavior, but you are responsible for undermining yourself, and therefore sabotaging your ability in being able to deal with your husband more effectively.
You undermined yourself when you decided not to go to nursing school (it kept you emotionally and financially dependent, and it kept your self-esteem low). You sabotaged yourself again when you let him off the hook so easily for his infidelities, rather than holding him fully accountable for his behavior. And you are currently sabotaging yourself by being skiddish and standoffish about going to marriage therapy. What do you think is going to happen if you continue to feel lousy and yet avoid addressing and resolving the issues in your marriage?
What could you do differently? First, figure out a way to get out of the house occasionally. Having friends, a support system, things you look forward to, a career and some of your own independence would be extraordinarily useful in helping you to improve your self-esteem.
Second, what do you need from your husband in order to trust him again? For him not to work late? Call more often from work? Reassure you more? You must tell him what it is you want, and then hold him accountable for doing what you ask.
We trust those that go way out of their way to reassure us. We trust those who are willing to make believable and tangible amends to us, and we trust those who don’t violate trust again.