Question: I found out today that my husband is still in contact with a woman he had an affair with. He says that he didn’t just tell me the truth, because he was afraid of how I would react. I don’t understand this, considering I had the evidence that said otherwise to his story of “no contact.”
We are supposed to be working things out, and I want to be forgiving and trusting? How can I be a forgiving, trusting woman if my husband won’t be honest with me, and insists on lying? I’m thinking with the way things are going, we should be getting some outside help. The truth is I don’t trust him. He’s continually giving me reasons not to.
Any suggestions / advice?
Answer: Sadly your husband’s behavior is very typical and it doesn’t necessarily mean he is a bad person or that there isn’t any hope for your marriage. There is an unwritten rule among cheaters: “If caught deny it at all costs.”
Brian also did this in some instances, not tell me the whole truth to lesson the blow. At the time he felt it was to save me pain, in reality, later, he had to admit the real person he was trying to save was himself. The problem is later when it comes out it hurts far more than if he’d just told the truth the first time.
When coaching couples who are healing their marriage after an affair, Brian is very careful and thorough in how he explains to the unfaithful spouse the importance of coming totally clean and not attempting to “lessen” the blow by withholding the truth. This only makes matters worse and more painful for everybody in the end. Trust is restored to a marriage through proven behavior and truthfulness over a period of time. Your husband needs to understand this.
The #1 step to saving a marriage after an affair is: breaking all ties with the 3rd party as our book clearly outlines, and in some cases it may be necessary to deliver an ultimatum. (A word of caution here: It is wise to seek counsel before delivering an ultimatum. Timing and “how” it is delivered are important.)
I find people tend to read my book very quickly the first time and so miss many lessons. It’s not a bad idea (and many people do) to read it a second time slowly (now that you know what happens next) and highlight and underline things that you relate to, lessons you see, or things you’d like to discuss with your spouse.
In many cases it’s necessary to deliver an ultimatum such as the one I delivered to Brian on pages 190 – 193 of “My Husband’s Affair …” At this point Brian had already recommitted himself to the marriage, but informed me he was going to be “just friends” with the other woman. There is no such thing. For several reasons, it’s usually difficult for the unfaithful person to make this clean break:
1. As hard as it is to face, the truth in many cases is the unfaithful spouse has developed genuine feelings for the other person.
2. In most cases the unfaithful person is gaining something from the affair that is pleasant or meeting a need, and they often feel reluctant to give up this “good feeling” even though deep down they know their marriage is what they really want. As my own husband Brian describes it:
“I was looking for a way out of this affair. Deep inside I knew I loved Anne and I did not want to leave her. I had hoped that Dave would listen to how I was feeling and the things that I was hurting about. I wanted him to understand the fear I had about hurting Helen. I didn’t really want to spend my life with her, but wanted in my marriage some of that fun we had been sharing.” – Page 44-45, “My Husband’s Affair …”
(Since Brian did make that decision to work on our marriage, we have been able to really listen to each other, and generate more fun and excitement in our marriage than Brian ever had in the affair … and that fun comes without hurting people and all the other painful costs of an affair.)
3. The unfaithful spouse doesn’t want to be perceived as a bad guy in their affair partners’ eyes, which unfortunately is pretty much unavoidable. They have without realizing it created a situation where it’s inevitable that people they care about get hurt.
How can I be a forgiving, trusting woman, if my husband won’t be honest with me, and insists on lying?
Being a forgiving person does not mean you become a doormat and allow people to mistreat you. Forgiveness is not condoning wrongful behavior by continuing to live with it. We can forgive a spouse, but still make a decision to leave a marriage, because the other party is unwilling to change their behavior. Forgiveness and reconciliation are two completely different things. Don’t confuse them.
Also I recommend reading the book “Boundaries” by Dr. Cloud & Dr. Townsend.
The reason I gave my book the title I did is not so much because we healed our marriage, it has more to do with the stronger, happier person I became. This is what I recommend for others as well. We do not have a choice over what happens to us, but no one can ever take away our right to CHOOSE how we will react to the wrong doings of others. Will we choose to become bitter or better?
I chose to work on growing and becoming a stronger, more emotionally healthy person. A person does this by learning.
Knowledge is empowerment, and you will do everyone around you a favor as you learn how to be a better person. I’m not saying you are doing (or have done) anything wrong, that you now find yourself in this painful place of facing your spouse’s affair. Affairs happen to good people in good marriages too.
When we focus on the change others should make we are always disappointed. We should focus on the part we can control, the part we can change and that part is ourselves. As we change for the better, those around us are faced with new choices. They either change for the better as well, or find themselves left behind as we move on to a brighter future without them. The best hope for your marriage is YOU becoming a better person. One of the best ways to do this is through reading.
They say “The difference between the person you are today, and the person you will be five years from now depends strictly on the books you read and the people you choose to associate with.”
The same principles apply to trusting. Trusting means you trust where it is appropriate to do so, it doesn’t mean you keep believing someone’s repeated lies when they aren’t making any changes. Trusting doesn’t equal being stupid. Trusting doesn’t mean you become naive or blinded to reality. Some people can’t be trusted. Trusting people don’t trust untrustworthy people. They learn to discern the difference. When a person has had an affair, they have broken our trust and that is a serious offense. Trust has to be restored through:
1. Breaking all ties with the third party.
2. Total openness and honesty. (Therefore more lies will be a major setback.) Your husband needs to understand if he is to stand a chance of staying with you he cannot afford anymore lying. He also needs to understand that telling the truth is not merely giving truthful answers when asked, it also means disclosing relevant information, even if you aren’t asked. In other words, if he has contact with the other woman that’s relevant and he must tell you regardless of whether you happen to ask that question that day or not. If he doesn’t tell, he is lying.
3. Proven behavior. Always believe the behavior and not the words. Words are somewhat meaningless after an affair. Prove it by your behavior.
4. Durability. Practicing the above for an ongoing period of time will rebuild trust.
If you do not see the above happening you should not trust your husband. That would be foolishness. There is a big difference between being a trusting person and being foolish. Should I give a known thief my pin number? Does it mean I’m not a trusting person if I don’t? No, it just means I’m also wise. An untrusting person is one who is suspicious when there is no cause to be so.
It is a good idea to seek outside help when healing your marriage from an affair, whether from a trained counselor or a seminar focused on healing a marriage after an affair.
©Copyright 2013 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.
For information about confidential coaching with Brian or Anne click here.
If you would like to share a success story, helpful insight or comment on this article we welcome your remarks. Email your questions or comments to Brian and/or Anne firstname.lastname@example.org .
(Due to the large volume of emails we receive, we cannot answer all emails, but we care about every person who contacts us and will do our best to respond personally to you.)