What to do when you know your spouse is still lying to you about affair?

Comment: I am modifying this post because some people are reading this post and coming away with the notion that I am suggesting to women that they should stay with their lying, cheating spouses. This post does not attempt to suggest to anyone what action they should take as far as staying with or leaving their spouse. That’s a decision which I’m sure any woman (or man) in the process of trying to figure out is not turning to a website to find the answer. This is not a post for people in crisis dealing with an actively cheating and lying husband (or wife). It is for people who have already passed that stage, have obviously chosen to stay but are suspicious they either haven’t been told all the details of the affair or that something they have been told is untrue.

As for attacking people for their choice to stay married after finding out about their spouse’s infidelity, it’s certainly not for me or anyone to question someone’s sense of pride and dignity for staying married after finding out their spouse was unfaithful. Unless we know someone intimately and know their spouse intimately, we should assume that we do not know enough to have an opinion about the degree of self respect they possess, whether they have any pride or dignity, a backbone or whatever else.

In the original post, I wrote about what I’ve been through with my husband, but I said nothing about what I’ve put my husband through.  There are always two sides to a story and until you’ve heard both sides you should probably avoid the temptation to cast judgment on the accuser or the accused. Imagine if the courts only allowed the prosecution to plead a case and a defendant was convicted solely on the testimonies of witnesses for the prosecution without ever being allowed to present his/her side? It’s alarming how ready some people are to attack the character of people they don’t know based on something they read. Contrary to what has been suggested, I don’t think cheating is acceptable or should be tolerated. I understand completely why people end marriages and relationships because of cheating; but I also understand that all relationships are different and for some couples cheating is another crisis to solve in their marriage rather than a crisis that ends their marriage. Who is to say that the people who leave their cheating spouse are better than the people who stay with theirs…that the people who leave have a backbone and the people who stay don’t? Who is to say that a couple dealing with a cheating crisis have a less valuable, less meaningful and less worthy relationship than a couple who seemingly have no marital problems?

Sometimes people stay married to the person who cheated on them. It’s ridiculous to argue the point of whether they should or should not stay. It’s their choice. We’re not living their lives. We don’t know them. We don’t know their situation. We don’t know why they stay.

I always maintain that if people keep staying in marriages they insist are horrible, unless it’s a case involving domestic violence where they might stay for fear that leaving might cost them their life, outside observers can usually trust that they stay because the benefits of staying, whatever those may be, outweigh the benefits of leaving. And it’s really none of our business to know what those benefits might be. Who are we to try to tell people we don’t know, or people we do know for that matter, that the choices they have made for themselves in their life are the wrong choices? Do what’s best for you and let everybody else do what’s best for them as determined by them.

With that said, if it upsets you when you read about people staying in marriages after finding out their spouse had an affair, I strongly encourage you to stop reading this post now.

For those women (and men) still married, by choice, to someone who has admitted cheating, feel free to continue on reading the modified version of the original post keeping in mind that nothing herein is meant to pass for professional advice. I am simply sharing my own personal experience in the hope that someone who is torturing herself or himself every day worrying about whether their spouse is still lying about the details of a past affair, might stop putting themselves through unnecessary anguish.

Original post (modified May 4 2011): I remind anyone reading this that I am not a marriage and relationships expert. I only try to share from my own personal experience and opinions. I have been married 14 years and yes, I have had a difficult marriage but not because my husband is a bad, horrible man who subjected me to horrors. My husband did bad things that had nothing to do with me. His actions affected my life, but his actions were not assaults against me.

If your spouse is acting selfishly and doing things outside your marriage that negatively impact on your life you have every right to leave and not look back if that’s what you feel compelled to do.

My relationship with my husband has always been very complicated. We are both imperfect people and we have both made many mistakes due to those imperfections. I came into the marriage with my demons. My husband came in with his, and while it might not suit some people’s sense of what is right and proper that we didn’t invest the needed time to get professional help as individuals so that we might overcome our personal struggles before getting into a relationship that can only be healthy when there’s mental and emotional balance on both sides, we did get married with all our baggage brought in, and we naturally fell into the inevitable habit of feeding on each other in whatever way helped us in fighting our particular demons. Yes, therapy would probably have been more ideal but we are who we are and our circumstances are what they were. I needed my husband for the emotional support. My husband needed me to provide him with a sense of purpose. We believed very deeply that we loved each other, but we hadn’t really had enough time together before getting married to really know each other. We married after 6 years, but for all of the 6 years our relationship was long distance.

By the time I found out my husband had sex with at least two other women in the earlier years of our marriage, we had been through a great deal together. So yes, when I sat down with him a few years ago and we decided to try to build a better marriage, and as part of that process we agreed to be honest with each other on the question of fidelity, and my husband admitted that he’d had sex outside our marriage twice with two different women, I didn’t immediately pack my bags and leave as some of the people who commented on the original unmodified post suggest I should have done and would have done if I’d had any dignity and self respect(some of the comments I chose not to post). No doubt it will be assumed now that I’ve indicated emotional instability that I stayed because I have mental problems. In fact I stayed because our lives were much too intricately woven together by the time we had that revealing conversation.

The incidences of having sex outside of the marriage twice, assuming they were indeed the only incidences, happened during the more difficult years of our marriage when my self hate, born not of frustration with my marriage but of the abuse I suffered as a child and teen and a young woman, began to grow into hatred of my husband for not being “good enough” meaning the kind of man a woman didn’t have to feel ashamed to be married to because he’s so important, rich, educated and good looking. I treated him horribly during those years, constantly calling him a loser and telling him that I could have done better and that I was ashamed to be married to him. I hardly ever bothered to speak to him unless necessary to discuss household matters. I had sex with him but would say things to the effect that if I’d had any self esteem he would be the last man on earth I would let touch me; and no matter what I did, no matter what hurtful things I said, he kept on being there, taking it, apologizing for not being what I wanted him to be, trying to change to become what I wanted, trying to please me in whatever way he could. He has always tried and still always tries to do whatever he can to make my life easier and more comfortable. This is a man who has been trying to hold me up for almost 20 years (the 14 we’ve been married and the almost 6 that we spent in our long distance relationship). The few times I have had to reciprocate, to be there to hold him up, to forgive him the way he forgave me for doing things to him worse than what I’ve mentioned, I chose to reciprocate. It was the agreement that we made to each other when we got into this marriage knowing we were marrying someone who was significantly less than perfect; and if honoring your promises makes you weak then I guess we’re weak.

My marriage today remains imperfect. My husband and I have good stretches and bad stretches. The bad stretches usually result from my issues with trust. I will probably never be able to trust my husband again; but that has more to do with my fear of taking that risk of being disappointed again than it has to do with anything my husband has done since we decided to start over. I don’t trust him by choice, and it’s sometimes upsetting because I’d prefer a relationship where I can trust my husband; but there’s plenty else to focus on in our daily lives.

As for the extra-marital sex issue, it has become more important for me to maintain my focus on the things I am trying to do with my life and to avoid unnecessary feelings of hurt that interfere with my ability to function and get through my day. I used to bring it up because I wanted to know the truth and refused to believe my husband had told me the truth. Each time I would bring it up he would insist he’s already told me what happened. His story never changed, but I could never leave it at that. The truth is, I was hurt and angry and I brought up the subject all the time not because I was so convinced that he was still keeping things from me but because I wanted to remind him what he’d done, and I wanted a valid reason not to invest the mental effort and the emotion that’s needed to get past the whole thing. I didn’t want to get past it, because when you get past it then you have no excuse for not doing your part.

Eventually I realized I was doing myself more harm than good. Holding on my anger wasn’t just causing strain in my marriage it was contaminating the quality of my own life. Dwelling on the issue of whether or not he had indeed told me the complete truth was making me paranoid and hateful. It was affecting my ability to get any joy out of life and it dawned on me that I didn’t have to allow it to be that way. I realized that life was pleasant when I didn’t bring up the subject. I had a choice to control whether I was going to be growling my way through my days or smiling my way through them. Why should I have chosen to growl my way through? What’s the benefit to me or to anyone around me for me to do that? So I chose to stop bringing up the subject and I chose to put it behind me because that is the only way I have control over the situation as far as protecting my own peace of mind, and that was more important to me, to have peace of mind.

Like I said before, all relationships are different and for some people cheating is not something they can get beyond. I understand that and I respect it. I think cheating is a violation of trust that hurts a marriage in a very real way; but I also know that cheating doesn’t always come down to a case of one person being a scum loser bastard and another being that scum loser bastard’s victim. Unless you’re married to a real and true sociopath, lots of things go on in a marriage long before the cheating happens, and the “victim” isn’t usually innocent of any blame. There are many ways to destroy a marriage and usually the destruction has already begun by the time cheating results. If you’ve stayed in the marriage you would do better to focus on what needs to be done to build a better relationship than to persist with your inquiry into the details of your spouse’s affair. If you’ve agreed to let that go, then let it go.

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  1. Wow. You stay in a dead-end marriage because you learned by experience that cheating is acceptable. You and your mother need to grow backbones and leave your cheating scum husbands. You are wasting your life on a man who not only does not care about you at all, he doesn’t respect you, value you or love you. What kind of self worth and respect do you have? Obviously none. Please go seek some professional counseling to help you detach from this never ending vicious cycle of lies and affairs. Do the public a favor and don’t publish these sick articles that depict cheaters and liars with no consequence. It’s disgusting.

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    • That’s very rude of you to tell the author that she and her mother need to grow backbones and to refer to their husbands as scum. I’ve read quite a few of the author’s posts and I certainly don’t get the impression of someone who lacks a backbone.

      To the author, your openness and willingness to admit to being a flawed human being is to be commended. I apologize on behalf of A.J and anyone else who feels compelled to make similar comments or thumbs up her cruel remark. As a professional marriage and family counselor I encourage you to continue what you’re doing because there are plenty of people in crisis in the world; and sometimes it takes finding only one person who has been where we have been to give us hope that we will rise above what we’re going through and to help us feel not quite so alone in our personal struggles. Keep sharing.

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      • Sounded like she was talking about coping and getting on with your life and not spending day and night worrying what your husband is doing if he’s lying to you and that sounds like good advise to me. I left my husband after he cheated on me but we got back together after a year and a half and I’ve pretty much had to make the choice not to stress myself out worrying that he might cheat again. I focus on my health and happiness first and foremost and I try to live my own life to the fullest and expect anything because that’s real life. Sh** happens. Good men cheat too. Good women as well.

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        • People do cheat, but what about bringing home diseases picked up their travels? Why would anyone tolerate the risks involved? HIV is a real risk, no amount of forgiveness will undo that one. There is also the bunny boiler risk, sounds funny, but it can be a reality. To me it is just opening the door to all sorts getting in and i cannot live like that.

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      • Ok…sure your names not c.j? You must be a mistress yourself. The statement you made clearly xame from the side that favors a trecheroUs whore who has nothing to lose by persuading the cheating man to be kicked to the curb, leaving someone like u to scavenge the remains

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  2. I don’t think its the smartest choice to assume you know the whole story of a life you haven’t lived (or witnessed) after reading a snippet of something someone wrote on a blog. Your response suggests you know my father, my mother, my husband and me, which clearly you don’t or you would never have written something so far off the mark.

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  3. For those who arrive at this article genuinely trying to figure out what to do when you know your spouse is still lying to you about his affair, obviously you are still married to your spouse and you’re not really looking for advise on whether to divorce or not to divorce your so-called scum husband. You may or may not yourself consider your husband scum. I certainly have no call to label your husband or to label you since I don’t know either of you. What I do know is that you are the one in the marriage and whether staying in the marriage is good or bad for you is a decision you will make for yourself independent of the opinions of strangers who really know nothing about your relationship with your spouse other than that your spouse cheated. The point I wanted to make in my post is that you might benefit right now from not putting yourself through the pain and heartache and frustration of worrying about whether your husband is still lying or not still lying to you about his affair. There is more to your life than your marriage. You can’t control what your husband does. There are many women out there who will call you spineless for staying with a husband who cheated who are themselves with a cheating husband. They just don’t happen to know it; and maybe when they find out they’ll leave the marriage without batting an eyelash. That’s perfectly fine. We’re all different. We all handle things the way we handle them. It doesn’t say anything about the strength of our spine when we leave any more than it says anything about the weakness of our spine when we stay. We know our situation better than anybody else, and for some people the value of their marriage is not just in their spouse’s faithfulness, or the presumption of faithfulness. My message in the post was directed at the women who have chosen to stay in the marriage and it was meant to encourage them to focus their energy and attention on themselves and their life rather than wallow in depression and worry and suffer hurt and pain over something their husband has done.

    If you are someone who has stayed with a spouse who cheated, I urge you to respect A.J’s right to her/his opinion but not to allow yourself to take personally any of the insults intended. If you are with a spouse who is cheating that is a different subject. Yes, I am saying there’s a difference between finding out your spouse “cheated” and finding out your spouse “is cheating”, and my post is addressed to people who found out their spouse cheated on them at some point or another in their marriage and chose to stay in the marriage for whatever their reason. It’s none of our business the reason they stay. Not everyone uses the same set principles to value relationships.

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  4. My question wasn’t ever for my husband, I know why he has cheated, he is weak and needs to feel like a “Man”. We got married very young and both had some major growing up we needed to do before we got married, but we are and have really worked on our relationship. (hopefully) My question has always been for the “women” who think it is ok to sleep with married men? Every single woman my husband cheated with knew me. I was not friends with these “ladies” but they absolutely knew he was a married father of two. Maybe I am just a different kind of lady, but I never would dream of thinking that I was important enough to attempt to break up a family. I could never look at my daughter and think that that was a good example of a woman. Girls who have done this, please explain to me why you feel like it is ok to sleep with someone’s husband?

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    • I too had my husband cheat on me with a woman who lived on our street. I was deployed to iraq and while I was gone my husband and this woman (with 2 kids and husband) got so emotionally close to one another that her husband and her got a divorce. When I returned home, I saw this woman a few times in my presense and my intuition that something was wrong was firing off like rockets. He always denied it. Finally a month ago he told me he had feelings for this woman. But she won’t take him in because she knows he has anger/mental issues plus she’s in another state since after her divorce. So he had a mental breakdown and now thinks he wants a divorce just to be by himself because he feels like were just friends anyway and shouldn’t have gotten married. He’s no longer in love with me. I tell him its no wonder he doesn’t love me when he spends all his time and energy with another person. If you ignore a relationship for two years it withers like a garden would. What he has with this woman, he would have with any other woman too if he spent as much time investing in the relationship. He doesn’t understand this at all. Its easier to talk about how one feeels than make a choice, and choose to invest in the relationship at home. I tried to talk to this woman to ask her directly why she would destroy not only her own marriage but someone elses. She refused to take my call. I know that another woman on the street called her up and told her what she did was messed up but her only reply was that she needed to mind her own business. So, no shame or guilt. I guess someone who would do this is just a selffish person who only thinks about their own pleasure and does not care how their actions negatively affect someone else. As long as no one confronts them on it, they don’t have to face what they have done and she did not like people confronting her because its like putting a mirror in front of her and making her see the the accumulation of her choices reflect someone who is not a good person. That’s the best guess I can give as to why someone would do that

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  5. I respect the fact that some people choose to stay in marriages/relationships despite a history of infidelity. Personally, that is something I wouldn’t tolerate…but I don’t judge others for the decisions they make. My uncle has been in a relationship with this woman for over 20 years. He has been repeatedly unfaithful to her. She has been in physical fights with these other women. I don’t understand what motivates her to be with him when he has disrespected her by cheating, but I try not to judge the situation too much.

    Anyway, if your spouse is still lying to you about having had an affair…then clearly there is a problem that needs to be fixed. I have wondered if my husband has ever been unfaithful to me. There are times when it’s crossed my mind. But I have no proof of anything so I don’t dwell on it. However, if I discovered any infidelity at all, I would be filing for divorce immediately. I would forgive him because I love him but I would move on with my life. There would be no second chances, especially since I try to be a good wife in all ways. Marriage has its ups and downs but there is rarely an excuse for cheating or lying. I’ve been completely loyal to him so I expect the same in return.

    Brit…I believe that women who willingly have sex with married men are often selfish individuals with low self-esteem. This isn’t always true, but most of the time it is. It is different if the other woman truly has no knowledge of the fact that he is married. That still doesn’t make it right, but if the other woman was also deceived into thinking he was single, then she isn’t entirely at fault. There are women who are fully aware that they are involved with married men and they don’t care. That’s the selfish type. They love attention and if it comes from a married man, even better. It gives them a thrill to know that they can “steal” a man away from his wife. It is sad. Women who do that aren’t thinking of how they would feel in your position. They should be pitied, but at the same time, they aren’t entirely to blame. Your husband is just as guilty as they are. He decided to disrespect you and these girls were willing participants.

    Jennifer…I agree with you. It sounds like the other woman in your situation doesn’t want to take responsibility for her part in all this. Many women who have affairs with married men do not. They tend to make excuses and justify their actions. They tend to be very defensive. It takes a mature woman to admit that she hurt somebody else. I’ve heard some women say, “I don’t owe his wife anything. He made the vows to her, not me”. While it does take two to tango, there is a level of responsibility that must be taken. That woman sounds like a coward. She is afraid to deal with the consequences of her actions. Your husband hurt you badly and I am truly sorry you’ve had such a terrible experience. I hope things work out for you. I hope you find the love you deserve.

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    • Love is never lost. If it is misplaced, it will come back to warm & soften the heart,

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  6. I know my husband is been unfaithful to ur marriage, he denies and denied eventhou I presented all proofs. He is blaming me of all these because I am a controlling woman and I can not get into his privacy and his freedom.
    He continues seeing the woman and he is trying to show me that he has nothing to that lady. Sometimes he tells me how much he loves me and that he does not want to leave us and suddenly he also starts menancing me to leave me if I can not control myself and stay calm about this whole story.

    What I sdhould do?

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  7. Repeated Cheating, Lying, and Denial constitute emotional abuse. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information or repeated denial is presented to the victim with the intent of making them doubt their own memory and perception. Married 27 years to a serial cheater and finally found out. My advice- get out. You deserve better.

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    • @Cindy

      You and me both. But we’re still married. I’ve asked multiple times for a divorce but he begs me to stay. What’s up with that?

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      • You still are under the illusion that he cares about you – this is bc his lies are leading you to believe that. You think he cares and that must be why he is asking you to stay. You will have a lot of pieces to pick up, but your life with be much better without being day in day out with a liar. It is never worth it.

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  8. You need to pull yourself out of this situation for awhile. You are being sucked up by his big black hole of lies and deceit that you can not think clearly. Your husband does not walk on water unless you allow him too. If you are able to spend a week with a friend or fsmily member this will give you time to think clearly. You need to love and respect yourself then decide if he is good enough for you. Good luck

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  9. I just wanted to thank the author for being brave enough to share her story. I recently found out about my husbands affair. I have spent the last few weeks struggling with what to do. Our lives too are so twiisted up with each other I can’t just leave though God knows I would if I could. I do still love him but i don’t trust a thing he tells me anymore. I ask him about it when I can’t stand it anymore and that just starts him growling and me crying and apologizing for asking. I am a fool and I know it but there are kids I have to think about and that stupid little fact that i love him. I’ve run the whole spectrum of emotions from actually feeling like my heart break, to wanting to curl up in a ball and disappear. I know I should stand up for myself and my kids but I can’t leave him. So now I will try the authors approach and put it behind me and try to move on. So thank you author for sharing your story I wish you well in the future and noone should judge you until they walk a mile in your shoes none of us our perfect

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  10. I have been married for 19 years and I have caught my husband in many lies. Some of them were small lies and some were big. I keep having this feeling that he stills lies and keeps things from me. I hate this feeling and i want to trust him again. One of the things i found on his computer is a file of him comparing my body size to like 20 other fitness models. Is it right that a husband will keep track of that? Every time I ask him a question to get the truth he gets very offended and says he doesn’t want to talk to me unless i quit accusing him of doing something wrong. what do i do?

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  11. It’s simply amazing to see the spectrum of experiences and reactions, as is the readers reaction to an author’s article . I just read an article about infidelity and the question of whether people can be faithful in marriage. What is certain is that woman and man are not the same. What history has and the present continues to affirm, is that everyone will be unfaithful at some point in the marriage, men historically hold that higher record . I knew at 10 years old , I wanted a husband and a family. I grew up without a father figure, and missed saying “daddy”. To make the long story short, I married at 17, though I met him at 15 years old. A faithful , patient, humble, dedicated wife to her husband. He had a way with words , and in my innocence I believed he would never again be unfaithful . Slowly in my trust , he began isolating phone record access, always had a back pack in his car, always locked his car, and his stories changed, and would anger when asked. Internet secret passwords , sites, and password to his phone. But all he did was justified , however he had certain requirements for me which he was exempt from . He would say , “you will never proof anything” . Had I known then what i know know, which is that it’s as simple as measuring the words meaning weight , against the individuals actions as proof that there is enough of a gap in character, that deceit is present, and you are not bonding your word. Mental Games. We don’t owe anyone our happiness, except for oneself. Anyone that makes you happy 90 percent of the time, it’s a good idea to consider therapy, a healing chance , if both really are sincere. If u can’t forgive him, leave. U don’t have trust him, he has to earn that. If you can’t sleep over what he might be doing , get help, focus on self as an individual , love yourself first . If you know you must move on, but are scared of unknowns , leave. Don’t stay for fear, you will never mature and shine to be the star you are. My sharing thoughts are not intended as an invitation for disrespect . Enjoyed everyone’s comments.

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  12. It was four days ago I discovered that may husband of 19 yrs was not only having an affair with Patricia but also her daughter. I don’t know what to do. I am so hurt, can’t sleep and lonely. I need help.

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