“You’re so beautiful!” my husband told me the other day. I should have responded by saying, “Thank you” and with a blushing smile. Instead I rolled my eyes and asked, “Really?”
Trusting my husband’s love for me has long been a struggle. Early in our marriage I would analyze every compliment and every “I love you.” I would try to discern if he truly meant what he said. It was an exhausting task, trying to get to the bottom of my husband’s feelings, especially because he was adamant that what he said was true.
My husband is the most honest and sincere man I’ve ever met. My trust issues had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. As time went on, I realized that my insecurity about his love for me stemmed from my own family background.
My parents have been married for more than four decades and they have five kids. They are very committed to the idea that marriage is forever. While I admire their commitment to marriage, I realize now that they did not have a healthy way of dealing with conflict in a marriage.
From a young age I watched my dad operate as if it was his job to preserve the peace at all costs with my mother. My mother would take any disagreement with her views so personally that a small disagreement could grow to catastrophic proportions before blowing up in my father’s face. He coped by telling my mom whatever she wanted to hear.
When an argument erupted or crisis emerged, my father did whatever was needed to calm her down—even if it wasn’t true. My dad would have his children apologize to our mother even when he acknowledged to us privately that we had done nothing wrong. He wanted to “keep her happy,” but her happiness often came at everyone else’s expense.
My father’s “keep her happy” approach in his interactions with my mom led me to question my husband’s honesty in his interactions with me. Time and time again I’d wonder, Does he really think that about me? or Is he just saying it to keep me happy? I’d constantly question my husband or make comments like “You don’t need to say that.”
Eventually, there came a point where my husband told me that my questions and comments hurt him. I don’t remember exactly what he said and what my response was. He probably complimented me and I probably rolled my eyes and said, “Yeah, whatever. You’re supposed to say that.”
Whatever the particulars were, my husband revealed how upset it made him. I didn’t realize until then how much my attitude undermined his love for me and how much my words hurt him. He told me that unlike my father, he always meant what he said. He challenged me to look at our history together to find a moment where he hadn’t been honest with me.
As I looked back on our relationship, I realized he was right. He had always been forthcoming with me about his opinions, beliefs, and times in his past when he felt that he had fallen short. He had never been afraid to tell me when something I did or said bothered him, and he always did it in a calm and loving way. Disagreement wasn’t something he sought out, but it wasn’t something he shirked away from, either. While he wasn’t worried about keeping the peace, he valued seeking the truth in all situations in a peaceful way.
That conversation didn’t solve all of my trust problems, but it was a great first step in the healing process. Just recognizing where my issues come from has allowed me to regroup every time I feel myself doubting my husband. I love my father very much, but I didn’t marry my father. There is no reason I shouldn’t trust my husband, I tell myself. My marriage is not my parents’ marriage.
It’s been a few years since I came to that realization and I’ve made great strides since then. I’m still tempted to fall into my old habit of mistrusting my husband, but I’m quicker to recognize my error. I remind myself that my husband means what he says and that he’s earned my trust.