54

I've been married now for few years (around 2 years), and everything is ok between my wife and me.

Before me, she was married (for around 8 months) to a husband who cheated on her with her sister (who is a model). Since then, she lives in fear and can't trust any man or believe that someone will not cheat on her just because he sees another girl/woman more beautiful than her.

At the start of our relationship, I could help her to forget and start a new page, but for the past year, her fears have come back and it is really starting to annoy me.

And since a few months ago, the situation has gotten more complicated. She started to be jealous about anything, and she has stopped allowing me to have contact with any other girl (she thinks if I make a contact, then I'll automatically cheat on her). She even follows my looks, and interrupts any discussion between me and any other woman, to the point where I've started getting bored and have thoughts of leaving her.

My question

How can I tell my wife that all her fears will not help me or her; to the contrary, it could even push me to be rude or do silly things?

Clarifications

  • After the divorce with her ex, she lost her job.
  • She is no longer in contact with people she used to know, partially for fear that I might cheat on her with one of them.
  • 6
    How long between her divorce and your marriage? – user1982 Feb 27 '18 at 20:33
  • 2
    1 year exactly.. – Moslem Ch Feb 28 '18 at 14:27
  • 2
    @MosCH You married the on the very same date she divorced? O_o Was it real coincidence or intentional? (sorry, the coincidence made me ask, you don't have to answer if you don't want to) – xDaizu Mar 1 '18 at 11:16
  • that was by luck, but I knew her before the divorce, and after it, we loved each others and we married. – Moslem Ch Mar 16 '18 at 15:25
86

This does sound like a case for couples' therapy, or single therapy for her with some joint session, because her trust has been deeply broken before.
Think about it: The man she loved cheated on her, and to add to this, it was with her sister! That is at least one, possibly two, deep trusts broken in one fell swoop! Even if she keeps reminding herself that she trusts you, even if she feels secure with you, a lingering doubt can remain with her, one she possibly cannot fight off herself.
I would ask you not to hold this against her. I have some mild trust-issues myself, I am aware of them, and even after years, it is often hard for me "trust myself, rather than my issue". I hope this sentence makes sense to you!

Of course you will react negatively to this lack of trust, that is perfectly understandable. Sadly, in return she might easily sense that.. and feel she was right all along!

So, in this case, therapy is a really good idea, because it will help her sort out her feelings!

When talking to her about this:
Be open with her about her behaviour affects you, but also validate her feelings! That does NOT mean telling her she is right in mistrusting you, it means telling her that you understand she feels that way, and you want to help her work through it!
You know your wife better than I do of course, so take this last bit with a grain of salt. But in my personal experience, this is what helps me most.

  • 3
    @Raditz_35 No, but that is because my issues stem from a different situation. Perhaps two grains of salt, but in my experience not just with myself, validating that another persons feelings are very real to that person hardly ever is a mistake. A more simply example: Someone is scared of a spider. Your chance to be helpful is vastly improved if you start by accepting that this person will not approach said spider! Communicating that you are aware of that fact would hardly ever hurt. – Layna Feb 27 '18 at 11:07
23

As you mention that this behaviour was not present early on in your relationship it sounds like something has changed that has either brought this fear out in her or is acting as a catalyst for it.

It is natural for two people in a relationship to become more relaxed as time passes. You should be at a stage where you are more trusting of each other. But it is possible that if you are more relaxed (as opposed to the early days of a relationship which can be very intense) you have gradually paid her less attention and this may have fueled her fears that you are looking elsewhere.

It doesn't necessarily follow that if someone has been cheated on they always find it hard to trust others. I was cheated on in my first marriage, and although I took my time getting married again (possibly because of residual trust issues) I trust my present wife completely which is a great feeling. I have a lot less anxiety and stress because I can confidently let go of that fear.

I think your wife may be experiencing "control issues" - that is not to say she is controlling by nature, but as she experienced a loss of control in her own life when she was cheated on previously, she may now be over-compensating to keep herself from being hurt again. She needs help to realise that (1) she cannot control you, and attempting to do so actually impacts negatively on your relationship; and (2) that she must learn to control only her own jealously and negative emotions.

If very deep-seated, these issues may be best addressed in professional counseling. However you will at least need to tackle the subject with her to even suggest that. Always choose a calm time to discuss an issue, not right in the middle of an argument. Then perhaps say something like:

We need to talk about our relationship. You often make me feel that you do not trust me to be faithful. I understand that things in your past may have made it difficult to trust again. I love you and I am faithful to you, but your lack of trust is damaging our relationship and the bond that we have. How can we move forward?

Listen to her fears. If there are small things that you could change to make her less fearful, be prepared to adjust. For example, although this is not your fault, perhaps some behaviour of yours while talking to other women is seeming to your wife like flirting? Don't be unreasonable if she raises things like this. Small adjustments from both parties are reasonable when two people bring their lives together. But if she cannot see a way to overcome her feelings then you might want to tactfully suggest counseling. Look into this beforehand so that you can discuss specific options rather than just leave her floundering and having to sort that out herself.

  • 1
    I liked your talk, and I guess that the problem is really because i paid less attention than the past... – Moslem Ch Feb 27 '18 at 12:17
  • 19
    You often make me feel that ... is not the best way to start because You ...whatever... is easily received as an accusation. It is much better to use I-statements, e.g. I often feel that .... – hlovdal Feb 27 '18 at 15:26
  • 3
    You said exactly whatever was going on my mind. But I think if someone is having control issues it is difficult to ask and convince for a professional counselling visit. These control issues are very difficult to bear with because even convincing with reason may turn into an argument. – Neel Basu Feb 27 '18 at 19:44
  • 1
    She doesn't have control issues. That's just a tool, a symptom. It's the two core fears: 'I am not enough' and 'I will not be loved'. She is afraid of losing him. Controlling him is just a bad, back-firing way of trying to keep the relationship together. While I personally make no difference between you and I statements, the advice is a good one. Blaming and accusing rarely helps. Especially with a person who deems herself inferior to other women. – Haunt_House Feb 28 '18 at 1:17
  • 2
    @hlovdal exactly. I also find that statements such as, "I feel hurt when people I care about <describe the action>," are helpful - the more you can make how you feel about you and how you perceive things, rather than "you you you" then the better off you'll be. – Wayne Werner Feb 28 '18 at 22:41
6

It's striking to me at how rapidly all of this has occurred. You've been married for 2 years, she was single for a year before that and then married for 8 months. That's less than 4 years total. This timeline suggests a lack of maturity. Especially if you consider the gravity of what happened to her.

You don't really talk much about your wife's relationship with her sister but it's hard for me to ignore. The fact that her first husband cheated on her so early in the marriage is really bad. That he did it with her sister is astoundingly cruel. He sounds like a real asshat. It doesn't sound like she chose her first husband very wisely. Then, just a year later, she's married again. None of this suggests much maturity.

And back to the sister: it's hard to fathom the betrayal that she has perpetrated on your wife but she barely factors in the question. I can't imagine that things are OK between them. I'm guessing that means there's not a lot of love between them.

So we have someone from an unhappy family jumping from marriage to marriage. This is not a good starting place for a happy relationship.

There are a few other things that pop out in your question:

can't trust any man or believe that no one will cheat on her

Why does she need to 'trust any man' or 'believe no one will cheat'. You are her husband. How do other men figure into this?

and I started now to be bored

Bored? I can understand frustrated, annoyed, or concerned but bored doesn't make a lot of sense here. It takes a lot of effort to make a marriage work. If you are having these kinds of problems just getting along, how's it going to work when you are up at 3 AM with a baby that won't stop screaming or having to deal with real problems like a serious illness or injury.

I think you need to ask yourself and her what you really want from your marriage. Based on the information you've provided, it sounds like more like two individuals engaged in serial monogamy than two people creating a family.

  • 1
    "How do other men figure into this?" is exactly the problem. The OP is not his wife's ex, but she's treating him as if he somehow bears the guilt of the ex's infidelity just by virtue of them both being male. This sort of casual misandry is accepted by many who would condemn as misogynistic the reverse situation. This isn't, and can't be, a healthy relationship until the wife really gets her issues worked out (as opposed to pretending so, as she's apparently done until recently). Sadly, she may never be able to do that. Betrayal is tough to get past. – Monty Harder Mar 1 '18 at 19:19
5

Your wife has serious issues. The stress here is on your wife. These are not your issues, and she is trying to put them on you. That is wrong, even though it is probably not intentional.

Discuss this with her. Tell her that with all respect and love for her feelings, it is already bad enough that they impact her badly, having them impact you as well is just too much.

Love does not work without trust. She needs to work through this or your marriage won't last.

Love also does not work without boundaries, and you need to set yours here. If she is jealous, and you did nothing to cause that, it is entirely her problem and you are not the enemy. Tell her that if she comes to you as a friend, along the lines of "dear, I have these bad feelings again, please help me" you will be there. If she comes to you as an enemy, along the lines of "Stop that! Don't do this!", you will not.

She needs both a loving and respectful husband, and a firm statement that she has issues and she needs to resolve them. You can help, assist and support, but it is her feelings that are the problem. This will be a tough talk, as people rarely admit that their feelings are a problem. But from what you told, you can easily show that your behaviour is not.

This is the line you need to draw. When you two talk about this, when she comes to you as outlined above or in any other way and indicates that she feels jealous, the talk needs to be about her feelings and NOT about your actions.

I second the suggestion to get an independent moderator (e.g. couple counsel) for this talk.

In a safe space like that, you might also want to clearly state that her jealousy is damaging your relation, reducing your love, and giving you feelings of leaving her. That needs to be on the table. The most unfair thing you can do to a person is to wait until your decision is final and then spring it on them as a surprise. Put it in the context of saving the marriage, but do point it out.

5

It's been mentioned before and I'll mention it again but with a slightly different slant:

Couples Therapy

Your wife has her issues and you have issues with the way that this is impacting on your relationship.

It is difficult to raise this with your wife when things are "going smoothly" but that is when you need to do it, not when emotions are running high.

Tell your wife you love her and that your relationship is important to you but you feel like her issues from her previous marriage are impacting yours. Tell her this is something you want to resolve with her. Let her know you understand where her feelings are coming from but you want the two of you to work together to make your relationship better.

Do not make this her problem to resolve alone, it is something to tackle together as a couple.

It may not hurt to have a couple of counsellors in mind before raising this with your wife. If she is willing to enter couples therapy it will show her how serious you are about this and it gives you something to action immediately.

On a side note, I'm willing to bet these issues started to arise about 8 months into your current marriage, coinciding with when your wife was previously hurty.

3

I'm sorry to tell you this but I really doubt a literal answer to your question makes anything better longterm.

Here's the situation: Your wife has been hurt and now she hurts herself with those memories and what she feels those memories mean for her life. If she keeps that up, she might eventually create what she fears. Driving you away because being suspected of cheating for years might make you fall out of love and the very fear of losing you might become a reality. At best the marriage becomes stale. It seems to have already started.

I do not think it helps if you try to make her not be jealous because she's jealous for a reason. Maybe not a good reason but her feelings of insignificance and uncertainty are real and won't go away by being bottled up or by being made wrong. Whatever brains do, think or feel, they do it for a reason and they usually need a better alternative to get the same result in order to let go of the old behavior. Because in a way, the old behavior is needed.

She desperately tries to save the relationship with you, she's just pretty clumsy. So honor her intent, just not her approach. She wants to keep you in her life. That's a good thing.

Here's the question: how exactly did you help her forget the bad past? Have you stopped doing anything that has helped before? Most couples do. Change that.

Because while blaming her might be justified, it's you and you alone who can do something about it because you are the only person you have control over. So being the person she wants in her life gives you lots of opportunity to influence her positively. And you can use that. And you should.

How often do you surprise her with something she really values emotionally? That screams in her language: I love you? Women do appreciate small stuff men wouldn't care about. How often do you tell her what you like about her? What do you regularly do to make her feel significant and certain about your love? Women need attention. It's mostly inbuilt.

What I suggest is to get off the autopilot. A relationship does not happen, it is built and maintained and nurtured. And there's lots of little things that need to be done on a regular basis that are never urgent or pressing, just important. So they get neglected easily and people then wonder why the relationship isn't as much fun as in the old days. And why your wife mostly focuses on her fears. Obviously she's not busy enough with thinking about fun stuff.

Here's a mean excercise. In a quiet moment, take the time and look her in the eyes and give her a chance to tell you what she feels. I mean really look in her eyes. Not 10 seconds, not a minute. As long as it takes to really feel her. Give her presence. Feel her pain. Don't think of sports. Look in her eyes and really keep making her and her feelings the only important thing for a moment.

See the woman you love through all the dumb behavior and the hurt and let her express herself and love her the whole time. When your eyes start to water you're partly there. Her feelings need to be acknowledged or she will feel you don't take her seriously and she won't be open for change and won't listen. In the end she must own the decision to let got of the past but at the start of change her status quo is right.

When you come from a place of love and not from a place of hurt feelings because she does the wrong thing, you can, in that momen, take her for what she is. A beautiful soul, the woman you fell in love with, deeply hurt, deeply afraid of losing you. If you think of what she does wrong, you are not with her, but with yourself and that won't help you a bit in getting her trust. Because she will sense that you are more concerned about yourself.

I do not suggest becoming a martyr. Neither do I suggest pleasing her so much that she'll lose all respect for you. I suggest opening her up. Before you have opened her, she won't be open to change because she thinks she cannot do better than to control you. And you open her with love that she feels, with the feeling to be understood and with presence. If you give her ground to stand on, she will have better options than to cling to the bad past and to control. Her jealousy is a symptom not the problem.

In the end, behavior that gets reinforced gets repeated. The trick is to find the right, fitting reinforcements. Remember: the brain you want to influence makes the rules. It can be an amazing game to find the right levers and use them and see her gain more freedom and more trust. Make no mistake: you both train each other and reinforce behaviors and change each other anyway. You just don't do it consciously and it hurts you both. The current change is not improvement. Autopilot is bad.

Here's another very valuable game you two can play: Arrange a few quiet hours in an environment that makes both of you comfortable and then try this: You try to explain to her the whole situation. Easy, right?. But from her point of view. And you are not finished until she is satisfied with the result. And when you have her full approval of what you said, you switch roles and she explains to your the situation from your point of view until you are satisfied. It forces both of you to understand each other.

You can train pattern interrupts. By now both of you are probably accustomed to act and react a certain way. Have you ever been as polite and friendly as possible to someone who deserves it the least? Your friendlyness being stronger than their negativity? Leading intelligently instead of following aggression? That's a pattern interrupt. They just don't know how to interpret it. There are better reactions to jealousy than hurt feelings or conformity. That needs exploration and study and training. Martial artists can react well because they train. Dancers can move amazingly graceful because they train. The same goes for any social situation. But they actually train, they don't just move. That's the difference between their skills and most people's social skills. They don't train, they react and make do. It's the difference between a ballet class and a walk in the park. That's why the results are not always pretty in everyday life.

You have not won when she understands that her jealousy is wrong, you have won when she feels inside that she doesn't need her jealousy anymore. Two very different things.

One could write a whole book about this because the solution depends on rules and beliefs in your heads. Those dictate what new behaviors you have to train in order to encourage new behavior in her. Course changes that make you both happier.

There's a video called relationship storms by Robbins Madanes. Pretty good knowledge. Maybe you find a used copy.

1

This might not be easy to hear but there isn't a way you can just tell her about how you feel and have it help her. She has deep feelings of hurt and resentment and it will take time to deal with this. Feelings like this can't be turned off like a light switch; these things take time.

She was married before and hurt very deeply, then it sounds like she got remarried before she had truly dealt with what happened. You said that "she just lives in nightmares and can't trust any man or believe that no one will cheat on her", and yet, she got married which requires just that - trust that her husband (you, in this case) will not cheat on her.

Couples therapy isn't a bad suggestion but your wife should get some help to sort through this. You should find some support as well so you won't go through this process on your own. It's not just her problem; you married her. But if you can patiently deal with this and she sees she needs help, you can get through it.

1

I would start with your wife's general practitioner. Ask your wife for permission to go along to the appointment. Take along a concise, bulleted list of ways these exaggerated fears are limiting your wife's ability to function and enjoy life. Start out by just using the word "fears" without specifying what sorts of fears.

Request a screening for anxiety. The ones done at the doctor's office are typically one or two pages and can be filled out in five minutes.

The doctor may suggest your wife consider some medication; may suggest a more thorough evaluation (if so try to get some specific names of evaluators); and will hopefully persuade your wife that there is a way out of living with constant fear and anxiety.

Next, try to find a psychologist or social worker with training in "exposure therapies." Such a provider would be able to evaluate your wife for possible obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and offer treatment if this diagnosis is reached.

Meanwhile, although we don't know for certain whether your wife has OCD, you can, regardless, obtain support and solace by connecting with other relatives of OCD sufferers, and by reading articles about OCD and anxiety, such as those written by Fred Penzel.

It's not easy to live with a person who lives with constant fear, dread and anxiety. It can be very helpful to work with a therapist yourself, aside from any therapy your wife may undertake.

protected by Community Feb 28 '18 at 8:27

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