By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from folks dealing with a spouse who is trying to retract a confession of cheating. Often, the faithful spouse has serious doubts about the truthfulness of these claims. Because usually, the attempted retraction comes after the alleged cheating spouse experiences the negative consequences of their confession.
Common comments are things like: “three weeks ago, I confronted my husband about suspicions that he was having an affair. I had been noticing his increased communication with a woman at his work as well as him working late constantly. Also, he just wasn’t invested and interested in our life at home. At first, he denied any wrong doing. But I kept at him and he finally confessed that they have had an inappropriate relationship which he would classify as an emotional affair since they have not yet slept together. Well, I was devastated and I demanded that my husband go with me to counseling. I made the appointment and when it was time to get ready to go, my husband told me that he had lied about the affair and that nothing whatever has been inappropriate. He said that he just wanted for me to be jealous and he was hoping that this would make me pay attention to him again. I don’t believe him. I think that he just doesn’t want to go to counseling. But I also don’t have any proof that he was actually cheating. How do I handle this?” I’ll offer some suggestions below.
This is a difficult situation. Unless the wife could come up with proof, she would have to decide if she wanted to accept her husband’s claims or if she wanted to reject them. However, in the meantime, I would suggest acting as if you still have a serious marital issue. I’ll explain why below.
Regardless Of Whether Actual Cheating Happened, There’s Obviously A Problem: I had no idea why the husband was trying to back track or if he was telling the truth. But obviously, regardless of the cheating issue, this couple had serious issues to address. Clearly, the husband was avoiding being home and was escaping to his job. Also, he was claiming to feel ignored and unappreciated. In fact, he was claiming that this was such a big problem that he was motivated to lie about an affair just to get his wife’s attention.
Yes, he could have been lying in an attempt to escape the fall out of his actions. But he wasn’t likely to admit this untruth any time soon. And even if he did, there might be some doubt as to which time he was actually lying and which time he was actually telling the truth. So my suggestion would be to table the validity of the cheating discussion right now and just begin to systematically address the other issues, knowing that once you do, the truth is going to eventually come out.
You’re Going To Need Rehabilitation Regardless Of The Truth Of The Infidelity: Even if this wife took her husband’s claims at face value and decided to believe that there was no affair, it appeared to me that their marriage still needed some serious rehabilitation. There was serious issues of trust, honestly, integrity, and connectedness that needed to be addressed right away. The counselor’s office was probably the best place to address this, but the wife may have to ease the husband into the process, since he was clearly very resistant.
How You Might Respond To This: The wife was stuck as to how to best phrase her response. She didn’t believe her husband. But she worried that if she boldly called him a liar, this was only going to inspire more fighting and more problems. This is understandable, but I feel it’s necessary to be very direct and honest. A suggested response might be something like: “I hear what you are saying but surely you can understand why I am skeptical. One day, you’re telling me there was an emotional and potentially physical affair and the next day, you’re suddenly only trying to make me jealous because your so unhappy in our marriage. All of these things are serious problems that signify we have many issues to address before we can heal from this. So regardless of the affair issue, we are going to need to do some work on the other issues within our marriage. I believe that we should still go to counseling. I am willing to allow you to help chose the counselor if that would make you more comfortable. But I don’t think that this is something that the two of us are qualified to tackle on our own. I can either keep the appointment that we already have or if you’re not excited about this counselor, then let’s find one that we are both excited about. Neither of us deserves to live in a marriage that makes us this unhappy. So let’s work together to fix this.”
You may not get to the truth of the affair immediately. But I suspect that once you strengthen the marriage and reestablish the bond, you might find that the truth inadvertently comes out because neither of you want this sort of thing between you any longer. I have no way of knowing if this husband actually cheated or not, but I wouldn’t let this claim discourage me from getting the help that this marriage needed.
My strategy in these situation is always to act “as if” the infidelity happened. What I mean by that is that you can still address issues of intimacy and trust regardless. And even if no cheating occurred, this can still greatly improve your marriage, which is always a good thing. Rehabilitation isn’t always easy, but in my case, it was worth it. If it helps, you can read more about my process on my blog http://surviving-the-affair.com
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