- Sometimes cheaters on the verge of getting caught dig in with more secrets and lies, but try to do it more effectively.
- Cheaters often resort to tactics like denial and gaslighting that further harm the relationship.
- To rebuild trust, the secrets and lies must stop.
For many cheaters, the immediate and seemingly best response to the discovery of their betrayal is to dig in with more secrets and lies, but this time to do it more effectively. So they continue to keep secrets, they continue to tell lies, and sometimes they even continue their infidelity. For a time, many of them even get away with it. In such cases, they tend to think, “Great, problem solved.”
Unfortunately, that is not how it works out over time. Relationship issues (all sorts, not just betrayal) are most definitely not solved by “getting away with it.” Instead, relationship issues are simply swept under the rug and ignored until they can no longer be overlooked—usually because the cheater eventually gets caught (again) in this pattern of secrets, lies, and continued infidelity.
When this happens, of course, the condition of an already fragile relationship will deteriorate even further. And at that point, the only way forward is for the cheating partner to stop keeping secrets and telling lies. The good news is that trust can be rebuilt, and relationships can heal and maybe even become better than ever.
For that to happen, however, the secrets and lies must stop. For cheaters, that process starts when they stop lying to themselves.
When cheaters engage in denial, they lie to themselves about what they are doing and the impact their behavior is currently having and might have in the future. They do this as a way to rationalize and justify their obviously hurtful behavior in their own mind. And then, over time, they come to believe their own lies. With that, the internal lies and deceits are externalized with lines like:
- If I had more/different/better sex at home, I wouldn’t need to cheat.
- All I’m doing is looking at a little bit of porn. Everyone does it, and nobody thinks it’s cheating.
- Sure, I go to strip clubs, but I never have sex with the workers.
- My entire world is take, take, take. Nobody appreciates me. So I deserve to have a little fun.
- What my partner doesn’t know can’t hurt him/her.
As stated above, cheaters come to believe their own lies, no matter how outrageous. And with that, their behavior seems utterly reasonable to them in the moment of obsession. Sure, a betrayed partner and even an impartial observer can easily see through this smokescreen. But cheaters who want to continue cheating will still stick to their guns anyway. Often, it is only in a crisis (getting caught red-handed, for example) that cheaters will finally examine their denial and the reality of their behavior—and sometimes even that is not enough.
Gaslighting is denial taken to such an extreme that it qualifies as a form of psychological abuse. When cheaters gaslight their partners, they present false information and insist that the information is true. Often, betrayed partners are blamed for misunderstanding a situation, causing a situation, or just being crazy. However it occurs, gaslighting flips the script on relationship strife by insisting that the betrayed partner is at fault. The betrayed partner’s thinking and behavior are to blame, not the cheating.
- She’s just a coworker. When she calls here, it’s because we have a project to finish.
- Why are you always so jealous?
- Why do you keep asking me if something is going on? You’re completely paranoid. It’s really annoying.
- I would never do that. I don’t even look at other women.
- You’re just being crazy, and it really upsets me that you don’t trust me.
Over time, gaslighting causes betrayed partners to question their own reality. They start to wonder if maybe their perception of the situation really is askew, despite the ever-growing pile of evidence to the contrary.
Sadly, even the most intelligent and emotionally well-adjusted partners can be taken in by gaslighting. In part, this is because our tendency as human beings is to believe what the people we love tell us. At times, as a way of protecting our connection with a loved one, we will defend, excuse, and flat-out overlook their obviously problematic words and behaviors—especially when their lies and excuses seem sincere.
In larger part, a betrayed partner’s vulnerability to gaslighting is linked to the fact that gaslighting starts slowly and builds gradually over time. It’s like placing a frog in a pot of warm water that is then set to boil. Because the temperature increases only gradually, the innocent frog never even realizes it’s being cooked. In short, the lies start small and are believable, growing slowly over time into whoppers that the betrayed partner has been conditioned to believe.
Help is out there.
If you have experienced betrayal in your relationship, especially betrayal that is continued with ongoing secrets, lies, manipulation, and gaslighting, help is available.