Question

My husband of twenty years has left me and our daughter. He left us notes in the closet. Our marriage has struggled over the years with multiple infidelities on his part. I wanted my marriage, but the hurt and not trusting kept surfacing. I told my husband I wanted to feel safe, and then it would immediately cause an argument. He said he felt as if I will never trust him. I found out he was planning to leave once our daughter graduated from high school, which increased the tension in our relationship. When he left, his note said that he can’t take the arguing anymore and told me he’s sorry. He said that he knows that I don’t feel safe with him and he hopes I find someone I can be safe with because he knows it will never be him. He ended by telling me he’s sorry he couldn’t live up to my standards. My daughter and I have tried calling him and texting him, but he won’t respond. I’m not sure what to do.

Answer

I’m deeply sorry to hear about the pain and betrayal you’ve experienced. Navigating such profound hurt and the loss of a long-term relationship is undeniably tough. Let’s walk through some thoughts and steps to help you move forward.

First and foremost, it’s essential to recognize that trust is foundational in any relationship, especially a marriage. Trust has been severely broken here, not only once but several times. Your feelings of insecurity and the need for safety are not only reasonable but crucial for healing.

Your hurt is real, valid, and deserves acknowledgment. Not only are you wounded from the abandonment to yourself and your daughter, but you’ve experienced years of insecurity from multiple infidelities. Infidelity is a significant betrayal, and the repeated betrayals you’ve endured deeply damage trust. You never have to justify why you can’t trust him.

Your husband’s reaction to your request for safety is concerning, especially given the history of infidelity. Rather than acknowledging his role in breaking trust and working diligently to rebuild it, he became defensive. His reaction and the subsequent abandonment of the family don’t provide a solid foundation for healing and growth.

It’s confusing when you’ve held on hoping for a better future with someone who has deeply betrayed you and then they suddenly give up. It’s normal to feel foolish, sad, confused, and angry.

At the core, your desire to feel safe in this relationship is not an unreasonable standard. It’s a basic need. Every individual deserves to be in a relationship where they feel valued, respected, and safe. Don’t let his words make you second-guess this right.

Now, more than ever, lean on your support system. Friends, family, and perhaps a qualified therapist can help you process your emotions and move forward. Your daughter, too, will need support as she processes her father’s sudden departure. He may not provide answers or give you any hope for the future, so it’s important to seek your own answers and create a plan to help you regain your emotional balance.

I don’t know if he’s circled back since you sent in your question. If your husband decides to reconnect, establish clear boundaries for any communication. Decide in advance what you want from the conversation and set clear boundaries. This may be best done with the guidance of a professional therapist. While reconciliation is a deeply personal decision, remember that it requires sincere effort that will take time to trust. If he struggled with your lack of trust prior to this abandonment, he will have to overcome even more broken trust to make this relationship secure. Also, depending on your circumstances, you may also need to consult with a legal professional to understand your rights and responsibilities.

Before you worry about whether you can trust him, you can practice trusting yourself. You’ve likely had feelings, thoughts, and impressions that were ignored in the service of trying to hold things together. This is a time to calibrate your past experiences with the current reality. When you trust what you’ve lived and how it felt, you’ll be in a better position to navigate this or other relationships going forward.

You’ve been thrown into a more lonely situation than you ever imagined possible. Please don’t forget this important reminder from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:

“…Because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path—the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: “I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].”[i]

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]  


If broken trust is an issue in your relationship, download Geoff’s FREE video series “The First Steps to Rebuilding Trust” to help you begin healing:
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About the Author

 

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, host of the podcast, “From Crisis to Connection”, and creates online relationship courses. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

 

The advice offered through Geoff Steurer’s column is educational and informational in nature and is provided only as general information. It is not meant to establish a therapist-patient relationship or offer therapeutic advice, opinion, diagnosis treatment or to establish a standard of care. Although Geoff Steurer is a trained psychotherapist, he is not functioning in the role of a licensed therapist by writing this column, but rather using his training to inform these responses. Thus, the content is not intended to replace independent professional judgment. The content is not intended to solicit clients and should not be relied upon as medical or psychological advice of any kind or nature whatsoever. The information provided through this content should not be used for diagnosing or treating a mental health problem or disease. The information contained in these communications is not comprehensive and does not include all the potential information regarding the subject matter, but is merely intended to serve as one resource for general and educational purposes.

 

 

[i] https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2009/04/none-were-with-him?lang=eng