Relationship Connection: After my emotional adultery, my wife controls the music I listen to

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Question

My wife and I really enjoy music together, but she regulates my music. There are songs she labels “sexy girl music” that she doesn’t want me to listen to at home. For example, “Dancing Queen” by ABBA. Mostly just kind of fun, tuneful, easy listening, female vocals. There are some songs that are more edgy but not by much, and I’m very careful not to listen to songs that have lyrics that are suggestive.

So she doesn’t want me to listen to it at home, and I can see why. I committed emotional adultery last year, and she was horrified. I was never physically intimate with anyone else, but because of the things I said to another woman, I understand she had reason to be worried.

I was very open with my wife during the whole ordeal and didn’t try to hide anything, although I felt guilty. I eventually felt forgiven for what I had done, and I concluded that if I felt in love with my wife and not with anyone else, then I could be at peace. 

I’ve supported my wife in her recovery. I’ve tried to understand her feelings as she felt betrayed by me and be understanding that there is a process to healing.

I am willing to go my whole life without this type of music in the home even though I think a lot of these songs would be enriching to me and my family. I just wonder if it’s healthy for my marriage relationship for my wife to be that restrictive. I really care about my wife, and I want to be with her. I just don’t know if what she is doing is realistic. Maybe you can help give us some perspective.

Answer

Even though you made a serious mistake in your marriage, I commend you for your desire to extend healing and support to your wife for as long as it takes. As you already know, there are so many areas affected by an affair, even down to the types of music you listen to. Even though you’re willing to give up everything to help her heal, I’m certain there are ways to resolve this musical impasse. 

Please recognize that when it comes to repairing the damage from an affair (emotional or physical), it’s common to have triggers and flashbacks even one year post-discovery. In fact, depending on the individual situation, it can take a few years before trust is completely restored in the relationship. Don’t let the calendar distract you from the more important work of providing ongoing healing conditions for your wife. As you noted, your own healing took time, so your wife’s healing may have just commenced.

Another consideration around the music issue is the fact that music is very important to your wife. She likely has a strong sensitivity to music as a source of healing and, equally, as a source of great pain. She may hear and feel the music and lyrics more deeply in her wounded emotional state. Now that your wife has been intimately betrayed, she can’t be neutral or indifferent to the popular themes of cheating, loss, heartbreak and seduction common to many popular songs. 

Also, was sharing music part of the emotional connection you made with this other woman? Did you share playlists or mixes with each other? Music can be an intimate way to connect with other people. It transcends language and logic as it deeply stirs our emotions and affections. If sharing music was involved in this forbidden relationship, then it will be important to restore a new relationship with music in your own marriage. 

When your wife feels ready, you might consider searching for new music that uplifts and connects you to each other. Instead of only relying on familiar songs, take time to discover songs that leave you both feeling more hopeful and connected. It’s important to reclaim music in your relationship so it doesn’t continue to be something you both have to fret. 

Let her know these fears make sense to you, and reassure her that she’s more important than music. Also let her know you’ll be more careful to avoid songs with themes that could remind her of the betrayal. Even though you were open with her about your feelings during the betrayal, I’m guessing she was shocked and overwhelmed by your thought processes and choices that veered significantly from your original commitments to her.

Because of that radical departure from what she was promised, you’ve made it difficult for her to know who you are and what’s important to you. Your casualness with these songs may cause her to believe you don’t share the same values anymore. It can also communicate that you don’t care about her emotional pain. 

In my experience, when someone begins to feel validated and supported, their rigid self-protective strategies begin to give way to more flexibility. You can trust that you’ll both become progressively freer to enjoy a range of music in the future as she feels more secure in her relationship with you. In the meantime, your focus is on taking her fears and worries seriously in light of what you’ve done to the marriage. 

It’s helpful to remember that your wife’s control issues around the music are likely due to the fact that she’s terrified of getting hurt again. She doesn’t want to lose her most important relationship, so she becomes hypervigilant as a way to protect herself. Your compassion and accountability will go a long way in helping her know she’s not controlling and crazy, but terrified and overwhelmed. 

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

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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