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Today’s Question: My dilemma and internal struggle has to do with lack of trust in my marriage. I have been married for 28 years. During this time, I have had times where he has broken my trust. During year 7, he was unfaithful. Then 3 years later, I discovered evidence of porn. Then several years after that, I discovered more evidence of porn. And most recently, I discovered that over the last 18 months he has taken a sizable amount of money each month out of our savings account, with no trace of where it’s going.
Here is my question — I always hear that in order to restore trust, you must give the person time to change their behavior to see if they really are repentant. In my situation, literally YEARS have gone by in between these incidents. In the years between incidents, everything seems fine on the surface.
I am beginning to think that he is incapable of permanent change, even though the deception doesn’t seem to be a daily occurrence. Does this constitute a pattern of behavior? I’m so confused and although I really want to separate, that seems like a nuclear option since the problem isn’t happening week after week. What does one do when years go by and you think things are better, only to discover they really aren’t?
What advice can you give?
Answer: I’m so sorry you are going through this and feel confused inside.
I think you already know the answer to your question. You have seen a pattern of dishonesty and deception throughout your marriage. That would break trust for anyone. Yet you give no indication of his responses to your discoveries. What has he done to rebuild that broken trust or owned that he’s broken your trust?
A story that you might be telling yourself is, since you’ve only caught him in four deceptions over 28 years, does that constitute enough of a pattern to separate?
My question for you to consider is: What haven’t you caught him in over all these 28 years? What don’t you know? My guess is that he’s always been quite deceptive and sneaky, and you’ve only caught him four times. The things you have caught him in are not minor things. They are marital deal breakers. How many more times is enough times for you to say, “I’ve seen enough to believe he is not committed to honesty, to me, or our marriage.”
You want to separate but that feels like a nuclear option. I’m curious about your choice of that word. Your husband has betrayed you in serious ways, yet you wonder if separating is too drastic? What’s that about? Do you believe that it’s your responsibility to pretend you don’t know what you know? To keep the marriage duct-taped together no matter what he does or how he might harm you now and in the future?
What do you think would happen if you confronted him with the facts of his most recent financial deceit in front of your adult children or pastor? Who do you think might go nuclear and why?
You can’t change him, but you can change you. What changes do you think you need to make to take care of you and your situation right now? First, do you have support? A counselor, a coach, a pastor, a good girlfriend, a sister in the Lord who can sit with you, pray with you, cry with you, and help you stay strong when you feel weak? You will need support as you take some new wobbly steps forward, putting your foot down and saying “No more.” Do you have adult children? Are they aware of his pattern of deceit? Do you fear their disapproval or rejection if you take a strong stand?
Second, what are your biggest fears if you confront him and separate? Does going nuclear mean you fear his anger? Is there a pattern of any abuse or threats of abuse towards you or what’s important to you? If so, confronting him may not be a wise choice. Leaving and creating a place of safety for yourself may be what you need to do.
Next, find a wise attorney who can file the proper papers to freeze all marital assets until a proper accounting and record can be established on where the money has gone and how much is missing. Until you take this step, you have no legal recourse. The courts do not get involved in how people spend marital assets if you’re still operating as a marital unit. Since you’ve discovered these large sums of money missing, you are financially vulnerable.
Third, have you run a credit check on his credit rating to see if he’s taken out credit cards that you don’t know about or incurred debts that you are unaware of? What you have already discovered may just be the tip of the iceberg. Again, your safety is the most important thing. You know your history with him and what he might do once confronted with his deceitful actions. I would strongly encourage you to get some additional safety planning from your local domestic violence shelter or the DV hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. When someone is caught red-handed with their duplicity and sin, and they see they can’t get out of the negative consequences of their actions, they may become more dangerous.
I am so glad you sent us your question. I wish I had better news to give you. But friend, God had you become aware of these new deceptions for a reason. Proverbs 22:3 warns, “The prudent see danger and take refuge.” At the very least, you may be in some financial peril and it’s time for you to take care of your financial safety. God also cares about your mental, emotional, and spiritual safety. You’ve tried long and hard to forbear, forgive and keep it going. All good things. But you cannot be in a healthy marriage with someone who is repetitively deceitful and over and over breaks your trust and your heart. He has made his choices. Now is the time for you to start making some new choices of your own.
Friend, what has it taken you to say enough is enough after repeated breaks in trust?
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