Forgiven wife had a great article talking about the time it takes to change, and the time it takes a spouse to believe change is real and respond with his or her own changes. In talking about her sexual change, going from a sexual gatekeeper to a willing wife, she said:
“It took my husband a long time to see that things were changing. It took a year for him to believe that the changes were real. My journey meant that I was changing behavior that had become deeply ingrained in me—while my husband continued in the patterns that had developed in response to my refusal and gate-keeping.”
I get this – when Lori made a huge change sexually it took about a year for me to 100% believe it was not a temporary thing. Likewise, it took her a long time when I made some significant changes to things that had hurt her for a long time. It’s all well and good to talk about assuming love and giving the benefit of the doubt, but with years of negative history built up, actually doing those things is impossible. You try, and on occasion you do it, but the fear remains. Any hint of the old behaviour in your spouse causes you to feel what you used to feel, which makes you want to act as you used to act.
You can learn two things from this:
If you are/have changed: It is going to take a long time for her to fully, 100% know you have changed and won’t change back. This is not a lack of believing you, but rather a part of human nature that is very difficult to fight. Don’t take it personally, don’t confront her about it, and don’t give up. Keep going, keep growing and doing what you should, and wait for her to catch up.
If she is/has changed: Not being able to fully accept her change is beyond your control. However, you can work to control what you do and say. I’m not saying lie, but do all you can to act as if her change is real and permanent. When you fail to do that, be honest with her that you’re having trouble dealing with your fear things might go back to how they were before. Tell her you are trying, and ask her to be patient with you. Also, make a point of remarking on the changes, and letting her know how much you appreciate them.