I trusted her with everything that mattered to me.
I trusted her to honor our marriage vows. I trusted her to not kill me in my sleep. I trusted her to conceive, deliver and mother my children. I trusted her to not commit major crimes. I trusted her to not clean out our bank accounts and disappear. I trusted her to behave in mature, intelligent, socially acceptable ways when we were out together. I trusted that my wife was who she said she was, and that I’d made a wise and acceptable decision to choose her as my life-long partner in marriage, parenting, money, co-habitation, and whatever else the future may deliver.
But I didn’t trust my wife with everything.
I didn’t trust her on matters I didn’t perceive to be important, such as our respective preferences for different types of food or drink or music or movies or personal hobbies or weekend activities, etc.
Cheering from the stands of a New Year’s Day college football bowl game, I was emotionally invested in the outcome, because my favorite team winning mattered to me.
My wife thought football was a little bit dumb and boring, and was infinitely more interested in what I’d call sideshow attractions, like the marching bands and cheerleaders.
Sitting among 75,000 screaming fans, with millions more watching at home on TV, and feeling those intense moments of anxiety as the clock counted down with the game in the balance, and then—MAGIC—something unexpected and glorious happens to secure unlikely victory. JOY. Total strangers embracing with happy tears streaming down our faces. VICTORY.
My wife thought it was all a little ridiculous. A bunch of adults investing themselves emotionally in something silly like football. She loved the art and showmanship of the marching bands, baton twirlers and dancers, and there was nothing anyone could say, nor anything she could witness that would change her mind or make her conclude anything other than: football is stupid and marching band stuff is awesome.
I didn’t trust my wife’s opinions when they conflicted with mine.
And in and of itself, that’s probably not particularly weird or harmful. But when combined with the following truth, I think you stamp your divorce papers long before anyone ever realizes there’s a problem.
I didn’t trust my wife’s feelings.
If my wife was upset about something—independent of my involvement—it’s fair to say I defaulted to a position of: She’s overreacting again.
I didn’t always come right out and say that. If I wasn’t defending myself against some perceived criticism, I’d exercise as much diplomacy as possible.
But she’s smart and perceptive. If I didn’t agree with her conclusions, I usually said so, and tried to offer reasons why.
No matter how valid my reasons, or how sound my logic, or how well-intentioned I was being, this little song and dance usually resulted in another marriage fight.
I thought I was right. I thought she was wrong. And I believe Right should always win out over Wrong.
And in a vacuum, I still believe that. Right should trump Wrong.
But marriages are not vacuums.
And loving and honoring one’s partner and working for the benefit of her or his emotional health and welfare, is INFINITELY more important than winning arguments about marching bands vs. football, or the significance of leaving a dirty dish by the sink.
“From the male perspective—what is the impact of loss of trust from the wife on the male psyche? How does this impair ability to function in the relationship and does the despair it causes just result in giving up trying to regain it? Not sexual infidelity loss of trust, but honestly worded and kind explanation of why the wife feels like the parent, how repeated secrets and their discovery makes the wife wonder what the next one will be and how learning of secret emotional relationships makes the wife hate his password protected always present iPhone.
“To what extent (as a man) do ‘you’ see it as the wife’s job to fix her shit? I know your answer—but around trust and facing loss of it, what do men need to hear to make it safe to be vulnerable to their vulnerable partner?”
A Different Kind of Answer
StillTryingHard asked for my take on the polar-opposite scenario in a marriage.
She asked me to talk about what happens inside the male mind when his wife demonstrates a distrust of him.
And I hope STH will forgive me for providing what might appear to be a counter-intuitive response (we can and should talk about this more in the comments!), but the above scenario and general mindset is what I believe the actual problem to be.
No “male behavior” encompasses all men, and no “female behavior” accurately describes the actions of all women. But men and women often display tendencies that cut to the heart of the whole Battle of the Sexes/Mars-Venus conversation.
Out here in the world, the Men Are Pigs brigade can blame men for everything while the Red Pill-Swallowing Manosphere can point fingers at women, and the consequences—on a case-by-case basis—might be minor.
Maybe it’s limited to an impolite exchange of comments on the internet, or a group of men swapping stories after a Saturday morning round of golf, or a group of women doing the same at the spa. It’s not ideal, but it’s mostly contained.
In a marriage between a man and a woman? Where the break-up will fundamentally change the lives of both people, their children, their finances, their friends and family, and unknown other ripple effects?
There, the stakes are a bit higher.
I don’t know that I particularly care about the women that hate men because they’ve had a lifetime of bad experiences with them. Doesn’t it make sense for certain women to have their guards up with men after the previous five or eight or 15 that they’ve dated/loved/lived with/slept with, etc. all turned out to be negative life experiences?
And isn’t that also true for certain men? If they’ve been lied to, manipulated, or cheated on by women they believed to love them?
We can’t make people like and respect each other, unfortunately.
But, in MARRIAGE?
What could POSSIBLY be ambiguous about publicly stated vows like “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad”? Or “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life”? Or “until death do us part”?
We can be dicks to one another here on the internet or to strangers on the street with little immediate consequence.
It spreads hate. It extinguishes light. It perpetuates fear.
But we can do it, and in that moment, an individual’s life or group of family members’ lives might not be adversely affected forever.
But when we do it in our marriages, we break things inside others and ourselves that I’m not sure can ever be fixed.
I have a little boy in third grade. He’s my entire world. Almost every decision I make, big or small, begins and ends with him in mind.
Almost every hardship he faces—all of the little things that present challenges and anxieties and fears and pain in that child’s world—is a direct result of his parents’ divorce.
On occasions where that child is crying in my arms, he’s crying because of circumstances that wouldn’t exist if his mom and dad were still married.
And I’m sure there’s all kinds of blame to go around, but I KNOW why I’m divorced. I know who to blame for those tears.
My wife believed one thing.
I believed something else.
And instead of that being okay like it is when my best friends root for a different sports team or vote for a different political candidate, I didn’t trust her.
No matter how many millions of ways I DID trust her, I didn’t trust that when she told me that something was hurting her or mattered to her, that she was experiencing it accurately.
Didn’t seem like it would hurt to me.
Didn’t seem important from my perspective.
I didn’t trust her feelings.
I didn’t trust her feelings because they were different than mine.
You can get away with that with your buddies. With your co-workers. With people you want to argue with on the internet.
But when you promise to love and honor someone forever, you damn well better TRUST them when they describe their experiences to you.
Which Came First—His Distrust or Hers?
Men often display a need to be trusted and respected. Bad things tend to happen when they feel otherwise in their relationships.
But when you deny your wife or girlfriend’s right to experience human life in the way they do, calling them wrong, or stupid, or crazy?
When she can’t feel safe talking to you about things that make her feel bad?
When she can’t trust you to take care of her even in matters as seemingly small as a random conversation?
When we love and honor our partners, we go first.
We don’t point fingers. We look in the mirror.
Trust can’t be a thing in a constant state of rebuild.
Trust must be in a perpetual state of accumulation.
Trust shouldn’t be something we react to.
Trust should be the thing we lead with.
These two articles are awesome, and helped me formulate my thoughts here: