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:
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.
It 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.
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.
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.