Q: One year ago, my husband admitted to an affair with someone at his office. He's truly sorry and has made every effort to restore my trust in him. But I don't trust him. Every time the phone rings, I wonder if it's another woman. I've even considered driving to his office unannounced to make sure he's "behaving." How do I break out of this way of thinking?
Jim: You don't mention whether you and your husband are seeing a marriage counselor or a pastor about the challenges you're facing. If you haven't done so, we encourage you to seek professional counsel together. Few marital problems are as devastating as infidelity, and it's not a sign of surrender to seek outside help.
As for your inability to trust, you're not alone. Victims of affairs often feel an overwhelming sense of suspicion toward their spouses. Everything is interpreted through the lens of betrayal -- their spouses' choice of clothing, or even the slightest deviation from their daily routine. The paranoia can be so intense that many spouses will check in on their partners repeatedly throughout the day in order to monitor their every move.
To people who have been emotionally devastated, such behavior seems rational. It's an attempt to gain control over circumstances that seem wildly out of their control. The trouble is, it doesn't strengthen people; it weakens them.
Tracking your spouse's every movement will keep you trapped in a cycle of fear and suspicion, which will likely only drive you into depression. A more healthy solution is to reach out for support from a counselor, family members and friends, and slowly learn to accept that you can't control your spouse or monitor his every move.
Releasing control in this way may sound terrifying. But the fact is, there's only one person you can control: you. Coming to terms with this reality will allow you to devote your energy to moving forward in life with dignity and healing.
Q: My teen daughter prefers to hang out with her guy friends. She has only a couple of girlfriends but doesn't do much with them. Is this something I should be concerned about?
Juli: There are generally two reasons why a teen girl would be more inclined to connect with guy friends. One is cause for concern; the other is not. Let's start with the benign situation:
Teen girls can be very catty and even downright mean. They've been known to gossip about even their closest friends. Typically, they're competitive with each other about fashion, weight and boyfriends. Some girls simply want to avoid the emotional drama of the teen-girl scene. They find boys much simpler and pleasant to hang out with. If this is the reason your daughter prefers her guy friends, it could actually be a sign of maturity.
On the other hand, some teen girls hang out with guys due to insecurity and a need for male attention. Often, a girl with this motivation has an unhealthy relationship with her father. Emotionally, she's looking for the acceptance and validation that she has not received at home. If your daughter is drawn toward guys for this reason, she's likely to become involved romantically and sexually with them. This is a warning sign for you to intervene as a parent.
How do you discern between the two motivations? Observe your daughter's dress and behavior when she's with "the guys." Do her relationships look like good-natured, brother-sister friendships? Or is she flirtatious? You might also consider asking your daughter why she finds it more fun to hang out with guys.
In either case, be willing to help her process issues related to friendships and keep your connection to her strong.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.
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