My wife and I are in a precarious relationship with trust issues

My wife and I have been living together for 10 months now. We met in paramedic school and have found jobs in EMS. She works nights for another service, while I work days in the county we live in. She moved in with a daughter that I have grown to love very much. My wife and I both have a history of psychiatric issues in the past. She comes from multiple abusive relationships where she has been cheated on, physically abused, and lied to constantly. I appear to carry some issues from my parent’s divorcing when I was eight. Since then I have had issues with lying and addictive behaviors. When we had gotten together I had dealt with a lot of my psychiatric past and was taking care of myself very well, however I still had an addiction to porn and telling the truth consistently was not something that came easy to me.

Over the past 10 months we have gotten engaged, she became pregnant, and last month we were married. On the other hand though, we have had constant fights over my lying and porn addiction. She’s expressed that when I watch things like that it makes her feel inadequate, and when I lie to her about it, it brings up the emotional trauma from her past relationships. Each time she discovered that I did something behind her back I lied about it to some extent and it took constant prying from her to get the full truth. The fights would grow to epic proportions and they always ended with me basically begging her to stay and promising that I would work harder to change. Now these werenempty promises, I fully believed everything I was saying. I have a terrible fear of having a broken family and I will go to great lengths to protect it. I’ve gone as far as destroying the hard drive to my computer, downgrading my phone to something more simple and less capable of looking at pornography, and allowing her to put parental blocks on anything that was left. The last fight we had was 5 days before our wedding. I thought it was over. I had put the wheels in motion to cancel our wedding and I was devastated that I was incapable of living up to the expectations I had put on myself. She found it in her to keep trying though.

When we had our last fight before our marriage it of course ended in the same promises as before. I know for a fact now that the past months of struggling to change my thought patterns and forcing myself to be honest are paying off. I know this is different because despite the fact that I’ve said I’ve changed in the past, I never personally believed it, it was just what she was wanting me to say, I’ve made things so much more worse because of it. I have no desire to look at pornographic material anymore and I’m really feeling like I’ve become the person I have always envisioned myself to be. The fact that I have no lies that I’m trying to cover up is the most liberating thing that I’ve ever experienced. However she is really struggling. She has no trust for me anymore and has brought up moving out on a couple occasions because when she is at work at night she does nothing but stress about what I could possibly be doing to hurt her. I typically spend the night on the phone with her reassuring her that I am not up to anything she would disapprove of, but due to the lack of trust she can never be certain. I try to tell her that my lying and addictive behavior was something that has engraved itself into my mind for over a decade now, and that shutting it off wasnanything that was going to come easy. She’s at her limit though. I cankeep asking her to stay if she’s suffering this much, on the other hand though I know that I have these issues in check and that with them out of the way we can have a happy marriage together raising our kids and I canaccept giving up after all the work I have put into growing and maturing for our family.

When I say that other than these issues we are amazing, I mean it to the fullest extent. We get a long on any issue that comes up. We’re always able to find a compromise when we donagree on something, and we constantly make each other laugh. She’s my best friend. She regularly tells me that I’m the best person she’s ever known and that’s why she keeps sticking it out despite how much I hurt her with my lies. Since she has moved in her daughter has really grown to love me, and has shown significant improvement in her behavior since she has had a positive male role model to look up to. I also go way out of my way to please her and make her happy. I help her in anything I can do for her, because making her life easier brings me unfounded joy. I love my life, and even more I love having a family to take care of.

My biggest question is, how can I help her? I know trust isnsomething that is going to come overnight, and I know it’s going to take her longer to gain trust in me than I think it should, but how do we move on from here? We’re getting into marriage counseling but I’m at a complete loss on how to bring comfort to her in the mean time when I’m the aggravating factor. How else can I show her that I’m not the person she fears me to be? She talks about leaving, and I donblame her, but we have so much more to gain together then we do apart from each other. Please, any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Response:

Our best advice is to stop making promises to your wife. Rather tell her that you are working at changing your behavior. Making promises to change, often sets people up for failure. Making the effort to change is a better way of solving the issue.

Also be aware that you are in a precarious relationship. The rewards are high, but you push each other’s buttons in extremely hurtful ways. When you start veering toward a conflict, try to view the situation from an outsider’s point of view. How would a third party approach the problem? The more distance you can put between your emotions and these problematic situations by taking a third party perspective, the better.

Finally, give her some space. When people feel like their trust has been violated, acting like a pushy partner only makes the situation worse. Your wife needs to regain her sense of control. Be helpful and attentive, but don’t push her to trust you. Acting in such a manner can feel manipulative from your wife’s perspective (see rebuilding trust – the entire section).

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