My husband will not confess to cheating

First I will give an outline of my situation and I will end with my question. I discovered five days ago that my husband has been having an affair for about two years.

This is what I discovered:

  • three love letters and a 5x7 photo of her in his laptop case.
  • a photo memory card with about 10 photos of her—taken with my professional studio equipment in my home in the middle of the day when I was out of town at a conference.
  • cell phone records indicating an enormous amount of calls to her—including calls while he was on vacation with his family.

He has admitted:

  • They had frequent lunch dates.
  • He met her "for just a minute" while he was on his way home from a business trip.
  • they kissed once—several months ago.

He is asking me to believe:

  • They are just friends.

He explains himself on my discoveries in the following way:

  • love letters: At one point she wanted "more," he said this could never be. She got over it and they are buds.
  • 5x7 photo of her: Why shouldn’t I have a photo of her?
  • Phone calls: Friends talk.
  • Photos on memory card: She stopped by. My photo equipment is kept in storage on the third floor of my house. She is drinking a glass of red wine and looking deliriously happy in some photos—in others she is wearing a kimono. Explanation? She brought some costumes over to try on (they met in community theater).
  • We have been married 27 years and he has been a good husband. Up until last Friday, I would have described him as the person I trusted most in the world. We have a daughter who we both adore and we want to get past this and repair our marriage.

    Of course I don’t believe his story. I recognize that he is in complete denial; however, until we can face the truth together there can be no resolution or rebuilding. He is very stubborn and I can almost see him taking the stance of "It’s my story and I’m sticking to it."

    My question is: What can be done when a partner is so deeply entrenched in denial that—even though he can admit he made a mistake—cannot admit to what the mistake actually was?

    Thank you so much.

Response:

Where to start?

As you have noted, trying to save a marriage after an affair requires complete disclosure. A spouse, who has been cheated on, needs to feel that all of his or her questions have been answered truthfully.

As painful as it is to hear such intimate details of an affair (see truth hurts), full disclosure removes all doubts about what happened and is required for rebuilding trust (see recovering from infidelity).

When a cheating spouse refuses to acknowledge the truth, it creates lingering suspicions making it difficult to move forward. Simply stated, until you’re satisfied that the truth is being told it will be very difficult for you to trust your husband again.

But, from your husband’s perspective, a different set of dynamics is at play.

From your husband’s point of view there are two possible outcomes: 1) lie about what happened with the hope of diffusing your anger with confusion. Or he can 2) tell the truth and get punished even more.

By nature, people are designed to avoid punishment—often resorting to telling lies when necessary to do so. Often this is an unconscious response, which is developed early in life (see lying comes easy). Given this dynamic, it is easy to understand why most cheating spouses lie, even when confronted with evidence of their actions.

Unfortunately, your current situation illustrates why it is best to gather as much evidence as possible before confronting a cheating spouse.

And it is best not to reveal all of your evidence at once. If you reveal everything you have, your spouse will simply concoct a story to fit what’s been presented—leaving you full of doubt (see cheaters paradox).

By holding back on some information—it is much easier to refute any fictitious story that your spouse might create. And by holding back some information and using it wisely, a cheating spouse feels more vulnerable—he or she doesn’t know exactly what has been uncovered—and people are more likely to confess under such situations.

With that said, it’s now a little too late to try and get your husband to tell the truth. He will most likely stick to his story rather than disclose what really happened. To do otherwise will only make him look like an even bigger liar (see invasive questions).

Given this stand-off between you and your husband, our best advice is to try and resolve this problem with the help of a professional counselor. We wish we had better advice.

Related Information:

 cheating husband | denies infidelity | suspect cheating

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