How do I reestablish my wife’s trust in me?
March 29, 2008 9:05 PM   Subscribe

How do I reestablish my wife’s trust in me?

She and I have been having problems with some of each other’s behaviors. This has been going on quite awhile now. We’ve been together 6-7 years and are in our 50’s. For the most part we get along very well we are best friends.

The crux of the matter is my insistence on drinking a bottle of wine every night and her lack of intimacy. Before we were married I drank a hell of a lot more and don’t want to cut back further. I don’t believe 4 glasses over 4 hours is a big deal. She drinks one cocktail a night.

She had fallen into a deep depression about the time we were married and the sex stopped. In the last 3 years I can count on my fingers, with some left over the number of times we’ve had sex. Last time was 8 months ago. I depended on porn to “get by”

Frustrated, I do something stupid. I consider leaving her and check out a couple of dating sites. Probably spent all of 5 minutes at it.

Well as you can guess, I got caught and have been booted out of the house. Been over 2 weeks now. We talk everyday and our communication is good but her trust in me is not there.

I have been reading Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage and have learned that what I had thought to be minor infractions, in her eyes, were major crimes. I have also made an appointment to see a councilor in a couple of days. Originally tried to get one for both of us but my HMO doesn’t offer that. Just one on one. She’s not interested in one for herself.

So I understand that the porn and dating sites where major violations. I know it will take time to reestablish the trust. But I’m living in a trailer and miss my wife. She says trust is the issue. How do I get it back?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You're going to hear everyone say "see a couple's therapist." That's probably not a bad idea.

She fell into depression when you were married? Have you been married longer than the 3 years you cite? Because that's an awful grim greeting to a life of wedded bliss, from a sex-life perspective.

Have you spoken to her about it? Have you asked her if she feels fulfilled, if she's happy, what's missing in her life?

Have you talked to her about the depression she's been wallowing in for so long? There are steps to be taken when someone is that depressed. A lot of people don't just magically fix themselves. Even less so if their life is full of things that aren't changing; they feel like they're in a rut, even if it's a pretty comfortable rut.

Has she asked you why you were looking on dating sites? Have you explained to her that you're missing the intimacy a healthy marriage should typically afford?

Explain to her that you recognize it was a major lapse in judgement to check dating sites instead of talking to her directly. Why weren't you having a conversation with her about the core issues, about your needs, about hers, and about what both of you want out of life, love and your marriage? You're adults. Time to start approaching relationships that way and talk things through. And then, assuming you love each other, to take the necessary steps to make things work for both of you.

Be supportive of her. In order for you to be happy, you want to be having more sex, and drinking at your current rate. What's it going to take in order for her to be happy? What's it going to take for her to get to a place where she seeks intimacy from you? Is it that you drop the booze entirely? Is it something else? What's fallen by the wayside or been swept under the rug that she no longer has, such that she's not interested like that? (Naturally, there are plenty of people who grow tired of sex with a single partner. Or in general. At all ages.)

What's her take on it? Does she *want* to feel anymore? Does she want to incentivize you to return to her? Trust is her issue. Does she know yours?

Clearly, you need to have some very open and frank conversations. Don't be accusatory, be sensitive to the depression, but also work to get her to a place where she understands that you want to help her with that and to help her feel good about her life. She has to want to get better, too, and you can't force that. But you can support her and let her know that you're not looking elsewhere and that you just want her to be happy and to work towards that.

Oh, and you know, the couple's therapist thing. (Note: I've never been married; this just seems like pretty basic advice.)
posted by disillusioned at 9:15 PM on March 29, 2008

If you're drinking a bottle of wine every night, I would posit that your wife is not the only one in the relationship with an intimacy problem. And I'm not just talking about sexual intimacy.

I am sorry for your loss, but it sounds to me like your wife wants out of this relationship and is using the trust issue as a smokescreen. If she is unwilling to consider therapy, she doesn't want this relationship back under these terms, or she at least wants a break from you.

You have a choice to make - your bottle of wine every night, or your relationship. Consider giving your wife the space she seems to want right now and taking your time in therapy to work on yourself rather than focusing on how to get your wife back. Best of luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 9:18 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Re: the insurance issue. What would happen if you had a one-on-one therapy arrangement, but just brought your wife along to some of the sessions, once the therapy got going? Do the insurance police descend at that point and say, "No no, dear insured, you're not allowed to ever bring a second party in with you"? Or would it just be an arrangement between you and the therapist that allows your wife to join you occasionally?

I'd ask whatever therapist you find; also, you might be able to find one who does both one-on-one and couples counseling, so that he or she'd be good at both.

And, if I were you, I'd ask my wife if she had any therapist recommendations, or wanted to look into therapists that she'd consider -- then you can choose from among her recommendations.
posted by amtho at 9:50 PM on March 29, 2008

Get your financial house in order. Collect all your important papers. Don't get into crazy debt, if you have crazy debt get it under control. Get to a more satisfactory temporary housing situation. Get your body checked for other health issues (bmi, blood sugar, prostrate, heart, lungs, liver function, ED) and address them. Enroll in a sleep study and have them check you for sleep apnea and snoring. Stop drinking. If you smoke stop that as well. Take actions that are positive towards your physical health (exercise/hit the gym, improve diet). See the dentist and make sure to ask the hygenist about your breath. Many people have terrible breath and no one tells them. Your hygenist will be happy to be honest with you and your dentist can probably fix you. Whiten your teeth. Get your physical hygene tip top (bathed, showered, shaved, smell great, look great). Get some new clothes and see a stylist about your hair. Smile. See the therapist. Stay in regular touch with her. See what happens.
posted by humanfont at 9:58 PM on March 29, 2008 [9 favorites]

Therapy is a good idea. Beyond that, though, a bottle of wine a night and no sex are huge warning signs. You've obviously built up tolerance over time, but a bottle of wine is more than a good buzz for a lot of people. Have you considered the idea your wife probably finds you less attractive when you're drinking? It becomes a sort of chicken and egg question about drinking vs. lack of intimacy, but they reinforce each other to the point that you have to fix one or the other. Realistically, it has to be the drinking. Honestly, if you can drink that much nightly, have no sex for 3 months, and arrive at this position having done nothing to deal with it in the interim, you two probably are not compatible and got to the present point only by sidestepping the issues. With all that said, though, at least you're looking for therapy. She isn't. That speaks volumes about the probably outcome.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:05 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

That speaks volumes about the probably outcome.

Probable. Urgh.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:06 PM on March 29, 2008

Man, I don't see how porn is an issue. If it has been 8 months, what are you supposed to do? A dating site, well...that's a different deal. Maybe you two can meet halfway - she can yield on the porn and maybe think of helping you out a bit more frequently, and you can promise (and mean it) that you'll never be caught dead on a dating site again.

I've got to agree that a bottle of wine is a lot. Maybe you can pull back to her level of a single cocktail and then everyone should be happy (?). Marriage ain't easy...
posted by SciGuy at 10:28 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

So I understand that the porn and dating sites where major violations.

Like SciGuy above, I did a double-take on the word 'porn' being a "major" violation. I guess it's a cultural difference, but that's getting pretty close to a thought crime. If you have no sex life and you're not "allowed" (?) to even LOOK at porn... well, if you're like the average man that's pretty much a pressurized powder keg, and your relationship is doomed sooner or later.

A dating site, if you didn't go through with anything, is more severe... it'd be insulting, and I'm sure she was hurt... but even then, thrown out of the house still seems extreme.

An entire bottle of wine every day, solo, is a lot. Seconding the consensus guess above that your drinking is probably a bigger part of the problem than you're seeing right now.

How did you get this far without communicating about it? I think after a few months, let alone years, some sort of "Listen, you stop drinking and I'll start fucking." (or the inverse) would have slipped out at least once. Weird.
posted by rokusan at 10:41 PM on March 29, 2008 [4 favorites]

Has your wife said that she would like to make the relationship work if you could rebuild her trust over time or does she feel like there is no point? You need her to be open to the possibility that things might eventually work out; otherwise she is heading towards divorce whether you like it or not.

Seeing a therapist individually might actually be very helpful. In addition to exploring your role in the relationship, you should also use therapy to evaluate your drinking and its effect on your life as well as on your marriage.

As a side note: Is your wife still depressed? If so, encourage her to do what she needs to do (therapy and medication) to deal with the depression. By the way, most antidepressants (with the exception of Wellbutrin) more often than not cause people to lose their sexual desire and make it harder to function sexually. If she has been on antidepressants for most of your marriage, that could be a significant contributor to your problems.
posted by metahawk at 10:57 PM on March 29, 2008

On the drinking front: where I come from, Americans are seen as comically anxious about alcohol, and yet even I have qualms about a bottle of wine a night. Those are big glasses, mate. If nothing else, you must be spending a considerable amount on booze on a weekly basis.

It strikes me that cutting that back would be a marvellous gesture of good faith, especially if the resulting savings were put to something of mutual benefit. Those vacuum plunger thingies are quite cheap and mean you could stretch a bottle over two or three nights without deterioration. Dealing with this crap will be easier with a clear head in the mornings too.

I speak from experience when I say that it is tempting at times like this to drink a little more than usual to cheer yourself up, but that is a bad bad strategy and will definitely not make you more lovable. A couple of weeks of sobriety, just on an experimental basis, might make you feel differently in a whole lot of ways.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:16 AM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

You really just need to ask yourself: Do I love her enough for it to matter to the both of us that we stay together.

It doesn't really seem like either of your love each other very much. Maybe before you got married, there was a reason. Maybe you were infatuated with her. Maybe you shared some rare hobby or interest. Maybe she just seemed like the one. She, to you, is obviously not the one. You, to her, is probably not either. I mean, lots of people catch their partners checking out craigslist and it usually ends up becoming something fun in the bedroom. Maybe you wanted to get caught.

This really is not about your drinking. I could care less if my partner drank a bottle of wine at night as long as there was real intimacy and conversation. But, if I went home every night and curled into a drunk little ball with just some other person in the house, I would go totally insane. Which is probably what the both of you have been doing for the last three years.

A lot of people are suggesting therapy and medication. But you can't medicate a relationship and expect things to heal properly. The meds will wear off one day and if both of you can't be adults and admit to problems then there really is no medical solution. Maybe other people are right though. Maybe she's depressed that you're a shallow drunk and shows her disapproval by not having sex with you. But I really doubt that's the reason and I have a feeling you could be totally sober and still be an asshole to your wife.
posted by parmanparman at 2:17 AM on March 30, 2008


I don't know what wine you're drinking, obviously - most of the wine I have in the house weighs in at around 6-10 standard drinks a bottle. That's a lot of booze to be knocking down lightly - even between two. If my husband was knocking down a bottle a night, I would be very unhappy, personally. That's because the husband I love is more evident when sober.

On the porn/dating site/sex thing - dear God in heaven. From the level of reaction you describe, I was expecting you to have been caught making out with someone on the couch or something.

That said - is she nearing menopause? That can do funny things to one's sex drive, and to one's girly bits. Throw in depression, it's not suprising that she's not up for it much, but nevertheless, she should be seeking treatment to get better. It simply isn't fair to demand sexual exclusivity in a celibate environment, in my opinion. How to get her trust back - I don't know, mostly because I don't understand how what you did was abnormal.

I'd say there's plenty to work on on both sides of the fence.
posted by ysabet at 3:15 AM on March 30, 2008

How do you regain your wife's trust? You'd have to ask her. We can guess at the issues - you drink an awful lot, your wife's libido is to blame, you betrayed her on dating sites, she overreacted - but honestly, having a bunch of strangers assigning blame and guessing at the problem won't help. Go up to her and say, "I want to fix this. Let's talk about what we should do." If you can talk about the concerns you both have without assigning blame it'll be a lot more productive than listening to us.
posted by christinetheslp at 6:00 AM on March 30, 2008

I think you’re on the right track with going to see a counselor, and by the way, you can’t make someone go to a counselor with you. She says she’s not interested; no matter what you think, she’s over 21 and can’t be forced into therapy against her will.

As far as the drinking, it sounds like a control issue, unless you are getting nasty with her when you drink. Maybe you’re mad at her for not wanting to have sex, so you get back at her for drinking a bottle of wine. It’s your right to do what you want, and it’s her right to say, “I don’t like it when you drink too much.” Maybe from her point of view, you are not only spending money on wine, you are damaging your health, and wives are funny like that: they nag men to take care of their health.

Ask her what it would take to get her trust back. Are you willing to let her monitor your computer activities to prove that you’re not violating her trust? Because that’s what it would take for me, I’d want proof that my husband wasn’t checking out people on dating sites and planning on dropping me like a hot potato.

The only thing you can do about her depression is show your concern, tell her you’re there for her if she decides to get treatment, and then ask yourself if you are willing to live the way you were before. No sex, your resentment issues over that, and her resentment over the amount of booze you drink.

As far as the porn, porn is fine if both people agree it’s fine. What matters is what are you willing to do to regain and keep your wife’s trust. Are you willing to never look at porn again if she asks you not to? Are you willing to stay away from dating sites and prove to her that you are doing so? There’s no right or wrong answer, just an honest answer. If she sees porn as a betrayal or bad and refuses to compromise on the issue, are you willing to give it up for her? Only you can answer that question.

Regarding sex: ask her why she doesn’t want to have sex. Tell her sex is important to you and if it’s due to depression, ask her to seek treatment (but don’t harp on her, just say, “it’s really hard for me to see you this way, and I would like it if you would at least get evaluated by a therapist.”). If you get back with her right now, you are in danger of falling back into the same patterns of behavior that led to the break-up. Maybe once she sees you changing (actions speak louder than words), after you’ve been to the counselor for several sessions, she will begin to trust you. She might also want to seek therapy for herself based on your example.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:12 AM on March 30, 2008

If you'd rather have your bottle of wine than your wife, you either don't care very much about her, or you have a drinking problem. A bottle of wine is a lot, and that you're unwilling even to cut down says a lot. I'm guessing that whatever other problems she might have, your wife doesn't want to be physically or emotionally intimate with a drunk. I certainly wouldn't.

If you really want her back, getting some help for your drinking might show her you're serious about making things work.
posted by walla at 6:38 AM on March 30, 2008

The crux of the matter is my insistence on drinking a bottle of wine every night and her lack of intimacy. Before we were married I drank a hell of a lot more and don’t want to cut back further. I don’t believe 4 glasses over 4 hours is a big deal.

Dude. You're going to destroy your liver. If you drank more than that before, you need to cut way way back in order to let your liver recover. If I were your wife, I'd be kicking your ass about it, and if you cared more about drinking than being healthy and sober enough to hang out with me, I'd be giving you the boot too. I certainly wouldn't be talking about my depression with the guy who comes home and gets plastered every night, and it wouldn't turn me on. Respect your wife enough to take care of yourself. Make it worth it for her to give you another chance.
posted by heatherann at 9:38 AM on March 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

The wine is a problem and very well may be a core part of your relationship problem. Who wants to be married to an alcoholic?

"Hang on" you may say, "I'm not an alcoholic." But you most certainly are and should do something about it, especially since you made it clear you'd choose wine over wife. Even if your wife had never made a comment about your alcohol, you'd still have a problem on that front since it sounds more like you NEED the wine rather than WANT it.

Try giving up the wine for the month of April. Yes, the whole month. If you can't, or if you find yourself counting down the days until May, then you'll prove that alcohol has a hold on you.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:47 AM on March 30, 2008

It sounds like you feel you've been busted and sent to the principal's office and just want to get out of trouble again.

I understand that level of anxiety, but take a closer look at what you're saying. It sounds to me that you are desperately unhappy with your relationship. Moving back in will change NOTHING. You'll still have an unhappy, angry relationship with issues about drinking, sex, and who's to blame for the unhappiness.

I think therapy's a good idea for you, as you should look at your life and relationship priorities and take serious steps to better your situation. But I'd suggest you make sure that whomever you're see understands something about addiction. It's your decision and all, but consider looking at your relationship to alcohol and why it's so important to you to continue to drink. You may be surprised at how much your relationship to alcohol is connected to the difficulties you are having.
posted by jasper411 at 12:14 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have nothing to add so I probably shouldn't even post this but too many people are saying 1 bottle of wine a night is a lot. Dude is in his 50s and has cut back. It isn't a lot for him, depending on how long he's been drinking it may be the minimum he needs to get a nice buzz at the end of a long day. The current attitude toward drinking in this country is obnoxious, to say the least. If he said he thought he had a drinking problem that would be different; the fact that his wife has fixated on his drinking doesn't mean it is the real issue in their relationship.

The other part of what what jasper411 says I'll second. Consider your options, don't struggle to get back into a situation that isn't working for you.
posted by Grod at 1:06 PM on March 30, 2008

Ask your therapist if you can have some couples' sessions. We were in a similar situation (as far as the HMO goes, anyway) and the "insurance police" did not come knocking at our door.

I'm in my 30s, engaged, but if my betrothed were acting as you describe, I'd wonder if he drank to escape me. That thought would lead me to pull away from him, thinking I'd reject him before he could reject me. Depression, by definition, does not beget healthy self-esteem, and leads to a downward spiral of self-flagellating thoughts. Discovering your porn/dating site usage would have only confirmed my fears that I was unattractive to you, and that would have been the final nail in the coffin. I think it was a handy excuse for her to cast you out.

YES, this is all irrational. YES, she's making a big deal out of essentially nothing. But depression is irrational, and you can't use reason in the face of an irrational person. If she is unwilling to see a counselor, if she's not on meds (I presume not, because she shouldn't be mixing them with alcohol), then she's not willing to do her part to preserve the marriage. You, sir, are not a saint, but this woman is not willing or capable of being your partner in marriage.
posted by desjardins at 1:49 PM on March 30, 2008

You miss your wife. And you're prepared to go back and live, by the sound of it, the remainder of your life with her but without intimacy. Are you really prepared for that? If yes, you keep trying to demonstrate it to your wife and, over time, she may accept it and let you back.


I just ran this past some friends. The females said that not in a million years would they stay in a relationship if their partner simply withdrew inexplicably from sex for a long period. The males were a little more tactful.

Even in a trailer you can get over her, and find someone else to be intimate with.

However, maybe her withdrawal from sex isn't inexplicable, although you don't explain it. You may like to scrutinise the reasons why she doesn't want to be intimate with you. Is it just her "depression" or hangups? Or are you overweight? A drunk? A slob in bed? Etc etc. All passion killers.
posted by londongeezer at 3:47 PM on March 30, 2008

A bottle a night isn't on the surface, by definition, BAD. How it affects you and what you do while drinking and why you're drinking are the problems (or not).

Based on your description of things, it doesn't sound like you did anything that merits a loss in trust. If she actually, in her heart, trusts you less because of porn and the internet, that's on her. It sounds like she's just saying that because she's got something she can hold over you. Consider the possibility that the lady doth protest too much?

Give saving the marriage a shot. Go back to the basics, take her out on dates, buy her stuff for no reason, etc. Be nice. Be happy and cheerful.

Good luck!
posted by gjc at 7:04 PM on March 30, 2008

Dude. A bottle of wine a night is not a lot? Who are you kidding? You're an alcoholic. Curb that, then work on the relationship.
posted by xmutex at 7:51 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your wife is not depressed now. She was years ago and worked thro it with counselors and medication and with your support. You continued drinking more than 1 bottle of wine a nite. You drink and drive your car and your boat. After 2 glasses it is impossible to have a conversation with you. So of course you wife withdrew. But on a constant basis she would ask you nicely to quit. Your answer was no. The bottle was more important.
The porn, well she looked at your computer and realized you have been obsessed with it for years, even while you were dating her. Why is it that to have sex with your wife you need to take a pill but you needed nothing to view the porn. These porn sights were the lowest there are of porn. Yes you posted profiles on very slezy dating sites. Yes you were talking to woman there, although you deny it. Yes you even met woman. That was when your little blue pills began to disappear. Your story for that was your wife's 23 year old daughter had stolen them.
Your very addictive behavior has hurt your wife, your son and your previous wife. Its time to change tell the counselor the truth and get some help with your additions and lack of emotional growth. You can fight your way out of this but is your choice.
Oh me, I'm the wife.
posted by mrleec at 2:26 PM on March 31, 2008 [44 favorites]

desjardins is spot on.

mrleec, that was awesome. I actually got a hollow feeling in my stomach when I read that, almost like I was anonymous getting contradicted and trounced in public.

On topic: good for you for calling your husband out and for making him face the truth. I speak from experience when I say that alcoholics are experts at justifying their behavior, to the point where they actually believe their own lies.

Anonymous: it's time to face reality. The worse thing that you can do is to continue to lie to yourself. Your first step must be to reexamine your behavior for what it truely is, without the excuses and justifications that you know in your heart do not reflect reality. Discover what the alcohol is masking. Alcohol is not the problem, per se, it is a poor remedy for an underlying problem that you have not been willing to face. Until you address the underlying problem, you will need alcohol or some other distraction to make your life bearable.
posted by metawabbit at 9:19 AM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

good for you for calling your husband out and for making him face the truth. I speak from experience when I say that alcoholics are experts at justifying their behavior, to the point where they actually believe their own lies.

Based purely on the accounts two strangers on the internet, it's impossible to know what the truth is about any of this. I suggest this thread be closed to further comment, and that the poster and his wife try to engage in some honest dialogue, and if intermediation is required, then it should be someone qualified to offer advice.
posted by psmealey at 7:00 AM on May 16, 2008

« Older who does good haircuts for curly/wavy hair in...   |   What is it what is it GIVE IT HERE GIVE IT -- oh... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.