Dear Dr. Ellen: My husband of 3 years does not trust me and although he hid it very well, it’s all out in the open now. He’s finally admitted that he was in two other relationships where he was cheated on and now feels he cannot trust me. He also says I have done nothing to make him not trust me and I will agree with that. I have been 100 percent faithful to him. Our marriage fell apart 6 months ago when I caught him breaking into my email, reading everything and anything he could find. He also checks our caller ID daily, goes through my cell phone, my drawers, and my purse and just about anything he can get his hands on. I feel every person has a right to their own personal space that nobody has a right to go and he has crossed that line. When he finally confessed to all he’s been doing, we got in a huge fight and he told me it was over because he didn’t feel he could ever trust me and he moved out. Since then, we decided to see a marriage counselor. We spent 4 months of weekly therapy and things were going very well. I gave it my all and felt very good about where we were. In a session one afternoon he told me how much he loved me and that he does trust me now only to catch him going through my cell phone 10 minutes after our session. I was devastated that he would lie about his feelings and felt hopeless. We stopped the counseling for a month, then decided to go back and try again but this time; I’m finding it very difficult to give it my all.
I’ve asked him to come to me and talk to me when he is having feelings of mistrust and we can work on them together. He told me that he would prefer to cross that line into my personal space to prove it to himself that I’m not being unfaithful because he doesn’t trust that I will tell him the truth. If there is one thing I am very certain of, it is that I deserve to have my own personal space (what I mean by personal space is my own thoughts, emails with my sister etc…) and do not deserve to be treated like this. I also am starting to doubt our counselor and really need your advice. I feel that my husband has some serious trust issues that have absolutely nothing to do with me, and that until he deals with that, we don’t have a prayer of having a true loving and happy marriage. Our counselor said he doesn’t think either of us should do any individual counseling, that the success rate is far less if either of us does individual counseling. He feels we need to keep working on things together. I do think we need to keep working together but feel my husband needs to deal with his trust issue first. I should also tell you that his father has done the same thing to his wife that my husband is doing to me so this is something my husband has grown up seeing. I’m starting to feel as though this is a waste of time. I cannot and will not accept his behavior and if he isn’t willing to do it any other way, what is the point of weekly sessions? Am I being too hard on him? Should I allow him to snoop through everything? At one point I did allow him to do whatever he wanted, thinking if he continued to never find anything, he would stop. That didn’t help. I trust your judgment and would very much appreciate you helping me sort through this mess. Thank you very much. – Chris
Dear Chris: I believe that when two people get married, they do become one. I have been happily married for 38 years and I can tell you that my husband and I have absolutely no “personal space.” We each know each other’s passwords and he can look at all of my personal emails, anytime he wants, and I can do the same. We open each other’s mail and never think about it being an invasion of privacy. I will give him my cell phone to use and other times I use his. When the wash is done, whoever has the time, will put it away. That means my husband goes into my drawers and I do the same thing. I can’t think of one area where I would feel that he was overstepping a boundary because I haven’t set up any. In fact, you mentioned receiving and sending an email to your sister. I can’t imagine not telling my husband about a conversation I had with my brother. We are both very interested in each other’s lives and the conversations we have with family members. I do think you are being too hard on him and should let him snoop to his heart’s content. When you love someone, you have to do everything in your power to insure that they are secure with your love, especially since you know that he has been hurt before and has trust issues.
There is not a human being alive that doesn’t come into a marriage without some baggage. I think that the future success of your marriage is going to depend on whether you accept that we all have hang ups based on our upbringing and experiences. Of course you had nothing to do with his present issues, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help him heal. I think you can build a wonderful life if you can decide that your life will now become an open book (to your husband) and live with the motto, “what’s mine is yours.” I don’t think that too many people would agree with me on this one and it will be very interesting to see other people’s reactions to your situation. – Dr. Ellen