The Dance of Disclosure

The affair happens. Maybe the betrayed spouse knows something about it, maybe they don't. In my case, I was very much aware. I asked him about it. Pointedly. Directly. Repeatedly. He lied. He told me I was "crazy," "paranoid," being "ridiculous." He would not tell me the truth. I knew it. He knew it. He knew that I knew it. But, no truth was to be had and we were at an impasse. Maybe you can relate.

Time passed. After an excruciating season, the affair eventually ended. Life went on. We both pretended all was 'normal,' but the secret remained between us, a wall that could not be penetrated and would never fall on its own. We had some good times and some bad times. Life seemed normal. I slowly started to let down my guard. I started to soften toward him, and I wanted to get closer. It felt like we were starting to reconnect and I became hopeful. Then "it" would hit me again, and in my mix of fear and hope I would reach out to him, trying to cross the great divide, to scale the wall. I wanted to be close, to know him, to be known, to be "one" with each other again. But he would not take down the wall, or even acknowledge there was a wall. Then we each retreated to our corners; the music box was rewound to the beginning, and the dance would start all over again, all that ground lost with each decision to deceive.

My thoughts: I want to be close. I want to know him, and learn the truth about him, about me, about our life. I love him, and all I want is to know and love the real him. I feel hopeful. Maybe we really can have more, maybe we can be more.

So I ask him again, "Tell me the truth, what really happened with her?" He denies, deflects, and pretends he is confused. "Nothing. What are you talking about?" and all the other tired and worn out lies and diversions.

His thoughts: I can never tell her. She wouldn't love me if she really knew me. She might leave me. I have to keep this secret at all costs. She will never know, so it can't hurt her. I have to deny it. I am so ashamed at what I have done. I wish it had never happened. I love her and I don't want to lose her. I feel so alone.

My thoughts: He is still lying. I was a fool to try to get closer. He doesn't really love me. He still wants to keep their secret. She will always be more important to him than me. He just settled for me. I cannot show him my hurt; I have to hide my heart and protect myself. I have no hope. I feel so alone.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

In my case, this spin cycle lasted for a decade. The damage done by this perpetual dance only reinforced my own inner dialogue that he did not really love me, and that I was never going to be worth enough to him to actually tell me the truth.

His inner dialogue told him there was no way I could ever love him - the real him - if he admitted the truth.

Ironically, we both felt unloved and alone, neither aware of the other's inner thoughts and fears. We were side by side in isolation, but only one of us had the power to shift the trajectory, and until he decided to do something different, there could be no movement toward "us."

In an unexpected chain of events many years later, he was faced with his hypocrisy. He is certain that God intervened that day, but long story short, I asked him again and this time, he finally told me the truth. All of the truth. In one long, painful, gut wrenching, nauseating, horrible monologue he told me a story I never wanted to hear, that my brain struggled to process as the words tumbled out, full of information and graphic images I couldn't handle. After so many years of denial, his words were too much to be absorbed by my panicked brain; it felt like water rising all around me, soon to sweep away my life as I knew it and drown me in a sea of pain and despair. I heard my own voice screaming in my head NO! NO! NO! NO! as he quietly relayed this horrific tale with his head in my lap, while I sat in silence.

And then the wall had finally fallen. The bricks lay strewn about in piles of rubble, and years of painful digging lay ahead of us, using raw and bloodied hands to clean up the mess. But the wall was gone, and we could see each other at last.

Through every step, all those years, he knew the truth, the whole picture. The puzzle in his head was complete. So much of my life was spent trying to figure out what he was hiding, trying to understand what was wrong with me, why I wasn't enough, why he didn't love me. . . then so much time wrestling against those same thoughts, trying convince myself he was telling the truth like he promised me he was, that despite my uneasiness there was nothing more to know, and so much time beating myself up for being mistrustful.

I am sad for us. I am sad for the years we lost not knowing each other. I am sad to think of the man I love believing he was unlovable and unforgivable, and sad for me feeling rejected and alone, when neither was true. We both suffered so much more than was necessary. It didn't have to be this way.

If you are an unfaithful spouse and you have not yet disclosed the truth to your partner, you are denying both of you the intimacy of being fully known and fully loved. Yes, there is risk in being fully known, but hiding behind the wall of deception is not really living or loving, so what is the point? You may think you are protecting them, but leaving your partner in the dark is like sentencing them to prison, with no hope of escape because you are hiding the only key. You may still be expecting them to find their way out somehow, but it won't matter how much they try; they will be forever trapped by the deception. Without disclosure your spouse is trapped in the unknown, and you are trapped as well, in a relationship that can never be real.

None of us envisioned living in this prison built on secrets when we said "I do," and it doesn't have to be that way. When you disclose, there will be pain, there will most likely be anger and things are probably going to be rough - very rough. But real intimacy requires transparency - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Betrayal is definitely ugly. Ultimately we were all created to be fully known so that we can be loved for who we really are, not just the image we portray or the masks we wear. You might be surprised to see how much you are truly loved by your spouse - despite your betrayal. You owe it to your spouse, and yourself, to break down the prison wall and see each other clearly - maybe for the first time.

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Comments

Get expert help for guidance prior to disclosure

I can relate to your share. I went through a long period of staggered disclosure with finally full disclosure from my spouse. It was very painful but fir us it was a necessary starting point for any recovery of our marriage. I strongly recommend that anyone with serious secrets in their relationship seek expert help i the disclosure process. Over sharing graphic details is unnecessary and traumatic for a partner. I know, it happened to me. It should not be that way. An expert can help the one disclosing and the partner to prepare. I would not recommend going it alone with disclosure. take care

Thank you el Bee

I agree that the full disclosure is the starting point and anything short of that is not going to allow for any genuine recovery. I don't necessarily think disclosure always needs to be done with assistance from an expert but people and situations vary widely so it certainly may be very helpful in some situations. I would not have wanted anyone else present during my husband's disclosure - even in hindsight but I can only speak from my own experience.

I appreciate your comment and sharing your experience.

Just wondering if my

Just wondering if my unfaithful wife feels the same as your husband, she told me the other day that when she looks at me sometimes she feels shame, guilty

Dennis

The shame is a difficult hurdle. It's counterintuitive to think if we reveal our darkest secrets and worst choices it will bring us closer to our spouse but that is the truth. Reflexively most people want to hide those things but it only perpetuates the distance. I hope your wife can manage her shame enough to be open and vulnerable with you, and you with her. It's really hard, I know. I wish you the best in your journey.

Lies and deception

Years after the shock of disclosure slowly began to fade, the haunting lies and deception still linger and at times feel as if they will choke the life out of me.Then I wonder if I am able to ever trust again, or at least begin to trust him? Maybe not. It has been 2 1/2 years and I still hate the thousands of lies I was told over 28 years. I wonder if the day will come when I can look at him and not think about what he chose to do, at least for a few moments?

Paulette

"Choking the life out of me" is a good description of how it feels. This is so hard, my friend. Will there come a day when you don't think about it? I don't know, but maybe even if you still do your thoughts will not hold the same pain. One day at a time. That's all anyone can do and you are doing it. Hang in there.