Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

How Could You? Part V - The Secrecy Factor

How Could You? A Six Part Series on Why We Commit Betrayal with Infidelity

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Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Secrecy plays a huge factor in the betrayer's ability to not feel (or admit) guilt when violating commitments or morals. No blood, no foul, right? When people pursue a course of action that benefits them but harms others, they try to avoid looking at the harm they've caused. If minimization fails to work, then they will distort reality, lie to themselves about the consequences, or choose not to believe the evidence.

"As long as the harmful results of one's conduct are ignored,
minimized, distorted, or disbelieved,
there is little reason for self-censure to be activated"


It's easier to harm others when their potential suffering isn't visible or is out of mind. On the other hand, when people have to witness the distress and pain they've caused and are made aware of the high cost of their actions, people will tend to act according to their beliefs and values.

"Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn't blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won't cheat, then you know he never will. Integrity is not a search for the rewards of integrity. Maybe all you ever get for it is the largest kick in the ass the world can provide. It is not supposed to be a productive asset."

― John D. MacDonald2

The Age of Minimization

Living in today's world requires more integrity than ever before. Mechanisms of social censure have vanished overnight. Once upon a time, pornography was at the corner drug store, and the odds of being seen viewing the magazines came with a real risk of exposure. The risk of disappointing and hurting loved ones served as an inhibitor to many who were tempted. Likewise, in the past, the town gossip served as an inhibitor to moral disengagement. It's not so easy to violate what you profess to believe if you run the risk of becoming fodder for the rumor mill and destroying those you love in the process.

Today, minimizing the severity of betrayal is easier than ever. The advent of the internet, texting, and what feels like endless apps and websites promoting discreet affairs create an illusion that it's all just a game of escape. If it isn't something that seems like a big deal--because to you it meant nothing--why should it be a big deal to your mate? To the person using minimization, the level of grief, disappointment, and rage displayed by their mate can seem over the top. Minimization strips the wayward spouse of empathy and erects concrete barriers to healing, minimizing the injurious effects of betrayal and allowing the wayward spouse to see the betrayed spouse as the one with the problem. Here are some phrases often used in minimization:

  1. "Why can't you just get over it and move on?"
  2. "It meant nothing to me; why is it such a big deal to you?"
  3. "I asked you to forgive me. What's your problem?"
  4. "Can we just move on to bigger, more important issues in our marriage?"
  5. "My affair is not the core issue. There were bigger issues going on before I cheated, and those are the issues we need to discuss."

In reality, it's a huge deal when someone is betrayed, but telling yourself no one will ever know or minimizing the cost of betrayal will allow the suspension of your morals and will create a path for you to do things you never dreamed you'd do. As the wayward spouse, have the integrity to examine your beliefs about betrayal. If, from your perspective, it doesn't seem like that big of a deal, then you are already distorting reality and your view of the consequences. As many of you know from personal experience, the impact of infidelity is extreme and far reaching.

Stay Committed to Your Commitments

Integrity stays true to commitments even when no one is watching. If you believe that statement to be true but you know you've violated your beliefs, then you need to explore what rationalizations you're using.

As a man once told Shirley Glass*:

"On a good day, when things are going well, I'm committed to my wife.
On a day when things are just okay, I'm committed to my marriage.
And on a day when things aren't so great, I satisfy myself by being committed to my commitments."3

I hope we'll all remain true to our commitments. If you're looking for a safe, expert-driven place to recalibrate your recovery efforts, look no further than our EMS Weekend. It's not only a safe place, but also the very place you'll find compassion, direction, and expert care for even the toughest of situations. You don't have to do this alone, and you don't have to continue to suffer silently. Our therapists have personally survived infidelity and can help you make decisions based upon decades of personal experience treating and caring for those in a similar crisis.

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You don't have to do this alone! Join other betrayed mates on the path to healing with our life-changing Harboring Hope online course. With Harboring Hope, learn how to weather the pitfalls and hardships following infidelity and start a better, brighter chapter.

"I just completed the Harboring Hope program. My husband was unfaithful to me emotionally, physically and sexually with a co-worker. What I wished I would've known is that forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. People who refuse to forgive can never live their own lives, they are too busy obsessing about the life of the one who hurt them. They are stuck. They are unable to enjoy friends, family or even their children. They imprison themselves in a bondage of their own making. I definitely recommend the Harboring Hope program as a support for healing. To be in a safe community with other women who know what you're going through and how you're feeling is comforting. Whether you're able to reconcile or not, there is hope." - M., Michigan | HH Participant, April 2021.

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Both my mother, who was a

Both my mother, who was a betrayer, and my husband have minimized, justified, and rationalized. Neither has aptly displayed empathy. I congratulate you for being an exception.

Very good

Very good. You hit the nailing the head!

my husband is also

My husband is also minimizing, justifying and rationalizing. He has not displayed any empathy or remorse yet he says he has already apologized and I have to get over it. He does not seem very bothered and enjoyed with how much he has destroyed me and broke my heart, Especially when i cried. Instead of being understanding. he has gone as far as to tell me that the problem is not what he did but my attitude and reaction to it and how I deal with things. I have tried to explained to him the immense damage that he has caused to his family and i fail every time. We are separating but he blames me for destroying the family by not forgiving him. He does not blame himself for what he did. I would like for him to be more understanding of what he has done.

Apologize for what?

Great job Jana. You said so much in this response. Thank you. Keep sharing. It helps so many others.



Dear Rick,  My husband exposed his affair back in 2006.  I gave him an ultimatum but I couldn't follow through and after 7 months he came home.  So as the years went by I didn't necessarily trust him but wanted to believe everything was O.K.  Now in 2013 my husband has had a sever stroke and as I was cleaning up his truck I  have found more evidence that he has still been unfaithful.  He has still been keeping secrets not only from me but his whole family and friends.  As I am becoming his caregiver I hope his time of recovery lets him reflect on his life and which direction he's going eternally.  At this point he has not turned his life around.

Seeing the pain

My husband, the betrayer, says that it was seeing my pain that gave him the resolve to stop his string of affairs. It took a great deal of pain to get to that point. He had seen the pain but would easily fall back into his destructive ways. It literally took the last straw to get him to come to his senses. Finally, on that last day he saw the true depth of the pain he had caused me.

Thank the Lord, he did see.

From the betrayed's standpoint, it took more that a commitment to my commitment to keep myself in check. The enemy of my soul tried to tempt me with responding in like manner to the way I had been treated. I really didn't have a marriage to be committed to anymore. Committed to my commitment to this marriage was not enough to overcome the thoughts. It was my commitment to God that kept me. I could not turn my back on Him!

Integrity is what makes commitment

Well said Rick. " Integrity stays true to commitments even when no one is watching" Exactly what I told my unfaithful husband when he said " I never expected you to find out. It shows how inexperienced I am since you eventually found out". He minimized the affair, "it was nothing, just sex." He minimized the porn, " can't you see it as just sex education?" He minimized the gravity of his betrayal, " whatever you say I know i do love you very much". That was supposed to make me feel I was overreacting to his infidelity because "even his lover knew he loved his wife". "it was just sex." I have read quite a bit on infidelity, and in my opinion, mostly it's just looking for the sense of a high from NEW partners and sex. Making it all fun seeking excercise. To these individuals, no one or any moral obligations is more important to getting their sensual needs met. Thanks once more Rick, as you continue to make my journey of healing smoother. God bless you and your team in extremes.

makes me fear and worry

Thanks for sharing your story. I agree 'it's just looking for the sense of a high..' and it really is scary to think that because of that, there is no solution, they'll always be hungry and looking elsewhere; the AP he cheated with once posted on his Facebook (something he appears addicted to and has been for years and years) that he'll never change. I gulped when I read that, realising that it looks like - from all the behaviour and lies - I've quite possibly fallen for someone who's a sex addict. It's painful to see and I don't know now if that's what I'm facing, meaning that that means how can I ever be 'enough' if this relationship is just a base for him to carry on as always and never change.

Oh yes, this was stated

Oh yes, this was stated perfectly!! Thank you for the post.

This article was a real eye

This article was a real eye opener for my spouse and brought revelation to him about his commitment to me, his wife, his commitment to our marriage and his commitment to his many commitments. His many commitments was what he was truly committed too, as my spouse is very community minded. Nothing wrong with that per se, but when the commitments come before being committed to the wife, then it opened the door for the affair. We both thank you for this article as it articulated what we both knew but had not put into language we both understood.
To Healing

The second quote is,

Disheartening to say the least. Most people want a partner who is committed to THEM through the ups and downs. Not just committed to their commitments. Honestly, that puts you, a person, on the level of inanimate and invaluable things in life that don’t matter at the end of the day. Reasons we are easily tossed aside. Reasons it makes it really hard to say this is worth staying. I don’t want to be a commitment like a job, or bills. I want to be a partner, and respected and appreciated despite the struggles of life. If we are capable of giving that, our spouse should be too.

How could you minimization s by the unfaithful spouse

Hello Dr. Wayne this is super excellent series about how could you. My husband's 13yr old series of affair s with several women ,a relapse and sex addiction has come out in open by chance. I m overwhelmed but your video s are like guiding light in my completely shattered life. Apart from all other minimizations, my husband's fav are 'you are getting paranoid, as if I was having sex 24*7, ' 'affair recovery is earning lot of money so they are pampering the betrayed when I m the one who was betrayed first as you did *** things..and so went out, these affair recovery hires all actors with make believe stories', 'what if I had some fun by the side?, I worked so hard see how all your friends are struggling financially,u r the lucky one with such good financial position, concentrate on the blessings' blah blah. He has the audacity to talk like this after 13years of 1000s of email s, nude pictures,porn fantasies, 2 instances of STIs , multiple emotional infidelity partners in family and friends is found. Solid evidence in black n white. Written by himself. Evidence that he had 'marathon sex' for 24hours with one of the ex, they just took small off for washroom/meals in 24 hours. Unfortunately this was revealed by my 20 yr old university son who had borrowed dad's laptop as his had broken down just before exams.. flooding of messager sexchat with last AP on the computer screen led to the discovery. I have made it mandatory for him to seek Therapy and we'll do EMS online. Let's hope for the best, I know lots of work..🙏😪

What type of affair was it?

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