You don’t have to be a psychologist to understand that infidelity is severely damaging to relationships and families, and you certainly don’t need to apply much thought to understand that part of that damage is inflicted by the lies told by the cheater while they snake around in pursuit of their affair.
Lies are lies, yes, but let’s be clear: the blatant lies are not the only deceit.
Deception during an affair can take many forms, including:
- pretense of normality at home with the family
- financial infidelity as funds are diverted to the affair
- health risks that are introduced to the faithful spouse
- minimizing the sexual and/or emotional nature of an affair
- the cheater’s dialog with the affair partner as they employ clichés like, “I am leaving my spouse, I just need some time.”
- moral licensing, where the affair is held up as being somehow good for the marriage or primary partner
- justification and rationalization for why the affair was the spouse’s fault
- rewriting history
The list goes on and on.
The Protection Defense
Perhaps one of the biggest lies told during and after an affair is one that the cheater tells themselves and others: “I am not telling my partner about this affair, to protect them from being hurt“.
The Protection Defense goes hand-in-hand with what the infidelity community delicately terms, the ‘Trickle-Truth’. It’s worth noting how that euphemism for continuing to lie one’s proverbial ass off (a euphemism endorsed and promulgated by the pro-reconciliation community), focuses hopefully on the ‘truth‘ aspect of the Trickle-Truth and makes no reference whatsoever to what it is really describing: Lies, Lies, and More Damn Lies. Unfortunately, it’s a terribly attractive and convenient bait-and-switch that is eagerly seized upon by both cheaters and faithful partners alike, and employed to normalize and make acceptable the cheater’s continued manipulation and deceit. Spoiler Alert: It’s not normal, and it’s not acceptable.
If, though, we attempt to take the Protection Defense at face value (albeit with some kicking and screaming in objection!), what the Protection Defense says is still ugly in its own right: This lie presupposes that the faithful partner is incapable of dealing with any significant issues that face the relationship. This is entirely demeaning, even if it is dressed up as some form of protection from pain.
The further injustice of this ‘protection’ is that it exposes the faithful partner to even greater damage caused by the emotional onslaught resulting from spouse/partner’s affair.
For the record, while many (the faithful partner, cheater, and affair partner included) focus on the pain caused by rejection, that is not the source of the real and consequential damage.
It’s about being materially harmed and compromised by the disrespect, manipulation, and deceit from someone you trust, and it is that which causes such trauma and long-term damage to someone’s psyche, not the matter of simply being rejected by Mr or Ms Marvelous.
You Can’t Handle the Truth
The cheater makes a series of unilateral decisions to cheat, and then follows it up by making a series of unilateral judgements about what the faithful spouse should or should not know. The cheater retains power and control by containing, manipulating, or entirely preventing the flow of salient information to the spouse.
Even if we take the Protection Defense at face value (and it pains me to even pretend to do so), it’s reasonable to conclude that the cheater has judged the faithful partner as lacking the strength, fortitude, and resilience needed to handle the truth.
Would you like some insult with that infidelity injury you’ve been handed? Some salt for that wound? Because, frankly, the cheater offering that arrogant and self-serving, ‘I know what’s best for you’ bunkum is incredibly patronizing, insulting, demeaning, and dismissive. It conjures up a vision of Jack Nicholson snarling, “You can’t handle the truth!”, and I balk at the implication that someone believes that they, and not you, have the monopoly on knowing what you can or cannot handle. Really? Please. Spare me. You want to know what a faithful spouse can handle? See how many of them are standing, making it, and kicking ass after infidelity, without a delicately lacy handkerchief and some smelling salts in sight. Can’t handle it? Pfft.
I see no moral distinction between a cheater lying about an affair to hornswoggle their spouse into living a false reality, and slipping someone a roofie. In both situations it denies someone the ability to make their own informed choices.
Infidelity diminishes. It removes the faithful spouse’s prerogative to be informed of, consent to, or veto, changes in their relationship. It abstracts their part in their partner’s life, and it jettisons their understanding of what their partnership represented.
It’s neither too complicated nor too onerous to at least respect your spouse’s freedom and ability to make their own choice based in reality, instead of robbing them of it by your omissions, minimizations, or outright lies.
The Protection Defense and Reconciliation
With that icy splash of reality to the face, the faithful spouse must surely then question how that mindset in their cheater will affect any chance of successful reconciliation. It’s reasonable and accurate to conclude that a cheater is willing to evade personal discomfort and disadvantage by unethical means, even if those means cause harm to the faithful spouse. They did it to get the affair they wanted, and they will do it to get the reconciliation they want too – the Protection Defense in reconciliation is evidence of that, straight out of the gates.
This is a mindset that doesn’t vanish with a cheater’s re-commitment to the marriage. It isn’t resolved, cured, or addressed by talk therapy in marital counseling. It also isn’t a mindset that only manifests when the cheater is actively in an affair.
That mindset -unless changed by the cheater and because of the cheater- will continue to permeate how they navigate life in general. And if that life includes reconciliation? You might want to start checking your drinks for roofies.