Relationship Connection: My husband keeps breaking my trust

Question

What can I do to regain trust in my husband? He has been addicted to pornography for most of our 44 years of marriage. He has worked hard to overcome his addiction and I think he has been successful for the last three or four years.

He seems to have replaced one addiction with another though. He has become increasingly flirtatious with other women. This last three months he has had an “affair of the heart” with an attractive single lady. He says that it’s over but I’m having a hard time getting past the hurt and feelings of betrayal.

He says I have to trust him and forgive him. I’m really trying and I think I’ve forgiven him but I don’t trust him. This is a wretched way to live.

Answer

Forgiveness and trust are two very different things. Forgiving your husband can happen as soon as you’re ready to forgive him. Forgiveness allows you to surrender the anger, fear, and resentment you carry as a result of his choices. Forgiveness frees you from playing God and exacting some kind of price from his misdeeds. It’s not easy to forgive, and it often takes time.

However, forgiving your husband doesn’t depend on his behavior. Refusing to forgive another person is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.

Trust, on the other hand, completely depends on his behavior. If he wants to have you put your life and love back in his hands, he needs to learn how to be faithful to only you. Even though you’ve stayed with him these 44 years, my guess is that you haven’t trusted him to have all of you. That isn’t something you’re doing wrong. You’ve observed he’s had a competing relationship with pornography and, now, other women, so you keep your distance.

Stopping one problematic behavior is certainly worth celebrating. However, if it’s immediately replaced with another betrayal, then clearly the root of the problem hasn’t been addressed. The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. It’s connection. If he’s not turning toward you completely with his full attention and commitment, then he’s not fully healing his addiction.

Your question should be, “what can my husband do to regain my trust?” The burden of restoring trust is on him, not you. Your job is to watch for and identify trustworthy, or nontrustworthy, behaviors. If you don’t trust him, there’s most likely a good reason for that. The person you should trust is yourself.

If you choose to stay with him and continue forward as a married couple, then you will eventually need to open yourself up in response to his efforts at being more trustworthy. My observation over the years is that a spouse who is committed to earning trust back after betrayal can make that process much easier on the injured spouse if they don’t demand trust, stay consistent in their behaviors, and do everything they can to create safe conditions.

I can tell you want to trust, but you’re living with a man who isn’t trustworthy. Yes, he’s had some recent success in eliminating one addictive behavior. However, that’s just the beginning of him now having the freedom to look deeper inside himself to understand how this addiction has affected him and his relationships. If he simply moves over to a new acting out behavior, then he’s no wiser and safer than he was when he was consumed with looking at pornography. As a result, you’re going to naturally keep your distance.

Help him understand that forgiving him will happen regardless of how he behaves, as you need to release yourself from the storm of emotions and pain you’re suffering. Let him know that trust is his responsibility and that it’s not something he can demand from you. If he wants to be trusted, then he needs to act trustworthy every single day and in every single situation. If he breaks that trust, then he works to repair it. This process is repeated over and over until he becomes a trustworthy person. There is no other way to do this. There are no shortcuts to rebuilding trust.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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35 Comments

  • Far Out November 5, 2014 at 9:55 am

    If he was getting what he needed at home, he wouldn’t need porn, or flirting, or cheating. You need to get with the program here, lady!

    • Herd November 5, 2014 at 11:35 am

      It’s that Utah Pioneer tradition and heritage. Now go find him some more women. The more women he gets, the worthier he’ll be.

      • Koolaid November 5, 2014 at 3:22 pm

        He can’t be from southern Utah, because he would be locked onto a fantasy that involves dogs or horses.

    • WTF November 6, 2014 at 11:13 am

      When you marry someone, you vow to be with them and only them. You respect your spouse and you treat them well! Demanding sex from someone is absolutely horrible and to hear that someone thinks that way is abhorrent. Yes, we live in Utah, and yes, many women are taught to not be interested in sex, but that doesn’t mean that you rape them just because they’re your spouse. Being in a relationship with someone or being married to someone does not include a guarantee of sex, and if that’s all you’re in the relationship for, then get out. Maybe it took 40 years of trying to solve the problem within the relationship for her to finally ask a professional. It doesn’t mean that she’s a bad person and it sure as hell does not mean that he deserves sex from her just because she is his wife! You’ve got to be joking! You are what is wrong with men lately. Absolutely no respect for women. You objectify them. We are not objects to be used and then thrown away until you’re interested in. Marriage or a relationship does not mean you get sex whenever you want, asshat. When someone has a deep-seated problem they often don’t come forward with it until years later, sometimes decades later as in this case. You obviously can’t understand that because you’re shallow, a misogynist, and all you care about is sex.

    • ladybugavenger November 6, 2014 at 11:55 am

      Maybe he’s watching gay porn…she can’t give him that at home.

  • Koolaid November 5, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Who is this conservative Utah Republican politician?

  • The Rest Of The Story November 5, 2014 at 11:20 am

    You people so obsessed with controlling the sexuality of other people are…just crazy. Sexual intimacy and emotional intimacy are separate. Your desire to own your husband reveals deep-seated insecurities and control issues with yourself and only yourself. He has stayed with you in spite of you clearly being an emotional wretch. All this talk of “pornography addiction” is also bollocks. People are sexual. Accept it. Look at what a sexual pervert Joseph Smith was if you want proof. Put down your cult kool-aid and step away from the glass.

    • Koolaid November 5, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      Me?

    • WTF November 6, 2014 at 11:16 am

      I don’t think she wants to own him. All she wants is for him to quit looking at other females. That is instinctual. While people are sexual, there are also people who are hypersexual. Human psychology is incredibly complex. Everything in moderation, including sex/masturbation/porn. There was no mention of religion in this post either, but congrats on bringing that in. I’m not religious and honestly I don’t want my man looking at porn rather than looking at me. So how about you put down your kool-aid and step away from the glass, hmm?

      • Oh Really? November 6, 2014 at 12:49 pm

        Well in that case darlin’, perhaps you need to spend some time in making yourself look good. Put down that box of chocolate ice cream, get off your tush, expend some energy cleaning the house, doing the dishes, washing the windows, doing the laundry. Then when that isn’t enough to keep that middle age spread off your hips, hit the gym, and possibly do a bit of jogging as well.
        If you want us to look at you, you need to be worth looking at.

      • The Rest Of The Story November 7, 2014 at 2:40 am

        “I don’t want my man looking at porn rather than looking at me”

        Religious or not, a man thinks about other women anyway. The fact that your man has chosen to stay with you doesn’t change his sex drive. Some people are simply mismatched in the area of sex drive. When that happens, there are a few possible solutions: (1) live frustrated, which leads to eventual depression, drifting further apart and finally resentment, (2) just divorce, (3) use pornography as an outlet for a high sex drive.

  • asianspa November 5, 2014 at 11:59 am

    This wife needs a GoFundMe Account… it will be a “TRUST FUND”

    I am sorry but this relationship question is ridiculous… she sticks with him for over 40 years claiming he has a porn addiction and after all these years she wants answers?? I think your answers were there about 40 years ago… what is left for you and your relationship after 40 years of suffering 2 whopping quality years of a salvaged relationship before you or your mate finally wind up in a nursing facility?

    So the guy is Flirting and having affairs of the heart when he is pushing 60? What is he doing to flirt buying other ladies an Ensure?? Flirting with women at the Wal Mart Pharmacy?

  • YPRS November 5, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    You people are so stupid. When you get married you take a vow to be with one person and one person only. Pornography is a problem and im guessing everyone who thinks it isn’t, is a man. Pornography creates a whole other problem with relationships and causes women to feel unneeded and like theres no point in them being around. If you think your women isn’t “giving” you enough in the relationship tell her. I bet anything she will be more then happy to send you pictures of herself to look at. You married her because you loved her or did you forget that? If youre unhappy in your relationship either leave or talk to one another and figure it out, there is no reason for cheating period. It is natural to look at other people and find them attractive but it comes a problem when you start fantasizing about doing things with that other person because it causes wonder in the brain which in turn makes you want to act upon it.

    • The Rest Of The Story November 5, 2014 at 11:39 pm

      Every marriage is different.
      “Pornography is a problem and im guessing everyone who thinks it isn’t, is a man.”
      Misandrist much? How about if men said, “I’m guessing everyone who thinks pornography is a problem is a woman”? You wouldn’t like that, would you?
      People who think pornograph is a problem usually think so for one reason only: they are ashamed of their own sexuality, which shame they have had inculcated into them by religious, domineering control freaks (which can be either gender, BTW).

      • WTF November 6, 2014 at 11:19 am

        I’m not ashamed of my sexuality. Pornography can be a problem. It’s called being hypersexual and when one person in a relationship feels devalued, then yes, it can tear the relationship apart, especially if the person addicted can’t kick the addiction and do their part in the relationship. This has not been shamed into me, like you think. I’m not a control freak. I just want my man to look at me rather than porn. I’m totally ok with him watching porn, as long as he comes to me after.

  • Dana November 5, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Stop whining. Either get with the program or kick him to the curb.

  • Delong November 5, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Fact: The good folks of Utah watch more online porn than any other state in the country. Why is this? I’ll let you decide.

    • Richard November 5, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      Fact: that study is 10 years old, not scientific, and was just one website’s report. There are new reports that put Utah in 45th in the nation.

  • GRoberts November 5, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    I actually enjoy pornography. Enjoyed it long before I met my husband. And it dampers our relationship in no way. This new anti-porn movement has transpired because so many women are demonized for their sexual desires and inhibitions. Know and analyze your own sexual habits before we all start the ‘porn is ruining lives’ chant. I see so many ugly, unhealthy, twisted things couples do to one another, watching porn doesn’t even make the list of reasons to seek out counseling.

    • Dana November 6, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      The anti porn movement has grown because there are a lot of shrinks and therapists telling people it’s “wrong” to view it and enjoy it. They’re making a fortune in fees by feeding on someone’s guilt in order to “cure” them.

  • asianspa November 5, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Watching Porn is a fun and safe alternative to dancing in public.

    • The Rest Of The Story November 5, 2014 at 11:41 pm

      There is peer-reviewed evidence to support the fact that access to pornography equals fewer sexual crimes per capita. This can be found online by googling.

    • WTF November 6, 2014 at 11:20 am

      I hope you’re going to the protest later! Thanks for the laugh

  • Zonkerb November 5, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    Lmao after 40 years you want a reason why..? ROFLMAO. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA it takes 40 year’s to get you to ask why.?…… LOL. my question is……… Just how stupid are you.?…… Lmao….. Really come on lady……….. Oh look Toto we’re not in Kansas anymore……. oh geez how lame can some people really get.. Thanks for the laugh I needed one

  • PROTECT THE SHEEP November 5, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    I have to admit I have some porn open in another tab right now. I’m not sure if I’m an addict tho?… How do I know?…

  • Kim November 5, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Looks like a lot of commentators on this site need to do some research!!!

    • Zonkerb November 5, 2014 at 10:57 pm

      Lmao no thanks Kim I have a life by all means you research it………….. If the scarecrow gets a brain he can help you……… LOL

  • Koolaid, November 6, 2014 at 8:47 am

    WHATZUP you know WHATZUP

  • asianspa November 6, 2014 at 9:48 am

    All this talk about porn addiction kinda got me curious and looking at some porn!

  • Gone o Rhea November 6, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Stop your whining, woman. He could be hitting the cat houses over in Nevada!

  • Koolaid November 6, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    I wonder if the St George ordinance against dancing is harsher than any ordinance against porn?

  • Koolaid, November 6, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    I wonder if I’m as dumb as the things I type

  • Koolaid. November 6, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    I wonder if I told you about my first girl friend. I broke her trust, I was supposed to take her out to dinner but for got to buy the hay. When I went to her house the next day she rammed me with her horn. WHATZ UP.

  • carelove595 July 11, 2015 at 5:44 am

    hi

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