Hello everybody, welcome to episode 166 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Today I’ve got a question for ya that I think is really important for all the couples out there. All relationships have their challenges, and many of those challenges can be based around jealousy or insecurity. Our asker of today’s question has taken the right step of leaning into such feelings, but now what? He’s looking for some help navigating these nagging thoughts on his wife's past, so let’s see if we can help him out with them. Here’s what he’s got for us…
QUESTION: “I have been with my wife for 15 years, married for 4. At the moment we have the best relationship ever since we got married. No major issues or distrust. We are best friends, and she is supportive, loving, caring, and I couldn’t ask for a better wife.
However, I found out that about 10 years ago when we were on a break, she hooked up with my best friend at the time. I also learned of 2 new intimate partners, and people she talked to during one of our recent breakups prior to our marriage. We did breakup a few times as we got together at 16, and 17. We are now 31, and 30 years old.
I just need some advice on how to handle these thoughts that I can’t get out of my head. I really don’t want to look at my wife any different because of these new findings. I bring it up sometimes and it brings her down, but she understands it’s part of my healing. However, I don’t want to keep bringing it up and risk losing her.”
Let's Be Appreciate of Your Wife
Ok, good question and thank you for sending this one in. Nice to see you facing these thoughts and how you can handle them better as opposed to being resentful towards your wife and making her feel as though she’s forever in trouble for her actions. That’s the way to go and I’m sure she finds the effort alone to be very sexy.
Let’s start by talking about when you bring these feelings up to her; the last segment of your question.
First of all, let’s be appreciative of your wife for still fielding questions about something that was in the past, can’t be changed, and she was honest about in spite of how uncomfortable a topic it is.
What do you say to her during these interactions? What do you want her to say? Is there anything left to gain, any new, imperative information left that could somehow benefit you?
What Will Silence Your Nagging Thoughts?
Usually when it comes to past issues that we bring up repeatedly, we’re spinning our wheels after a while.
The communication is coming from the right place, but after a while it gets very easy to think that somehow there is information that is yet to be discussed; information that will somehow be enough to silence our nagging thoughts.
My guess is that you’ve already heard everything there is to hear, and at this point, you’re just looking for something to grip onto that will help you feel better about it. You’re probably not going to find that something.
Communication about hard feelings is a good thing, but if becomes repetitive and the same thing is brought up repeatedly, it’s more and more necessary to consider how it’s affecting the other person (in this case, your wife).
Your Insecurities with Your Wife's Past
Formulate your own opinion on this one, but I’d say it’s highly likely that your own insecurities about having her around are stronger than you think, and your wife giving you the same reassurance over and over again isn’t going to help those insecurities nearly as much as good self-work will.
You said it yourself: if anything, playing this same track on repeat stands a good chance at chipping away at her patience. I don’t think this will translate into her loving you less, but it could damage her ability to love what she’s offering to the relationship, as she may start questioning whether there’s anything left for her to do that can help you feel comfortable with her.
Obviously, we don’t want anyone dealing with those feelings of inadequacy.
There may be a lot of assumption in all that, but if any of it feels like a truth you’ve been denying, it might be best to reassess your feelings with the help of a therapist to learn more about what’s really going on with you and how to present it in a way that is open, yet not too stressful for your wife.
With that being said, I’ll throw in my two cents about your wife being with other people once upon a time and how I think it could be handled in a healthy fashion.
The Decade of Your Twenties
10 years ago is a long time. Not only is it a long time, but it’s the difference between 30 and 20, which is a period of extreme development and re-prioritization as we cross the threshold from college years into adulthood.
I would hope that you’re both very different people now than you were then.
I would also like to remind you that anyone who gets together as teenagers and stays together usually faces a lot more temptation as there’s not the same time for experimentation with other people. Not always, but usually.
Your wife being attracted to other people – certainly when you two are apart – is her being human. It’s not necessarily because you did something wrong.
Based on how you’ve framed your relationship in your question, it seems these urges have subsided. Hopefully you’re both being honest with one another about that.
But marriage is still a journey. That means that neither of you are immune to challenging feelings of temptation or anything else that could threaten a marriage just because you’ve tied the knot.
The Best Kind of Commitment
This may sound difficult, but the only way to withstand is to submit to this possibility, no matter how hard it is. I’ve said this in an episode past, but the best kind of commitment to someone is not sticking by them even when it’s become clearly unhealthy and every fiber of your being wants to leave were it not for a piece of paper you signed or because you hate going back on promises.
The best type of commitment is the commitment to talking out any difficult feelings or urges as soon as they come up, being respectful and conscientious when your partner does the same, and proceeding accordingly – even if that proceeding means one or both of you entering therapy, as might be the case this time around.
Just a note: If it seems like the type of commitment style I'm proposing is already what you're doing, it sort of is. You're on the right track with the way you communicate, but the nature of that communication should still be considered as I alluded to earlier.
Either way, making this type of commitment a focal point and a promise you two outwardly make to one another should make all these tough feelings get exchanged a little bit easier for both you and your wife.
Your Wife's Past: Conclusion
It seems like you’re good at being vulnerable in your relationship. That’s awesome.
Make that vulnerability stronger by channeling it in this way. It’s a promise you can make now and don’t have to touch again. All you can do is hope that your wife abides by it.
If you trust her, take the leap, propose this type of commitment, and hopefully it works out. If you don’t trust her to be compliant with this, then maybe the level of trust in your relationship isn’t as strong as you think.
Whether or not such an instinct would have weight or legitimacy to it, if it’s there, it’s what you should turn your attention to addressing.
A big thank you to the man who sent this question in for being so open and wanting to do right by his wife, and also for giving us a chance to look at communication from a different angle rather than just DO IT. Hoping this episode helped you out and that you two can continue to have the wonderful relationship you’ve described currently having.
Everyone, if you’ve got a question or struggle of your own that you’d like a little extra support with, you know where to find us. Email your concern to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com, we’ll be in touch and help you out as best we can.
I’m gonna wrap it up for today, friends. As always, I appreciate you sticking around and hope you’ll join me again in the next one. Bye everybody.