After an emotional affair it’s a good idea to create agreements to be transparent with one another.

After an Emotional AffairBy Susie and Otto Collins

If you’ve been looking for and reading ways to rebuild trust after infidelity, you may have come upon the term: “transparency.”

Our frequent advice to couples trying to repair the destruction wreaked by an affair is to create agreements to be transparent with one another. This is especially helpful for the one who cheated to do. With every decision, he or she can prove that’s it’s safe to trust again and that there is nothing hidden.

Maybe you’ve never heard the word “transparency” before this or you’re confused about exactly what it means.

When one (or both) of you is transparent, that means there are no secrets anymore. Zero. The specifics are up to you and your partner to decide, but a willingness to open up to your partner what you used to think of as private or separate information is usually involved.

Your partner may give you access to his or her accounts (email, cell phone, financial records, etc.) and you might reciprocate in a similar way. Transparency can also extend to thoughts. You two decide to stop pretending to agree when you really don’t or to find ways to be absolutely honest that aren’t hurtful.

Again, what being transparent will look like in your relationship is something for you and your partner to decide. This agreement is, itself, a lesson in trust because it involves opening up more fully in some way. 

See also  Obstacles to Affair Recovery

Perhaps you’ve thought about asking your spouse or partner who had an emotional affair to agree to be transparent with you, but you’re worried about the reaction you’ll receive. Your relationship is already in a fragile state and you don’t want to do anything to upset the balance that you two are beginning to re-gain. It can help if you are also willing to agree to be transparent. This sends the message that you’re all in with the healing too.

Asking your partner to be transparent with you requires carefully chosen words and that starts with a full understanding of exactly what you’re requesting.

Transparency CANNOT….

  • Erase the past.  If you are hoping for a quick fix that will put you and your partner back to where you used to be (when things were good between you), you’re going to be frustrated and disappointed. When your partner gives you access to accounts and information, it doesn’t change or cancel out what happened. You need to know this going in. Transparency is just one part of the  process.
  • Instantly make you trust again.  As we said above, there are no quick fixes. The first time you see visible proof that your partner has followed through and kept a promise, you probably aren’t going to experience a radical change. Rebuilding trust takes time and requires you both to be patient and present-focused.

Transparency CAN….

  • Be a powerful reminder of what’s true now.  When you keep your focus on the present and the proof you’re seeing today about whether or not your partner is trustworthy, you’ll be one step closer to repairing the damage done by an emotional affair. You can’t fully appreciate your partner’s willingness to be transparent or what you are seeing if you’re fixated on the past or fearfully projecting into the future.  Acts of transparency can bring you back to what’s true now.
  • Open up communication.  An agreement to be transparent isn’t to be taken lightly or merely assumed. Each of you   needs to talk about what this concept means and work together to come up with specifics you both can feel okay with. Otherwise, it just doesn’t work. The benefit of this conversation is that you and your partner will start talking about uncomfortable issues that aren’t just going to go away. You’ll be communicating and (hopefully) striving to understand each other and find the best agreement possible.
  • Show you improvements happening. If you do transparency the right way, you’re going to be able to use it as a measuring stick. You’ll see what’s changed, what’s different and what improving both in your partner’s behavior and also in the ways you two interact.
See also  My ‘Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda’ List

Transparency can also be taken too far. There actually is a wrong way to use transparency after an emotional affair. If it’s thrown down as a demand or part of an ultimatum and there isn’t a buy-in from both people, it’s going to back-fire and drive a couple further apart. If it’s only agreed to out of guilt because it’s brought up in a passive-aggressive, manipulative or shaming way, it will reap more destruction on the relationship.

Be honest with yourself about your motives if you’re considering asking your partner to be transparent after his or her affair. If you mostly want to spy on or somehow punish your partner, take a step back and re-focus on healing. Find ways to express your emotions that won’t harm your relationship. When you’re ready to truly work on rebuilding trust, return to transparency as a tool to help repair your relationship.


Susie and Otto Collins are Certified Transformative Coaches who teach a 4-step Focus on Love framework for moving past stress, challenges, conflict and misunderstandings and into a life with love and possibilities. You can learn more about them on their website.


    14 replies to "What Transparency Can (and Can’t) Do After an Emotional Affair"

    • Jeddy

      What I’m struggling with the most is the slow trickle of info from my husband. Just tell me the whole story please. I feel it’s a kind of control to have the trickle of facts. But I feel like I deserve the whole story so I can make the best decisions for me. He works with her in a family business – she’s not going away. We were going thru a very difficult time when he decided to complicate things more by bringing her in. My gut told me 9 months ago something was up, but I got every cliche line. That made me feel crazy and not valued or respected – but I was in fact 100% correct on who it was and what was going on. His focus is that I was to blame too – which was true, but he really muddied the waters by inviting her into our boat. Dealing with the initial problems (which we were, in counseling) has now been superseded by my complete agony over this woman. Who is a fave of my MiL. Ew. This a cut with a scab that keeps getting ripped off, over and over again. He also believes that since no sex was involved, I’m blowing this out of proportion. He just wants to get on with our marriage, and put all of this under his already super crowded and bumpy rug. Has anyone ever been sat down with and told the whole story? I think if it’s what I need, I have every right to ask for it. Infidelity has never been a part of our marriage -18yrs.

    • gizfield

      Jeddy, I really believe in most cases the repenitent “sharing” cheater is largely a myth. I guess there are some, but they appear to be rare. My husband lied his ass off for a very long time, he may still be for all I know. Hes secretive anyway so it’s not really a surprise. I got just about all my intel through “snooping”. At least I know hes the crazeeeee, delusional one, not me. I told him since he was such a liar I would believe the worst of him. It’s really worked well for me cause I dont concern what he did or didnt do with his “high moralled” girlfriend. On a completely unrelated topic last night I told him one day I will know all his secrets. He looked concerned, lol.

      • Strengthrequired

        I agree giz, I don’t know what it is, but the cheater can’t help with the lies, and the truth definitely isn’t something that gets shared all at once, only in the very rare cases.
        I think that is one thing us bs all find hard, is the way the truth just comes out slowly.
        Now if this so called wonderful ow was all that wonderful, and he really wants to be with, then there would be no reason for the lies in the first place.
        Now that the cs wants to stay with his bs, and is worried about their marriage ending because of his affair, that to me is a reason for the slowly released information of truth, even then I think not everything will be shared in the end. It is a way of covering their own ass, incase of backfire. Could blow a stinky hole in making things better. However, they could be enjoying the cake eating, and worried they will end up with no one to stroke their egos.

        • Jeddy

          If he had just said up front yeah, I had feelings for her, it was inappropriate, I’ve backed off and I’m committed to our marriage, I could have begun healing. But now I’m facing the last day of the worst year of my life knowing that when I confronted him months ago about her, he told me I was a crazy paranoid b—h. That I was the one with the snooping psycho problem. That my gut feeling meant nothing. But I was right. And he gets to work with her in a family business – I will never attend a function with her there, it’s enough of a hillbilly circus at the best of times. But since the rest of the family doesn’t know what they did, I look like the in law who doesn’t want to participate. He says he’s humiliated, but he has no clue what it’s like to know that I’m regarded by her and his family as a cold wife since I wont join in. Knowing he even discussed our and children with her makes me vomit. it’s also hard to swallow that he supported me as a stay at home mother and ran to a career woman. Talk about demeaning. And since I can say it here, the worst part is she’s not gorgeous. It wasnt even a lateral move. My god if you’re going to stray trade up and at least make me feel good!

    • gizfield

      I know it wont make you feel better, but his behavior and words are Extremely common. Almost interchangable with the other cheaters even. Lateral moves are usually the best they can hope for, usually it’s WAY DOWN, lol. My husband’s girlfriend can’t keep a normal relationship, lived on her brother’s couch, and has a wild teenage daughter following in her footsteps. Had the idiocy (I wont say nerve, that is vaguely complimentary) to tell me “it sucks to be you.” Uh huh, keep telling yourself that, chicky…

      • Jeddy

        Oddly I have no anger towards the woman I’ll call the hillbilly. My h is her boss, I’ve never met her (h claims I have, but I don’t remember her other than in a group of 4 women), and anything she knows about me came from him. She had no history with me, so why should she care. My h on the other hand, being in a position f power and influence over her, is the one I’m angry with. He crossed the line with me, not her. She may have been having her own marital issues. the group I met seemed like a very frumpy, poorly dressed, non descript bunch. Hence hillbilly. We are from wildly different worlds, so there’s no way we threaten one another. She’s in a small town, we live downtown in a huge city. But he was willing to sacrifice our marriage and protect that relationship. Is he taking me to restaurants he took her? When he bought me a gift, did he grab one for her too? His actions hurt. What he did with her consumes me. How can someone I don’t know, who I’ve never spoken to, now be the biggest blight on my marriage? I can’t give her that power, so my anger is for my h. She’s not a threat – my marriage has no foundation at all now, it can’t be broken further. Not knowing her and therefore not respecting her, her opinion of me, good or bad, doesn’t matter at all. But filling in the blanks of their relationship in my head, instead of actually knowing the truth is hard. I’m really grateful for this outlet. This isn’t how I planned on starting 2014, but there you have it.

    • April

      My husband is agreeing to transparency now. However, his AP gave him a prepaid cell phone during the course of their relationship. He threw it away, but it shows me he will stop at nothing to be deceptive. Is transparency even possible?

    • Recovered

      My H told me everything as and when it was happening – I went out for lunch with her. I went to the park with her. I told her I love her.

      I thought I was supposed to be ok with it because he was “transparent”. I thought I was the immature one to be feeling wretched about it.

      The EA was over and shelved two years ago. H goes on with life believing he did nothing wrong because he was honest with me. I continue to suffer anxiety and feel guilty that I am unable to completely get over it.

      Honesty does not right a wrong.

    • MamaJ

      I realize this is an old article, but I ran across it when I was looking for help about transparency. My husband of 16 years had an emotional affair. For 6 months he texted her, told her he loved her and bought her cards and gifts. They worked together at a second job and she is friends with his mother. They had a connection, I get that, but for 6 months he lied to me. He laid in bed next to me while texting her. After Dday, I have been struggling BIG TIME with trust. He has been arrogant when I have asked him for something other than HIS WORD. He’s thrown a GPS in my face before and I found one the whole family can use. Our daughter, is on it as well as me. But he refuses. He refuses to give me total access to his phone or emails. Says that he will show me PER INSTANCE what I need to know.. He said I am just going to have to TRUST him, but has done nothing to rebuild that trust. He says giving up his privacy and being accountable is against his “beliefs”. This makes me crazy because it makes me feel he’s still hiding something and he tries to make me feel like I am asking WAY to much of him by asking him for ways to be transparent. I have even asked him what HE thinks would be good and all I get is I DON’T KNOW. He NEVER answers me with any type of constructive response. This raises my anxiety level skyward and I usually end up in a foul mood.

      I don’t know what to do anymore. I struggle with just TAKING his word because for so long, he lied to me. I don’t know how to get through to him. He thinks just by staying and making dinner, or taking care of things around the house that he’s proving to me he’s all in. But he’s not. Every time he goes to that place where they work, I am literally a basket case.

      • Fractured heart, wounded beat


        It sounds like he is still involved in the affair. I lived through the same hell. Once discovered, they usually go underground, finding new ways to keep it all under wraps (e.g., burner phones, email accounts that you cannot access, etc.) AND MORE AND MORE LIES!! This is a continuation of the affair fog. You cannot get through to them during this time it seems. If the affair was ended, it likely started back up. You know, they cannot stay away from each other, you just wouldn’t understand, it’s some deep relationship, etc. ???????????? When there is not complete transparency, there is still deceit. Trust your gut!

        Since they still work together, I’m sure it’s still continuing on. I lived through the same thing and it nearly drove me right over the edge. My CH actually left our family and lived with his AP for over two months before he pulled his head out of his rear end! Now, I have transparency and he gets what he has done. He is horribly overcome by shame and guilt but during the affair, he felt nothing and had no awareness of what he was doing to me or our kids. THERE IS NO RATIONAL, LOGICAL ARGUMENT THAT WILL PENETRATE THE FOG. The man I loved was essentially dead during that time, hidden away behind this stranger in his body.

        I’m sorry you are in this place. Please know that you are in a place where we see you and we know your pain because it is also our pain. This is something you only truly understand when you’ve lived it. This is hell…. but you have found a place where you can find support from those who really know.

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