Failing to Rebuild Trust in My Husband
November 30, 2017 12:26 AM   Subscribe

I'm having a difficult time trusting my husband. It's ruining our relationship.

My husband and I were friends for almost a decade before recently marrying. We're both 30.

I don't trust him at all. I have no evidence of infidelity, just gut feelings that won't go away. He has a history of lying, and of being lustful and lying about looking up women online. A few lies that he has spun are: lying about being alone at a graduation ceremony of his to garner sympathy and to manipulate me into attending, when really his family was going; lying to me about using tobacco products when he said that he had quit. I smelled tobacco for a few days and kept mentioning it, only to feel a tin of something in his pocket while we were on the couch and snuggling. He then got up to avoid the inevitable and I demanded to see what was in his pocket. He pulled it out and tried to 'show' me at an angle and said it was just a tin of mints.. but a camel logo was clearly visible on the lid. What I find so appalling about this particular lie is that he kept on insisting it was just a tin of mints even after he was caught in a bold-faced lie; and more recently, he lied about knowing which car belongs to a neighbor woman he keeps staring at. I suppose the reason I'm so paranoid about infidelity in this relationship is that lying seems to come so naturally to him. It's almost like there is an element of sociopathy going on here.. like as long as lying serves him, he will do it, and not feel badly about it. All of his lies have lead me to feel completely uneasy about our marriage, and to feel like anything that comes out of his mouth is a big fat lie, or laced with some kind of deceit. Something also worth mentioning is that I found emails he had exchanged with prostitutes prior to us being married from years ago. He would look up women on craigslist and attempt to schedule a session with them for sex in his apartment, but he was never successful (he claims, but of course I believe this is a lie). I lost so much respect for him when I found those emails- this was after I demanded transparency after all the lies. If he wanted me to stay I told him, he had to unlock everything and let me see it. This has lead to me digging through everything, and looking for signs of vile behavior. It's to the point where I expect something any day now, and I look through it all weekly. But the paranoia has escalated because I figure he's found some other method of communicating with women, something I can't seem to find or figure out. It feels like a never-ending carousel of shit. I'm miserable and I hate him more every day.

More recently he has seemed preoccupied with what a neighbor woman is doing. She looks late 30's and isn't what I would consider to be very attractive. She has a bit of a weight problem and an average face that polishes up well with makeup on, but she certainly is not someone I would see and think wow she's pretty. If she were hot it would make a lot more sense to me. But I suppose a woman doesn't have to be incredibly attractive to be desirable. The reason I believe that he is preoccupied with her is that whenever she makes a loud noise he feels the need to say "jeeze." Also, whenever he comes or goes from our apartment, he scans the parking lot for her car or looks at her apartment. When her loud car starts up in the morning, he's awake. These all seem like signs that he's obsessed with her, or turning the idea of her into some kind of fantasy to distract him from the difficulties we're facing in our relationship. Other issues we've had with women include him looking up women online who work locally in a skimpy place, and the images he found were used by him for masturbatory purposes. He has also lied about looking up all kinds of porn. The problem is, with his history of being a dishonest person in general, it doesn't seem likely that his behavior is innocent or 'typical male' stuff. I feel like I'm noticing a pattern here and that eventually I will uncover evidence of an emotional or physical affair. It just feels like he's cheating on me in his head all the time.

I've found myself fantasizing about being alone lately, thinking about how happy I would be if I didn't have to deal with this anymore. Mentally I feel like I've checked out entirely. I can't warm to him. His attempts at affection make my skin crawl. Sex feels like there's a slimy ogre on top of me. I never knew it was possible to feel hate for another person this intensely.

But of course I'm crazy because...

1. I manage the finances, and he would need unaccounted-for money to cheat, at least eventually, unless he's with a doormat who funds the whole thing, and there haven't been any withdrawals or suspicious purchases.

2. He has accountability software on his devices, and nothing suspicious has come up. But then I think, well he could just turn them off while he's sneaking around and then turn them back on again when he's where he's supposed to be.

3. He acknowledges the things he's done wrong and has committed to being a better person. He tries to be warm and affectionate with me, but all I can think is that it's fake, forced, or a cover for his vile behavior that I haven't uncovered yet. He comes home and greets me warmly, wants affection, and is careful to be sweet. He checks in. He asks me what I think about things before he does them. But I don't believe any of it.

4. All signs point to his trying really hard, and living a clean life, but I literally cannot shut down my feelings of mistrust. They will not go away. I feel like I have PTSD. I feel like my brain is buzzing uncontrollably and warning me that something is wrong.. something is amiss. Even though there is no actual proof of that anywhere.

I don't know what to do. Everyone is flawed. I bring my own issues to the relationship. I'm meticulous and stubborn, and I've turned into an even bigger control freak because of his lying. I don't have a spotless personality, but I do not lie to my husband. I do not lust after other men. I do not betray him in my thoughts or with my actions. I demand the same from him and I do not believe I am receiving it. We are both miserable. His attempts at fixing things only grant him verbal lashings from me, and I feel tortured by his past behavior. Any pearls of wisdom about rebuilding trust in a marriage would be very helpful
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (56 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You don't need to collect evidence of physical infidelity in order to leave him. You say you HATE him. He makes your SKIN CRAWL. There's no law saying you have to tolerate that until he cheats and then you get to leave. You can leave right now.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:52 AM on November 30, 2017 [155 favorites]

There are two ways of seeing this: you could say that you are failing to build trust in him, but it's just as reasonable to say that he is failing to inspire trust in you.
I don't see from your question as stated that you ever trusted him. You can't rebuild something that was never there in the first place.

I'm not sure the two of you are a good match. But what I'd try right now is therapy. Maybe even double it up: couple's therapy for the two of you, invidivual therapy for, ideally, both of you. You both seem to have issues, that therapy can most likely help with.

I see nothing to suggest that you are searching for utter perfection. It seems to me that you are searching for a very normal thing: a feeling of being safe and welcome. It's very reasonable to want that and if you can't get it in this marriage, maybe that marriage was not meant to be. But by all means, try therapy before considering divorce.

You deserve not to feel miserable.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:54 AM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

You don't trust this man, you don't like this man, and you don't want to be with this man. You seem to feel that there has to be some kind of proof of him doing something wrong, or else you're crazy and should stay in the relationship.

There does not need to be any proof, because it is totally fine to leave even if he has done nothing wrong. People leave one another for far less reason every day-- and they were right to do so.

It does not mean you are crazy. You are allowed to do what you want to do with your own life and relationships.

You are allowed to leave.

You are allowed to leave.

You are allowed to leave.

And it sounds to me as though both of you will feel better when you do.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 12:58 AM on November 30, 2017 [25 favorites]

This relationship sounds like utter hell. From what you've described, I don't see a single reason for you to stay together.

You say he's trying to "live a clean life" which I guess is good, but he also lied to your face about the identity of a physical object (tobacco/mint tin) which is utterly bananas-level gaslighting.

And you seem to have an undercover-cop level of surveillance on this guy, which is also bananas- and yet you still don't trust him- which actually sounds totally valid, because he's a major habitual liar (like... he tried to meet numerous sex workers and it "never worked out"? what? i mean... that's literally their job, to arrange to meet dudes in order to make an income, so like... he's saying that multiple sex workers just.... forgot how to use the phone? and he never ever met a single one? suuure).

The trust is in ruins. As it should be, because he's a liar. So that's not really reparable.

And you don't even LIKE him any more. What's to rebuild? You're allowed to leave. Get out.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:24 AM on November 30, 2017 [34 favorites]

He lies to you about trivial things, and you say you hate him. Being alone would be worse than this how?
posted by robself at 1:56 AM on November 30, 2017 [13 favorites]

I'm on record here as being a strong advocate for the deliberate extending of trust as an explicitly, voluntarily chosen default position and extending the benefit of the doubt until there really isn't any.

This man lies to you constantly. Don't leave him because you anticipate his infidelity; leave him because he's a habitual liar. Go find somebody for whom the extending of trust has not already been conclusively demonstrated to be a waste of your time.
posted by flabdablet at 2:11 AM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

He has accountability software on his devices

Good grief.

Look, you’re obviously unhappy. There’s nothing keeping you together except your feeling that there has to be a "reason" to leave: some actual action on his part that makes you the good person that left because he was bad & he demonstrated that by acting in bad ways. But that isn’t how this works. Putting your partner a box marked "is untrustworthy" because you expect them to fail & then waiting until you can walk out the door with your head high because they failed just like you expected them to doesn’t make you the good person: it makes you the shitty person who locked their partner in a box and wouldn’t let them out until they had acted out the script you had written for them.

I don’t know whether your partner is really a"bad person"; I have no idea whether his little lies mean that he’s also lying about the big things too but I do think that you should accept that the two of you are a terrible match & take responsibility for pulling the ripcord yourself.
posted by pharm at 2:13 AM on November 30, 2017 [53 favorites]

I’m sure you know what to do, and yet came to AskMe to hear it said out loud: if you can no longer trust him, leave him.

And read what pharm said above
posted by Kwadeng at 2:51 AM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Do you have any reason to stay with this guy?

You don't have to be perfect to want something better.

Also, have you read any of the various articles shared here over the years about gaslighting? Getting familiar with that concept could help you get some perspective on the cost of having someone in your life who constantly lies to you even in the face of evidence of the truth. You might find therapy helpful as part of ending this relationship and making the next one healthier.

Good luck! This sounds painful, but also like a powerful opportunity to make your life better.
posted by spindrifter at 3:26 AM on November 30, 2017

He has a history of lying, and of being lustful and lying about looking up women online

This would constitute cheating in my marriage. But it's not that you need concrete evidence of physical cheating to leave your marriage either.

There is nothing to save here. He's treating you terribly. There is no way to rebuild trust with someone who is untrustworthy. This is not something you can fix or solve.

Leave, and get individual counseling, because the way you're unsure of your own feelings and how you're tearing down this woman he is "obsessed" with seems like a not great way to live. (And I also think everyone needs therapy.)
posted by Crystalinne at 3:58 AM on November 30, 2017 [11 favorites]

You can't trust him, forget about trying to trust him, he's a compulsive liar and by this point he's lied to you so much about so much that even if he has stopped cold turkey it's clearly done too much damage to fix.

Work instead on trusting yourself. Trust your observations about him (that he lies about everything, that he continues to lie even when caught red-handed, that he is probably still not telling you the truth about stuff like the escorts that he's lied about in the past). Trust your feelings as valid when you feel like you don't want him to be close to you and don't want him to be affectionate with you. Trust the part of you that's telling you - continually, loudly, no matter how much you try to ignore it - not to trust him.

You've tried hard to work things out. Your mind is screaming at you that it's not happening and isn't ever going to happen. Time to go your separate ways.
posted by Catseye at 5:00 AM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

*music* This is the DTMFA song.... *music*

Seriously. Don’t be married to a habitual liar. If you aren’t economically dependent on him, GTFO. If you are, you need to just rewrite the story of your marriage such that you aren’t trying to get your needs met by a habitual liar. Find female friends. You can do it.
posted by corb at 5:21 AM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

I can’t even tell from this question that you ever liked him, even a little bit. Usually when people ask here about their lame SOs, there’s some bit about how it used to be better, or deep down they are a good person who is acting badly, etc.

All I see here is discontent and revulsion, why on earth would you choose to stay with that?
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:45 AM on November 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

Geeze louise. You both sound miserable, and you both sound like you could use a metric ton of therapy (individually, after you separate). You have trust issues that seem to pre-date marrying him. He's a habitual liar. I'm not sure I could dream up two more ill-matched personalities if I tried. Get a divorce, work on yourself, forget him.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:55 AM on November 30, 2017 [10 favorites]

His attempts at affection make my skin crawl. Sex feels like there's a slimy ogre on top of me. I never knew it was possible to feel hate for another person this intensely.

End it. None of the rest even matters.
posted by amro at 5:56 AM on November 30, 2017 [53 favorites]

Between hooking up with craigslist sex workers and hoarding creep shots of girls who work in a scantily dressed job, I can tell you that yes, this guy was probably with the craigslist girls unless he was too cheap, and no, he probably isn't cheating right this minute, and no, he does not need to do that for you to leave him.

This relationship IS driving you crazy, and I think you know it-- the paragraph about your not hot enough neighbor and him muttering about her loud car is written like you know how nuts your obsession with the neighbor lady is-- but the reason it's driving you crazy is because your husband is lying, constantly, shamelessly, to your face, all the god damn time.

Your husband sounds like a petty, pathetic little creep. CL girls, creeping on local dancers ( whatever their profession, he shouldn't be taking their pictures), lying about something as tiny as a cigarette case-- this stuff is all so damn petty it makes you feel like it's not enough to leave over, because it's not a big huge sin like ACTUALLY physically cheating while the two of you are together. I think you're desperately hoping he actually fucks this neighbor lady with the loud car, because the point of gaslighting is to make you feel like your worries aren't real, aren't valid, are too small to make a relationship change for, and you need some major, indisputable event to make you feel like your revulsion and misery is legitimate. You do not need to wait for this huge, undeniable, indisputable thing to happen. Don't sleep with someone who makes you feel dirty. Move out and file your divorce papers as soon as you can. I give you permission; metafilter gives you permission, get yourself out of this hell.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 6:01 AM on November 30, 2017 [13 favorites]

Any pearls of wisdom about rebuilding trust in a marriage would be very helpful.

Don’t throw a ton of work into a terrible relationship. I cannot believe how you each are living. See a divorce lawyer today.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:08 AM on November 30, 2017 [11 favorites]

I never knew it was possible to feel hate for another person this intensely.

This is all either of you need to know.

I've been married a decade, and even in the darkest recesses of my very dark and recessed mind... I have never hated her. Or thought about hating her. Not once, in 10 years.

Leave because you hate him. Leave because you'll both be happier. Leave because this sounds so awful it beggars belief. Google divorce lawyer and start making calls.
posted by French Fry at 6:11 AM on November 30, 2017 [26 favorites]

I've found myself fantasizing about being alone lately, thinking about how happy I would be if I didn't have to deal with this anymore. Mentally I feel like I've checked out entirely. I can't warm to him. His attempts at affection make my skin crawl. Sex feels like there's a slimy ogre on top of me. I never knew it was possible to feel hate for another person this intensely.

Aw, honey. Imagine if your really good friend said this to you about their partner. What would you tell them to do?

This relationship sounds miserable. I'm so sorry. You are 30. You are young. Don't throw good time after bad - leave now and take your life back.
posted by superfluousm at 6:48 AM on November 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

How can you rebuild trust for a liar?

You can't.

I recommend therapy for you, with a compassionate therapist who will help you work out what set of rules you are working from and how you can change them. I suspect you have some rule somewhere that says, "I cannot leave him until I actually catch him in bed with someone," for example and that's why you're tying yourself into increasingly painful knots trying to trust him when he in incredibly untrustworthy on every level and you hate him.

What inside you is making you stay? Why do you use the word "failing" about your justifiable emotional reaction to an unrepentant lair? What is making you think it is your job to rebuild the trust here? What makes you think that would even be possible?

I think it's very worthwhile to use therapy to find out what your internal stories about marriage and relationships are, to see how you ended up here and why you can't leave.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:18 AM on November 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

You find him untrustworthy and you hate him. You need no other reasons to leave. Be done with this situation.

Also, seek therapy to find out why you just can't act on your gut, on your own feelings.

If you're asking we MetaFilter strangers for permission: you have it by the lot.
posted by brokeaspoke at 7:39 AM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I strongly suggest that you seek professional help. You are (rightly!) obsessed with looking through his things and trying to find proof of infidelity, lies, deceits, etc. Your relationship is just so toxic and harmful to you mentally. Your husband seems to be the textbook definition of a pathological liar and will not change.

"She looks late 30's and isn't what I would consider to be very attractive. She has a bit of a weight problem and an average face that polishes up well with makeup on, but she certainly is not someone I would see and think wow she's pretty. If she were hot it would make a lot more sense to me. But I suppose a woman doesn't have to be incredibly attractive to be desirable."

The comments you made about your neighbor are strange. Perhaps you trying to tell yourself that he probably is not attracted to her, because she is older, not pretty enough, and overweight? Not all women are "incredibly attractive" and some are actually desired. Don't gaslight yourself on this or any other issue.
posted by the webmistress at 7:41 AM on November 30, 2017 [16 favorites]

From this description, your relationship sounds miserable. Relationships do not have to be miserable. He lies all the time - you don't need him to be having an affair. You can simply say, "I don't want to be with someone who lies to me." You also sound like you don't like him at all and you are obsessing on his behaviors and private thoughts. If I was him, I would not want to be in that relationship, and if I were you, I wouldn't want to be in this relationship. If you want to try to stay together, I urge you to seek couples counseling. If not, and I don't mean to trivialize the difficulty of this, but I urge you to start the process of disconnecting.
posted by latkes at 8:32 AM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

FYI, your sidebar about the neighbor being unattractive bears a response: Men (and women) find women (and men) of all sizes sexy, attractive, beautiful & cute. His taste may not match yours and may not match the mainstream standard. There is no universal definition of attractive. Your evidence that he is obsessed with her seems odd to me (I comment on my neighbor's noise too, but I have zero romantic or sexual interest in him). Still, your analysis that someone couldn't be attracted to her because you don't like her appearance is inaccurate.
posted by latkes at 8:35 AM on November 30, 2017 [24 favorites]

There is nothing in your post that notes anything positive about staying in this relationship. Everything you've said about him and about your relationship, about his constant lying and your distrust, sounds like 100% pure misery.

Why are you in this? I know you may have loved him at one point and we can't choose who we love, but you can choose who you spend your time on.

Fly and be free.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:36 AM on November 30, 2017

Your hatred of this man is spilling out onto everything you connect with him, including neighbors who have only committed the sin of not being what you think is attractive enough to want to fuck. You hate this man so much that you're trying to control every aspect of his life. This is extremely unhealthy. I would strongly advise that you leave him, and that if you're not already in therapy, that you get yourself into therapy as soon as you can. He might be a shitheel, but to be honest you sound like a nightmare of a partner as well.
posted by palomar at 8:42 AM on November 30, 2017 [24 favorites]

You are not failing to rebuild trust in your husband. He broke the trust. The fact that you can't magic up feelings he shattered is on him, not you.

At this point, it doesn't matter if he's actually cheating. You cannot stay married to someone you hate. End of story.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:50 AM on November 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

Please for the love of all that is holy get out of this gross mess of a starter marriage before you're anchored to it with a kid. YOU HATE HIM. YOU CAN'T FIX THAT. Therapists aren't magicians.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:08 AM on November 30, 2017 [18 favorites]

You are only 30. Loads of time. Consult a divorce lawyer if you haven't already. Don't sleep with this guy anymore. See if you can move to a friend's house while you get your divorce sorted and get on your feet. I would definitely seek therapy for yourself. You handle all the finances so if your finances are currently one account, establish a second account and put 50% over there. Re-route your paycheck to your new account. Don't have kids.

You cannot keep someone in a cage even if they want it! You cannot control this man's thoughts and actions. That's like trying to hold water in your hands while also attempting to live your life. You're spending so much mental energy trying not to spill a drop that you are literally driving yourself crazy. If he wants to go be with strippers, he should do that. You don't want to be with a man that wants to be with strippers. Neither do I! You are a bad match and while you've known each other a long time, this is a textbook example of growing apart instead of together.

Today is the day to be clear-eyed and focus on how you want to live the next ten years of your life. Don't continue to carry water for someone else.
posted by amanda at 9:28 AM on November 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

You say this:

I'm miserable and I hate him more every day.
I've found myself fantasizing about being alone lately, thinking about how happy I would be if I didn't have to deal with this anymore. Mentally I feel like I've checked out entirely. I can't warm to him. His attempts at affection make my skin crawl. Sex feels like there's a slimy ogre on top of me. I never knew it was possible to feel hate for another person this intensely.
We are both miserable.

And then you ask this:
Any pearls of wisdom about rebuilding trust in a marriage would be very helpful

You hate him. The issue isn't about rebuilding trust. Maybe you think that if the trust can be rebuilt, that you can love him again. But he has serious issues about lying that can't be fixed while he's in this marriage. There is so much toxicity in this marriage and in the both of you that the most healthiest thing you can do for yourself is divorce. There is nothing to fix here.

Maybe some questions to ask yourself are: Why am I with this person? Why did I want to get married to him? Why do I want to stay married to him? What am I most afraid of in leaving?

My question for you is: why are you doing this to yourself, staying in this marriage, allowing yourself to be miserable? When are you going to allow yourself to get off the neverending carousel of shit?
posted by foxjacket at 9:41 AM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm going to modify part of my answer from this AskMe:

When my husband and I first got married, he did some terrible things that tested our relationship to the extreme. The biggest thing I had to accept was the fact that even though he might possible be - and probably was - lying to me on the regular, there was nothing I could do about that, if I chose to stay married to him. And I think you know that too. No amount of software, or checking his phone, or monitoring his thoughts (which, really?) is going to keep him from doing what he wants to do. You can't make him want to be a different person. Only he can do that.

So I came to realize I could not control what he was doing. And once I realized that, I kind of freed myself from doing all of those things you're doing now, and it was a relief. I mean, if you think he's lying to you even though you think you have proof that he's not, what is the point of even checking on him in the first place?

I'm curious - why are you staying with him? Like others, I can see nothing in your posts that even suggest that you like him, much less want to spend your life with him. You don't need a reason to leave. Just go.
posted by lyssabee at 9:53 AM on November 30, 2017

The reason I believe that he is preoccupied with her is that whenever she makes a loud noise he feels the need to say "jeeze." Also, whenever he comes or goes from our apartment, he scans the parking lot for her car or looks at her apartment. When her loud car starts up in the morning, he's awake. These all seem like signs that he's obsessed with her, or turning the idea of her into some kind of fantasy to distract him from the difficulties we're facing in our relationship

I'm not connecting the dots here at all, and I would say that this suggests that maybe you're reading a whole lot into a few reactions and glances in a way that speaks to a debilitating level of distrust and suspicion that his habitual lying has gotten you into, but ultimately, what does it matter? You can't stand the guy. I doubt that any amount of therapy could dry out all the contempt this relationship has been soaked in. Go. Run. Get out. Leave. Everything about this sounds horrible. You will probably be a million times happier within two weeks of separating.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:08 AM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I don't think it matters whether or not he has/is cheating on you. What matters is your feelings and what your gut is telling you. Your feelings are those of disgust, uneasiness, distrust and hate. Your gut tells you something is wrong with this guy, that he may be a bit of sociopath. Let me repeat that last bit: your gut is telling you that something is WRONG.

Leave him. It might be hard at first, it might not. You'll be so much happier in the end. Do it while you're this age, not older. Those fantasies about enjoying your life alone can come true.
posted by purple_bird at 10:11 AM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

You should leave him.

You should also get yourself in therapy to understand why you feel the need to stay with someone you don't like and don't trust.
posted by erst at 10:59 AM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Whether he deserves it or not, you hate this man. You need to figure out if you want to change that feeling by talking to a professional. In my personal experience, once you loathe someone, it's hard to get rid of that feeling. It's ok to be unhappy and get a divorce because you just don't want to be with them anymore. There doesn't have to be a huge event that allows you to go.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:01 AM on November 30, 2017

My mother chose to stay in a marriage with a man who makes her feel like this. It was partially a financial decision for her, but also anger that if they got divorced, he'd go out and get married again and feel free to look at porn/chase after women.

She is doing so, so many of the things that you talk about. She tries to control every aspect of his life. She deeply believes that he is constantly trying to cheat, and obsesses about other women that he might be interested in. Whenever he touches her, the disgust you describe is visible on her face. She is constantly trying to catch him in lies, and every time she does -- or believes she does -- it has the short term thing of making her feel temporarily better because she becomes consumed with anger, which replaces her usual negative feelings. But in the longer term, the cumulative effect is terrible. Every time she catches him, she trusts him less, and hates him more.

My mother made the wrong choice, and five years on, it's beaten her down and aged her more than I think she's aged in the past two decades. She has shrunk physically, and her body is breaking down from the stress. Further, her fear and anger and toxicity have cost her pretty much every single friend she has, and it has strained my relationship with her to the breaking point.

Please be good to yourself.
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:03 AM on November 30, 2017 [28 favorites]

I never knew it was possible to feel hate for another person this intensely

Yeah, it doesn't matter whether or not he's cheating. Relationships can be hard enough when you love the other person. There's no reason to stay in one with someone you hate.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:39 AM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh my goodness. This is not something wrong with you because you can't rebuild trust. Every ounce of your being is telling you to leave him. This sounds awful and you deserve so much better. You won't believe how free you will feel once you are on your own.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:46 AM on November 30, 2017

When I realized that, if my husband was talking he was lying, and if he wasn't talking he was concealing something, then our marriage was over. We were adversaries, not partners, even though we shared a child and had built an amazing life together. You don't even seem to have those to counterbalance the awfulness of who he is. Leave him. Otherwise he'll leave you, and you'll feel even worse, like you've been dumped by a creep. It's far better to dump the creep yourself.

Good luck, and contact me privately if you ever want to talk. I've been through something similar, and know how important it is to be able to talk about what happened, and the doubts that keep coming up, especially to people who have no contact with the rest of your life.
posted by Capri at 11:47 AM on November 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

Any pearls of wisdom about rebuilding trust in a marriage would be very helpful.

You can't rebuild trust with a person who is not trustworthy. The end.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 11:58 AM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I just dealt with the same thing (short term relationship though, and I left because I thought the weirdness was likely substance abuse, not lying/cheating). Later I discovered that the pathological lying was about 5000 times worse than I'd suspected, complete with attempts at hookups for super high-risk sex, fraud, lying about STD status, and other terrible things. I'm pretty sure now that the guy's problem is NOT substance abuse but just a sociopathic pathological lying problem.

Incidentally what triggered me finally deciding to leave was catching the guy in a couple of very small, minor white lies, not unlike your tobacco story. I usually assume that white lies are just a thing that some people do, and that I want to be flexible in how I deal with discovery of white lies, but that sounds like a MASSIVE red flag to me, especially given the gaslighting. My liar also attempted some gaslighting during a confrontation under stress at one point, now that I think of it.

Don't stay.
posted by twoplussix at 12:10 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Further thoughts: I was married for over a decade to a man who lied constantly about big things and small, and I remember well the mental energy I was continually putting forth in order to figure out what the real deal was, whenever I got an inkling something was off (which was most of the time.) It is exhausting, but also... sort of addicting, maybe?

Reading what you wrote above, I was struck with recognition of those mental processes where you are constanting sleuthing for clues and using logic and reasoning to try to suss out the truth and solve the various mysteries in your relationship: is he using tobacco? does he have the hots for the neighbor? did he fuck those girls off Craigslist? There is kind of an addictive element to it, the moment that obsessive feeling bursts into satisfaction when clue falls into place, or you catch him in an obvious lie... that A-HA! moment which delivers a blast of reward-chemicals into your brain. Sort of like a person who is addicted to video games, they struggle and struggle just to get the juice from those moments when they finally beat the monster or solve the mystery or complete a piece of the mission.

So this may sound silly, but maybe try playing one of those "mystery hunt" computer games in order to scratch your brain's itch to look for clues and piece them together logically. They are fun to play, they focus your attention on the story and give your clue-hunting skills a real workout. Maybe it would work like one of those drugs they give people to wean them off the hard stuff. Can't hurt, might help, and at the very least it would provide a distraction from obsessing about him.

And meanwhile, get out from under the slimy man who makes your skin crawl. Once you realize that that you no longer CARE wtf he is doing on the sly because you don't really care about him, it is a lot easier to break free from that compulsion to look under every rock for clues to his grubby little mysteries.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:31 PM on November 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

This is not what a healthy and happy marriage looks like at all. Not even a little bit. There is no pearl that will fix this mess. Go consult with a divorce lawyer or two without telling him anything. Prepare for the dissolution of marriage. Divorces get way more complicated the longer you wait. And, please don't consider parenting with this person. Good luck putting this man and this marriage behind you. There is a far better marriage or partnership in your future after you put and end to this one and do some therapy around why you married him in the first place.
posted by quince at 12:35 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

This has lead to me digging through everything, and looking for signs of vile behavior.
He has accountability software on his devices, and nothing suspicious has come up
All signs point to his trying really hard, and living a clean life, but I literally cannot shut down my feelings of mistrust. They will not go away. I feel like I have PTSD. I feel like my brain is buzzing uncontrollably and warning me that something is wrong.. something is amiss. Even though there is no actual proof of that anywhere.

You're tracking his devices, monitoring everything he does and says like a hawk and waiting for him to prove how evil he is to justify the lack of faith you have in him. This is not a healthy or normal way to act with or think about anyone, let alone your husband. You should leave him and also get therapy. You'll be happier and so will he.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:37 PM on November 30, 2017 [10 favorites]

I take it you got married because it's the logical next step in life, you both wanted marriage, and you were together? That's a miserable place to start things, and it sounds like you're not that angry about situations where he's changed, you're angry about the person you suspected he was, or knew he was, all along. He was never going to change, you were never going to accept these things, and the fact you're contorting yourself in an attempt to make things work is making things worse.

You don't want to be with someone who doesn't cultivate your trust and he has no interest in changing. It sounds like you don't have a shared mortgage or children, you're never going to be in a better situation to get out than you already are. That quiet time alone with no drama and only the stress of taking care of your own needs? You deserve it.
posted by mikeh at 12:47 PM on November 30, 2017

You can't trust him. I think your choices here are to accept that you're with someone who you can't trust, or, if you can't accept that, to leave.

If you do leave you'll probably have a flood of memories and realizations of even more things that he must have been lying about. And you'll also probably stop being so angry and paranoid. You mentioned being crazy--it sounds like he is literally making you crazy.
posted by Polychrome at 12:47 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also, I'm not surprised you say you feel like you have PTSD. You are on constant high-alert for anything that might be wrong or amiss--you're operating in a constant state of stress. Your body doesn't want you to trust him because he has shown you, over and over again, that you can't. I think you should trust your body over anything he says. You know that not finding anything doesn't mean there isn't or won't be anything. In addition to that, it sounds like he does things and lies about things that do not fit with your value system. That in and of itself is a reason not to trust someone, because you know that he thinks it's okay to do things that you do not think are okay. It doesn't matter that you aren't catching him doing them, you know that's how he is.
posted by Polychrome at 12:54 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

This guy sounds like a creep. Divorce him, be free.


My husband and I were friends for almost a decade before recently marrying.

You knew him for a long time before getting married to him. This behavior can't possibly be brand-new. He can't have deceived you so thoroughly as to these aspects of his nature. But you married him anyway. You are clearly getting something--a lot of something, judging from the energy in this post--from being in this kind of position in this kind of relationship. But none of it is good, friend. After getting clear of this mess, I'd take a break from dating and do some serious therapy to figure out what drew me to invest so much in a person like this and to find better, happier, more liberating and generous roles to play with friends and lovers. This is not a pattern you want to repeat. Good luck.
posted by praemunire at 1:57 PM on November 30, 2017 [18 favorites]

Please realize at this point that you alone have the power to escape this prison. What he is or isn't doing is no longer your issue - save yourself. Life doesn't have to be this miserable. Get out today.
posted by Space Kitty at 2:29 PM on November 30, 2017

Usually if there are a lot of responses to a human relations question, even if they mostly point the same way, there will be at least some comments that take the other side, at least to play devil's advocate. But you've gotten 50 answers to your question … and Every. Single. One. says you should end this marriage. And that's not surprising because you said this about your husband:

I never knew it was possible to feel hate for another person this intensely.

Think about that!
posted by John Cohen at 8:33 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Are you afraid of him?
posted by jessca84 at 9:19 PM on November 30, 2017

Pretend you're a stranger reading your question; try and look at it with fresh eyes, as if the people in the question are not you and your husband, but two people you don't know at all. Distance yourself from the question, and read it objectively. If it helps you to pull yourself out of it, maybe change the pronouns or such.

Then re-read the question, while pretending to be an outsider, one of us, being given a glimpse into this relationship. What would you say to OP if they described the things you said? What would you suggest they do? Would you tell them to run, or suck it up and stay? Why or why not?

You know the answer; and you have the blessing of this internet stranger to leave. What he's doing is gas-lighting, and it makes you think you are over-reacting to his lying and deceit. You aren't. You are totally under-reacting, actually. You deserve relationship happiness; love is supposed to feel happy more than sad, always. Love is supposed to feel mutually respectful. If it feels sad more than happy, something is wrong.

It's time to go. Good luck.
posted by Dimes at 8:47 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Obviously end this.

But i also want to say that you sound a tad controlling here like the thought police. I believe everyone is entitled to their internal life. He didn't need to admit to you that he tried to pay for sex before you were together. It predates your history. IT's private. You also shouldn't be as concerned with him viewing porn or masturbating as long as it's not taking up time and interferring with things he should be doing. He's allowed to think some neighborhood woman is attractive. He's allowed to have his own internal thoughts, even racy ones. You do not get to know every passing thought just because you are married.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:37 AM on December 1, 2017 [8 favorites]

Please make your next question about the logistics of leaving him. Marriage shouldn't be like this. Life shouldn't be like this!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 3:19 PM on December 1, 2017

Joining the chorus.

I know some people are wondering if you're being too controlling or paranoid, and I don't know you well enough to say whether you are or aren't. But from your question and description of your relationship, it sounds like it's, at the very least, the result of feeling totally insecure and unsafe with this person for so long. Do you think you'd be this way if you were with someone who was open and honest with you, someone you felt secure with? Regardless, get yourself to a therapist. It sounds like you really need a space to process all of your feelings about this relationship (and the potential end of it) and get to know yourself a bit better, because you've been totally consumed by him and what he says and what he does and what he's thinking. Time to shift the focus back on yourself.

I think couples therapy would be a waste of your time and money. You cannot change this person that you say you hate, and you won't be able to just turn off all the very strong feelings you're having. I'd advise against it unless it was to use it as a safe, neutral space to discuss and sort out your separation.

This sounds like it's been really torturous for you, and I'm so sorry. You seem desperate to go. Ask yourself why you haven't left and if any of those things are truly worth living this way for. And shore up your supports. You will need them. Divorce is very hard, whether you like the person you're divorcing or not, and being young and divorced can feel strange and unexpected. I have been through it. But it isn't worse than feeling stuck in an unhappy, hopeless situation. It will feel scary at first. But if you leave now, in a year you'll barely recognize yourself and you will feel so free. You will revisit this old question and wonder who wrote it, and why she stayed with that person as long as she did. You deserve so much more.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 4:25 PM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

You're thirty and recently married and to all intents and purposes living an adult life in an adult relationship. Yet you are, in my opinion, living out something through this that is infantile, or archaic in its origin.

Somewhere in your life you've had long experience of never being able to, or allowed to, trust your gut. Maybe you've been around people who've abandoned you or told you things about your reality that were not actually your reality. Maybe it's family violence, highly critical parenting, exacting perfectionism, alcoholism, a profoundly unhappy and trapped parent who yet masked this and said everything is all right, maybe it's that you're emotions were never allowed to be expressed and you constantly wondered what other people were really thinking and doing, maybe for many years things never added up.

Yet your gut has a problem, it knows something is up. Like it had in the past, but you had no control. In your early adult years you're wresting that control. You have tools now to test whether your gut is right. Because you've never learned that just feeling something about an event or a verbal relay is good enough to know the 'truth' you feel there has to be clues and mysteries that stealth will uncover.

I relate. My first relationships were similar. I could never trust my partner and he was proxy for all the anxiety I had stored from early fears of never knowing if someone was being honest. It's exhausting. Thing is, you will always find something. You will. Everything my gut told me about a person and I didn't feel I had validity to leave because I didn't believe in my gut, was actually true. My gut knew. But you will wind yourself in knots until you find something. The vigilance required to police others through documentation is not worth it.

But you asked how to rebuild trust. So, ok. Why not start with the idea that other people's environment also produces vigilant or avoidant behaviours in their adult intimacies. Lying is a product of not feeling safe to explore an issue without shaming.

So what if you're both a bit skewed by your archaic experience? What if you find monsters that are actually not so scary. People have their own way of navigating to where they are, and habitual lying is possibly a sign of a person having had a highly critical parenting, where shaming was the norm for being honest. So far you've found that he employed sex workers in the past. You've found pornography. You suspect his infatuation with a neighbour. You've found out that he's still smoking against his promises. It's not great to discover a partner's sexual life outside of your own intimacy, but for many people sexual intimacy with themselves involves pornography, it involves cam sexwork, or looking for images to stimulate desire. it involves fantasies about neighbours and co-workers or the guy at the car wash. Because of persistent shaming in our culture, sex and smoking and masturbation are easy topics on which to catch a partner lying. Lying about this stuff is instinctive, we don't want to let others down.

This has disrupted you to the point of repulsion. You revisit the crimes, you revisit repudiation for these with your partner. You want to be angry out loud to everyone whose archaic crap has burdened you with a lack of trust in others. This is a key moment to lay this all out to a therapist. What is this about? Why, with all the lies you catch him in, do you persist in staying in his audience for them? Why is it so necessary to deliver a shaming when these are discovered.

What would it be like to give something loving in the moment you discover the smoking? The shaming is the first angle you employ. Stopping smoking is super difficult and a partner who gets this and gives encouragement and softens the shame when the addiction cannot be broken is being more helpful if the goal is him not smoking. Could you imagine how a loving partner who wanted her partner to be strong enough and supported enough to succeed? Rather than the critical parent reminding others of failure? If my partner was giving up smoking I'd be cheering him on, even if he had a lapse. I'd remind him he wasn't disappointing me and what can I do to help. If I saw he had smokes and lied about it, I'd remind him I loved him anyway, that he's still awesome for getting this far, tomorrow's a new day etc. Would he lie to me if there was no punishment awaiting for failure, but support and encouragement?

Life isn't litigation. You may find the valid reason to leave that you seek, but you're preoccupied with looking right, correct, and morally superior. Because others won't judge you for your exit if there is a big a-ha thing upon which to hang this separation. No one has to be convinced except you.
posted by honey-barbara at 2:56 AM on December 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

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