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When you don't trust your spouse

Posted April 4

Question:

My husband started to have a friendship with a woman, and last week he went out to see her. He promised me I didn’t have anything to worry about, but after knowing someone for so long, I could tell he wasn’t telling me the truth. He looked me in the eyes and promised me nothing happened. He even got mad at me for questioning him. The next day I pressured him a little more, and he tells me he made out with this woman in her car. I read your article, and you said “staying mad doesn’t protect you from further mistreatment.” But how does it not? How am I supposed to be able to trust him again if I am not with him, and he goes out on his own? How can I make myself trust someone that so easily looked into my eyes and lied and, not only that, promised me, and got mad at me for even questioning it? I don’t want to leave this marriage; that doesn’t feel right, but I don’t want to distrust him either. Help!

Answer:

You are probably going to get comments on this article that say you should leave him, and that might be the right answer here, but remember you are the only one entitled to know what is right for you. For now, it sounds like your gut is saying you should stay though and work on the marriage, so this advice is directed to someone who wants to rekindle the flame and make their marriage work.

If you want to repair your marriage, staying mad and distrustful is not going to give you the security and peace you want. Not trusting him is also not going to create a great marriage that makes you feel loved and wanted either. In my article two weeks ago about getting more of your spouse’s attention, I urged you to figure out what outcome you really want.

If you don’t take the time to figure out what you want, in any situation, you might accidentally behave in a way that creates the opposite of what you want. Once you know what you want, you can choose behavior most likely to create that.

You probably want, more than anything, to feel secure about your spouse’s love and loyalty toward you. The question is, what behavior is most likely to create that? (There is a Clarity Questions worksheet on my website that could help you figure this out.)

Let’s look first at what won’t create love and loyalty: Suspicion, checking his phone and social media accounts, asking incessant questions about where he is and what he does, and being withdrawn, angry or bitter. No fear-based response is going to create love.

Did you get that?

No fear-based response, born of protecting oneself, is going to create more love in a relationship.

Fear-based behavior is always going to damage connections and put a larger wedge between you. The more you second-guess him and check up on him, the more he is going to pull away. If you want him to draw closer to you, you must encourage him to want to do so by being positive and loving. If you want to create more love in your marriage, you must put more love into it. You must be validating, reassuring, admiring, appreciating and giving toward your spouse.

This is not easy to do, though, when you feel hurt and betrayed, but you must try because it’s a universal law — you get what you give. If you give resentment and fear, you will get the same back. If you give distrust, you create a relationship where no one feels safe. But if you were to focus all your energy on making your spouse feel loved, you are more likely to get that back. If you focus every day on appreciating, validating and reassuring your spouse, you will feel more appreciated and safe. (If this doesn't work, then your spouse isn't really in it and commited — and this will become clear pretty fast.)

Of course, this doesn’t mean you put up with infidelity and look the other way, either. You should let him know if it happens, again, you will leave the relationship because you deserve to be treated better.

Let him know you are going to make the choice to forgive him this time, though, and pour positive love into the relationship because you want to heal it. If he is willing to recommit and get professional help, you are willing to stay. This must be a firm boundary, and you must be ready to walk if it happens again. He must know you are serious. If he thinks you won’t leave, he will not be as motivated to change. We teach people how to treat us by the behavior we allow. Let him know you love yourself too much to allow that kind of behavior, again.

Here are some things you can do to create more love and security in your marriage:

1) Work on your self-esteem. You are responsible for how YOU feel about YOU. Do not make your spouse responsible for your self-worth and expect that person to keep your bucket full. Get professional help, if necessary, to know your value, and don’t let anyone diminish it. Your spouse will feel this confidence in you and will see you as valuable, too. If you know you’re a catch, your spouse will see you as one.

2) Figure out your spouse’s love language, and love that way. Make sure your spouse feels appreciated, admired, respected and wanted daily. What does your spouse value and care about? If it's a clean house, help with that. If it's physical touch or quality time, make sure you give that. If you are not willing to invest at this level in the relationship, you aren’t really in it.

3) Instead of checking your spouse's phone or social media for inappropriate texts or websites, fill the phone with love notes, playful flirting and fun from you. Be the one that blows up the phone with validating emails, texts and “I want you” messages. The best way to ensure your spouse doesn’t stray is to be so much fun that the desire to stray isn't there. If you have trouble showing this kind of love, own that, and do some work to learn how. You aren't responsible for your spouse's choice to cheat, but pouring effort into the relationship makes cheating less likely.

4) Have fun together. Plan fun dates, travel, find hobbies to do together and create exciting moments as a couple. Be the one your spouse is making out with in the car. Make it fun and exciting to be married to you, and you will have nothing to fear.

5) Get professional help. Don’t wait until your marriage is on the brink of divorce to work on it. Constantly invest in classes, retreats and counseling or coaching to improve your relationship and keep it healthy. We have a Marriage Mastery Retreat coming up that will provide this kind of relationship "upskilling." You will leave with a guidebook about creating a thriving relationship with your unique personalities and dynamics. We will show you exactly how to fix the underlying problem.

Listen to your heart on whether this relationship can and should be saved. If your gut says your spouse is going to do it, again, or if he refuses to get professional marriage help, you may consider being strong enough to leave. If your gut says the marriage can and should be saved, commit to a love-motivated course, and make him so happy he wouldn’t want to lose you.

You can do this.

Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.

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