Vail relationships column: How to reassure your fearful spouse
May 29, 2017
Dear Neil: My significant other of three years doesn't understand that I need reassurance from him because of his rejection and abandonment from the past. All he can say to me is that I need to move on or it's not going to work, and that I need to decide to trust him. But I'm scared he's going to do what he did in the past. He's resistant about reassuring me that the past won't repeat itself.
Scared in Gilbert, Arizona
Dear Scared: Your boyfriend wants you to trust him and believe in him, but he doesn't want to reassure you that he won't reject or abandon you again. So in essence, the man who has let you down in the past is asking you to take it on faith that he won't abandon you again. That's a big request — even with reassurance.
But here's the truth: The reassurance you're asking for is essentially verbal, and words are easy to say and easy to justify changing. So pay very close attention to his behaviors. Is he reliable and trustworthy in other areas of his life, and are his actions in life consistent with his words? Does he misrepresent himself, lie or otherwise justify poor behavior? Is this an overall trustworthy guy, or does he have a hard time acting upright with honor and integrity?
“But here’s the truth: The reassurance you’re asking for is essentially verbal, and words are easy to say and easy to justify changing. So pay very close attention to his behaviors. Is he reliable and trustworthy in other areas of his life, and are his actions in life consistent with his words? Does he misrepresent himself, lie or otherwise justify poor behavior?”Niel Rosenthal
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I'm not trying to say that verbal reassurance isn't important; it is very important. It's simply not the only measure of whether someone can be believed and trusted.
What actions, specifically, would make you feel safer and more secure with him? Create a list of what he could do, including words and behaviors, that would help you to feel protected and out of danger. Give him a copy of this list, and tell him these behaviors would really assist you in overcoming your mistrust of him. If he takes your list seriously and genuinely tries to meet your needs and wishes, then maybe he is showing you (instead of telling you) that your concerns matter to him. If he blows this list off, then he is blowing you off, and that does not sound promising for you to have a future with him.
Dear Neil: I met a man on Tinder and we chatted and texted all day every day. When we met up, we spent every weekend together for the next month. He introduced me to his 10-year-old son, and the son and I got on well, but shortly thereafter he told me he just doesn't see a long-term future for us. He had been so loving and caring, he was the first man I've been with where I felt I wanted to get married and have a baby. Do you think there's a chance he will realize that we are meant to be and that I can get him back?
Stunned in Colorado
Dear Stunned: There is always a chance, but I am not optimistic for this turning out the way you hope.
Many things could have happened; he may have stopped the relationship before it got too serious, he may have thought you didn't fit with his son, perhaps you were simply a port in the storm for him, his ex could have come back to him or maybe he didn't have the actual and genuine feelings for you that you thought he did. Either way, don't give up on your dream. Dry your eyes and go back out there until you find someone you can call yours.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. He is the author of the bestselling book, "Love, Sex, and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship." Contact him at 303-758-8777 or visit neilrosenthal.com.
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