Things can happen in a marriage and as unbelievable as it may sound, all of the goodwill and trust that was built up, can quickly erode as a result of one bad act, leaving you grasping for where to turn…what to do.
Let’s take the case of a wife whose name is Casey. Imagine you find yourself in her shoes where you suddenly can no longer trust your husband or boyfriend, leaving you wondering if you even still love him.
Imagine something happening to you that has such an impact that not only are you questioning if can ever love your husband again in the same way, much less trust him, but you are entertaining asking him to leave.
So let’s take a dive into her story and I want you to pretend you are the leading character in this relationship drama. Along the way we are going to talk about some of the emotional challenges you might be facing and what actions you may or may not wish to take.
What if you woke up one day to learn something so shocking that you were immediately faced with having to come to grips with some ugly truths and make some really hard decisions.
Such was the case with my client, Casey.
She and her husband of 6 years had been doing OK. While things were far from perfect, she never imagined she would find herself in a situation in which not only was her life ripped apart, but everything that she use to think about and hope for regarding the future was instantly changed in her mind.
You might ask yourself what kind of thing could happen that would cause such a dramatic change in a marriage. For Casey, it was something worse than she could ever imagine. And it all started on a fateful day a few months ago when her husband came home to tell her that he had been lying to her for a few years about something bigger than both of them.
It was scary for her to hear those words. She wasn’t even sure what he was talking about at first. Before her stood her husband who she had loved and trusted for all those years and he was about to rock her world in the worst of ways.
What he told her was shocking and took her some time to actually process. Indeed, the news so jolted her, she remembered thinking to herself if she could ever love another man again.
Those feelings and concerns were reinforced later after the dreadful truth he told finally settled in place. Then of course there was this long aftermath period which she presently found herself dealing with. It is not easy when you learn that your husband is leading a completely separate and secret life. She had to work through all the emotions of disbelief, confusion, denial, anger, and resentment, before acceptance finally kicked in.
So what in the world did her husband do that caused Casey to tell me, “I don’t trust my husband anymore and am not sure if I can ever love again”. In her mind, “should I leave him” was never a question.
The question of should you be with someone you don’t trust was not something that plagued her. By the time I was talking with her, she knew what she wanted going forward. She wanted him out of her life. It was over. It was as if she was living with a stranger, someone she thought she knew, but really a person that was an imposter.
She had created this image of her husband of someone who had a sense of honor and decency. She use to think of him as a man who would be there for her and do all the right things. But not anymore.
Casey did not have questions about how to learn to trust your husband again or how to fall back in love with your husband like it was the first time. She was past all of that.
She wanted to know how to go forward and pick up the pieces. She wanted reassurance that she could meet another man and learn to love him and be loved.
She wondered about such things because on the day I spoke with her, she was still broken in some ways. That which she use to count on was ripped away.
This was not one of those awful marital spats in which the husband told a few big bad lies.
It was not one of those situations in which you are paranoid and have no reason to distrust the man use to be the cornerstone of your life.
It was not one of those “I don’t trust my husband with money” situations in which your partner has some awful gambling problem such that he bet and lost the family’s savings.
Casey’s situation was something even I had not come across before. So I did not have to give her assurances that falling back in love with her partner was still in the cards. No, it was beyond that.
It was not one of those events that happened such that she was searching for “how to love my husband again after he cheated on me“. Yes, cheating is an incredibly difficult problem for couples to get through. But what her husband did was worse
Nor was it the reverse. Sometimes I get women coming to me in search of answers to questions like…
“How do I fall back in love with my husband after I cheated”
“How to get your husband to fall back in love with you and trust you again after you slept with their best friend”.
No, No. Casey had none of that going on. She wasn’t crying over how she might find love again in her marriage. All the love she once had for him had been sucked right out of the marriage, almost at once.
She wasn’t there to tell me her story of how she set aside her pain and suffering and “how I fell back in love with my husband after heartbreak”.
No, no. Casey was beyond heartbreak. In her mind, she guy who she once thought was her partner in life had done the undoable
When Your Husband Rips Your World Apart
On the fateful day many weeks ago, her husband, who had been mulling over whether he should tell his wife his “Big Bad Lie”, came home early from work that day. Then he instructed his wife to sit down and told her in a matter of fact tone of voice that he had been illegally married to another woman for the past three years and they had two children of their own they were raising.
Devoid of all emotion, he told her that he wasn’t sure if he really loved this other person but she gave him children which he thought he wanted. But now he wasn’t so sure if he still wanted to be with this other woman. But nor was he sure he was happy with Casey. Then he spend the next several minutes analzing the whole situation like he was defending his dissertation. Casey, his first wife as she learned, was horrifed to learn of the depth of his deception and was furious with the flat, not emotional way her husband told her of what he described as his own “ordeal” that he was going through.
As you can imagine, as Casey explained, she was still reeling from the first part of what he told her. Trying to understand what her husband meant about not being sure if he wanted the other family in his life anymore was far to confusing and absurd for her to even be able to process.
What kind of man cheats on his wife, leading a double life, a double marriage, having children with his other wife, then tells his first wife some of the most horrible things a man could say to a woman.
Casey explained to me she was in utter shock about how her husband could be so detached about what the horrible pain he had caused her.
Was it some crazy way of hoping his present wife would understand and forgive and take him back?
Was it his way of trying to end his first marriage or was he hoping his wife would help him break off the second marriage?
As Casey explained it to me, it didn’t take her long to stop even trying to make sense of it. “Maybe it was my emotional self preservation kicking in but I was beyond caring what his motives might have been“, she explained. He had already sealed his fate in her mind. She knew that to be a truth as his story poured out of him.
But her husband didn’t stop talking. Part of her wanted to clobber him.
He just keep making the noose tighter, essentially killing off any chance of there ever being any form of reconciliation. If it wasn’t shocking enough for him to tell her about his other family, he told her that under the circumstances he wouldn’t blame her if she wanted to go look for another man to spend her life with. It was such an inappropriate thing to say in the moment. She told me she when she looked back to that moment of the conversation she was remarkably calm. She said she told her husband that his thinking is warped and he needed counseling.
Then incredibly he asked her if she knew how to fall in love again with someone new. He told her he would understand if she felt too damaged to love again. He claimed to have looked into the matter, anticipating that she might feel upset, and proceeded to tell his flabbergasted wife that he wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t ever wanna fall in love again.
He assured her, as he continued his absurd and incredibly insensitive dissertation on loving again, that he was sure she would learn how to find love again after being hurt because she was always the strong one.
Casey quietly told me that if there was ever a time she felt she could committ some awful violent act, it was then. The audacity of her husband carving out an entire double life with another women, then making this other woman his wife, then having children with this other lady was incredibly shocking and bewildering just by itself. But then having her husband lecture her on love, of all people, was so shocking she described feeling completely numb in that moment. She said that his words sounded so bizzaire that she believed she was having an out of body experience as if she was looking down on the conversation between the two of them, thinking, “this man is twisted and sick“.
She had known her husband as someone who was somewhat devoid of empathy. “Feelings of closeness was there, but sometimes it was not, if that makes any sense” she told me.
“Sometimes he just wouldn’t get it”, she would say. He would make these cold, calculating and dispassionate comments and analyses about situations, almost like a robot she explained to me. So it was always in the back of her mind that her husband simply did not connect to other people in quite the same way as she and most others do.
I told her not to be so hard on herself. When we are in love, we can overlook things and work on making things better in general. That is the glass if half full most couples have. No couple is completely compatible in all areas, I reminded here.
She went on to explain that there had been occasions in the past where he seemed disconnected to how certain things he said could be taken wrong. He seemed a little awkward in some social settings. In the early phase of their relationship, she thought his behavior odd, but she was attracted to his keen intelligence and other things.
But all those little doubts and disconnects no longer preyed on her mind as they did occasionally throughout their marriage. She simply didn’t care anymore.
She didn’t want to waste any more emotional energy on her husband or think about his bizarre other life. She wanted it to end in legal sense as quickly as possible. To that end, she was already in contact with a divorce lawyer and moving forward on that front. But she instincitvely knew it would take her longer to recover emotionally.
What she was hoping to get from me was an answer to a question that had haunted her ever since she learned of her husband’s double life. She wanted to know what her future relationship with men might look like.
Would she have difficulty trusting again she wondered?
She asked this question, not so much out of curiosity or practicality, but for months she had been weighed down with waves of distrust for men in general.
She knew it was not logical to assume that all men would be like her husband and betray their spouse in the most horrible way. But the impact of her soon to be ex husband leading a double life had taken an emotional toll on her well of trust.
She avoided men for the most part. Her girlfriends kept telling her give it time and that eventually these awful feelings of general distrust with men would subside.
Getting past the issue of trust was the first hurdle in Casey’ mind. She also wondered if she would find love again.
These two things, love and trust, go hand in hand and Casey understood that.
But she correctly believed that love deserved a deeper reservoir of trust and she wasn’t sure if she could ever allow herself to trust someone like that again.
What To Do When You Feel Like You’ll Never Find Love Again
What Casey was going through was not that rare or unusual and I told her so.
I also explained to her that her girlfriends were partly right. One should not expect that after being betrayed in one of the most shocking and horrible ways, that everything in the trust department would be as before.
I explained that in her mind’s eye, psychologically speaking, her husband in a way represented the whole of man.
Now in reality, that is far from the truth.
But in some ways, we are all fragile when it comes to matters of trust, particularly if the opposite sex has hurt us. When you are married or have a close relationship with a man, you naturally will come to think that you have formed a special bond with that individual and that you can trust him unconditionally. This is the normal way in which trust is formed. It increases layer by layer through a lot of experiences.
But when all that is suddenly upended, in your mind, the foundation of trust doesn’t just simply erode. It can come tumbling down. And going forward, your state of mind will see trust as a much more difficult wall of faith to erect.
It may look near impossible. Your left side of the brain, your emotional control center, wants you to avoid pain. So naturally, you will tell yourself to be much more guarded. You will be more wary. And if something happens that takes a smashing ball to your trust in men, then recovering it fully can be very difficult.
That is where Casey stood.
And these feelings of distrust for men and uncertainty of ever falling in love again with a man will be at their peak in the aftermath period following a difficult breakup.
We are talking weeks or even months for some. For some, without some help and counseling, fully regaining the capacity to trust in men again may not be in the cards.
But that is rare.
What usually happens is over time, the emotional control center of your brain has less control of your thoughts and feelings around this particular topic. The left side of your brain, the logical and reasoning side, will begin to help shape a more balance view of your possibilities to trust and love again.
But this can take some time, sometimes a lot of time depending on the individual and the individual experience they suffered though.
Another factor that influences how quickly you can overcome some of your irrational fears of never being able to trust or love another again is the quality of the support team around you.
Sometimes to help eliminate your negative notions about not allowing yourself to get close to another man again, you need a champion.
Champions are those who help you defeat the memory of those who were once your enemy so to speak.
Those men that did or said things that hurt you terribly and caused you to begin doubting if you will fall in love once again represent the antagonist.
While your ex husband or boyfriend may now be out of the picture, the grip their past actions have on your current life has to removed.
It so happens that Casey, as I discovered, has a close, loving relationship with her father.
So I told her she should open up to the one man she trusts and loves deeply and talk about her feelings. While things won’t happen overnight, just the process of sharing and talking about these things with another man you trust and love will help reinforce that it is the fear and anxiety you have about your future that poses as your biggest enemy.
Certainly there are some men out there that won’t be the right match for Casey going forward. That was always the case in the past and will be for the future.
All of us, I told her, try our best to find a mate that best suits our needs and mirrors our same values. If anything, I reminded Casey, she is now better equipped to evaluate these things going forward.
But I also reminded her about what I call the Realtionaship Law of the Little Steps.
When you undergo a terribly difficult and transformative experience, you need time to heal and recover. Trust may not have been the only thing damaged in the failed relationship. A person’s ego and level of confidence in self can also take a blow. Self doubts can creep in as to whether one has brought “all of this” upon themselves (self blame).
Of course it is often absurd to blame oneself when about such things , but it is not unusual for women and men to become submerged in doubts about their decisions of the past or what they may do with their life that is ahead of them.
When a marriage goes south, there is a host of things that changes in one’s life. Many of one’s routines are interrupted or are changed. The challenge is to spend your time immersed in new routines that are rewarding.
All of this takes some time to adapt to. So learning to take small steps over time to recover and emotionally heal is important. Learning to do those things that bring you more peace and happiness will take some time and is part of the recovery process.
Casey had withdrawn from life to the extent that she shut he self inside her home to often. She went through a brief post traumatic stress period following the bizarre revelations.
So I encouraged her to engage more with other people and set up some new, positive routines that would remove her from the home environment that was too similar to what she experienced in the past.
In a way, I wanted her to remake herself and her environment, without really changing who she is. I told her I wanted her to focus on becoming the best version of herself and gravitate to those activities that bring her pleasure.
For too long she had lived to help make her husband happy. That all has to change now. I told her the mindset she should have going forward is to date herself. To do things for herself and that pleases self.
Through all of this she would learn not to just trust in herself more, but it will translate into her finding someone else who will love and care for her because by doing what I described she will reflect the qualities that people find attractive.
I told Casey that once you heal and believe in yourself completely, the hurdle of finding another a man you can believe in again can be cleared.
But don’t think of it as a race, I told her. Think of it as the first several steps along a longer journey. If we race around trying to do things, overly concerned about whether we can love again, we can miss the mark. Our emotional demons can get the best of us.
While when you are on a journey, the paths you end up taking can sometimes change for the better along the way if you are free from your demons.