Treat Problem, Not Symptoms

Q: I am in desperate need of some advice. I feel that my marriage is going downhill fast and I want to save it. Let me tell you the story.
A couple of years ago, I accidentally found e-mails that my husband was sending to an old girlfriend he wanted to meet up with. He told her a ton of lies about our relationship. I confronted him, and everything has been going OK.
But now he is meeting women online and talking "personal" talk to them. He sits in the living room with me and talks to them. When I ask who he is talking to, he lies. I know, because I have the passwords for his accounts and can see what is being said.
I don't know what to do. We have been married 12 1/2 years. I still love him and I forgave him; however, I don't trust him anymore and I am scared that he is going to find someone else and leave.
Can you please give me some advice as to what I can do to help us reconnect and save our marriage?
A: The first step is to talk with your husband in a totally open way, the way you might talk to me or to a best friend. That seems to be missing. If you want your husband to be honest with you, be honest with him (about the passwords and reading his e-mail -- and everything else).
When you confronted him about the e-mails to an old girlfriend, did you ask him why he wanted to meet up with her? Did you try to see your relationship from his perspective, instead of assuming that there was no truth to the "ton of lies"? Maybe he doesn't see your relationship the way you do.
The knee-jerk reaction is to simply make him wrong. But what you really want to do, without condoning his behavior, is 1) let him know what you're feeling and 2) identify what's missing in your relationship. That can mean talking about why you feel inadequate or jealous or vulnerable; we tend to look for excuses to avoid that.
If your husband isn't satisfied in the relationship, making him wrong doesn't solve anything … and neither does ignoring your own dissatisfaction. Get to the reasons for your dissatisfaction and work through them in a constructive way.
As you've learned, the reason for e-mailing his old girlfriend doesn't disappear just because he stops e-mailing her. Now he's e-mailing other women.
Be honest with yourself about what's lacking. Why are you afraid that he'll find somebody else and leave? What does he want that he's not getting?
Only two happy, healthy people can have a happy, healthy relationship. Do what you can to be happy and healthy -- get to know and love you, open up what's hurting in order to heal it. Hopefully, your husband will do the same. Then you'll both be better prepared to know and love (SET ITAL) each other (END ITAL).
To regain trust, reconnect and save your marriage, you and your husband both have to be willing to do the following … and somebody has to go first:
-- Be impeccably honest.
-- Let your guard down; it's a wall that precludes connection.
-- Give your attention to what you appreciate about each other.
-- Re-establish what you have in common and nurture it.
-- Accept differences because it will lead to understanding them.
And please don't let your "desperation" compound the problems. Take a deep breath and realize that all the tools you need to save your marriage are at your disposal. Imagine using them like a skilled surgeon.
As you take one step at a time, you'll gain confidence in yourself and the process … and you'll no longer be afraid. You'll trust the outcome.

Author's Bio: 

Jan Denise is a nationally syndicated columnist, author of the just released "Innately Good: Dispelling the Myth That You're Not" and "Naked Relationships: Sharing Your Authentic Self to Find the Partner of Your Dreams," speaker and consultant based in McIntosh, Fla. Please e-mail her at, or visit her website at