Relationships: The ties of trust
Ryan Summerlin April 12, 2014
I caught my husband telling another woman on the phone that she is beautiful. They work together. When confronted, he told me she recently split with her husband, and that he was consoling her. I have been suspicious for the past year, but when I brought it up he would brush me off. He says he has not had sex with her, but his phone account shows many calls during the past 12 months.
He says he loves me and wants nothing more to do with her, but I am struggling to believe anything he says. We had only been married for seven months when these calls began. I feel like a fool and am leaning toward leaving. This goes against my morals. The only thing keeping me married is that I love him. Please help.
No Longer Trusting in Queensland, Australia
Dear No Longer,
It’s difficult to encourage you to end a new marriage based on only on your suspicions, without really knowing if your suspicions are true or not. Here’s what you can do. First, you’re going to have to set some very firm boundaries with your husband about what is and what is not acceptable behavior in your marriage, because it appears that he doesn’t have firm or strong boundaries on his own.
Also, you had to discover this instead of him willfully sharing what he was doing and who he was taking with. He is apparently close friends with another woman you know very little about, and his conversations with her are private and personal, and not shared with you at all. So, there also needs to be an agreement about transparency, openness and sharing personal information, and a willingness to not hold any secrets at all from each other — including friends, phone calls, texts, emails and all other forms of communication.
Third, you could tell your husband that since there has been a breach of trust with this woman, that you don’t want them to have contact after work hours. If there is any such contact, then you can tell him that you want to be included in all their phone calls and/or meetings also.
Fourth, something needs to come from him that attempts to correct this breach of trust. He needs to go way out of his way to show you — and to reassure you — that you are truly his one and only, and that something like this will never happen again. And I don’t mean only verbally — he has to show it as well. You just might be able to regain trust for a man who is willing to go way out of his way, consistently showing you he is committed to you, and consistently being more aware of your trust and secrecy concerns
If these recommendations do not give you peace of mind, then there is a fifth option, but be forewarned, this option is more risky and takes more gumption. When your husband isn’t around (but his phone is) you could call her — from his phone. Tell her who you are, that you know that she and your husband are in a relationship, and ask her if she will talk with you about how emotionally invested they are with each other.
There is no guarantee she will be open or honest with you, but if she is, you can have a woman-to-woman conversation with her, and you can ask her if it is a romantic relationship, if it is a sexual relationship, has he ever said that he loves her, and any other information you would like to know. She might refuse to talk with you, or even hang up on you — which would not be proof, but it would sound like there is something she is trying to hide. But if she cooperates, that might assist you in deciding what to do with your marriage.
She could say that their relationship is not romantic or sexual, that he has just been a friend to her, and you will have no way of knowing whether that is the truth or not. So, the bottom line is that you may never know the full truth about their “friendship.” If your husband is willing to do the top four recommendations — and does them well, and keeps doing them — then would that be enough for you? The rule of thumb is that you can trust the person who is willing to go way out of his way, consistently, over time — and does nothing to re-injure that trust.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 22nd year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his websit at www.heartrelationships.com. He is not able to respond individually to queries.