By Katie Lersch
Many wives who are dealing with infidelity understandably want the complete truth about every single, tiny detail of their husband’s life and thoughts. It might seem like overkill to some, but when you’ve been betrayed and fooled by a spider web of lies, then it can get to a point where you’ll only tolerate 100% of the truth at all times. This can include the mundane details of everyday life – and those little things that most would consider not important. Under this lens, many wives find that their husbands are still floating untruths, no matter how small. Understandably, this can get a wife’s suspicions up even when it’s possible that there is nothing amiss.
She might say, “I used to kind of shrug and sometimes laugh when my husband would downplay certain things or tell little white lies. For the most part, this was harmless. For example, he might lie on how much money he spent or when he last called his sister or mother. He might downplay how much time he spent at a bar or silly things like that. These are harmless things. But, since his affair, even small things like this are intolerable to me and it’s becoming a much bigger problem. I am now extremely sensitive to lies because his lying is what allowed him to successfully carry out his affair. It’s also why I did not suspect him until the affair had become a real problem. We fought an awful lot about his lying about or omitting details about the affair. I fought hard for the truth. I stressed that I could not move on until I felt that he had told me everything. So, little bits of additional information seeped out. I thought that once this was behind us, he would have learned that he needed to tell the truth. And yet, I still catch him in little white lies. He’ll tell me that he ate lunch at a certain place and come to find out, he ate somewhere else. Or he will mix up the order that he did things. When I confront him, he gets defensive and says that he misspoke and that it’s impossible to accurately account for every single second of his day. He told me that I should try it if I think that it’s so easy. Honestly, I know where I’ve eaten. Accurately. Every time. I admit that my husband can be scatterbrained at times. But I would think if he knows that honesty is important to me, he would make more of an effort. Am I wrong about this? To me, especially now, accuracy is vital. I have no patience for even small lies. Am I overreacting?”
I don’t think that you are. What you are going through is normal. I reacted in the same way. But I did find something interesting, at least in my own case. Sometimes, a mistake is just a mistake. For example, in the early stages of our recovery, I thought it was such a huge deal every time my husband misspoke. I thought that it was potentially catastrophic every time that he was late. He insisted that he was being truthful and sincere. And now, years later, I can look back and I can see that he was indeed telling me the truth. Because in the years since that time, he has done exactly what he claimed. But at the time, when things were so fresh that I assumed that every small suspicion meant for sure that he might be cheating again. And these suspicions meant that I absolutely could not be objective. So in my case, I saw problems where none existed. That said, a friend of mine assumed the best of her husband and he cheated again. So you just never know. My strategy became that the benefit of the doubt would be given until it didn’t make sense to do that anymore. If too many things are suspicious, well then, it’s prudent to pay attention. But if someone just misspeaks every once in a while and otherwise their behavior is sound, then that can be normal.
Honestly, one of the best things to try in this situation is to have a counselor ask your husband about inconsistencies. That way, you don’t have to be the bad guy and you don’t have to feed into your paranoia and suspicions. If your husband rejects counseling, try self-help that lists concrete questions to ask. Have your husband write out the answers so that this way, he is accountable for them. If what he claims turns out to be not true, you have a written record of it. But if he’s telling the truth, you don’t need to revisit it.
There is nothing wrong with insisting on complete transparency and truth after an affair. Both are necessary. If he’s lying consistently and about important things, that can be concerning. But if he’s just misspeaking about innocent things when you’re trying to “catch him” at every turn, then that can be more innocent. It’s usually the combination of his untruths and his behavior that is the most concerning. Some men aren’t great with details, but they show their loyalty consistently and they do everything that you ask of them. This distinction can be important.