Your Hardest Family Question: My wife of less than a year is already done with me
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Recently my wife told me to pack up and leave the house. We have been married since February of this year and it’s been a rollercoaster since then because of one simple reason…Me. I can’t talk to her. I can’t open up and be honest about things without feeling afraid of what she might say or what she might think. She is a strong, smart, and amazing woman. She has a very strong character. She asks me what’s wrong all the time because she says it seems like I’m always in a bad mood, but I’m actually not in a bad mood. I just have too much that I keep deep down inside that it lingers around in my head.
Recently she found out I had been lying about my job and what I was doing for work. A while ago I created what I thought was a harmless white lie, but in time it got bigger and more elaborate and just continued to grow. She would find out little bits and pieces of the lie and it would make her feel like I was lying over and over again. I created this fake life she knew nothing about and acted as if it was okay and going to work out. I love her with every beat of my heart and she deserves the man she thought I was. I need to know I still have a chance. I will never give up and I won’t stop fighting. I cannot lose her. Please help with any advice or input you can.
I have no idea if you still have a chance with your wife. Of course, I can’t possibly know what you’ve put her through in the short time you’ve been married. She may have surpassed her limit of what she can handle and needs to be done with the marriage. Or, she may decide to give you another chance. I’m not going to minimize the seriousness of the betrayals you’ve committed in your marriage. Please go back and re-read the question you sent me. It’s full of minimizing, blame, and excuses. If you’re going to save your marriage, you can’t have any traces of blame, minimizing, or defensiveness. You’ve created this fake life that has turned her world upside down, so you’ve got to completely own it without excuse.
Instead of begging her to stay, begin by creating an inventory of every lie you’ve told her. This may seem like an impossible task, but it’s your responsibility to bring her into the reality of who you are and where you’ve been. She’s been making decisions about her life based on the life you presented to her. Now, she’s probably wondering what is real in her own life. So, start writing down where you began deceiving her. List it out and share it with a therapist or someone who will help you identify where you’re minimizing or omitting things. You want to make sure you share it with another person first so you can make sure you’re not minimizing, blaming, or making excuses. Let your wife know this is everything so she can make a fully informed decision about whether or not she wants to continue putting her life in your hands.
Hearing all of this will put her in a more difficult spot. She probably won’t believe a word you say while simultaneously wanting to believe everything you say. It puts her in a terrible dilemma that won’t resolve immediately after you tell her the truth. Let her have time and space to sort through your inventory and give her full permission to ask questions until she has no additional questions. Again, it is best to do this with the support of a therapist so you can both have the support you need to sift through all of this information. Don’t pressure her to make a decision and please don’t beg her to stay with you. Give her the information she deserves to know and then stand still and quietly wait to let her decide if she wants to move forward.
Not only do you need to tell her the truth, but it’s also critical that you get understand why you can’t tell the truth. Your wife may intimidate you with her strength and clarity, but it’s no excuse to not tell her the truth. Show your wife that you are willing to do your own personal work to better understand yourself. This will likely involve working with a therapist and doing some personal study. I recommend picking up a copy of “The Seven Principles of Highly Accountable Men” by Mark Laaser to begin your personal study.
You’ve made it terribly difficult for your wife to trust you, so you have a responsibility to stay calm, tell her everything, give her time and space to figure out what she wants to do, and then commit to be a man of integrity for the rest of your life. Betrayals can be overcome, but it will require a lifetime commitment of steady growth and feedback from those around you.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
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