It Was Only Flirting, but Now My Husband Doesn’t Trust Me

My husband and I have been married for some time now, and he has had trust issues from the start. It was never anything I did, but I think he was so hurt in his previous relationship that he has a hard time trusting women. Well, recently a new coworker has been showing me attention and saying nice things to me. I, of course, am flattered and like the attention. We did flirt a little, but I never had any intention to start anything, and neither did he; he never even implied it. One day I was sending texts to a friend about the guy at work, venting, and I didn't remember that my texts are linked to my iPad. My husband read them and went into a rage. Rightfully so, he was upset. I understand what I did was wrong. He had every right to be angry, and I didn't try to take that from him. I apologized over and over again, begging for his forgiveness. Two weeks have passed now, and he still treats me as if I had an affair and basically makes me feel like I should have a scarlet letter branded into me. I do love my husband very much, and I never wanted to hurt him. I have tried to make it up to him, and just when I think we are moving forward, he takes two steps back and we are arguing all over again. What can I do to gain his trust back and believe me when I say nothing was going on and nothing was going to happen? —Unforgiven
Dear Unforgiven,

With the intensity of the feelings you and your husband are experiencing, I imagine two weeks feels like a long time. In reality, and especially considering your husband’s preexisting trust issues, two weeks is a small blip on the radar. My sense is that it is going to take quite a bit more time and work to come back from this.

Because it has only been a couple of weeks—and it does sound like there has been some progress made—it seems possible that you two might be able to work this through on your own. However, because trust has always been somewhat of an issue for your husband, it might be valuable to consider partnering with a couples therapist. Couples therapists are trained and experienced in working through issues very similar to the one you and your husband are experiencing.

Trust is not a static quality in relationships; it ebbs and flows throughout the course of a relationship based on personal insecurities, jealousy, life changes, actions that breach trust, and many other things. When the trust levels in a relationship are low, it is important for couples to acknowledge this and work on it. While fluctuations in trust are normal, unaddressed trust issues are a recipe for disaster.

While fluctuations in trust are normal, unaddressed trust issues are a recipe for disaster.

It sounds like you are acknowledging the validity of your husband’s feelings and accepting your role in the situation. This, along with patience and a willingness to continue to work on healing—again, ideally with a therapist—is really all you can do. Hopefully, your husband will also be willing to commit to the process of healing from this experience, as well as a deeper exploration of the trust issues he seems to have brought into your marriage. Getting to the root of his trust issues is an important part of your path forward together, and until you do that, continuing to have compassion for your husband and the pain of his past betrayal is important.

It sounds like recovering from this is going to be a longer and more painful process than you were expecting. While I can’t make any guarantees about outcomes, this could end up leading you and your husband to much deeper trust and greater intimacy.

Respectfully,

Sarah

Sarah Noel
Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
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  • Zoe

    Zoe

    July 17th, 2015 at 2:18 PM

    Could he actually be angry about something that he has been doing and is taking ti out on you instead?

  • Harold

    Harold

    July 20th, 2015 at 10:44 AM

    Think about how you would feel if he had been doing the same thing. Would you really think that it was so harmless then> I know that you know what you think that this was but you have to understand that no matter how harmless it may have been it still was not right.

  • Tatum

    Tatum

    July 20th, 2015 at 2:45 PM

    It was harmless
    If you have not given him anything to worry about in the past then seriously he should not be worried now

  • Pauline

    Pauline

    July 23rd, 2015 at 11:42 AM

    Surely there is a part of you that understands your husbands hurt feelings and you can see why he is hurt. Now if you are willing to work things out and try to do some work to make him understand that it meant nothing, then I think that is great and that shows real courage on your part. And now he needs to be willing to do some of the same.

  • Renz

    Renz

    July 23rd, 2015 at 7:49 PM

    We don’t know what content was in the texts but since you said he had a right to be angry, we can imagine that it was unpleasant for him.
    This is a waiting game. 2 weeks seems like 2 months when the household is uncomfortable but in reality, people forgive on their own accord. Unfortunately you’re in a situation where your husband needs to stay committed to healing process and that’ll stop his regression.
    Until then, keep the apologies a plenty to keep him progressing forward and show him how truly sorry you are. Every day that passes moves further away from away from that incident and time heals all wounds.
    Good luck to you

  • Jenny

    Jenny

    July 25th, 2015 at 8:01 PM

    What do you mean “he had every right to be angry”? Unless you mean any person has a right to feel whatever they feel at any moment, of course, but it didn’t sound like that’s what you were meaning.

    Clearly, your husband has some unhealed childhood trauma, which manifests as a fear of abandonment and an intense desire to control his partner’s behaviour.

    While you can be understanding about his wounds, he has NO RIGHT to blame or punish you for his pain, or to expect you to make him feel better.

    You have every right to enjoy a light-hearted, flirtatious interaction. It is actually necessary to keep your sexual energy up by doing things like this, otherwise monogamy can become stale and the frequency and quality of sex declines.

    You did nothing wrong, and the problem is with your husband’s attitude, not your behaviour. While he doesn’t intend it, and feels he can’t help it, what he is doing to you is emotional abuse.

    Putting it bluntly, your husband was messed up before you met him, and unless he gets professional help, he will torment you in this kind of way over and over again for the rest of your life.

    If he refuses to own and deal with his emotional wounds, you need to consider whether that is the kind of life you are willing to live.

  • jo

    jo

    July 26th, 2015 at 9:47 AM

    Usually when we act out like this it is because we are seeking out something that we are currently missing in our present relationship

  • Sassy

    Sassy

    December 28th, 2015 at 2:38 PM

    I can relate to that guy. My boyfriend (very serious), flirted with a girl where we work. It ended up that she thought it was serious and ended up sending a naked pictures of herself to him..He consequently quit his job to supposedly save our relationship. He kept this from me for almost a year.I already had trust issues. He swears nothing came of this but it really damaged me.What should I do now.In every other way he is loving and seems faithful to me.

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