How to get over feelings of betrayal and build trust again in my marriage.
June 21, 2012 7:15 AM   Subscribe

I want to get over feelings of betrayal and build trust again in my marriage. How do I bring it up to my husband?

I love my husband and he tells me and shows me he loves me. I've been married for almost 2 years and up until now I had complete trust in my husband. Over the last few months I've been feeling cheated on and an overall sense of betrayal. I found out he had been keeping a few relationships with other women under wraps and this overwhelmed me with feelings of insecurity and caused me to be more vigilant. I found evidence of a couple of women in particular and confronted him about it for some answers. He explained the circumstances and details and although it was not physical cheating, the lies felt like emotional cheating to me and a loss of trust and loyalty. After much talking we came to a solution that felt a little more comfortable to me, but I've had trouble forgiving him.

He's a good husband to me and is making an effort to show he is trustworthy again, but I can't shake the feeling of betrayal. This has caused me to take a closer look his relationships and ask questions. I don't know if they are friendly or just ambiguous for a reason. There is one relationship in particular I am having an uncomfortable gut feeling about. My husband has known her for at least a year and he has never mentioned going out with her alone. I don't know her personally, but I've seen him ask her to call him when she's having a bad day and he's also gone to her house to drop off cookies when she was down in the dumps. She extends invitations to him, but not to me. It makes me wonder if she even knows I exist! He enjoys the concern she shows for him when he has a bad day and he in turn feels compelled to return the favor and over time building a deeper friendship that worries me.

I recently found out from a credible source that my husband and said friend had gone out together, but I don't know how many times. When asking him directly he denied it. So the thoughts in my head are whether he is saying the truth or I misread something. It's a snowball of self doubt and feelings of mistrust. I've done gender comparison thinking about how I would feel if this was a man and not a woman he was establishing an intimate friendship with and I think I'd feel the same if he simply denied spending time with someone.

Any experiences shared will be very helpful. Many thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Short of birthday, anniversary, or holiday surprises, it's usually best for a relationship for both parties to not have secrets from one another.

There are people who disagree with that rule, and that's okay. However, it's better for those who agree to stay out of relationships with those who don't. The bad news is sometimes you find out you have a difference of opinion after the relationship begins and is otherwise strong.

The question then becomes whether you can deal with the occasional (or maybe even constant) pain that comes with that disagreement. If not, it's probably better to deal with the pain of ending the relationship, because I have never in forty-odd years seen someone who can justify a secret to themselves stop doing it, even when it hurts other people.

That doesn't mean that it can't happen, and hope springs eternal. My heart goes out to you.
posted by Mooski at 7:29 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't think you can in this case, at least not without diminishing yourself. It takes two people to have a marriage filled with trust and respect and he clearly does not want to cooperate. Please do not become the ever-caring infinitely-tolerant pushover that some women become to deal with this situation, you will lose so much of yourself and it takes a long time to recover from, perhaps never.

I think you should start making your own plans to leave and find someone that you can truly share your life with and really trust and respect. Your husband is not really yours - his heart is elsewhere and he lies to you to try cover it.
posted by meepmeow at 7:37 AM on June 21, 2012 [7 favorites]

Just thirding that this is not all in your head, you have legitimate and serious concerns and it appears your husband is not changing the way he behaves. You keep saying you are "feeling" cheated on and you've "had trouble forgiving him" -- it sounds to me like you are trying to convince yourself that you are the problem, not him.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:45 AM on June 21, 2012 [11 favorites]

The first step to getting over "feelings" of betrayal is to not be experiencing active betrayal. You won't feel better until he stops emotionally (or more) cheating. You have a pretty direct cause and effect going on there.

In all seriousness, therapy. You have no control over his behavior, but you have lots of control over your own. It doesn't seem like you have a very strong sense or defense of your own boundaries, and therapy can help with that so that you are better able to stand up for what you think is and isn't okay in your life.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:55 AM on June 21, 2012 [27 favorites]

I think that there's nothing inherently wrong in having opposite-sex friends or going out solo with friends, even after one is married. The problem here is that he is compartmentalizing and keeping secrets from you. He sneaks around behind your back to drop off cookies to his friend? Bad. She doesn't know about you, his wife? Double-plus ungood.

You feel cheated on because you are being cheated on (emotionally at the very least). You feel like you can't trust him because he's untrustworthy. As Meepmeow said, it takes two to have a good marriage. If he's not willing to meet you halfway, and if he doesn't have the reservoir of goodwill toward you which would make him want to make you feel secure and happy, then you might want to question what you are getting out of this relationship. Sad as it is to say, "he's just not that into you" can apply to spouses as well as dates.

If you don't want to give up - and many people DO work through a rocky patch in their marriage and come out the other side stronger for it - you need couples counseling; and he needs to earn back your trust by being honest, not compartmentalizing his life, and giving up any Other Women (not mere female friends, but Other Women with whom he's expending emotional energy that needs to go to you, his wife).

If your spouse is not willing to do that, if he only wants to be married on his terms, and you stay and accept this and become "the ever-caring infinitely-tolerant pushover that some women become" you will wind up ground into psychic (and possibly physical*) hamburger.

*I've seen people who lose themselves in unhappy marriages become physically ill to the point of disability. It's documented that unhappily-marrieds are more susceptible to things like heart problems.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:57 AM on June 21, 2012 [21 favorites]

Next time he has any interaction with this woman, go along. If there is any hesitation on his side, or if you do meet her and get funny vibes from her, those would be red flags on top of you already present red flag.

If it turns out that he is thrilled you are going to meet her, and she welcomes you with open arms and thanks you for being understanding of their friendship, etc., then you can think of taking steps to rebuild the trust.

This will help clarify the confusion you are feeling.
posted by Vaike at 8:00 AM on June 21, 2012 [10 favorites]

The first thing I thought was "emotional" cheating, how is she going to build a case for - and then I saw you saying that he has female friends you don't know about, who may not know about you? He's socializing with them such that other people know it, but you don't?

That is a level of secretiveness that can't really have an innocent explanation. I say this as an extremely unjealous person, too. I think you have every reason to feel cheated and suspicious. Messing with your mind is just as serious as actual adultery, if you ask me, because the damage is done either way. Unless there is something you're not telling us, you have every reason to feel the way you do.

It's not up to you to make yourself feel better in the face of untrustworthy behaviour. It's up to him to demonstrate trustworthiness. I really do not think, based on what you've written here, that you caused this problem, nor that it is up to you to fix it.
posted by tel3path at 8:01 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think the problem is definitely not "whether he's cheating on you, but "whether he's lying to you." And it sounds like he is. He may have been lying to you about these friendships or connections or what have you because he thought you'd be jealous, but that does not make it okay.

I've only experienced this on the other end. I've been the friend/ex-girlfriend who was kept hidden from a male friend's partner. I also had no idea that this was going on - I thought she just didn't like me and didn't want to see me because I was his ex. There wasn't anything going on persay, but he really minimized his partner - said he wasn't in love with her, that it was all kind of casual, whenever I asked. He never mentioned her name unless directly questioned. I thought it was to "spare my feelings", but in fact, when we got together and compared notes, we found out that he'd been lying to both of us. He had told his partner that he never saw me anymore, while telling me that everything was aboveboard.

I don't know if this is the kind of thing that you would consider emotional cheating, but I know that even though I wasn't even so much as dating my friend/ex-boyfriend, it was enough for me to break off the friendship.

It's okay to be hurt just because someone's lying to you, even if there's nothing more. It's reasonable and rational. You want your husband to have full loyalty to you, and you can't trust in that loyalty when it's undermined by his lack of truth.

I think you need to think about what is okay with you, and what isn't okay with you - and realize that he may have deep and ingrained truth issues.
posted by corb at 8:06 AM on June 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

If he's really intent on rebuilding trust, then he's 100% transparent. You know where he is, what he's doing and with whom he's doing it 24/7. Not because you're a paranoid harpy who can't let him out of her sight, but because he's got nothing to hide, therefore he hides nothing.

Based upon what you say it doesn't sound like he's doing what he promised to do. Go to therapy, understand why you think that you're the one with the problem.

You can't understand why he's doing what he's doing. You say he's a good husband. In what way? You don't trust him, and he seems to think that keeping relationships with other women a secret is perfectly okay. That's not the definition of a good husband.

You say he shows you that he loves you. In what way? With material things? Or in ways that show you consideration? He takes a co-worker cookies when she's down, in what way does he do similar things for you?

It's okay for you to have a boundary in your marriage that says, "We don't have friends of the opposite sex that we've never introduced to our spouse." It should be perfectly okay for you to say to your husband, "all of these women you have relationships with make me feel insecure." His reaction should be, "OMG, I had no idea. Let me introduce you to Claudine and her husband, they're great people." It should NOT be, "I don't know why you have a problem with this, don't you trust me?"
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:10 AM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think it might help to put the concept of "emotional cheating" out of your mind, as I think it's a weasel term which is often abused to stop people having friends who are MOTPS.

What he is doing is: stuff consistent with having affairs, stuff not consistent with normal socializing for married people, stuff which causes you distress and confusion which a reasonable person would also feel in similar circumstances. In a worst-case scenario, he could be doing all this for the sole purpose of messing with your mind or with the minds of women who think he's their friend - not saying that actually is his purpose, but if it were, it would be working very well.

That's what is serious here - not whether it meets the nebulous definition of "emotional cheating", or even whether he is actually cheating. If you found proof that he had been actually cheating, that would be horrible, but the damage has already been done. By him, not you.
posted by tel3path at 8:14 AM on June 21, 2012 [7 favorites]

Adding on to what Corb just said: If he's seeing another woman who doesn't know about you, then he's lying to HER about being married. Or he's doing what Corb's friend did and saying he doesn't really love you, you don't mean much to him, et cetera. If this is true, it would make him not just a cheating husband, but a bad friend as well.

Things may not be as they seem and he may be a really good person at heart who doesn't know how to deal with relationships well, and can be helped by counseling and boundaries. But if appearances are true - he's lying to you about having an (at least emotional) affair, and lying to his friend(s) about being married, that doesn't say much for his character.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:15 AM on June 21, 2012

This problem exists not in just one of you, but in the relationship itself. He doesn't trust you to understand why he has any communication at all with these other women, because he thinks you wouldn't understand how he can feel any affection for any other women at all. Well, maybe his mother . . . Can you, in fact, imagine he has some affection for other women but that it isn't a threat to your relationship? I think of the line from the Beatles son In My Life: "Though I know I'll never lose affection. For people and things that went before. I know I'll often stop and think about them. In my life, I'll love you more."

Can you feel affection toward other men and feel it OK in your relationship? OK to talk about? Or would that feel uncomfortable, or maybe even rude? How can two people feel secure with each other when they have feelings for others? They need to understand that such a thing is possible for both of them.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:20 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Honey. You can't rebuild feelings of trust in a relationship when your spouse is LYING TO YOU.

Here's the thing. You have previously confronted your husband about this. Now, he either thinks "the problem is that I behaved like a lying cheating scumbag" OR he thinks "the problem is that I got caught." How do you tell the difference? Well, when it's "I behaved like a lying cheating scumbag" your partner will ante up 100% transparency to prove they are trustworthy over time, and most importantly STOPS LYING.

The fact that your husband loves you is not the most important thing here. He can love you and hit you. He can love you and cheat on you. He can love you and gamble all of your savings. And obviously, he can love you and lie to you.

If that isn't what you want in a relationship, you need to make him go to therapy with you. And for the record, I would also demand passwords for his mail, his phone, his online banking, his Facebook, absolutely everything. When your trust is betrayed, it's OK to ask the betrayer to prove they are trustworthy.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:22 AM on June 21, 2012 [7 favorites]

I have a female friend. I tell my girlfriend about the female friends I have. I offer an invitation to my girlfriend to hang out with me anytime I need to maintain the friendship with my female friends. My girlfriend has also told me that she's fine with me hanging out with female friends.

The important thing is that I'm communicating with my girlfriend. Your husband isn't communicating with you fairly about this female friend of his. His behaviour is inappropriate.
posted by DetriusXii at 8:30 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

They're not feelings of betrayal, it's betrayal. It's irrelevant if he's having sex with this woman, he's lying to you. That's betrayal. That's cheating.

You say he's a good husband to you. I submit that he's not. He's keeping things from you after you made it clear that this was hurting you. That's not being a good husband or person.

I honestly don't know if I could trust him ever again going forward. But if you feel there's something still to be salvaged, then therapy is where you should be.
posted by inturnaround at 8:30 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Your husband is shady and what you're feeling is normal because he is lying and betraying you. What I'm also getting from what you wrote is that you're feeling confused and ashamed.

You aren't the liar or cheater---you shouldnt feel any shame. You need to redefine yourself as independent of the marriage. You need to have a better relationship with yourself so you can recover.

Again, you didn't do anything wrong. He's wrong. Don't waste energy trying to figure out or justify his behavior---it's a waste of your mental energy.

Just focus on yourself. He didn't fulfill his end of the partnership bargain, and while it's unfortunate (because there are so many smug partners on the Internet declaring themselves a part of the perfect relation), it isn't the end of the world.

Protect yourself and your heart so you will trust again. Be good to yourself. Remind yourself, you didn't do anything wrong. He did.
posted by discopolo at 8:32 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd like a dollar every time a post comes up on the green where the central question concerns dealing with internal issues when the problem is entirely external. You're being far too... conservative in your approach here, and your willingness to forgive.

He was in the wrong, called out for it, and now is still acting in the wrong-even lying about it. Would he have the same feelings when one of his bros calls him up if he's had a shitty day? You've done the analysis in your head so you know this is wrong. Tell him to stop being a high school boy and get with the program, full stop, or else. If he doesn't, then seriously, fuck him: "he's just not that into you" anymore and it's not even remotely your fault. Use the backbone you know you have and either get what you want out of this marriage or get out of this marriage to get what you want- mutual trust etc.
posted by MangyCarface at 8:43 AM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

In my experience (sadly, more than once), this type of situation always ended up revealing that actual cheating was going on or had gone on, and I was forced to make uncomfortable decisions very quickly (like how to find a new place to live), which has made me trust that instinctive alarm of discomfort and uncertainty much more over the years.

In your case, you've done the due diligence part - checking in with him, trying to understand the situation, checking in with yourself and questioning the fairness of your evaluation - and still feel uncertain about his commitment and whether or not you should be worried. That's when couples counseling can generally be most helpful. A professional can help the two of you navigate what you're perceiving and what he's doing for mutual understanding and boundary-setting.

If he doesn't want to agree to couples counseling, I would consider that a big, giant, glowing red flag and seek out individual counseling. I would also have a non-binding consultation with a divorce attorney.

Take care of yourself. He's being weird and that's stressful.
posted by batmonkey at 8:49 AM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Well... You can't. You say (and I belive, btw) that you are willing to forgive and move on. He says yay, thank you, I really messed up, now let me do what it takes to prove I'm trustworthy. This does not mean you have to trust him, just to be willing to accept that he is trying to be trustworthy and know it takes time to earn back your trust.

So... in the case described... Hes either doing a pretty bad of earning back trust, not really seeing what the problem is, or a DTHMF in the making. Not sure what to tell you, sweetie. Sorry. Best of luck.

As usual though, I recommend (and work for) a program called Marriage and Life Enrichment Boot Camp. You can attend either as a couple or an individual in Dallas, LA, Atlanta, and Houston or Galveston. (no, I don't get a commission. Or.... paid.)

Feel free to me-mail me anytime.
posted by Jacen at 9:16 AM on June 21, 2012

How long did you know your husband before you married him? Did he have these female friends before that? In many cases friends are okay but frankly the whol situation looks wierd to me. Cookies, going out and not being open to you? Your husband needs to take concrete steps to improve himself. Hopefully that is something he is already doing.
posted by pakora1 at 10:09 AM on June 21, 2012

She extends invitations to him, but not to me.

This is a big red flag for me. I may be old-fashioned, but as a married woman, I don't accept invitations not extended to my husband, even if it's a courtesy invite because the other party knows he can't come/won't participate. And while I do things with married male friends on occasion, any invitation is extended to the wife as a similar courtesy. Nthing that your concerns are not out of line.
posted by immlass at 10:19 AM on June 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think you need to visit a therapist and sort through these issues alone. Then, when the time is right, start marriage counseling. But you need some empowerment on working through the situation without him right now.
posted by dawkins_7 at 10:21 AM on June 21, 2012

Lying is the problem here. Even for folks who are real lax about outside-marriage relationships, he's gotta get rid of the lying, permanently, if you want this to work.
posted by ead at 9:35 PM on June 21, 2012

Married less than two years? If I were in your shoes, I'd divorce such a person.
posted by killiancourt at 11:48 PM on June 21, 2012

If he has gone to her house, chances are the cheating is also physical, not just emotional. Get tested for STD's and get your ducks in a row. Your husband has not given you the respect you deserve.
posted by sybarite09 at 7:45 PM on June 24, 2012

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