The post You Can’t Handle the Truth dealt with the issue of a cheater lying to the faithful partner to either preserve the relationship, minimize certain aspects of the affair, or to protect the faithful partner from pain. The ‘affair-denial lie’ is so commonplace that it seems almost too obvious to list.
Affair-concealing lies eventually wear thin, or become clumsy or outrageous, and the infidelity is often discovered.
Many cheaters are horrified by the threat this poses to their primary relationship and scramble to end their affair, promising to do everything that it takes to preserve and repair the marriage/relationship.
The Trickle-Truth in Affairs & Infidelity
You might, quite reasonably, expect that someone who ends an affair and wants to recommit to their partner and family would understand that in the climate of lies that they have created, more lies would be a Really Bad Idea. Incredibly, in the panic to try to protect what is left of the relationship, it is commonplace for the lies to just keep on flowing.
Anything is better than lies and deceit!
~Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Often these post-affair lies are about minimizing the nature of the affair relationship – whether it was sexual, how and where they met, the degree of romantic involvement, the financial spend, who else knew etc etc. The oft-protested rationale of the former cheater is that they lie to protect their partner from further pain, after all the hurt they’ve already inflicted.
And so the dance begins. The former cheater withholds ‘damaging’ information and presents a façade of truth while the faithful partner whittles away at the story. The betrayed partner begins to find that the details don’t corroborate, or their recollection is different to the new truth being presented to them, or they discover some tangible piece of evidence (emails, Facebook contact, strange earring in the bed…) that clearly unearths another lie.
If an offense come out of the truth, better is it that the offense come than that the truth be concealed.
~ Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles
The former cheater is challenged with this conflicting information, and in response they release a little more of the real truth, under the guise of, “I didn’t want to hurt you more than I have, no more lies, I promise.” (Yes, I know we’ve heard that one already - please don’t blame me for their lack of originality!)
Driven by a need to piece together and process the real history of their lives during their partner’s affair, the betrayed partner examines, re-examines and dissects every word, and lo and behold, yet more ‘truth’ comes oozing out, like rancid pus from a squeezed zit.
Pain of Discovery: The Re-Run
I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.
The cheater not disclosing the whole truth when the betrayed partner agrees to consider reconciliation is, quite frankly, abominably stupid. Any sense of goodwill or credibility evaporates with every revealed lie, and when the betrayed spouse discovers that the lies keep dribbling in, they question everything all over again.
Every discovery of every lie is replaying the emotional turmoil of when the affair was first discovered. It’s a repeat assault on their sense of safety, emotional well-being and self-esteem, but this time there is an added punch to the gut as they chastise themselves for being so stupid for believing the cheater at all.
How can the betrayed partner believe that the affair is over, or that their partner genuinely wants them and the marriage/relationship, in the face of continual lies? The betrayed partner rightly questions if there could be any potential to genuinely rebuild a trusting and honest relationship. They see that the foundations of any reconciliation are being built on more lies by the cheater, and their sense of betrayal and manipulation is compounded.
Advice to the Cheater: The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing but The Truth
Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
Yes, the truth can hurt, but that should not be a reason to withhold it. In disclosing the truth, it’s not necessary to immediately off-load every nuance and gory detail. Instead, a factual and honest representation of the true nature and depth of the affair, without hyperbole or lurid commentary, delivered in as compassionate a manner as possible, is the first step.
It’s important that you (the cheater) respond honestly and without being defensive, angry, or secretive to any questions the faithful partner may have. Further lies at this point set the stage for a complete and irrevocable disintegration of the relationship.
Dressing up the truth a little may seem harmless, or even protective, but in reality it is nothing more than attempt to control, manipulate, and minimize. For the faithful partner, that constitutes more harm and further dishonesty.
It might be tempting to interpret articles such as this as advice to ‘rip the band-aid off quickly’. On the contrary. It’s important to be clear and concise about the summary of the affair, but the pace for further information and details should be set by the faithful partner. Don’t over-share unless asked to, but don’t withhold salient and consequential information.
Not everyone wants to hear the details, and disclosing the affair is not a free license for you (the cheater) to purge your own guilt and pent up feelings for your own relief. Off-loading information that the faithful partner hasn’t requested might relieve some of the burden from you, but disclosure is not an exercise in soul-cleansing confession. Disclose the truth with integrity, but shoulder the weight of your own burden.
Provide support, compassion, and kindness to your partner, whether you choose to stay together or not. Respect them enough to give them all the necessary information they need to make an informed choice about their own life. After all, you felt entitled to make your own choices when you started an affair.