Relationship Connection: My impression of my wife was wrong, and I don’t feel like I’m special to her

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Question

I just barely found out that my wife had been promiscuous with her neighbor right before we began dating. She had just divorced her husband, and in a matter of days, she was already involved with someone else. I really had hoped that this “church girl” I thought I was married to was not so promiscuous as I’ve now learned she was in her younger life.

I am very insecure about my body; I do not think I am a great catch. However, she has been very loving and attracted to me for 13 years. Finding this out has upset me so much. I feel like she’s never been a good girl, and now I don’t feel like that special man that she was so attracted to.

Answer

You’re experiencing the shock of learning something about your wife that changes the story you’ve told yourself about this relationship. You likely believed you guys had something special she hadn’t shared with other people.

Regardless of what you specifically believed was true, you now have additional information that has to be acknowledged, accepted and integrated into your marital story. This isn’t easy work, but it’s important to face it and work through it with her so you don’t let this hijack your otherwise wonderful relationship.

As you know, because her promiscuous behavior happened before she met you, those choices are not a direct betrayal to your relationship. However, it’s clear you had no idea about her behavior before you met, which may have changed your relationship with her in the beginning.

Of course, it may not have changed anything, but it’s always important to know we have all of the information when we’re making a decision as consequential as marriage. It’s understandable that you’re hurt by her omission of this information.

Since you’re in shock, it’s important to avoid making any final conclusions about her, about yourself or about your relationship. You’ve received new information that requires some reworking of the narrative, so don’t write the final chapter based on your insecurities and fears. You can let her know how hurtful it is to learn that she concealed an important part of her life as you were making a decision to marry her.

However, don’t make this about her being a “bad girl” or a “good girl.” That’s blatant objectification that makes her a one-dimensional person who needs to be a certain way for you to feel secure about yourself. Her character isn’t a reflection of your worth and value. If you need a “good girl” as a wife to feel like you’re a good person, this puts tremendous pressure on her to be perfect and allows you to avoid facing your own insecurities.

If you’re feeling insecure about your body or about your attractiveness as a marriage partner, then this is an excellent time to work through these struggles. Yes, you learned something about her past that was hard to hear.

However, I believe this information is devastating because it tore down the wall hiding your own insecurities. Facing ourselves and our own deficiencies is painful and often leads to blaming others, self-righteousness and criticism of others to escape own discomfort.

Yes, she left out a part of her story that would have made a difference for you in the beginning of the relationship. She can work to hear and understand how keeping that information from you has been painful for you. However, my concern is that you’ll only stay focused on her omission and not do the additional personal work of understanding why seeing her as a “church girl” or a “good girl” is so important to your own personal security in the relationship.

You said she’s worked hard to help you feel loved and wanted all of these years. If you’ve struggled to accept her love because of your own self-loathing, please don’t put this on her to prove that she’s good so that you don’t have to face your own insecurities.

Work closely with a qualified counselor to help you improve your view of yourself so you can bring your best self to this relationship. She can work on repairing the damage of lying to you about her past while you work on facing your own personal struggles with believing you’re good enough.

She can’t be good enough to help you feel good enough. Allow her to be a human who makes mistakes but can still give love and commitment. Allow yourself to be someone who has deficiencies but is still worthy of love and belonging. 

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

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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