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Don't Trust Your Husband

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A wife suspects her husband is out to get her. She could be correct or it could be her imagination.

This trope has been Nuked
Proposed By:
keithwysocki on Jan 2nd 2018 at 8:06:57 AM
Last Edited By:
Arivne on Feb 2nd 2018 at 6:26:52 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

They seem like a happy couple with the perfect marriage, but the wife or the audience begins to suspect that the (usually older) husband is up to no good. Is the husband harboring a dark secret? Is he trying to kill her?

This trope was used a lot in the 1940s when the men were off at war and the "women's picture" was in its heyday. While it started as a noir/thriller trope, variations can be seen in horror and other genres.

Comes in two varieties:

  1. Wife Was Right. The husband was out to get her (for her money, so he could marry another woman, etc.) (Examples: Gaslight, Notorious, The Stranger, Dial M For Murder, What Lies Beneath).
  2. Wife Was Wrong. The husband isn't trying to hurt the wife and there is an explanation for his strange, seemingly menacing behavior. In this scenario, the wife is often a Hysterical Woman. (Examples: Rebecca, Suspicion - a controversial one since some drafts of the script have Cary Grant actually being a villain).


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  • Notorious: Alicia almost finds out too late that Sebastian and his mother are poisoning her. Should be more careful if you marry a Nazi fugitive.
  • Rebecca: Mrs. DeWinter suspects that Maxim doesn't love her and wishes she were more like Rebecca. Turns out he is harboring a secret, but it's actually that he hated Rebecca and is worried he will get blamed for her murder.
  • The Stranger: Mary knows Rankin/Kindler killed someone but she is slow to believe that he could devise the idea of genocide. As it turns out he will stop at nothing to cover up his past and tries multiple times to kill her.
  • Suspicion: Lina suspects Johnny may have killed Beaky and is poisoning her, but he claims he was actually planning on poisoning himself.
  • What Lies Beneath: Turns out Claire was right to suspect Norman was up to no good. He killed a girl he had an affair with and tries to kill Claire when she finds out.

Feedback: 19 replies

Jan 2nd 2018 at 2:26:02 PM

I don't think it's the same as Spys Suspicious Spouse because while the husband could be involved in espionage, the main point is that he is a danger to the wife, not that he is a spy. Also, the wife's suspicion in the examples given is not that he is cheating.

Jan 2nd 2018 at 5:47:46 PM

A played for laughs example occurs in an early episode of I Love Lucy. Thanks to some inconvenient eavesdropping and a few other "clues", Lucy thinks Ricky plans to murder and replace her. Of course, Ricky has no intention of doing any such thing, and is completely confused as to where she got the idea.

Jan 3rd 2018 at 2:30:03 AM

  • Changed Type numbers to descriptive names as per Type Labels Are Not Examples.
  • Corrected punctuation (added periods at the ends of sentences).
  • Examples section
    • Added a line separating the Description and Examples section.
    • Changed unnecessary double curly braces to Camel Case.

Jan 3rd 2018 at 11:44:17 AM

What about stories where the husband genuinely has a dark secret, but the wife doesn't suspect a thing until the very end? For example: In The Screaming Skull, Eric marries Jenni, who has obvious psychological issues, then uses gruesome stories and prop skulls to gaslight her—all so he can murder her for money and make it look like suicide. Jenni never suspects a thing, until the intervention of the actual vengeful ghost of Eric's prior victim.

Also, if we expand this to include boyfriends rather than just husbands, then The Girl On The Train would also be an example.

Jan 3rd 2018 at 2:10:00 PM

Also, technically, who says this has to be entirely a male abuser and a female victim? That will probably be more common, given that people are likelier to see the man as the aggressor, but if there are any female abuser, male victim examples, why shouldn't they be allowed to be added?

Jan 3rd 2018 at 4:51:22 PM

I think The Screaming Skull would count. She may not suspect the husband, but he is not to be trusted. Perhaps the description should change to having a husband who is out to get the wife, and rather than there being two varieties, the examples like Rebecca and Suspicion are actually subversions?

Jan 3rd 2018 at 4:52:03 PM

I also think the gender roles could be reversed - maybe that's a way of playing with this trope since it is a rarer power dynamic.

Jan 3rd 2018 at 5:12:18 PM

Film—Live Action

  • The Astronauts Wife: The titular astronaut's wife suspects something is very off with her husband after he returns from space. She was right: he's possessed by an alien.

Jan 9th 2018 at 4:24:40 PM

Italicized work names.

BTW, is it usual to have examples of specific works using variations of the trope in the main article? Should they go in the examples section instead?

Jan 10th 2018 at 6:01:41 AM

  • Examples section

Jan 10th 2018 at 11:03:09 PM


  • The Kate Bush song "Babooshka" tells the story of a woman who is convinced that her husband would cheat on her if he was given the opportunity, and goes about proving this theory by sending him letters under a pseudonym.

Jan 11th 2018 at 8:25:09 AM

I thought this trope was about the woman suspecting potential violence, not potential cheating.

Feb 1st 2018 at 4:52:22 PM

Also, I suspect the trope title will fall afoul of the No New Stock Phrases rule.

Feb 1st 2018 at 9:05:32 PM

Several Agatha Christie stories feature this dynamic, with the wife usually some kind of Asshole Victim and Annoying Patient. In some cases, she was right (her husband was poisoning her coffee to leave her for his secretary but was persuaded to knock it off), other times she was wrong about the poisoner's identity (her niece's boyfriend with whom she was having an affair, the nurse taking care of her who hoped the husband would marry her after the wife's death).

Feb 2nd 2018 at 4:34:34 AM

Needs a better name.

  • Orphan Black: After the clones realize that there are monitors planted in their personal lives to keep track of them, Alison increasingly suspects that her husband is hers, and starts thinking that he's out to get her. It's played with, however — he didn't know she was a clone and thought he was monitoring her for a social experiment; their marriage actually takes a turn for the better after he's let in on the clone conspiracy.

Feb 2nd 2018 at 6:26:52 AM

Doesn't Trust Her Husband?