I’ve Lost My Wife’s Trust, but She’s Not Interested in Therapy

My wife does not trust me or, I fear, love me anymore. When I ask her what she wants for our future, she answers that she doesn't know. All she can think of is the pain I have caused her over the years. I have been deceitful and abused her trust in me—more than once. (Most recently, I carried on an inappropriate relationship with a coworker via texting.) I fear I have killed whatever chance we had at being a happy couple. Each day is a struggle, and my three daughters see their mom unhappy and, I feel, resent me for it. When I suggest therapy, she refuses. She tells me the problem is mine to fix, and that she did nothing wrong. I want to fight for our marriage. I know what I did was wrong, and when I tell her to give me—give us—a chance, she is so angry at me she can't find any strength to work toward a good place again. Divorce is a last resort. I do love her very much. If I could undo all the hurt, I would. I'm lost. Please help. —On the Rocks
Dear On the Rocks,

It is clear that you are in pain and very much want to fix your relationship. You cannot, unfortunately, do it by yourself. You can, however, work on what you need to work on and allow your wife to do what she needs to do. Right now, the fact she does not know what she wants for your future is actually a somewhat hopeful sign. It means she has not decided that your relationship is finished or beyond repair. She is angry, and she is entitled to be angry. She is also probably hurting, too. Allowing her some space to feel what she feels is important.

It seems that your wife is not ready to engage in therapy. While I don’t think therapy is only for those who have “done something wrong,” what she may be saying is that before she can consider working on things with you, you have some work of your own to do. This might be a very good idea. You may want to work with a therapist to explore why you have made the choices you’ve made. When you have chosen deceit, you’ve risked your family and your marriage. Getting to the root of those choices, owning them, and taking responsibility for them may be an important first step in this journey. You can’t undo the hurt, but you can take responsibility for it and recognize the impact it has had. It will be up to her to decide if she is willing to forgive and consider repairing her relationship with you. It is critical, though, that whatever work you do you undertake for your own sake and not just to try to convince your wife that you are sincere.

You are right to pinpoint trust as a critical issue. You can’t make her trust you, but you can take steps to be trustworthy. Again, it is important if you take those steps that you do it because it’s how you want to live, not just because you think it will repair your relationship.

There is no quick fix, and there are no guarantees. I have seen couples recover from difficult circumstances and find happiness again in their relationships. I’ve also seen couples who were not willing or able to repair their bond. If, however, you are willing to engage in the work to make changes because you truly want to live differently—regardless of what your wife chooses to do—you may find some level of peace with whatever comes.

Best of luck,
Erika

Erika Myers
Erika Myers, MS, MEd, LPC, NCC is a licensed psychotherapist and former educator specializing in working with families in transition (often due to separation or divorce) as well as individuals seeking support with relationship issues, parenting, depression, anxiety, grief/loss/bereavement, and managing major life changes. Although her theoretical orientation is eclectic, she most frequently uses a person-centered, strengths-based approach and cognitive behavioral therapy in her practice.
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  • Carla

    Carla

    October 19th, 2013 at 6:18 AM

    I know that you want to fix things and make them right but I can also see how your wife feels. I bet that she is wondering if you want them fix them because things are inconvenient for you right now or if this is something that you really want to do for the long term? I can very much see her hesitation with moving forward and I think that you have to give her some time to work out for herself if this is going to be the best thing for her to do for herself and for your marriage. It sounds like there has been a great deal of hurt and mistrust in this relationship and sometimes it’s difficult to know when it’s time just to go ahead and cut your losses and be done with it all.

  • dillon

    dillon

    October 21st, 2013 at 3:57 AM

    Maybe the long and short of it is that you have just hurt her one too many times this time. You sometimes get to the point where you stop caring because you try to make yourself totally numb.It hurst too much to continue to feel so you shut it all off and maybe that is the point that your wife has finally found herself at. She may come around and she may not, but you awe her that time and that space to figure all of that out on her own.

  • Evie

    Evie

    November 4th, 2013 at 4:48 AM

    Making her go to therapy if she doesn’t want to go is a very bad idea.

    What would she ever get out of it other than feeling like it is a chore?

    If she wants to go then that’s great and your marriage could be reparable. But if she doesn’t wish to go, then I think that this is her choice and you have to respect that.

  • Larson s

    Larson s

    November 12th, 2013 at 4:53 AM

    I would like for you to ask yourself how you would feel if the tables had been turned and your wife had consistently done things to lose your trust. Would you be willing to go to therapy with her? I just would like for you to put youself in her shoes for just one minute and find out if this is something that you really want and would be willing to do for her or is this all about saving face and getting back the life that was comfortable to you?

  • Been There

    Been There

    May 31st, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    You do not mention how long you have been married nor a list of the types of things that you have done.

    However, I will say this. Each and every time you “chose” to do whatever you did, it was just that – your personal choice. If your relationship is truly important to you, making better choices in the future sounds non-negotiable at this point. You can NOT expect for a person to sit idly by while you treat them badly.

    Make moves to start acting like your relationship is an actual priority or she may move on to find someone else that does. Who can blame her? You are not the only one who gets to make choices in a relationship. She has a choice whether to allow you to treat her considerately or not. She can also move on to find a man that will do this automatically instead of having to apologize for “not thinking”, being “careless” or “weak”, etc..

    Look inside yourself and figure out who you truly want to be and stop making choices that are the opposite of that. That will not only save your marriage but it will improve your life overall!

    Love is a verb! (Meaning it requires actual action on your part.)

    Best of luck to you!

  • willy

    willy

    December 21st, 2016 at 9:14 AM

    I have hurt my wife, it has been four months since, we sometimes stay together for some days, but when she starting thinking what I have done she say me to go and left her, were on this situation for 4 months now. She’s saying that she trying but she sometimes can’t, she’s saying that she does not trust on me. I do love her so much.

  • Jackie

    Jackie

    July 14th, 2018 at 5:59 PM

    I am in the same boat as his wife. I asked for counseling multiple times and when after being refused so many times, I shut down and became distant. Only then did my husband agree to counseling. The counselor brought up divorce, not me but once he did, I became a real option. I want to move on but he is adamantly trying to fix it and not giving me any space. Since I haven’t been responding to his attempts, he got mad and offered to pick up the paperwork. He quickly recanted but that made the divorce conversation more real. I’m really not interested at this point but he isn’t hearing me. I believe that he’s not trying for me but to hold onto the security of our family. Our children have also suffered and I think it’s important for us to heal from all of this. I want him to get help but he says he doesn’t need it. He asked if I love him enough to work on things. Although I do love him, I struggled to answer that question.

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