Big Lies and Little Lies
Dear Annie: My husband and I have been in a relationship for nine years. In that time, we've had multiple circumstances that broke my trust with him. He would report to his Marine base once a month (as a reservist), get drunk at night and flirt with girls online constantly; he tried kissing a girl at a party we were both at (thankfully, she had a bit more respect for our relationship); he would secretly text and Snapchat other girls; and he even had the intentions of hooking up with my best friend at our house after our housewarming party after I went to sleep and everyone left (I woke up and interrupted them before anything actually happened, but he did get a handful of her rear). Each one of those instances was obviously devastating, but I worked hard on getting over them and forgiving him. However, the trust is, I think, lost and needs to be built back up on his end.
Anyways, we haven't had any major instances of infidelity in about five years. The issue I'm struggling with is this: He smoked cigarettes when we first met, which didn't bother me at all because I grew up with a father and sister who smoke. After the Marines, he switched to vapes and then weaned himself off those as well. Occasionally, he gets stressed out and will grab a vape, bum a cigarette from someone or get the patch. It is completely understandable to me because nicotine addiction is no joke.
The issue I'm having is that when he does relapse, he intentionally hides it from me, every time. Any time I have found out, I've confronted him and told him that I am his wife and we need to be transparent with each other, and I should be the person he goes to when he's struggling with something. I've also voiced, too many times to count, that when he hides things from me, even small things, it makes me feel like I can't trust him to be honest about the big things. Especially because of the past issues we've had.
Is this relationship a lost cause? I feel like nine years is a long time to still not have trust built. I guess what I mostly want to know is, am I overreacting about a seemingly small issue, or is this something that is a valid deal breaker at this point? -- Losing Faith
Dear Losing Faith: Trust is at the heart of any healthy relationship, and it sounds like you two never fully worked through the issues that began nine years ago. I strongly recommend couples therapy so that you can communicate about how his behavior is impacting your marriage, and so that you have the space to tell him how his dishonesty is causing you to lose your faith.
You say he is only lying about a "small issue" -- but you have already communicated to him that this seemingly small issue is important to you. As the saying goes, "The way you do anything is the way you do everything" (the quote has been attributed to a number of different public figures). The fact that he's lying at all warrants a bigger conversation. But ask yourself, do you condemn him when you "catch" him with nicotine? It doesn't sound like it, but be very careful to be as understanding with him as you are in your letter, acknowledging that nicotine is highly addictive.
Overall, you sound like an understanding and communicative wife, and you deserve a husband who shares those qualities.
"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to email@example.com.