Wants Her Trust Back
Q: I married my high school sweetheart when I was 21 and we had our daughter when I was 22. We would have celebrated our 19th anniversary a couple months ago if I hadn't left him last year. He mentally and physically abused me and our daughter. He has acknowledged his verbal abuse, but can't imagine himself as a physical abuser. Since I left it took him almost a year to realize what he did wrong, and then he started begging me to come back to him. I have been to our old home many times over the last 2 years and each time I go I end up finding something out that makes me not trust him even more. He seems to have a fetish for pornography, and throughout our marriage when I would find something, he could always explain it away and I trusted him so I believed him. I just checked his email tonight and noticed he had set up an adult website to meet singles and had actually saved some of the messages he received in his file folders. He has begged me to come home and says that the only person he is interested in is me and that I am the love of his life and that he doesn't want to live without me. He has started going to church, but I am not sure I trust him anymore. Every time I bring something up, he tries to point the finger at me for some sort of wrongdoing that is all in his mind. My daughter has lived with me the last 2 years and knows exactly what the truth is. How do I know if he has changed and I can trust him again? -- Kelly, 40
Dr. Susan: Your husband is still making excuses and blaming you for his own actions. It would make sense that he availed himself of pornography while you were separated, and that he might try to find someone new online if he's lost you. But he's not doing one single thing to prove his trustworthiness to you, just relying on his old tricks of blaming the victim. You need to make this decision very carefully, or you'll be letting yourself and your daughter in for some bad stuff. Again! The only way to know if a man has changed is for him to really change and act differently from before. I don't see that he has done that. Once that all-important trust is lost, it's hard work to get it back, and the majority of the work has to fall on the abuser. Nice promises aren't enough. Have you tried couples counseling? It may be useful to have a third party help you communicate with him. You could go together and then maybe he'd need some sessions on his own, though it's hard to say from here.
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Advice for Her
Advice for Him
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.