His answers changed. Not dramatically but enough to feed her conviction that there was more, plenty more, that she didn't know. So she kept asking. He kept answering. She challenged those answers. And round and round they went, her convinced he was being dishonest. Him convinced she would never move past this.
And then, on Twitter, which is where there's an active and vocal infidelity tribe, another woman asked me: How can I get him to talk to me when I'm triggered? She was relentless, she admitted. Insisting that he tell her everything, while he, growing more defensive, insisted he had.
Round and round they'd go.
It's a dance I know well.
For me, it began long before I knew of the cheating. My husband and I had great communication, I believed. Until, of course, our communication wasn't great. Until we weren't communicating about where to have dinner and were, instead, communicating about why his family was so toxic and why did he insist on defending their behaviour?
He would get defensive. I would get more furious. He would shut me out. I would metaphorically bang on those walls.
He'd call me "hysterical" and "crazy". Which would make me hysterical and crazy.
And round and round we'd go.
I've got some bad news.
Sure, some guys have a radical transformation after being revealed as a cheating bastard and turn over a new leaf – listening to our pain, holding us close, and whispering promises – that they keep! – about how sorry they are and how they will never do this again. Others, however, most perhaps, take a bit longer to get there. And by "there" I mean better. They will probably never be masterful communicators. They will likely always struggle with shame and self-criticism and defensiveness.
Count my husband among the latter.
So here's the bad news: You don't create an honest marriage in which each partner feels valued and valuable by bullying.
I know, I know. In those early days, I didn't give a shit if my husband felt bullied. He had hurt me! I was the injured party! "My heartbreak, my rules" right?
But, at a certain point, we either need to accept that we simply cannot remain married to someone who refuses to be fully honest with us (or is incapable of honesty and uninterested in battling those demons) or we need to accept that we know everything we need to know.
He broke his vows to us.
The color of her dress really, truly doesn't matter.
Now, I understand that sometimes those small lies are symptomatic of a much larger problem. They are evidence that this isn't a guy who just doesn't pay attention but rather a guy who lies as easily as he breathes.
In which case...he either heals himself or you show him the door.
But if, like my husband, he's spent a lifetime creating armour so that his own heart can't be hurt, if, like my husband, lies ARE his armour and he's willing to learn how to take it off, then it's a job we accept to give him the time to figure out how to do that.
Not easy, I know.
It means walking away at the moments when you figuratively have him by the lapels and have a mountain of evidence that shows he's lying. "It wasn't December 1, your honour, that the defendant ordered caesar salad with his homewrecking whore, it was December 2. The defendant is....Not. Telling. The. Truth."
It means recognizing when you've spiralled into crazy (which is hard because, well, you've spiralled into crazy). Which means, instead of having this discussion now, you go for a run. You call a friend. You watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
It means coming up with a plan to tackle those questions that truly are important to you...but releasing those that don't matter. Perhaps that looks like a "disclosure" session with a therapist. Perhaps you need him to write a letter responding to your questions. Perhaps you set a timer so that he agrees to 10 minute increments with both of you agreeing to walk away for a breather when it gets too heated, or abusive, or counterproductive.
If you're going to rebuild your marriage and remain sane while doing so, you're going to need to assess what's happening right now – is he committed to doing the work necessary and are you? – and begin imagining your future together and what that looks like, which means you setting clear boundaries to keep yourself emotionally safe.
Why does he lie? you ask: It's likely something he's been doing his whole life. To avoid conflict, to keep the peace, to make himself look better. He probably doesn't realize he's doing it half the time.
None of that makes it okay. But it does mean it's going to take some time to unlearn those old habits.
Assuming you're trying to rebuild a marriage with this person, you need to learn how to do this. Together. Without humiliating or shaming.
I understand the impulse to know. It's a way of trying to regain control of a situation that feels completely out of our control.
But here's how you truly regain control of the only thing you can control, which is you: You work on your own healing. You work on controlling your anger. You work on recognizing when you're no longer helping yourself but hurting yourself. You seek therapy. Or yoga. Or meditation. Or all of the above.
You need to learn how to trust yourself and, to a lesser extent, him.
In the meantime, he is fixing himself.I actually believe a lot of these guys when they say they don't remember. Maybe not for every single detail but for a lot of them. It's not uncommon for these guys to sort of compartmentalize – to lock away the affair to avoid the moral discomfort. Clearly, they were liars. So what are they doing to learn how to NOT be one.