Relationship column: Second chances after infidelity
My husband of three years has been hiding his phone for the past six months. When asked why, he said that he likes his space, and he asked me to trust him. Our relationship has some issues, especially regarding our poor communication and our inability to discuss issues or share with each other. So the distance has grown, and he stopped showing any interest in me physically.
One day, he left his phone out. I opened it and learned he was having an affair. I am now in the situation where I either trust him again or leave him for good. Should I leave him or give our relationship a second chance? He has asked me for forgiveness, but has quit trying.
Dear Needing Advice,
There is something missing from your story. Your husband has asked you to trust him again, but you mention nothing about what he is doing in order to help you trust him again.
Has he ended the affair? How sure are you of his answer? What is his explanation for what happened? Listen very carefully to his answer and keep your BS detector on high alert so he doesn’t attempt to gloss over what happened. “It just happened” is simply not an acceptable answer, because it gives you no real explanation of his behavior, and it gives you no reassurance that it won’t happen again. What safeguards is he offering so you could be confident that this won’t happen again?
“I like my space” does not go well with marriage when someone has had an affair. He will be able to use his “space” as an excuse to be able to do anything he wants, while telling you that what he does or who he’s with is none of your business. That sounds like a recipe for the same thing happening to you again and again. Is he prepared to never again hide his phone, texts, emails and other forms of communication? Is he prepared to give you every password he uses for all his devices so you can feel convinced that this won’t happen again?
Nothing you describe makes me confident that he is genuinely sorry, or that he feels he has done wrong or has acted poorly. In order for you to feel safe with him in the future, there needs to be real repair work. You need to feel confident that your husband understands the gravity of what he has done, and is willing to go way out of his way to demonstrate and/or prove to you that it won’t happen again. If he is not willing to do this, or if he does it very half-hearted, then he isn’t sincere, and this same scenario is very likely to happen all over again.
You just deciding to trust him will not work without these safeguards. Do you actually buy his explanation about what happened? Are the two of you repairing your poor communication and inability to share with each other, the distance between you and his lack of interest in you sexually? A man who has quit trying sounds like an extremely poor risk to me. You don’t want to be married to a man who doesn’t want you.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 23rd year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777 or email him through his website at http://www.heartrelationships.com. He is the author of the new book: “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Keeping the Flame Alive.”