More Honestly Known as the Tide of Lies

The post The Protection Defense discussed the issue of a cheater lying to the faithful partner to either preserve the relationship, minimize certain aspects of the affair (or to deny it entirely), or -as is often claimed- to ‘protect’ the faithful partner from further pain.

It shouldn’t be surprising that cheaters lie to serve their own ends, and infidelity boards have adopted a term for a cheater’s failure to disclose the truth - Trickle-Truth.

The term “Trickle-Truth” isn’t entirely honest, though, so let’s not dress this manipulative strategy up into something that sounds more palatable than the truth. Let’s spell it out:

Trickle-Truth is a euphemism for Continued Lying.

The infidelity community’s acceptance of this euphemism and the continued deceitful conduct it palliates, serves to normalize the behavior. That expectation of continued deceit as a normal and acceptable part of reconciliation is, unfortunately, a significant factor contributing to reconciliation’s widespread failure and the continued mistreatment and manipulation of the faithful partner.

Let’s be incredibly clear: “Trickle-Truth” means that the cheater is continuing to lie and continuing to behave in damaging, disrespectful, and self-serving ways. Reconciling with someone who is continuing such active and egregious conduct is damaging to both the faithful partner and any chance of a successful post-affair relationship.

The Cheater’s “Trickle-Truth” M.O.

Affair-concealing lies eventually wear thin, or become clumsy or outrageous, but the infidelity is usually discovered. 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.

Many cheaters are bizarrely horrified by the threats their affair and their lies pose to their primary relationship, and scramble to end their affair, promising to do everything that it takes to preserve and repair the marriage/relationship. In truth, their real intent is to protect themselves and/or what is left of their marriage, and they achieve that by manipulating and controlling the flow of information i.e. they continue to lie.

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 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 cheater withholds ‘damaging’ information and presents a façade of truth while the faithful partner whittles away at the story. The faithful 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 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 faithful 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.

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The cheater not disclosing the whole truth when the faithful partner agrees to consider reconciliation is, quite frankly, abominably stupid and heinously manipulative. Any sense of goodwill or credibility evaporates with every revealed lie, and when the faithful 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 faithful partner believe that the affair is over, or that the cheater genuinely wants them and the marriage/relationship, in the face of continual lies? The faithful spouse 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.

Affair Help & Infidelity: Ripping Off The BandaidIt 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.

“Trickle-Truth” and Reconciliation

Continued lying is common in cheaters: visit many infidelity support sites and you will see legions of betrayed partners dealing with the fallout of continued betrayal, deceit, and abuse for years after apparently “reconciling” with an unchanged cheater, because some infidelity communities tell them it is to be expected.

It’s reasonable and appropriate to instead expect complete honesty in order for you to remain in the relationship. Just because cheaters often continue to lie doesn’t mean it should be tolerated or excused.

The real issue in accepting “Trickle-Truth” as part of the ‘process’ of reconciliation is that you are ostensibly ‘reconciling’ with someone who is displaying the same behavior and thinking from which they cheated.

If you are:

  • taking a stand against the cheater’s lack of integrity
  • taking a stand against their conscious decision to deceive and lie to you
  • refusing to accept their lack of value of you and your wellbeing, and
  • refusing to accept them trying to dodge the consequences of their conduct,

then you cannot reasonably accept their continued deceit and their continued manipulation of you.

If your cheater is continuing to play you with their lies, it’s time to decide if you want to continue to tie yourself to someone willing to mistreat you for their own gain in the the face of your devastation about their affair, or if you will instead take action to protect yourself against your mistreatment.

I strenuously advise that you protect yourself by removing yourself (even temporarily) from their continuing cheater-think and cheater-conduct. A temporary pause on ‘reconciling’ with an actively lying cheater doesn’t stop them from actually doing the work necessary to change their thinking and work to improve their character. If they are committed to the kind of change that will make them a good candidate as a partner for you, they will do the work for themselves.  They are then free to approach you to see if you’re interested in a relationship with the new them.

Don’t accept someone lying to you as “normal” or acceptable, no matter how much you are encouraged to do so by therapists or reconciliation apologists - it’s neither.

Reconciling with someone who is still lying to protect themselves sends a message that you accept this as the foundation of your relationship. If that is the foundation you accept, you cannot be surprised or object when the whole house of cards comes crashing around your head.

You may also like:

  • Transparency After the Affair

  • Remorse Carrots & Reconciliation

  • Minimization as Manipulation

  • The Halo and Horns Effect

  • The Mistake Defense
  • Don't Pet the Snakes
    Don’t Pet the Snakes: Dealing With Cheaters


“I'm not a teacher, only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead - ahead of myself as well as you.” ~ George Bernard Shaw


  1. What do you have to say about a situation where the trickles have now ended and there are no more secrets or lies left yet the cheated spouse doesn’t believe it because she has no reason to. This is my situation. I was witholding info in the past but everything is now known to her, and I keep telling her there is nothing more left to hide. She doesnt believe me (and I don’t blame her). Its almost like she’s willing me to reveal more because she doesn’t want her expectation to be wrong. I have told her that I wont make anything up to satisfy her belief that I have more to tell. What do I do?

    • In my view, the first thing you can do is acknowledge to her that you understand that your past actions have become her present measure of your trustworthiness. An expression of understanding, and ownership of the consequences of your choices can be a significant step in the right direction.

      There really isn’t a quick fix to this problem - your abuse of her trust happened over a period of time, and it takes longer to recover trust than it does to break it.

      I would suggest two things that you can do immediately:
      1. Start your own research on how to rebuild trust, and start implementing these things because you want to, because you want her to feel secure and reassured. Be prepared to give up some of your freedoms to achieve this, and don’t use the process as a way to curry favor with her. Do it because you want to rebuild, not because you want her to be grateful or praise you for doing these things. Take ownership of the problems you created, and take the initiative to work towards repairing the damage.

      2. Ask her if there are any aspects of the affair that she feels that she needs more information about. Ask her if she feels you’ve left gaps, and if so, what those gaps are. Give her the opportunity to request specific information that she senses you are withholding.

      I would also encourage you to join our forum and post there too. This is going to be a long-term issue that you will be dealing with - getting support is so important.

      I wish you both the best.

      • Same boat. The truth wasn’t steamy enough to be believable. But add to it questions about what i did 10 years ago, and have no recollection of…I got bit by forgetting a key event, and have even told my wife I might have seen the other woman, but just dont recall doing so. Well then what? i think the betrayed spouse tends to fear the worst, and when they ask for details that are sexual, but dont get them, they assume you are lying. Thats the real problem here isnt it… once you lie, you no longer have any credible voice in what the truth might be. point is, dont lie, about anything, ever.

        • Hi JU

          What you’re describing is pretty common, where the details the cheater discloses are disbelieved - and as you’ve said, understandably so. Gaps in a recounted affair history are easily interpreted as hiding certain information to avoid the potential consequences of complete transparency. One omission, one lie, one backpedal, one minimization, one “I don’t know” is sufficient to seriously erode any progression that has otherwise been made.

          It’s easy to view this as paranoia, an over-reaction, or a form of punishment, and I’ve seen many cheaters do so, throwing their hands up with a resigned, “I can’t tell you what I don’t remember,” or, “You’re never going to let me forget this/let it go/get past it.” Experience confirms that skepticism is warranted - it’s a very rare cheater indeed who does not continue to lie to their spouse after affair discovery or even in ‘reconciliation’.

          You asked, “Then what?” I think it’s worthwhile understanding that where trust has been so egregiously removed, it isn’t restored by then just telling the truth. Reconciliation is about mutual and agreed expectations/standards of behavior. It’s about functioning as a healthy couple, despite the past. It’s about a mutually supportive pursuit of relationship and individual goals. An absence of trust is a lack of confidence in the presence, reliability, and authenticity of the efforts that are required to work through the fallout of an affair.

          Confidence in a cheater is rebuilt by the cheater. The way forward is through the cheater’s conduct and efforts to repair, rebuild, restore, or reinvent. Efforts have to be wide-ranging, consistent, self-motivated, and patient, encompassing all aspects of life. There’s zero point disclosing all the gory details of an affair to rebuild trust, if you’re still embezzling from work, hiding the credit card statements, blaming your affair on your marriage or unmet needs, not doing your fair share of chores or childcare, or going through your faithful spouse’s phone to check what they’re telling people or if they’re having a revenge affair, etc.

          Trust is built holistically. Honesty and ethical, decent treatment of others has to be reliably observable in all aspects of the cheater’s life if your spouse is to have any confidence that it’s not just lip-service.

          “Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.”
          ~John Keats

  2. I have hid and concealed information my spouse considers important to her. I had 2 consecutivew affairs- the first one broke our marriage. but the second one was reinterpreted by me and for several years I maintained it was just an ocassional sexual thing. My wife and I were separated during this second affair, so I rationalized it as: “well, we were separated..” What is damaging to my wife is that I was seeing this other woman while saying I wanted to reconcile. I lied because I wanted to protect myself- under the guise that I wanted to protect her from the details.

    We are back together. In fact, we moved together to another city- away from all the previous reminders, but I kept lying for no apparent reason. It’s been 3 years since I ended the relationship with the other woman and there has been asbsolutely any contact whatsover. But I feel super guilty and embarrassed still. My wife has found out about my precious details- that have become more important because I’ve made them become more important.

    Help! I am done with this behaviour. I love my wife and want to spend my life with her. But I feel I am innadecuate at communicating my wish to rebuild trust..

    • Hi Federico

      Your motivation to change is very encouraging and there is so much involved in change that it couldn’t fit in a comment here - you might like to register with our discussion boards and post there: IHG Support Forum

      The issue of rebuilding trust is difficult. To be honest, your ability to ‘communicate your wish’ to rebuild is always going to be less valuable than your actual actions towards rebuilding it. If you are sincere, honest, and authentic in your approach to how you navigate life and how you conduct yourself in your marriage, that will communicate more to her than words will.

      If you want to explore this further with us, again, please do register with the forum here.

      I wish both you and your wife the best.

  3. I went to prison for 27 months but prior to that I was probably the most horrible partner I used the most lethal of violence towards the mother of my children , mental violence n if I could take anything back it would be every woman I ever slept with behind my ex back n I would of done more for her like dined her spoilt her I know in that time I was away she caught me back but it has only made her mind messed up because of the lies I’m feeling suicidal but know that’s not the way coz my babies need me .

    • David, thank you for taking the time to comment.

      I strongly encourage you to reach out to medical professionals to help you through this difficult emotional time - please do reach out to your doctor, or the emergency services, or any emergency mental health facilities in your local area and ask for some help. Don’t allow thoughts of suicide or self-harm to stew - please do reach out for support and help, and don’t be frightened to call the emergency number in your country if you need immediate help.

      I hope that your experiences and realizations lead you to a path where you can dismantle and examine how you see the world, the manner in which you navigate through it, and your ethical framework, and use that as a foundation for your personal growth and change.

      I wish you well.

  4. Hello,

    I revealed that I had had an affair just over two weeks ago. I gave my partner a full account of what happened, but I left out some major details and some minor ones, I thought to protect her. Now I know I was just doing it to protect myself and that it was the worst thing I could possibly do. I gave her a story that agreed with what I knew my AP had given to her husband as I thought this would be best, big mistake. She worked out I wasn’t being completely honest, and now all is revealed 2 1/2 weeks later. I have now told the complete truth, but now she will not believe anything I say and I have ruined everything. She had pleaded with me to tell her everything but I lied, even not admitting minor things (in comparison) and I don’t know why. I want to rebuild trust, but I fear I have damaged any chance of that. I need some hope I haven’t ruined things completely.

    • Hi Jamie

      1. When you say, “I gave my partner a full account of what happened,” the truth is actually, “I didn’t give my partner a full account of what happened.”

      2. When you say, “I thought to protect her,” the truth is actually, “I was protecting myself.”

      3. When you say, “I thought this would be best,” the truth is actually, “I thought this would be best for me.”

      4. When you say it was a mistake, the truth is actually that you chose it deliberately but it didn’t work the way you wanted.

      5. When you say it was the worst thing you could possibly do, what you really mean is that getting caught worked against you.

      6. When you say you don’t know why you lied, the truth is actually that you know you lied to protect yourself.

      I’m not pointing this out to twist the knife - I am highlighting that you continue to ‘massage the narrative’, i.e. lie, even now. When someone’s default position is to palliate the truth with lies and spin while simultaneously claiming honesty and a wish to built trust, it requires some considerable self-reflection.

      I advise faithful partners against reconciling with someone who continues to exhibit the same thinking and conduct from which their infidelity arose. When a cheater continues to lie or spin the tale in their favor, when their words don’t reflect their actions, and when their focus is on how they can continue to have what they want, that is a cheater who continues to manipulate, deceive, and disrespect their partner. Your comment evidences the same patterns.

      I would advise you to stop focusing on what you can do to change her view of you, or that influence her choices and decisions about you. Those things focus outwardly to her, rather inwardly to you. If you wish to secure healthier, functional, and honest relationships with others, your focus must be on what you can do to change yourself. I suggest you take a time-out from your manipulative and self-serving relationship with her and do a deep-dive honest reckoning of who you are, how you navigate your relationships with others, and the lengths to which you will go to get what you want and avoid the consequences. If who you are today is not working for you or others, you have to do the work if you wish to change. If you’re content with who you are today, understand that your partner isn’t, and she would be well-advised to cut ties with you.

      Nobody wants to reconcile with a cheater. Nobody wants to reconcile with a manipulator, a liar, or someone who mistreats them to get what they want. Unless you change those core characteristics that’s exactly what you’re asking your partner to do. I think she deserves better, don’t you?

      If you decide in favor of self-improvement and change, I’d advise you to find yourself a no-bullshit psychologist to help you navigate that path. But do it because you don’t like the man you are, not because you want to keep your partner. That’s just another manipulation.

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