How Does My Husband Not Remember Parts Of His Affair?

By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from people who don’t believe their spouse’s claims that there are parts of his affair that he can’t vividly remember. Often, the faithful spouse believes that he is trying to be evasive or is out and out lying. They are often left wondering how to pull the facts out of him. Because there is usually very little doubt as to whether or not he has actually forgotten the facts.

Common comments are things like: “I want to know all of the details of my husband’s affair. I want to know everything. In fact, I demand to know every small, minute detail. But when he starts to tell me things and I begin to get upset and to ask more and more questions, that’s when he clams up and tells me that he doesn’t remember every small detail. To be honest, I had lunch with the other woman and she had many tales to tell me. But when I came home and confronted my husband with some of the details, he insisted that he did not remember some of them. I have no idea why the other woman would want to lie at this point. The cat is out of the bag. So I believe that it is my husband that is lying. I’ve told him that I’m going to be more angry if he withholds details from me than if he is just brutally honest. But it doesn’t do any good. No matter what I say or how many threats I throw at him, he still holds onto his “I don’t remember stance?” Is it possible that he has forgotten some of this? Or is he just a liar on top of being a cheater?”

I’ll tell you my take on this below, in terms of both my experience and based on many of the comments that I get about similar situations on my blog.

Your Spouse Might Be Legitimately Trying To Forget Past Events: I’m not going to try to convince you that your husband has legitimately forgotten details about the affair, especially when the events are so recent. But I do believe that he is probably very legitimately trying to forget and move on. Sometimes, he is hoping that you will be able to heal your marriage. And often, he believes that rehashing the past and going over all of the details with a fine tooth comb over and over again are only going to delay this process.

He May Be Trying To Protect You: I completely understand why you are so upset about this. I also understand wanting all of the sorted details, even when they hurt. I have been in this place. I know that uncovering all of the hurtful facts can almost become an obsession. But I also know that often, getting caught up in this cycle doesn’t help you to heal. In fact, it usually just  hurts you even more. It mires you down in tiny details that are going to be very hard for you to forget.

Your husband likely sees the hurt look on your face when he recounts these details. He often feels hurt and shame as the words come out of his mouth. So many of us assume that he’s trying to be sneaky or deceitful when he keeps the details from us. But quite honestly, sometimes, he is trying to protect us. Sure, it’s easier for him if all of the details don’t come out. But deep in his heart, he sometimes believes that it’s also easier for his wife not to hear about all of the painful facts.

How To Compromise: I know that it is very unrealistic to think that I am going to convince you to give up on wanting the details. You have a right to them. And I understand why you need them. At the same time, you can’t force the facts out of your husband. You can’t turn him upside down and shake him until the facts come spewing out.

But, perhaps you can compromise so that he is more comfortable and therefore willing sharing more details with you. Here’s what I’ve come to believe is the best way to handle this. He needs to understand that you need to know the details that are going to enable you to know what you are dealing with. You need to know the truth about: how the affair started; how long it’s duration was; what types of feelings were involved; what type of deception happened; and how likely it is to happen again. Notice that this is a very broad range and it encompasses many details.

But, now let me tell you what type of information can be destructive to seek out (and can be hard to get out of your spouse.) These are details like pet names called, sexual positions, perfume worn, etc.  You can probably come up with several similar examples of your own.  I understand wanting to know these minor details. Because I wanted them also. But do you know what they did for me? They only made me crazy when I smelled a certain perfume or saw a certain color. They didn’t help me heal at all.  I eventually gave up this quest and turned my focus toward myself.  That helped me tremendously.

So a suggested script might be something like: “we’re going to need to compromise on this. I need more details from you, but it’s obvious that you are uncomfortable with completely opening up. None of this process is going to be easy. But I need information so that I can get a clear picture of what happened. I need to know exactly what went wrong. Let’s start with the more straight forward questions for right now. Then, in the future, we can go further. But for tonight, this is what I most want to know.”

Don’t expect for him to tell you everything in one session. Get some information and then give it a couple of days before you ask again. And remember there is a difference between getting the information that you truly need and just wanting to churn the hurtful details about the affair to punish both of you. Always ask yourself if the information is going to ultimately be helpful and necessary or hurtful and unnecessary.

I truly do understand wanting the details.  But I have learned that no matter how many details you get, you will always still have some questions.  So try very hard to focus on what you most need and want to know.   With time and healing, the truth has a way of coming out.  And it is often better for you (and for your marriage) if you get all of the information gradually rather than all at once.  If it helps, you can read more about my recovery on my blog at

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