I hope you had a wonderful day celebrating Jesus. I know holidays can be hard for many people, especially when marital relationships and family dynamics are tense or broken. But even if that’s you right now, can you take a bit of space this week just focusing on your relationship with God? Not with your spouse or your kids but just with the “wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace?” (Isaiah 9:6).
You are loved with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) and when you know that full well (1 John 4:16) it gives you the CORE strength to manage the painful jabs of others with truth and grace. Click To Tweet
Today's Question: My husband consistently accuses me of lying, betraying him, being a home wrecker, having home wrecking friends, and vow breaking.
He checks my cell phone call records, and I'm not sure what else. I have changed cell phone companies to have a separate contract and privacy. Previously, he was recording in home conversations to show he is not abusive (your book is hated in my home!).
I've asked him repeatedly; to please ask me about the lies – I do not know what he is speaking about.
In one conversation he accused me of lying about a phone call I made since he didn’t see it in my call history. I replied that I used my office phone- and he did not believe me. I feel like I'm defending myself against a false reality, and I do want to save my marriage.
I have done things against his preference in the past- overspending, getting a credit card in my name only, etc. Those were betrayals to him since we agreed to not get into more debt.
I feel like if I don’t do exactly what he says and when he proves his points about my behavior even if the perception and logic are untrue.
It's like I'm fighting a world he's created in his head.
I almost believe him.
Any advice would be appreciated!
Answer: This is another question where I don’t have enough information to answer clearly in one direction or another so I’m going to present both sides as concisely as I can.
Scenario # 1 – Is that your husband has a pattern of being controlling and a bit paranoid and this has escalated since you got a credit card and overspent after you both had agreed not to get into more debt. He fears that he can’t control you 100% and he is feeling more anxious about that, thus the delusions or made up stories of what you “might” be doing or “have done” are escalating.
I’m sensing this might be the case because you’ve said that my book was already in your home and he wants to prove he’s not abusive by recording home conversations. You’ve switched phone carriers for more privacy which indicates to me that he’s in the habit of being controlling and your resistance to that control only escalates his fear that you might be up to something.
As far as the stories he’s making up in his head about you lying or making secret phone calls, or vow breaking stuff, it could also be his own projections. It is possible he’s accusing you of things he’s feeling guilty of himself.
Scenario # 2 – Is that your husband’s hyper vigilance started after the betrayal because trust was broken. Similarly to how a wife might become hyper-vigilant and even a bit controlling once she’s discovered that her husband is watching pornography.
There is something that gets triggered in us when we fear our world is about to collapse around us. We tell ourselves that if only we can find out everything that’s going on and control it or stop it, then what we fear might happen won’t. It’s a lie but our vigilance provides a temporary comfort from the terror we feel.
This viewpoint doesn’t account for your resistance to his control where you got your own cell phone for more privacy or why you had my book on destructive marriage in your house in the first place.
So you asked for some advice. You clearly state that you want to save your marriage. That’s a starting place. Hear me. You can do your part, but you can’t save your marriage all by yourself unless you want to continue the same pattern of him accusing and you defending. But I want you to ask yourself these questions: “What were the good elements of your marriage that you have lost or are not happening because of what’s going on now? Was there ever a time where you did experience mutuality, reciprocity, and freedom in your marriage?”
Another question I want you to ponder is: “What specifically have you done to rebuild broken trust, which happened when you agreed to not get into debt, and then overspent and secretly got another credit card?” I see you are defending yourself against his accusations, but are there any positive things you have done to rebuild that broken trust?
The last thing I want to mention is that it sounds as if his delusional thinking or internal storytelling is taking its toll on you. You said, “I feel like I’m fighting a world he’s created in his own head….and I almost believe him.”
I remember when I was doing therapy with a few clients who had some paranoid delusions about things going on around them. Things like people listening in their house through radio transmitters in the walls, or things like someone following them all the time, yet reality did not confirm their fears.
Their stories sounded crazy but believable because a delusional person is firmly convinced that what they think is true regardless of contrary evidence or your explanations or defense. When his delusion is primarily around a certain topic (you), but he is functional or rational in other areas of his life, it’s even harder to hold on to your own grasp of reality because you begin to wonder, “Maybe it is true. Maybe I’m the crazy one and he’s right? Maybe I don’t know myself at all.”
I’m concerned for you and it’s important that you allow other fresh perspectives into your own thinking right now so this doesn’t happen. Self-examination and self-reflection are good things, and healthy people do take seriously what other people may say. But when you start to doubt your own thoughts or reality, it’s time for some fresh air and outside perspective.
Since you stated your first goal is to try to save your marriage, here are a few additional recommendations I have for your next steps.
- Reassure him of your love and your desire to have a restored marriage. Whether his control has been a long-standing problem or more a result of your betrayal, controlling someone is never a way of feeling secure or loved. Keeping someone a prisoner doesn’t help him feel loved. If your marriage is going to be restored, tell him that you’d like it to be better than before.
If he wants clarification about what that means, you might say, “I don’t ever want to go behind your back again and do something that will break trust. But in order to not do that, we need to have the kind of marriage where I am free to disagree and to make decisions for myself. I want us to function as two adults in this marriage and two adults can disagree and work it out. I don’t want either one of us to feel afraid to be honest with each other or like we have to lie or hide in order to do something that is important to us.”
- Ask him if there is anything you can do to help him trust you again because living in a marriage where there is no trust isn’t going to last long term. This puts the burden back on him to reflect upon what would help him feel less afraid. However, if you need to be locked inside his cage and never do anything for yourself or by yourself in order for him to not be afraid, this presents a problem for you.
Therefore you may want to say something like, “I would like to rebuild your trust in my honesty. I can assure you that I won’t go behind your back anymore. If something is important to me, like my cell phone privacy, I will tell you straight out. You may not always like things, but I won’t hide them anymore. I am committed to working on our relationship but if you keep accusing me of things that aren’t true and don’t even believe me when I tell you they aren’t true, I’m not sure how that can happen. So where do we go from here?”
- Practice JADE when he starts his accusations. What that means is you will no longer JUSTIFY, ARGUE, DEFEND or EXPLAIN anymore. This is for your benefit as well as his. It keeps you out of that crazy loop that you’ve been in where you start to doubt your own sanity. You will simply say something like, “I have come to accept that I don’t have the power to change your mind. So if you believe those things about me, what do you want to do? Where do we go from here?”
This gives him the opportunity to reflect on what he is doing and why? I suspect he uses these arguments and wants you to get all upset because somehow that reassures him. When you stop doing it, he will have to deal with his own anxiety instead of depending on you to calm and reassure him all the time.
If you can do these things with CORE strength, they will give you the best shot at turning the marital dance around. No guarantees because having a better marriage will require that your husband begin to look at his own things – his craving for control, his fears and insecurities, his verbal battering when he feels that insecurity and do his own work to heal and grow. And in the likely event, he chooses not to, please write back to discuss your next steps.
Friend, when you have wanted to work on your part of the marital dance, what steps have you changed and what were the results? Did your spouse reflect and begin to change his own steps or did things get worse?