Ask Amy: Road to trust after infidelity is a long one

FresnoAugust 9, 2013 

Dear Amy: I have been married to a terrific guy for almost 20 years. We had a strong commitment and were the relationship that many of our friends told us they wished they had.

We recently went through a rough patch when I discovered he was having an online affair with an old college friend. They never got together physically, but he shared intimate details of our life together — the kinds of things that should remain between two married people and not be shared with others. They also had several rather sexually heated conversations and made promises to each other to get together to be physically intimate.

We went to counseling, at his initiation, and made some progress toward repairing the breach in trust between us. It's been six months. There has been no contact between them.

Despite my efforts and his, I've found I do not trust him anymore. Not even a little bit. While I realize this is a minor infraction on the infidelity scale, I can't seem to get past the betrayal. He is a good husband. I truly believe he's no longer carrying on with this woman, nor has he picked up with any others.

Will this discomfort and distrust fade with time, or am I doomed to be haunted by this one-time fumble?

— Want to trust

Dear Want: Your husband is motivated to move through this rough patch quickly, but trust has its own timetable. It isn't one decision but a series of daily choices, and it is a process in which he must participate. That includes ongoing therapy until you are ready to stop.

You are not doomed. Your discomfort and distrust will fade, but first you need to believe that trust is possible. You also need to wrestle with the concept of forgiveness.

Your husband has an important part to play (of course), and he needs to be transparent, patient with your discomfort and not rush you toward a specific feeling or reaction — or judge you if you don't get there easily or quickly.

Take this journey one day at a time. The good days will gradually outnumber the bad days. You will see that forgiveness and trust are gifts to your own well-being, as well as your marriage.

The must-read book for anyone wrestling with this issue is: "Not 'Just Friends': Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity," by Shirley P. Glass and Jean Coppock Staeheli (2004, Atria Books).

Send questions to askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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