Today’s reader email comes from Tiffany, who is worried her husband talks to his ex.
It’s not uncommon if you struggle with the fact that your husband talks to his ex. And in the era of social media, keeping in touch with an ex has never been easier.
My #1 question is: how do I stop looking on social media and trust that my husband isn’t talking to his ex??
Zachary Stockill: Part of the reason I wanted to start doing these Q and A videos is to get better at speaking briefly, and try to condense big ideas down to a short, digestible format.
Naturally, this presents some challenges, especially when faced with a question like this, because even though maybe on the surface your question might look somewhat simple, how do I do X, how do I stop doing Y, it’s actually pretty complicated and there’s a lot going on in this question. That said, as usual I’m going to try to boil this down.
There are a few things that I could suggest here. On the one hand, there’s the practical element to your question which is basically, how do I stop spending time on social media?
Aside from the issue of you’re worried about your husband looking, perhaps talking to his ex’s on social media, there’s just the issue of social media in general. Anyone who’s familiar with my work, my guidebook, my online course, my private Facebook community, knows that I’m big on trying to limit your time on social media.
Personally, I find social media, for the most part, a massive time suck.
I don’t use Facebook pretty much at all aside from talking to students in my private Facebook group and messaging with friends using messenger, that’s about it. I use Instagram a little bit, I’ll check Twitter maybe once a day, but in general, it’s a good idea to limit your time on social media, generally, especially if you have any struggles around retroactive jealousy.
I probably don’t have to tell anyone watching this that social media can present some real problems for retroactive jealousy sufferers.
There are practical tools that you can use, there are different extensions. You can use browser extensions as well on your phone. You can make certain adjustments that way to literally shut off social media once you’re on it for half an hour, 15 minutes, whatever. There are also specific things you can do to actually block certain profiles and the person’s profile who you’re blocking, they don’t have to know about it at all.
All of these things, un-following blocking, using applications to limit your time, these are all practical suggestions that can actually really help. I think I wrote a whole article about this, actually. Please take a look at that if you’re having any struggles around social media use.
Really, the meat of your question relates to trust.
If you’re worried your husband talks to his ex, how do you learn to build trust, how do you sustain trust?
I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some projecting going on. I don’t know your story, your email was very brief, but generally speaking people who struggle with this issue, not all the time but a lot of the time, they’ve been burned in the past.
They had an ex-partner who was kind of sketchy and talking to ex’s and acting inappropriately, maybe they’ve been cheated on.
First, be sure you’re not projecting. This is a huge topic, I could spend an hour on projection alone. Maybe I’ll do another video on that sometime, but just first be sure you’re not projecting the actions of someone else or the behavior of someone else onto your husband.
Obviously you need to ask yourself and you need to really spend some time considering, do I trust my husband, and if not, why?
There could be a million and one different reasons as far as why you don’t trust your husband. Has he broken your trust in the past? Are you facing a crisis in your marriage where you feel like he might be looking outside of the relationship for validation or attention or affection or whatever? Has he given you reasons not to trust him in the past? These are all questions you can ask as you worry that your husband talks to his ex.
Sometimes people ask me questions as they relate to retroactive jealousy and, unfortunately, I’m forced to tell them there’s nothing you can do in this situation, not really.
If your partner is genuinely violating your trust after you’ve already established some very firm boundaries, you’ve communicated well with them, told them what is not okay and what is okay. You’ve let them know how you feel and they’re still violating your boundaries, you can’t make someone change.
It really comes down to taking ownership of your own actions, your own emotions, your own behavior, and that’s about it because you can’t make other people change.
However, if you found my work …
Maybe I’m wrong but I’m willing to bet that your worry around “your husband talks to his ex” is based mostly on fiction rather than fact.
The overwhelming majority of people who find me, their jealousy doesn’t have a great basis in fact.
Their partner isn’t actually going behind their back and acting sketchy and doing all these things, their jealousy is mostly a figment of their imagination. I realize this can be really tough, I realize this is easier said than done, but ultimately in relationships that’s really the choice that we’re all faced with: the choice to live or not, the choice to love or not, the choice to trust or not.
My mother gave me some great advice where she said, “Trust someone until they give you a reason not to trust them.”
If that person’s already given you a reason not to trust them, hopefully, you can work together to start rebuilding that trust through open and honest communication and a mutual airing of grievances, really getting down to the nitty-gritty of how this breach of trust occurred and how we’re going to prevent it moving forward.
Ultimately it’s on you to decide each and every day to trust your husband, to trust what he tells you, to trust his reassurance, to trust his love, to trust his affection, to trust his fidelity.
This is an active process but the good news is, the more you do this, the more you just decide to throw caution to the wind, so to speak, and trust someone, the easier it becomes and you can look back on your relationship and remember all of the reasons your husband gave you to trust him.
Think about times when he’s demonstrated to you, maybe for years, that he is trustworthy, that he’s not going around behind your back; or you can even look to just moments in your relationship where he’s confirmed his love for you, his desire, his affection, look to that stuff.
In moments when you’re feeling distrustful about the fact that your boyfriend talks to his ex, and you know you have nothing to be distrustful about, reflect on those moments, reflect on all the reasons you have you can actually trust your husband.
Above all, trust someone until they give you a reason not to trust them.
Thanks very much for your note, Tiffany.