Has our whole relationship been a lie? Did he ever tell me the truth? Who else has she slept with? Was this really the only affair? What other kinds of horrible atrocities has my spouse committed?
These are some of the questions that torment a person injured by an affair.
If you’re the injured person, you are already well acquainted with questions like these. They may plague you day and night now that you have learned about the affair, making you suffer in ways you never imagined you could.
If you’re the cheater, you may not realize just how much was lost when you had the affair. But let me tell you, your spouse’s trust in you was shattered.
Here is how one client described the pain and dismay her husband’s affair caused:
“I remember when he first admitted the affair. I will never be able to forget it. It was like the floor dropped out from underneath me and I was floating, spinning in midair. I felt like I couldn’t keep my balance. My head hurt and I got sick to my stomach.
Everything he had ever said or done seemed like a lie. That year when he gave me the diamond bracelet for Christmas and told me I was the only woman in the world, did he mean it? Or was he just trying to appease me because he was sleeping with someone else? When we got married and he said ‘I love you more than anyone on Earth’ was it a lie?
I wondered how many other skeletons he had kept trapped in the closet. I wondered if he had ever told me the truth. I wondered if he had ever said a heartfelt thing in his life. And the wondering tormented me as much as the knowledge that he had slept with another woman.”
Can you imagine what this would feel like?
Of course, some of you, unfortunately, don’t have to. You know all too well .
But if you’re the cheater, take a moment to imagine what it would be like if one day you woke up and realized you didn’t even know who your spouse was. Imagine how it would feel to be haunted with questions like the ones above day in and day out for months, maybe even years at a time. Imagine what it might be like to wonder whether or not everything your spouse ever said to you was a lie.
If you can imagine that, you may begin to get a sense for what your injured spouse feels right now.
Coming to terms with this pain, and understanding that you, the cheater, were the one who caused it is a vital step you must take if you want to heal.
But that isn’t what this article is about.
This article is about overcoming the horrible sense of mistrust and wonder described above.
And the key to doing that is transparency.
I have to tell you, the burden of becoming fully transparent lies on the cheater. If you’re the cheater, I am addressing you in this article.
Everything you do and say that violates transparency reduces the chances your relationship will survive.
Being transparent takes courage. It requires the bravery of a warrior. You may have grown up thinking that what you do is nobody’s business, and now that you’re married, not even your spouse’s. You’ll have to set aside that childish thinking, and if you can manage being transparent, it may just save your marriage.
The following is the fourth building block to a transparent relationship, and it will help you heal your marriage in ways few other techniques can.
Of course, I encourage the injured person to use this plan, too. You as the cheater, though, have your marriage at stake. It is particularly important for you to maintain this no-lies policy.
Transparency Building Block #4: Developing a No-Lies Policy
If you love your spouse the way you purport to, then you would never ask him or her to suffer daily with the feeling that potentially everything you have done and said within your marriage may have been a lie.
Cheating on your spouse encourages mistrust and a re-coloring of your entire history together. Your spouse will question everything about your integrity, even back to your wedding day and before.
You need to take action if you have any chance to repair this breech of commitment.
I outline all the steps to accomplishing this in my book How to Survive an Affair. But in this email I want to teach you two of the most important steps as one concept: Developing a No-Lies Policy.
The first step is to “Flush the Toilet.” I’ll tell you more about what that means in a minute.
The second is to take a vow within yourself that you will never lie to your spouse again.
You don’t have to make a big scene out of this. You don’t have to walk in with a dramatic flourish and say, “I will NEVER lie to you again.” (Which will probably only make her suspicious anyway.)
Instead you simply make a promise inside your heart and mind that you will never tell another lie-not a “little white lie,” not a minor prevarication. Nothing. No lies. That’s the deal you make with yourself.
Ultimately this has the power to help you restore trust in your marriage like little else can.
Think about how your spouse would react if you started telling the absolute truth from this moment forward. Imagine what a relief it would be to both of you if you never had to bother with another lie.
Stop lying and begin telling the truth, the whole and complete truth, and nothing but the truth. That’s the policy.
But to make this technique truly powerful you need to properly set the stage. This is where “Flushing the Toilet” comes into the picture.
And this is the part where you need to be particularly brave.
Flush the Toilet
When you “Flush the Toilet” you sit down with your spouse and tell him or her every single bad thing you have ever done.
And when I say tell your spouse all the bad you have ever done, that is exactly what I mean. Sit down and tell your spouse every sin, crime, or foible you have ever committed.
If there are other affairs or almost-affairs he or she doesn’t know about, get them out in the open.
If there is information you know is going to make him or her angry, tell it anyway.
If you have repeatedly lied about things you don’t want to admit to, own up to them and admit them nonetheless.
I mean you sit down and spill the beans. You take every skeleton out of the closet and you parade it around the room for your spouse to see.
That boy you bullied in seventh grade-tell her about it.
The college entrance exam you cheated on-tell her about it.
That time you lied to your ex-girlfriend and said you were going out with the guys when you actually went to meet another girl-tell her about it.
Is this going to be hard to do? Yes.
Is it possible your spouse will be outraged? Yes.
In fact, it’s even possible this could end your marriage.
But the reality is that if you’re reading this article you’re pretty close to the end of your marriage anyway. You might as well open up to your spouse and let him or her make a judgment about you and your marriage with all the bruises and flaws on display.
You do this in an effort to show your spouse that you are making a major and significant change to be forthright and your deepest intention is to be completely honest and heal your marriage. It’s not some evil, masochistic game. It’s done to wipe the slate clean so that going forward he or she knows what the truth is and knows what the lies are.
At the very least it puts an end to that awful worry and wonder described above.
You should know that some therapists don’t agree with this approach. They think admitting to as yet undivulged affairs transfers the pain of guilt from the cheater to the pain of betrayal for the injured.
I disagree. I don’t think you can honestly move forward without getting these issues out in the open. More to the point, you would want to know if the tables were turned, wouldn’t you? If your spouse cheated on you, you would want to know about it so you could make a fully informed decision about your marriage.
You owe your spouse the same respect.
In all honesty it probably isn’t necessary to tell about the boy you bullied in the seventh grade, but you’re going to tell all of this other horrible stuff, so what do you have to lose?
You might as well just come clean and get it ALL out in the open. Then you can both move forward after a deep breath of fresh, clean air. No more secrets to hide.
Having said that, there are some important things to keep in mind:
1. Expect this to happen over time-not all at one sitting. There may be a lot to flush; some things will come to you at a later time as your memories clear up from the fog of being covered for so many years.
2. When you discuss the affair or affairs, let the injured person be in control of the flow of information. (This is absolutely critical and I describe it in detail in my special report How to Rebuild Honesty.)
3. Retain a spirit of openness and caring. Don’t let this devolve into a mechanism for making your spouse feel pain. This is about healing your marriage, not destroying it.
I discuss this approach as well as other building blocks to a transparent relationship in How to Survive an Affair and How to Rebuild Honesty. To do this most effectively, I highly recommend you study those programs for a fuller account.
How to Rebuild the Honesty (http://www.rebuildthehonesty.com/?i=1698)
How to Survive An Affair (http://www.howtosurvivetheaffair.com/h/1699)
Then you can “flush the toilet” and commit to never telling another lie again.
There is a real risk of divorce involved-of course you already risked that when you had the affair. However, continuing through with this plan is one of the few ways to really capture your spouse’s attention to show that you are really serious about changing yourself and repairing your relationship, even though it will be difficult at first.
In the meantime, let me know how it goes with you. I’d love to hear about your marriage.
As an injured person, what sort of fears and worries do you suffer with day-in and day-out?
As a cheater, have you tried to come clean with your spouse? What was the outcome?
What would it make you feel like if your spouse finally opened up and confessed to all the bad things he or she had ever done?
Would it give you a path forward in your marriage? Do you think it would end your marriage?
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Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,