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dating coach for smart, strong, successful women Evan Marc Katz
Evan,

Your responses to questions and blog posts related to trust have been such an eye and heart opener to me. I have carried so much baggage from past relationships related to trust and infidelity, and it almost ended my marriage to a wonderful man. I have engaged in shameful behavior of reading emails, looking at computer history and looking at his cell phone. However, in the past year I have been doing intensive therapy and self-reflection because I don’t want to give any more power to insecurity and mistrust than I already have; I won’t continue to spin a storyline that could cement me in this place of insecurity. So my question is this, how can I apologize to my husband in a way that will speak to him about the gravity of how badly I feel and that I am completely committed to not getting pulled into that dark place ever again.

Thank you,
Yvonne

Dear Yvonne,

Appreciate your kind words and am thrilled that you’re becoming more secure in your relationship. It’s really hard to move past insecurity — especially when you’ve had reason to be insecure in the past — and you deserve a ton of credit for getting into therapy.

The ONLY reason to tell him is to absolve yourself of guilt.

I would love to answer your question simply and directly, except there’s one piece of information I don’t have:

Does your husband already know that you have read his emails, checked his computer history and browsed his cell phone? Did he discover this independently? Did you have a long, drag-out argument, which is why you said your mistrust almost ended your marriage?

Or is this just a matter of guilt that you’re carrying around in your head for your misdeeds?

The answer makes a huge difference.

If your husband already knows, I would guess that you’ve already apologized profusely. I would think that such an apology would be about the only thing that could mend your breach of trust. But if you’ve already apologized to him, then why would you be asking me how to apologize to him?

On the other hand, if your husband doesn’t already know, what is the value of telling him?

As far as I can see, the ONLY reason to tell him is to absolve yourself of guilt. But that’s pretty short-term thinking. Because what will happen when you tell him is that you will be putting a sledgehammer to the underlying trust of your relationship. Right now, your husband thinks everything is fine. When you come clean about how much you’ve been spying on him, everything is going to get really weird, really fast. And what for? To make YOU feel better — not him.

I’ve written about this before, but this completely reminds me of a recurring conversation I had with a jealous ex-girlfriend who was convinced that I was at risk of cheating. Sadly, she didn’t know that my integrity is my most cherished value, and even though I like looking at other women, I would never act upon it. Anyway, one day, she tells me that if I ever cheated on her, she would dump me instantly. Furthermore, she tells me that if I ever cheated on her, she’d expect me to tell her? Wha-?

“Wait,” I say. “If I’m going to receive the death sentence for drunkenly kissing a stranger, why exactly would I tell you?”

I thought this was a reasonable point. I thought wrong.

“Because that would be the MANLY thing to do,” she replied.

“It doesn’t make any logical sense,” I continued. “If I made a colossal mistake that I instantly regretted and vowed to never do it again — and if I know I want to spend my life with you — why would I sabotage that entire thing just to be ‘manly’? Once again, I’m not saying I’d cheat on you, but since you’ve already told me that you would definitely not forgive me, you’ve given me no incentive to tell the truth.”

The best apologies are the heartfelt ones that completely own the situation — instead of trying to share blame.

This logic INFURIATED her. We must have had this conversation a half-dozen times in the six months we were dating. She ended up dumping me after learning about a friend’s bachelor party at a strip club in Vegas…even though I wasn’t at the party.

I love that story and try really hard to be consistent in my walk and my talk.

If your husband has no idea what you did, I see less value in telling him and rocking the boat than in keeping it to yourself and silently trying to improve your trust. This should be YOUR burden, not his.

And if he knows what you did and is still with you, I’m not sure what else to say. The best apologies are the heartfelt ones that completely own the situation — instead of trying to share blame. If you own your jealousy and let him know you’re working on it, I see no reason why he shouldn’t forgive you.