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One of the biggest contributors to a successful relationship is trust. Without trust it can be difficult to communicate, find happiness, comfort, or satisfaction with one another. So, if you find yourself unable to trust your wife (or husband) it’s important to find ways to rebuild that trust in order to move forward.
At Guy Stuff we counsel couples facing a wide variety of problems. Broken trust, however, is often at the center of many of the issues being addressed.
Trust Issues Come In Many Forms
Trust can be broken in a number of ways. Cheating, of course, is one of the most obvious, but it’s not the only reason a person may find themselves not trusting their spouse.
Below is a question submitted by Alan who’s experiencing problems trusting his wife. You’ll see that his situation is unique, but the feelings he’s having aren’t, and need to be addressed. My response and advice to Alan will follow.
I don’t trust my wife. I have kidney cancer and they say I am in my 4th stage. I am so tired of feeling this way and I think I am taking it out on my partner. I have feelings not to trust my wife. I know she loves me and isn’t looking for anyone else. So, why do these feelings go thru my mind? I think I have very little self confidence and take it out on her by always thinking she’s doing something behind my back. It is taking a toll on our relationship, but she tells me she only loves me and that the things I say, it’s the cancer talking. What should I or we do about this marriage counselor?" –Alan K.
Alan’s situation is complicated, but his problem trusting his wife is clear.
You’re in a tough spot. Everyone in your situation, having a terminal illness, goes through a lot of questioning and doubting. So, some of what’s happening around that is probably due to your circumstances, but it doesn’t sound like all of it.
Your feelings to "not trust my wife" are more about you than the cancer or your wife. You’ve got a common challenge for a lot of people – getting your thoughts to match up with your feelings.
I hear you say, “I know she loves me and isn’t looking for anyone else”, so the right thoughts are in your head -- at least some of the time. The problem is that your “very little self-confidence,” which is really your feeling that you're not very valuable, is over-riding the true thoughts about your wife.
The answer to your question of “why do these feelings go thru my mind?” is that your feelings about yourself are more powerful than your thoughts about your wife. To fix this problem you’ve got to do 2 things:
- Change how you feel about yourself. You need a more honest view of yourself that's in line with how others, like your wife, see you. Tip: Have your wife make a list of the things she loves about you and read that to yourself a couple times a week.
- Change your thoughts. Tip: Practice thinking this thought more often, “she isn’t looking for anyone else,” than you do, “she’s doing something behind my back.”
These may seem simple, but they’re actually crucial first steps in order for you to start to trust your wife again.
Additional Tips When You Don’t Trust Your Wife
Learning how to trust is different than rebuilding trust. When the issues threatening the trust between you and your spouse come from within you rather than something they did, then the work that needs to be done is primarily yours to do.
So, in addition to working on your own feelings about yourself and trying to rid yourself of negative thoughts, here are a few other things that can help:
- Take small steps. If you’re struggling to trust your partner, it’s unrealistic to expect you to simply discard your worries and blindly trust everything they do. So, take small steps forward. Challenge yourself to let go of one distrustful feeling at a time. You’ll prove to yourself that your worries are unfounded, your confidence and trust in your wife will rebuild. Let’s be clear though – this isn’t a suggestion that you 'test' your partner or set them up to 'prove themselves' to you. This is you learning to lessen your unfounded worry by letting go bit by bit.
- Watch for reciprocation. One of the things that can reinforce our feelings of trust in someone is when we see that they trust us. Take time to notice when and how your wife puts her trust in you.
- Be open about your fears. In other words, TALK. Open up to your wife about how you’re feeling, and the worry and pain it’s causing you.
- Look for the positive signs in your wife. When we care about someone, we do things that demonstrate those feelings. By doing this we become vulnerable ourselves. Watch and notice how your wife makes herself vulnerable to you. This vulnerability is a sign of her trust in you and can help you feel safer about trusting her.
If you’re dealing with internal struggles that are undermining the trust you have for your wife (or husband), it’s crucial to find ways to deal with them. It’s unfair and unloving to both your partner and yourself for you to allow those feelings to fester.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published November 8, 2010 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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