It’s vitally important that your wayward spouse is held accountable to honesty.

accountable to honesty

By Sarah P.

As a betrayed spouse, you have probably experienced firsthand the scenarios that your mind can create if you do not know the details of your spouse’s affair. It’s how the human mind works.

Literally. Our brain’s job is to take account of the world around us, take all the audio, visual, and emotional stimulation we experience each day and filter it in a seamless way.

Our brain’s job is to help us understand and assimilate the world around us so that we can survive and make solid decisions. Since our brain is the ultimate survival mechanism, we must know what we face so that we can make decisions that cause us to survive and succeed.

When your spouse has an affair, life as you know it will seem like a confusing nuclear wasteland. Or, if it doesn’t look like a nuclear wasteland, it might look like an illusion.

An affair can be so disorienting that some say they feel adrift at sea, with no anchor, and no guiding light. This is an excruciatingly painful place to exist.

In The Unfaithful Person’s Guide to Helping Your Spouse Heal From Your Affair, Doug said, “The most important thing after an affair is discovered is that you are completely honest about the details of the affair. Keeping things a secret on the misguided belief that it will hurt your spouse or it will be uncomfortable for you will come back to haunt you down the road.

It’s vitally important that your wayward spouse is held accountable to honesty.

But, if your spouse is having trouble being honest, paint a picture in his/her mind. You don’t need to use words that shame to hold them accountable to honesty, you don’t need to yell, you just need to tell your spouse things such as:

  • I feel very frightened; I feel like a part of me has died. That part is you, since I believed we were a team.
  • I need to you to be honest with me. My mind conjures up the most terrible scenarios and it is extremely painful.
  • When I ask you questions about the affair, it is not because I want to attack you. I need to make sense of my life.
  • As long as you keep secrets from me, I will be unable to move on.
  • If I cheated on you and you decided to stay with me, would you want me to lie to you all day?
  • Keeping secrets is not a kind thing to do, even though many people incorrectly say, “what he does not know will not hurt him.” What I don’t know will hurt me.
  • When I talk about your affair, I am attempting to process the affair. I must know all the details in order to fully grieve and process your affair.
  • When I want to talk about your affair, it is not because I view you as a terrible human being. I ask about your affair so that I can gain understanding.

Getting to Complete Honesty After the Affair

One of the things that I recommend is that your wayward spouse find an “accountability partner” (of the same sex) such as a minister, a brother/sister, or a good friend. That person is there to hold your spouse accountable to staying honest and the accountability partner is there to keep your spouse focused on helping you recover.

Remind your spouse that he/she must be honest because small, white lies create bigger lies. If your spouse starts lying, he/she will trigger you because your life was a lie during the affair.

You need to impart to your spouse that all the bad habits he/she developed during the affair must be broken and that they be held accountable to honesty.

In essence, your spouse must “unlearn” all the techniques learned while cheating. He/she must shed the person he/she was during the affair. Your spouse must return to the person he/she was before the affair. 

Of course, there in no real returning, so to be more specific, he/she must shed all of the bad traits and habits that he picked up during the affair and then he/she must become a better version of the person he/she was before.

In Doug’s book for wayward spouses, he echoes this same message, “Your spouse will not fully get over your affair until you are completely honest about everything that happened. That means the physical aspect, the emotional aspect, where it took place, how it took place. Those questions all need to be addressed. You also need to be honest going forward in every aspect of your life.  Be open and honest with your thoughts and feelings and how you conduct yourself. Your relationship is either going to survive these difficult times or it won’t. You will want your relationship from here on out to be fresh and new and based on complete honesty. It’s important that your marriage can survive with honesty.” 

Indeed, your spouse must be honest if he/she wants your marriage to survive.



    9 replies to "Hold Your Wayward Spouse Accountable to Honesty"

    • Puzzled

      While healing and rebuilding can be started without full disclosure, there will always be the lingering doubt and sadness when the truth isn’t revealed. I speak from experience. My wife’s affair & D-day are nearing 7 years. However, she has continued to withhold the affair partner’s name. My suspicion has always been someone who I know and possibly would have considered a friend. As time passes, I’m sure my wife is relieved that I don’t bring things up. But the wondering has never stopped and the sadness that I feel will linger as I have always told her, “You’re choosing to protect him over being honest with me”.
      Maybe I just need to write her a letter and put it on paper, so she has to hold it, see it, read it, and feel it.
      What are your thoughts?

      • Judy

        Why hurt yourself with someone who can commit such evil against you?

      • Exercisegrace

        This would be a dealbreaker for me. The only reason she has for not telling you is so she can keep this person in her life without you knowing. Our marriage counselor asked me once why I wanted to know certain details. My response was….he can’t ask me to forgive something unless I know exactly what I’m forgiving. I’m not God. I don’t make blanket statements of forgiveness. If you don’t know who this person is, how does accountability work? How do you know she’s not in contact with this person etc?

      • David

        I like the idea of a letter that she can hold, process and re-read. Not knowing anything about your situation, my only suggestion is to frame it differently. Framing this as her choosing to protect him over being honest with you will just put her on the defensive. A better approach may be complete honest about the pain and insecurities you’ve carried for 7 years. Since you’ve endured 7 years, I assume she couldn’t give you an answer that would make you leave the marriage. If that’s the case then be honest with her about that and tell her why you need to know and how this will give you closure.

        If you bare your soul, and share a heartfelt and sincere explanation for how her lack of honesty has impacted you for 7 years, and how this information will bring you closure then the ball will be in her court. The challenge will then be on you, because if she rejects your request then you need to deal with it.

      • Shifting Impressions

        My heart goes out to you!!! She still hasn’t told you. The one thing I have learned through this long and difficult journey is that we can’t really make our partners do anything. The only control we have is our response. We need to know what our own bottom line is. For some of us, the withholding of the affair partner’s name would be a deal breaker and some of us would be able to live with that. Only you know what you can live with. Only you know whether NOT KNOWING is worth walking away for.

        If it were me I wouldn’t bother with a letter. I would focus on wether I could live with the situation or not, rather than focusing on making her understand. I hope that doesn’t sound too harsh.

        • Puzzled

          SI: It’s not harsh at all. You & I have been battling in recovery for about the same number of years. Truthfully, I won’t leave my wife if she won’t tell me. I guess that’s the thing for me. All I’m asking for is to be completely honest and close that chapter of our book. However, it just sits out there like an empty page and you can’t tell where the story turned. We’ve come a long way in the 7 years since D-day with a lot of pain, tears, and work. It just bothers me that she’d still withhold anything after all of these years.
          I’ll keep praying about it and stewing it over. Eventually, I think that I’m just going to have to either ask or simply put it behind me.

          • Shifting Impressions

            It has been a very long time, that’s for sure. I think it’s important for the BS to be honest with the CS as well. I think you probably owe it to both of you to let her know that this is still a huge obstacle to your recovery. Not easy, I know.

            I’m not sure if we ever get to the place where we can close the book entirely on this painful chapter in our lives. The betrayal is now part of the fabric of our relationship. For me, my husbands betrayal broke some thing deep inside. I am forever changed.

            There is a good chance that finding out who the affair partner was will open up a whole new can of worms. I imagine that the truth will come out sometime. The truth has a funny way of doing that. Your wife must be constantly looking over her shoulder. Keeping secrets is a hard way to live.

            One day at a time, right?

    • David

      I’m posting this comment for the benefit of anything who is working through the emotions of an affair. For me, it’s been 7-months since I learned my wife was having an affair with her boss. The first 4-5 months since D-Day were an emotional roller-coaster for me, and strangely my wife seemed almost emotionless about the whole thing. In the last 2-3 months my emotions have stabilized, and ironically my wife has recently become much more emotional about what happened. We are still in the throes of working through things and there are no guarantees our marriage will survive, but we’re both committed and optimistic. Most importantly we are willing to be patient and compassionate with each other.

      Everything in this post is 100% accurate, as are most of the posts on this site. However, the biggest insight I’ve gained in reading about recovering from an affair is this, where you are emotionally in your own recovery matters. Stated differently, there is a time and a place for everything. When it comes to your spouse being honest about the affair, you need to make sure you’re emotionally prepared to accept honesty. In addition, you need to be aware that your emotional state may prevent you from truly internalizing and accepting honesty.

      In explaining how or why the affair could have happened my wife has consistently given the same answer. The very abbreviated and non-contextualized answer I get is, “At the time of the affair, my job was only thing that brought me happiness or joy.” I say abbreviated and non-contextualized because everyone’s story is different. I don’t want anyone opining in the comments if this is an acceptable answer or not. I digress, her honest answer used to throw me into a tailspin. I would immediately get upset and either argue she was trying to justify the affair, or I’d remind her of all the things I do to bring joy and happiness to her life. The problem wasn’t her honesty, it was my inability to accept her honesty. Once I got my emotions under control (big plug for mindful meditation….it works wonders), and equally important, once my wife saw me being more emotionally stable then the honesty became easier. A few nights ago, we sat down to talk, and I framed the need for honesty this way. I reminded her that we were friends long before we were married. I reminded her of all the ways we supported each other during our friendship. I expressed empathy at how hard it must be to share details about her most shameful and regretful actions with the person she is closest to in her life, and who is also the person most hurt by her actions. I told her honesty about the affair was crucial to rebuilding trust, because if she wanted me to trust her then she needed to trust that I wasn’t looking for answers to shame her, but rather I wanted to help her through her pain.

      That level of raw intimacy wasn’t possible in months 0 – 6 after D-Day. I needed to be emotionally stable, and she needed to trust that I was genuinely interested in learning about the affair. The crazy thing about our conversation is that she gave me the exact same answer she has given me time and time again about how or why the affair could have happened. The difference that night is the answer was given with tears streaming down her face. Through her sobs she kept saying, “I don’t know how that makes you feel better because there is no explanation or excuse. You didn’t deserve this.”

      I’ll say this again because it’s so important to anyone struggling with affair recovery. There is a time and place for everything. There are things you absolutely need from your spouse to recover; however, you need to evaluate where you are emotionally. When it comes to holding your spouse accountable for honesty about the affair, you need to make sure you are in an emotional state to internalize and accept the honesty.

    • Shifting Impressions

      This post about honesty has been rattling around my head for a while now. I’m wondering if the BS ever really gets complete honesty. In order to do that the CS has to be completely honest with themselves and that takes courage!!! The very act of infidelity is steeped in deception and dishonesty!!! It is also an act of cowardice.

      All the facts that I know regarding my own situation are things I stumbled on. My husband has done many things right. But have I gotten “complete honesty”?? I don’t think so. It has been over eight years since D-day and we have come a long way in our journey towards recovery.

      He has to be willing to be COMPLETELY honest with himself in order to understand the why. Will he ever get there?? I don’t know, but I’m not holding my breath. As long as we are still moving forward I still have hope.

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