by Neil Rosenthal
Dear Neil: I have no real trust for anyone in my life and I never really have had trust for people. I grew up with no one to count on. My mother was verbally, mentally and physically abusive to me. I was always compared to other girls. I now work in a casino in Las Vegas, as does my husband of three years. He recently accepted a position at a new casino, and the thought of him making friends with new women and working with beautiful partially nude women makes me sick This is ruining my life – and my marriage. I don’t feel like I can ever trust because I feel so seriously damaged by my upbringing. Is there any way to save a marriage when one person (me) is so untrusting and the other person (my husband) is very outgoing? – Feeling Threatened in Las Vegas
Dear Las Vegas: It sounds to me as if you are protecting yourself from the fear of possible loss or betrayal by assuming that your husband will find some other women more appealing to you – and act on it.
But you could be wrong. Your husband might love you, be attached and committed to you, be loyal and faithful. Here’s how you can rescue yourself from your fear, jealousy, insecurity and low trust – and hopefully rescue your marriage as well.
Tell your husband of your jealousy, your fear of losing him, your fear of being betrayed, and your fear of being judged inadequate in comparison to others. Accept 100% responsibility for these emotions. Explain to him that childhood didn’t teach you to have faith in other people, that you have very low trust to begin with, and that this is about your insecurities and fears and not about him.
Then tell him what you would need in order to feel less threatened and fearful. You might, for instance, ask for the reassurance you need – even if you need reassurance a dozen times a day. If the choice is to break up the marriage or to provide his wife with almost constant reassurance for awhile, your husband may have more to gain than to lose by honoring your request. If you don’t give your husband an opportunity to show you he can be outgoing and loyal, social and monogamous, you will end up betraying yourself as well as your husband by sabotaging your marriage.
You might offer your husband some reassurance as well, because I bet he would like to hear you are devoted to him, and that you want to trust him.
Go through the phone book or search on-line for counselors or therapists that specialize in low self-esteem. Because I would guess that you secretly don’t feel worthy of a love relationship because you feel so flawed by your childhood – and that genuine intimacy therefore frightens you. If your husband is indeed acting loyal and faithful, the problem then shifts to you, and your feeling that no one could ever really love you. That’s one of the results of childhood abuse, and many adults secretly feel it. People abused as children often have difficulty trusting themselves. And if you don’t trust yourself, you are going to find it very difficult to trust others. If your husband isn’t being loyal and faithful, well, that requires a completely different discussion.
One more thing. Might the two of you consider a different line of work? Or might you consider leaving Las Vegas and living somewhere else?
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Denver and Boulder, CO, specializing in how people strengthen their intimate relationships. He can be reached at 303.758.8777, or e-mail him from his website, www.heartrelationships.com.