In his book, Out of the Doghouse, Dr. Rob Weiss lists seven common behaviors cheaters engage in after their infidelity is uncovered that make the situation worse rather than better. One of these is that you should not continue to lie and keep secrets about your behavior.
Continuing to be dishonest with your betrayed partner relates to much more than infidelity. It also involves a pattern of lies, cover-ups, partial admissions, and outright secrets about both past and current behavior of all types, including behavior not related to sex or romance. Aside from continuing the infidelity itself, ongoing lies, partial truths, and secrets are the easiest (and most potent) ways to derail the process of saving your relationship.
A lot of the time, both outright lies and lies of omission occur because you don’t want to hurt your spouse anymore, and you think that what your partner doesn’t know can’t hurt. So you say that your cheating occurred only once, or that you almost cheated but didn’t, or that it didn’t mean anything. Later, when caught red-handed in a deception, you admit to that specific incident and that one only. Regarding everything else, you continue to deny, deny, and deny.
Essentially, you cling to the belief that you needn’t fully disclose your past behavior and you ‘deserve some privacy’ in the present. The problem with this is that it fails to incorporate your partner’s point of view: he or she may need to know the full truth about your past infidelity, and full transparency about your actions in the current moment. Without these concessions, your partner may not be able to heal, and trust will not be restored. Of course, neither of you wants to experience the pain that comes with full disclosure and ongoing transparency, but your relationship is likely to be doomed without those things.
That said, cheaters sometimes make the mistake of fully disclosing everything they’ve done too soon. Occasionally this is because their partner has demanded to know it all, and to know it now. Other times, cheaters are thinking more about themselves than their partner, wanting to get things off their chest and clear their conscience. Either way, making a full disclosure without the assistance of an experienced and knowledgeable therapist, preferably a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist or a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, is not recommended. In fact, unsupervised disclosure could easily lead to the end of your relationship.
The disclosure process, as overseen by properly trained therapists, is actually somewhat lengthy and complicated, with, over the course of several therapy sessions, the betrayed partner asking questions, the cheating partner answering those questions and providing any other pertinent information, the betrayed partner responding, and the cheating partner moving toward amends and rebuilding trust. Again, this process should not be undertaken without therapeutic guidance.
Betrayed partners, however, generally want the truth and they want it now. Rather than dumping things out without support, cheaters should say, “I promise that I will tell you everything that you want to know so you will know the full truth and can move forward based on that truth. I simply ask that we wait until we have proper therapeutic support before I do that. Usually, when a betrayed partner knows that he or she will hear the full truth at some point, he or she will be patient (within reason).
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If you or someone you care about is struggling with sex, porn, or substance/sex addiction, help is available. Seeking Integrity offers inpatient treatment for sex, porn, and substance/sex addicts, as well as low-cost online workgroups. At the same time, SexandRelationshipHealing.com offers a variety of free webinars and drop-in discussion groups, podcasts, and more.