Trust is destroyed by suspicious behavior

Dear Annie: I’ve been married to “Nancy” for 18 years. Two years ago, we became involved in youth programs in our community as we have three children. This gave us opportunities to meet new people.

During this time, I noticed Nancy changing. After one meeting, I caught her in a truck with another man. She claimed they were just talking, but I didn’t believe her. She consented to a polygraph, which she failed. I then asked her to submit to another with a different tester, and she failed that, too. These examiners have been doing this for over 20 years and both said she is lying.

Nancy maintains her innocence and I’m confused. We attended counseling and got some things worked out, but I simply don’t trust her. What is your advice? Don’t Believe Her

Dear Don’t Believe: Polygraphs are not infallible, so unless you catch her in the act, you will never be 100 percent certain. Your choice then is to leave your wife or forgive her. You have children at home. Unless Nancy gives you additional reason to be suspicious, please try to forgive her with your whole heart so you can get past this. It won’t be easy, but it can be done. Both of you should go back to counseling so you can express yourselves and deal with your fears.

Dear Annie: My wife is a hoarder. Every square inch of our house is covered in clutter. The dining room table and kitchen counters are unusable, and the guest bedroom is knee-deep in junk. Many days when I come home, I can’t find a place to sit. I won’t even mention the bathrooms. We have not had friends visit in years because of the trash. Annie, I can’t take it anymore.

I have contacted support groups both online and off, and the stock answer is that one cannot change hoarders and I need to develop more understanding and empathy. Well, after living like this for 20 years, I have run out of sympathy.

The clutter is causing me stress and making me physically ill. The house is in disrepair because I cannot get to areas that need fixing. My wife promises to do better, but nothing ever changes and she will not seek counseling. I am at the end of my rope and ready to walk, but I know if I give her an ultimatum, she’ll choose the clutter. Can anything be done to save this marriage? Exasperated Husband

Dear Exasperated: The trouble with ultimatums is that you have to be willing to follow through. Hoarding is part of an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Your wife needs to see someone who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy and she also may benefit from medication. You cannot force her to do this, but you can lovingly explain how damaging her behavior is to herself and to your marriage, and that she’ll be happier if she deals with it. Ask how you can help her. If one of your online resources wasn’t the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation (, please contact them immediately.

Dear Annie: You made some excellent points to “Isolated Wife,” whose husband stopped drinking on his own. Might I suggest an additional one? As a professional counselor who works with many recovering alcoholics and addicts, I believe substance-use problems usually have multiple causes, but when alcohol is the substance of choice, one of those causes is often some form of social anxiety. Nearly all of my clients who struggle with drinking report that they started because it made them able to tolerate social situations.

Bob may be avoiding social events because he fears being tempted by alcohol, but he may also be avoiding the events themselves. An evaluation for depression is a good idea, along with one for anxiety disorders (including social phobia). A good therapist can then help him learn ways of coping without alcohol. J.R.

Dear J.R.: We appreciate your professional assistance. Thanks.

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