unethical amnesia

By Sarah P.

Imagine this scenario: you have a friend who always tells little white lies. Or worse, imagine that you have a friend who intentionally cheats on taxes or has extramarital affairs.

From your perspective, it is evident that this person is being highly unethical in his or her behavior. But, this same person probably doesn’t think of himself or herself as an unethical person. The reason for this phenomenon is called unethical amnesia* and it partially explains why many people who are unfaithful both forget and downplay their actions.

Here is a good definition of this concept: 

“People are prone to repeat dishonest acts because the human subconscious deliberately suppresses memories of unethical behavior, scientists have found. Fiddling expenses, cheating the taxman and even extramarital affairs are all less likely to be remembered than virtuous acts because of the phenomenon of “unethical amnesia”, according to researchers at Harvard and Northwestern Universities. These include “re-coding” previous actions by subconsciously dehumanising the victims of dishonesty. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study explains how the brain actively adopts strategies to avoid remembering instances of bad behavior in order to avoid psychological distress.” (1)

unethical amnesia
This is the flatland model that demonstrates how our perception of self is processed in regards to unethical amnesia.


Why does unethical amnesia allow others to so thoroughly forget their behavior when the victim will remember it forever?

It is difficult to imagine that someone can truly forget their transgressions, unless, of course they are politicians. If you have watched any politician being put on the spot for a misdeed, you will have noticed that their favorite phrases are phrases like “I don’t recall” or “I can’t remember at this time…” Most of us will call out the falsity and believe that these people are lying. But, Carmen Nobel at Forbes has a different take:

“It may sound like a disingenuous way to avoid answering hard questions about past misdeeds. But a recent set of studies indicates that people genuinely do tend to forget the details of their own transgressions. In the paper Leaving Our Immoral Deeds in the Past, researchers show that engaging in bad behavior affects the memory such that memories of those unethical actions gradually become less clear than other memories—a phenomenon the authors of the paper call “unethical amnesia.” Moreover, forgetting wrongdoings of the past makes us more likely to misbehave in the future. “We are social beings, and our basic need for self-worth is affected by moral self-views,” says Francesca Gino, the Tandon Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, who co-wrote the study with Maryam Kouchaki, an assistant professor at the Kellogg School of Management. “Unethical behavior creates psychological distress and discomfort, and unethical amnesia lowers it.” (2)

That last statement provides the ‘aha’ moment. If a person genuinely forgets his or her unethical acts, there is a pay off. Psychological discomfort and distress decreases if a person does not recall his or her unethical behaviors. People want to have to best view of themselves and so the bad acts that they participated in fade into the background while the good acts that they did become the new focus.

An Example…Bernie Madoff

The first person that comes to mind is Bernie Madoff. I am sure in Bernie Madoff’s mind he believed himself to be a solid, family-oriented kind of guy who was acting in the best interests of his family. Yes, it is a tremendous stretch for most of us to imagine. In fact, from our perspectives, it doesn’t even seem possible. So, how were people fooled by Bernie Madoff? Ruth Sutherland of The Guardian notes:

“Madoff’s biography is a classic variant of the American dream, which could have been tailor-made to garner trust from his compatriots. The tale of how he used money from summer jobs working as a lifeguard and an installer of garden sprinklers to set up his eponymous firm in 1960 appeals to Americans’ admiration for the self-made man and seems to have helped reassure his clients, despite his vagueness over how he generated returns of 10 per cent or more a year and despite warnings from financial journalists and traders. “It is like hearing the Tooth Fairy died,” said one US observer. Financial cheats often rationalise harming their victims by convincing themselves that their targets are stupid and deserve it. If they are defrauding an institution, they may persuade themselves that their acts are not hurting anyone, or that everyone does it.” (3)

This explanation does not allow Bernie Madoff to be absolved from his crime. But, since he was able to pull off such large-scale financial fraud while garnering the trust and the respect of many famous individuals, there has to be something going on. Most people would crack under the stress of it all.

Unethical amnesia would be one explanation for why Madoff was able to continue misdeeds over a number of years. The only other explanation would be that Madoff is a sociopath. In his case, it could be a combination of sociopathology and unethical amnesia that allowed him to continue his charade with a straight face for many years.  

Anne Wojcicki and-Sergey Brin

What about Sergey Brin?

The next person that comes to mind is Sergey Brin of Google. Sergey had been the underdog who started building one of the largest technology companies while working out of someone else’s garage. Sergey came up with the slogan, “Don’t be evil,” and off he and his business partner went. Google framed themselves as the ‘good guys’ of tech.

My husband and I used to look up to the power couple that was Anne Wojcicki and Sergey Brin. They were relatively young, married, and heading their own companies. Then, one day news broke that Sergey Brin did the most evil thing in the world: he cheated on his lovely wife right under his wife’s nose. It did not matter that they had two young children and that even their businesses were at stake.

Sergey went off the deep end for a female employee who was many years younger. This same female employee had visited their home and had even befriended his wife Anne. At first, I figured that Anne and Sergey would realize that unfortunately these things can happen when the pride of power takes over. I thought they would work on their marriage, realizing they had everything at stake.

The paradox is that Sergey was corrupted by hubris and he thought he was doing helpful things for the world while he was simultaneously being ‘evil’ and acting in a way that was the polar opposite of his company slogan that reminded him, “don’t be evil.” But, I am sure that in his mind he simply did not see his actions as evil since he probably focused on the good he believed he was doing. This is the heart of ethical amnesia.

A person can partake in actions that others would objectively perceive as wrong and yet the person doing those actions is only looking at his or her finer points. He or she still believes himself to be a good person despite glaring evidence to the contrary. This does not excuse unethical behavior—it just explains why sometimes people cannot see their own objectively harmful behavior towards others.

Truth Bias

When the person is unfaithful to his or her spouse and develops unethical amnesia, that is only half the story. It takes two to tango and the betrayed spouse must believe the wayward spouse when he or she glosses over the truth. Those outside the scenario might wonder why a betrayed spouse believes the half-truths of the wayward spouse. Third parties wonder why they can see clearly what is going on and why the betrayed spouse can’t.

Third parties might write it off with the old adage, “love is blind” and dismiss it as the love between the two spouses that blinds the betrayed spouse to what is going on. But, there is another reason that leads a betrayed spouse to believe the wayward spouse: Truth Bias.

Ever heard the phrase: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me?” While that might seem like a wise way to think, it does not reflect the whole story. If a wayward spouse has developed unethical amnesia, he or she is already fooling himself or herself to a great degree. So the betrayed spouse will never get the objective truth because the wayward spouse is not capable of knowing the objective truth. 

The complexity becomes much greater because of the spouse’s bias toward believing the wayward spouse. This truth bias makes it difficult to figure out what is an outright, objective lie or whether or not the wayward spouse has forgotten. Jack Schafer PhD notes:

“People want to believe others despite evidence to the contrary. This is a normal reaction because, in general, people tend to believe others. This phenomenon, referred to as Truth Bias, allows society and commerce to run efficiently. Absent Truth Bias, people would spend an inordinate amount of time checking information provided by others. Truth Bias also serves as the social default… Truth Bias provides liars with an advantage because people want to believe what they hear, see, or read. The effect of Truth Bias is stronger if the person telling the story is a close friend, a spouse, or our children. Truth Bias diminishes when people become aware of the possibility of deception.” (4)

tell-truthHow Does a Truth Bias Develop?

“As children, we were taught about the importance of honesty and why it’s important to tell the truth. If the process works the way it’s supposed to, we’ll tell the truth because it’s the right thing to do. In a word, we will have internalized the value. The value of honesty and truth-telling will become such a part of us that we don’t give it a moment’s thought.

When values are internalized, they become part of our core belief structure, defining who we are in the most fundamental and important sense. And our internalized values also function as our internal compass — letting us know when behavior (ours or someone else’s) is out of bounds. Unfortunately, our core beliefs have a way of becoming so important to us that it’s often very difficult to imagine that we could even find ourselves in the company of someone who didn’t hold the same values. Much like the horror that the neighbors usually express when they learn that the man next door has just been nabbed for being a serial murderer, it’s very difficult for well-socialized truth tellers to even contemplate that they could be mixed up with a big-time liar. And that’s the whole point about socialization and how it gives rise to deceptive relationships. Ask me who’s vulnerable to Romantic Deception, and high on my list will be the woman who was raised right. Show me a woman who believes in honesty and I’ll show you a woman who finds it hard to even imagine that she could get mixed up with a big-time liar. Show me a woman who places a premium on honesty in a relationship, and I’ll show you a vulnerable target.” (5)

Of course, truth bias also impacts men who were ‘raised right,’ not just women. The same principle stands for both genders. Men can be taken advantage psychologically the same way that women can be taken advantage of psychologically. There are lying, narcissistic women out there, but given the bias that comes with being romantically or physically involved, many a man will not see what is right in front of him. His parents might see it, his friends might see it, even some strangers might see it; but, if he has a truth bias due to being an honest person (coupled with romantic blinders), he won’t see it. Men can be victims of this as much as women can be victims of this. Hurtful and damaging people are found in both genders.

What Goes Through the Mind of an Adulterer?

I wanted to feature an edited version of a story by a man, who is also a psychologist, because he has the kind of insight and perspective to which most of us are not privy. After all, affairs are such a highly personal event and because of the subsequent shame after the affair these stories often never see the light of day—that is beyond the therapist’s couch. But, in this story, Dr. Jay-Kent Ferraro, who had the affair, is both the therapist and the patient:

“Damn it!” I exclaimed as my new reality settled in. I am that man.

While I never aspired in grad school to be the poster child for infidelity, life never turns out as it should but as it does. If it helps one couple or spares a single child the agony of an unnecessary divorce it’s worth it. I chose to have an affair that was devastating to my wife and family, resulted in a divorce, landed me in a jail cell, damaged many important relationships and almost cost me my life. That’s the bad part. I also chose to grow up, take responsibility for the brokenness that propelled me to the choices I made, and learn how to love my wife Julie as she deserved to be…As I suspect is true with many affairs, the anatomy of mine was found in those parts of me that I had for many years denied, refused to take responsibility for, or run from being honest about. In lying to myself and others about those parts, I severed them from my life. Once dissociated, they remained unknown to me, leaving me in a dangerous and intolerable state in a world replete with opportunity for escape and threats to deep intimacy. Ironically, my ignorance about my own brokenness rendered any smarts I acquired in getting a PhD in clinical psychology useless. What is invisible to us often controls us. My broken condition allowed me to fail in taking responsibility for those severed parts-something that true love requires of us all…

Following are the six reasons I chose to have an affair and what I did in the aftermath to grow as a man and husband:

  1. I believed that the rules didn’t apply to me.
  2. I confused significance and self-worth with certainty and success.
  3. I made up a story that my wife was the cause of my unhappiness and disappointment in our marriage. 
  4. I was an accomplished liar.
  5. I confused sexual attraction and fantasy for love.
  6. I didn’t take responsibility for my mental health.” (6)


More on Why He Cheated

Dr. Ferraro’s story continues in another post and he reiterates that the affair has more to do with whom the unfaithful spouse is at their core and their ability to love:

Every affair tells a story and although it is true that the story has something to do with the state of a relationship where betrayal takes place, what’s more true is that infidelity tells an important story about who the unfaithful partner is – the state of their own psyche and soul; whether they are even suitable for a real relationship with anyone with the bandwidth to actually love.” (6)

Dr. Ferraro continues to expand upon the six points listed earlier in this article. For the sake of brevity, I will pull out certain ideas and points that he makes that answer the question about why he chose to have an affair.

The point that sticks out the most to me and also the point that relates to ethical amnesia is point #4 where he recognizes he is an accomplished liar. He explains how this works and I would imagine that it could apply to more people than just him:

“Men have an uncanny and dangerous ability to compartmentalize their lives such that one part doesn’t recognize the other. In this split, dissociative state, I rationalized everything including the creation of the two worlds I relished in calling it “complexity”, convinced myself I was being taken advantage of by Julie, and therefore had the right to find happiness “as long as no one knows so no one gets hurt”. So I did, under the self-deception of protecting her failing to see that the deception in an affair is where most of the pain is. Without integrity life simply doesn’t work.” (6)

Notice that Dr. Ferraro takes the burden off of himself through rationalization. In rationalizing that he is the victim because his wife Julie is taking advantage of him, he is able to create a double life. He believes that as long as the secret is kept, no one gets hurt. In doing this, I believe that he sees himself as honorable because he is protecting his wife’s feelings. In doing this, he is ignoring the fact that the bigger picture portrays the very core of unethical behavior—living a double life and rationalizing away the harm that such a situation causes.

Dr. Ferraro continues to explore why he cheated. Indeed the roots of infidelity were actually built during an abusive childhood. Mixing this up with the belief that sexual attraction was paramount; the seeds for marital and personal destruction had been sewn long before his marriage to his wife:

“Early in life, I learned to use sex as a drug and means of escape where I could nurture myself and soothe the chaos of an abusive childhood. When confronted with parallel lives, a child-focused marriage and the perceived neglect and lack of appreciation I felt in our marriage, I turned to strip clubs and pornography as a cure that only made things worse. A real relationship can never compete with a fantasy, and sexual attraction isn’t love. I confused an experience of excitement and novelty with a person I called my “soul mate” and chased that person as if they were the source of feeling alive. They weren’t. Affairs are not real relationships; they’re fantasies on speed built on deception that cannot stand the light of day.” (7)

Dr. Ferraro fell into the trap that was well laid: the confusion of sex and love. Most of us are not taught what it means to really love a person and we get swept up by all of the drug-like effects of early attraction. It is easy to confuse extreme attraction with love and I tend to believe this is a common problem. The severity and the chaos that this problem causes, is demonstrated in a marriage where one partner falls into an affair.


An Interesting Paradox

The paradox in Dr. Ferraro’s case is he was trained to advise others in mental health and personal wellbeing. Yet, he did not keep track of his own mental health or wellbeing. He continues:

“I failed to manage my depression, something I struggled with since childhood, evolve beyond my family of origin ghosts, and attend to my mental health needs. By not doing the necessary work to grow and heal, I never matured into someone capable of giving and receiving mature love. Intimacy, what I claimed to want and crave, was actually not something I was capable of, yet I blamed the marriage and Julie for “denying it to me”, further reinforcing my sense of entitlement to get that need met somewhere else.” (7)

Once again, he justifies to himself that since his wife is allegedly not meeting his needs, it is okay to get needs met elsewhere. It was not until the aftermath of the affair that he pointed the finger back at himself, where it always belonged.

I would recommend that you read his story in its entirety because he provides a unique perspective. (You can find the links to the original articles in the sources.)

Dr. Ferraro and his absolutely stunning wife Julie also wrote a book about their experience titled, Surprised By Love. Although I have not read it, I know enough about their story to believe it is a very worthwhile read. After all, they ended up getting divorced because of the affair and then eventually found their way back to each other, only to marry again! Talk about coming full-circle! He and his wife also have a website and I recommend that you visit it here: http://www.drjayandjulie.com/

It’s always interesting to me when a mental health professional gets pulled into an affair. After all, they are trained to know better. But, since people, including mental health practitioners, are so capable of compartmentalizing, I think they are able to fall into the same traps as everyone else. Still, they are supposed to know better and to know the signs that they are falling.

Some mental health practitioners that I know see therapists themselves, while others ignore the fact that the job is stressful and they need a place to offload that stress. If they ignore the stress and fail to take their own advice, it is easy to understand how they can fall into an affair and use affairs as a coping mechanism.

Dr. Ferraro’s story is also interesting because it dovetails with the idea that even the ‘supermodel’ can have an unfaithful husband. His wife Julie was a beauty queen and involved in both radio and television shows. Julie is a gorgeous, statuesque, slender blond who looks much younger than her age. She is a good Christian and even during their divorce, Julie said that as a Christian, she could only continue to be kind, fair, and to pray for her ex-husband because that is who she was and is. She could not go against who she was and be pulled down into bitterness. Their story has a happy ending, since they remarried. But since I have not read their book yet, I am not sure how the reconciliation occurred. Like anything in life, I am sure that it was a process.


I wonder if you are thinking what I am thinking. Unethical amnesia seems like it might excuse those who are unethical. Unethical amnesia might seem to allow a person to dodge accountability and let them off the hook for owning their behavior.

This article could be perceived to send that message since it explains why some people lie—they genuinely forget. But, explaining why something happens and accountability are two different things. No matter what the reason for the wayward spouse forgetting the details of the affair, they are still accountable for the affair itself. This article is meant to simply shine a light into why wayward spouses lie and why a betrayed spouse might easily believe their lies.

After all, if the wayward spouse genuinely forgets, then he is incapable of telling the truth. This doesn’t mean that the betrayed spouse should stop searching for the truth either; it just means unethical amnesia might make the truth harder to find.


In Summary

Morality is an essential feature in people’s lives and it is the cornerstone of a civil society. People strive to be ethical or at least to present themselves as moral members of society. This is the reason why those who have behaved unethically are motivated to suppress the details of their unscrupulous behavior so they can perceive themselves as moral individuals.

It had been demonstrated in studies that individuals are left with feelings of extreme discomfort when they believe themselves to be moral but act in ways that are immoral. As a result, these individuals enlist subconscious strategies to alleviate internal guilt and discomfort. What’s interesting is that unethical people sometimes judge others’ unethical behavior more harshly than their unethical behavior. When they do this, it is an attempt to convince themselves that their actions are not so bad after all.

I believe that most people, except narcissists and sociopaths, do not want to hurt others, but can become blinded by selfishness. In their blindness, they cannot even recognize the harm they are doing.

The theory of unethical amnesia seems to explain why otherwise good people can forget the details of harmful actions. I believe this is why a wayward spouse can sometimes genuinely forget the details of his or her transgressions. This is especially true if a wayward spouse has internalized morality. In summary, unethical amnesia is a kind of adaptive measure that allows individuals to side-step unpleasant truths about themselves.

Still, I believe in love and I believe that all marriages go through hard times. Marriage can be very difficult and people make mistakes. Sometimes people want two different things at the same time, but I truly believe that where love has existed before, love can exist again.

Unethical amnesia could be one reason a wayward spouse does not remember the details about an affair, but it does not provide a wayward spouse with an excuse to withhold the details he or she remembers. It is simply an explanation for why some people cannot remember life-altering events.

Truth bias is the other side of the coin and provides an explanation as to why betrayed spouses can often give a wayward spouse the benefit of the doubt. A betrayed spouse doesn’t give the benefit of the doubt because he or she is ‘in denial’ or ‘blinded by love.’ A betrayed spouse is only doing the same thing everyone else does toward their loved ones. Everyone has a truth bias when it comes to the people closest to them, unless of course, they have been through an experience that has taught them to be on guard.

Still, knowing about unethical amnesia and truth bias should not discourage you in your recovery process but rather add to understanding why it is difficult to get the objective truth out of the wayward spouse. Unethical amnesia explains why someone who used to be a good person could minimize and rationalize immoral acts that were committed in the past. It explains why you as a betrayed spouse so easily gave the benefit of the doubt. It was the natural thing to do.

Hopefully this understanding allows you to move forward in your recovery without thinking of yourself as some kind of chump who was easily fooled by the wayward spouse. Truth bias allows even the most intuitive people to be fooled by someone with whom they are deeply in love.

What has your experience been with unethical amnesia? Have you experienced truth bias?  Please share your experiences in the comment section below.


Opt In Image
The Cheater Must Become the Healer
“The Unfaithful Person's Guide to Helping Your Spouse Heal From Your Affair”

If you want to discover the 24 healing ‘tasks’ that the unfaithful spouse needs to carry out, then you should check this program out now.



*I wanted to thank TryingHard for bringing this topic to my attention as a potential blog post. In the future, I would like to encourage everyone to feel free to send topic suggestions to Doug and Linda or to me.


  1. Bodkin, Henry. “Unethical Amnesia”: subconscious deliberately suppresses memories of dishonesty. May 16, 2016. From http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/05/16/unethical-amnesia-subconscious-deliberately-suppresses-memories/
  2. Nobel, Carmen. Unethical Amnesia: Why We Tend To Forget Our Own Bad Behavior. May 18, 2016. From http://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2016/05/18/unethical-amnesia-whey-we-tend-to-forget-our-own-bad-behavior/2/#6bacad473ca3
  3. Sunderland, Ruth. Inside the Minds of Men Who Want to Get Rick Quick. December 20th, 2008. From https://www.theguardian.com/business/2008/dec/21/madoff-corporate-fraud 
  4. Schafer, Jack. PhD. Truth Bias: A Psychological Cloak for Deception. June 26, 2013. From https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/let-their-words-do-the-talking/201306/truth-bias
  5. Caldwell, Sally, PhD. Honesty and the Truth Bias. From http://www.innerself.com/content/personal/relationships/5237-honesty-a-the-truth-bias-by-sally-caldwell.html 
  6. Kent-Ferraro, Jay, PhD, MBA. True Confessions of an Adulterer… Who Happens to Be a Shrink! “Therapist tells all about his affair” From https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/surprised-love/201104/true-confessions-adulterer-who-happens-be-shrink 
  7. Kent-Ferraro, Jay, PhD, MBA. “Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater… Maybe Not” From https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/surprised-love/201201/once-cheater-always-cheater-maybe-not


    69 replies to "The Perfect Spouse: How Unethical Amnesia Might Affect Getting the Truth"

    • bor

      Hi Sara can you explain his #2 reason? This one has me confused as to what does that mean?

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Bor,
        So # 2 by Dr. Jay, speaking about himself, was:
        “I confused significance and self-worth with certainty and success.”

        So, basically he is saying that he believed that he could only have self-worth if he succeeded. His self-worth was tied solely to his success in life.

        Then, he says he mixed up the idea of significance and certainty. He felt that he could only be significant if he were certain in his views or in the way in which he lived his life. He didn’t realize that you can be someone significant without being certain of the path or the outcome.

        That is how I interpret it anyway.

    • TheFirstWife

      So how does this explain “good” people who cheat more than once? Not a psychopath or narcissist but a decent spouse with a family and kids and the like.

      I realize the scientific studies back up this theory but honestly I would like to call it what it is.



      along with the choice to cheat is the issues of mid life crisis, alcoholism, addictions, job issues, financial problems, etcetera.

      But we have become a nation of excuses. A nation of deflection. A nation or culture of take no responsibility.

      Scenario: spouse cheats and blames other spouse b/c the cheater was not happy and blamed the other spouse. It’s the other person’s fault.

      In my case my H did not appear unhappy. He never said he was unhappy. He lamented turning 50. He did not like his job. Wished he made more $$.

      Those are his excuses for an affair.

      He could have asked for a divorce when he realized he had feelings for the OW. He could have said something to me. He could have sought help. He could have talked to a trusted friend about his unhappiness. BUT NO – he cheated to make himself feel good and the hell with everyone else.

      I have zero tolerance for these types of articles because it just gives way to a type of behavior that is unacceptable. The rationalization and explaining of choices.

      I know my H had a mid life crisis. I get it. But to choose to have a second affair with the same OW in my mind is the most selfish, arrogant type of behavior ever displayed.

      and after reading this blog for years I know he is not the worst of some of the cheaters but at the end of the day, WHY you cheat really doesn’t matter to me. It is the fact that you made a rational decision to do so.

      i feel bad for those in EA where the cheating spouse even denies there is anything wrong with the relationship. Well my spin is if you wouldn’t act or say it with your spouse standing next to you, then you know it is wrong.

      I just get tired of all this self serving crap thrown in our faces every day. I robbed a bank because Iosr my job. I joined a gang and killed people because my home life stunk. I stole your belongings because I have no job or $.

      But we need to stop accepting excuses for immoral choices and excusing bad behavior.

      The behavior of so many people today – athletes, movie stars, politicians, company executives, etc. – full of excuses and lies and self serving choices and scandals. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore that people are faithful.

      I try to teach my children better but feel our generation is up against a tidal wave when it comes to morals and ethics.

      • Sam

        “you have a friend who always tells little white lies – or worse, imagine that you have a friend who intentionally cheats on taxes or has extramarital affairs.”

        Well that’s two of what my dad is guility of…. though he chooses not to accept it.

        “along with the choice to cheat is the issues of mid life crisis, alcoholism, addictions, job issues, financial problems”.

        Midlife Crisis, Alcoholism, yeah! This what drove him to cheat, started to drink himself into oblivion, but still sees nothing wrong with it.

        My dad wanted to go out with me the other day, wanting to go to the shopping centre (as I know she doesn’t like shopping, as he has said she dresses terribly). In the end he didn’t even end up turning up. A few nights ago he called me, didn’t anwser the first time, then he rang back streight away, and I gave in and answered it and he said, “do you want to go out with me – I was like; “well, I don’t know!”. Then about a few days later he called m at midnight (12.05)… why!? He wanted to know what time we were meeting up. I think his mistress needs to know, as who else is he calling at that time!? Other women? his mother was seriously ill, and we had to get some ergent medicine, and it was at the other end of the city where was the only place that stocked it. We called him, and he said “does she need it this moment….”, I mean she is literally on her deathbed, and he said he couldn’t because he was getting ready to go out drinking (which is the only thing he does with her). So me and my mum had to go to fetch it. We also had to stay up until 6.00 in the morning to look after my gandma, as my ganddad was in the hospital having his leg that he recently has had an operation on, re-checked and was there for 10-hours – and my dad doesn’t even seem to care. Dosen’t this send messages to the OW, when things hit a rocky place in their relationship he will be equally uncareing if she becomes seriously ill!?!?

        We also saw the OW driving in her car and she laughed at us – she thinks it is funny what she has done – I so hope KARMA hits her so hard in the future that she doesn’t know what happened!!!

        • TheFirstWife

          Sam I am sorry your dad continues to disappoint you.

      • Lynsey

        The First Wife, Very well said. I couldn’t agree more about cheating spouses being so selfish, etc and how this nation is so full of self-serving egotists, and not taking responsibility. It’s sad, and so wrong.

        • TheFirstWife

          Thank you. Maybe I am a “black & white” type of person.

          you must know cheating is wrong so why do it for a long period of time? and why do they only feel remorse AFTER they have been caught (for the most part).

          If I had cheater mentality then I would have:

          1. Cheated when my H had a 4 year EA
          2. Cheated while my H travelled extensively for work for years
          3. Cheated when he chose to play golf or sports on the weekends (it was ok by me if he played but let’s use it as a justification to cheat)
          4. Cheated when he decided he wanted a divorce 3x in a few months (during affair)
          5. Cheated because I had PTSD and anxiety after his affair
          6. Cheated because after the affair was over he continued to lie to me for the next 12 months, causing even more stress
          7. Cheated because I wanted to be “happy” and I deserve to be happy in any way I can

          But I did not cheat a and would not cheat. I am not a coward. If I decided to leave him I would do it by being fair and honest. Giving him a heads up this isn’t working. Work on the marriage until I exhausted all options and realized it will not work.

          I just wonder WHAT goes thru the cheating mind and what you tell yourself to continue to be a lowlife liar and cheater.

          I just think this article gives way to a continuation of the same behavior. No compromise, no discussion, no working together to fix the problem – just make sure I get what I want. End of story.

    • Hopeful

      Wow, I felt like I could be reading my own husband’s words. Maybe it is the parallel of both being in the mental health field. I am going to pursue and read more of their information. I always felt like my husband had the upper hand due to his professional training yet as this article states it did nothing to help him when he needed it the most. I think there is a lot to be said for the wounded duck syndrome and why people pursue a mental health career. I am not sure if my husband would have seen himself as having any issues but this relates so closely to him and his behavior. I think one thing is he did compartmentalize (I think he is really good at this and it makes him really good at his job) and he also was selfish. To take it to that next step he recognizes it and owns that. I understand truth bias and of course I wanted to see him in the best light and I guess put him on a pedestal. However, when I asked him many times if he ever interacted, flirted etc with other women when he was out and he said no, never, it is not like that when I go out with my friends. And I would probe and he would share details regarding his friends and their behaviors that were less than desirable. At that point when the betrayed probes over and over for years, gets told nothing ever happens, and any excuses are related to work or family obligations where does that leave us. I do not feel like I ever turned my back and ignored symptoms that any of this was happening. My husband has told me exactly what is stated above. He justified everything in his head and I was the problem. But he did not treat me that way. He tells me all the time that I did nothing wrong to create any of this it was all his fault and his poor decisions. He tells me he could have handled it a million different ways but he did not.

      To me all of these items on the list above apply to my husband. But in the end he had no character. He was not transparent or authentic. Sure he has a great reputation but that doesn’t mean everything since that is really just what he puts out to the outside world.

    • TryingHard

      Not remembering, forgetting, “I don’t know”, seems to be such a common theme amongst commenters on this blog and others that I’ve read. When I heard the piece on NPR by Shankar Verdantum I had to Google and learn more about the topic.

      Many of us here have even said our spouses were so honest in other areas of their lives and how it was incomprehensible that they would or could be a cheater. It just wasn’t who they were or whom we perceived them to be.

      Unethical Amnesia combined with Truth Bias I believe answers a lot of questions for us. I’m not trying to make excuses or spackle the bad behavior but it is an answer for which I know many BS beat themselves, LOL and probably the cheater too, up.

      I know personally I had a lot of personal anguish over “how could I have been so blind/stupid/fooled” you name it. I gnashed my teeth and brow beat my husband for answers. Damn it I wanted and needed those details. Well I now believe he WAS being honest when he said he didn’t remember. Because he truly didn’t. I know my husband is VERY concerned about his “image” and how he’s perceived. He told no one about his AP. Keeping the secret was of utmost importance. And once the secret was out he still tried to hide it. But he could no longer hide it from himself. I know he believes that since he has forgotten that everyone else has as well. Well it only takes what happened in the news this week to remind ALL cheaters, some people don’t forget, EVER. The republican candidate pulled Jennifer Flowers out of his back pocket to threaten and discomfort the Democratic candidate. I’m not taking a political stance here but I’m pretty sure old Bill Clinton thought everyone had forgotten about old Jennifer. Not so. And maybe some people need to be reminded of their horrible choices to keep them in check. It’s called humility. And humility never killed anyone.

      So if you need to keep asking the questions. If you truly need those answers now at least you know what you are dealing with. Not getting those answers may or may not be a deal breaker for you.

      • Hopeful

        Exactly how my husband sees it. He has a great reputation. No one would ever think he would do this. No one knew. He worked very hard to keep it distant and hidden from all aspects of his life. And these women that he said pursued him didn’t want anything more from what I can tell. He told me that but he broke up with one a year before dday and then the other one told her once to stop texting him. I am not sure what they got out of it. It was not some constant relationship. He bought them nothing. Who knows. No one still knows and I am not sure if anyone ever will know. He says he has to live with it every day and not a day goes by he does not think about it. It is his biggest regret and always will be. And his biggest fear now that I know is that our kids will find out.

        The not remembering and forgetting is so hard for me too. For my husband this all went on with two women for 10 years but sporadically. They would go a year without communication. The one he only saw three times. I am not sure if he is telling me every detail but I am not sure more details would help or hurt me. And I do think he really has no idea since it was spread out over time. I had this impression that he was so happy and having an amazing time. He said it was an escape and then he would hate himself after the fact. He would just detach and isolate more and more. All focused on work as his excuse and of course I did nothing correctly. I try to focus on is I now have answers for his behavior and why he acted the way he did for so long and that it was not me. Also, I try to focus on what we have today. Sometimes it seems too good to be true and like it is all fake. My counselor tells me it really has been too long for it to be fake. However, I worry with the passage of time things will slip and his boundaries will start to shift again.

        • TheFirstWife

          It is interesting to note that you recognized that something was amiss with your husband.

          I, however, had no idea.everything seemed perfectly normal.

          However I realize now looking back that he was able to hide a lot of his interactions because they were people he knew through work. not having met them, I would have no way of knowing that he was flirty or acting in a way I would not approve of.

          My husband is also the kind of guy that people would never suspect as a guy who would cheat.

          I guess it is hard to know what’s real and what’s fake since I have spent three decades with someone I now know was not the person I thought they were.

          • Hopeful

            Yes I agree no one would ever guess. And he was great to me. If you saw the cards and the words he wrote to me. He talked me up and complimented me all the time. But over the 10 years he would be distant or detached. He has a very stressful job and would point to that. Or I would question more golf or another guys trip. But then we went on amazing vacations and had the time of our life. Nothing was that out of sort just basic life stresses or so I thought. What makes sense for us now is these affairs were sporadic. There was no immersing himself in it. It was just an escape here and there.

            I do think about the fake personality. I mean it is hard to comprehend how someone can go through life. One thing is I figured someone would have an affair to be happy. But what I know now is my husband was miserable. He was not happy at all. He had major issues. Yes he could have made better choices but he didn’t. He has to live with that. I do not understand it but I make the right decisions and I know what will make me happy. He lacked that. It is all such a mess and hard to comprehend. And in the end no matter what I read nothing really helps or makes it better. It is just a choice each day to try to move forward and deciding is this worth it.

        • Shifting Impressions

          I find it interesting that his biggest fear is that your children will find out. Being in the field that he is in he must know that children sense when there are secrets. I have always believed that the pain of the truth is better than the pain of a lie.

          My children know about the EA and have shown amazing love and grace towards my husband. When I first discovered my husband’s EA my children didn’t know but slowly things unfolded. My daughter came by to pick up her little ones as I was babysitting on D-day and sensed something was very wrong. One of my sons almost a year later said he knew by the sound of my voice that there was something was very wrong with me. He wondered what was going even to the point that perhaps I was hiding an illness.

          I even had two friends tell me that they saw the pain in my eyes….this without knowing what had happened.

          My children are adults and I am a firm believer that we must live authentic lives. There are lessons to be learned for all of us through this pain. For me the keeping of secrets is not something I can live with.

          • Hopeful

            Si we have talked a lot about this recently even. I do agree with a lot if what you are saying. And my kids notice every little thing with me. The most they asked was why was I quiet. And I would explain to them that I was stressed and talked about challenges. My kids are a lot younger no where near adult hood. Not even teenagers yet at the time. I never cried in front of them or did they see us argue, we only talked when they were at school, away from home or when we were not at home. I talked at length with my therapist and he felt that since we had committees to moving forward and preserving our marriage that it was ideal to not tell them, and I guess we do not see it as a secret but more as an aspect of our adult marriage, we will see over time if we continue to keep it between us. As of now it feels right. A plan was developed with my therapist if they ask about it or if we decided to separate or not continue our marriage as to what would be said at that time.

            • Shifting Impressions

              Things were so different in my case as they were all adults. I am quite sure I would have done the same as you had they been young children.

    • TryingHard

      Thanks Sarah. You did a great job on this article.

    • TryingHard

      I agree with all your reasons that cheaters make as excuses to cheat. I am certain you’ve left off a multitude of others as well. And yes if those are reasons to cheat I could have done the same. I certainly had the opportunity, the invites, and the time. But frankly it was the LAST thing on my to do list because I’d have sooner had a hot poker stuck in my eye.

      I don’t think this article is giving excuses. It’s talking about the sudden and seeming amnesia that cheaters develop once the affair is over or exposed. Why they don’t want to talk about and admit what they’ve done. How the BS has Truth Bias (I know I’m guilty of that) which will only support the cheaters Unethical Amnesia.

      I don’t even think that the BS should let them get away with their seeming amnesia, unethical or otherwise. This is knowledge about cheaters and BS that is powerful to know and keep in mind when sorting out the very muddy waters of infidelity and reconciliation. Certainly there are MANY cheaters that just won’t fess up, won’t come clean, and won’t give every detail because well, they just won’t. But I do believe their is unethical amnesia at play particularly when dealing with affairs that are many years past. Plus, how many have you read who have said “I just want to forget about the whole thins?” Haha MANY if not all!!!

      I do believe the psychological state is real. Sorry, but I tend to trust educated researchers and scientists and doctors when they speak in empirical data. I’m funny like that 🙂

      So I respectfully disagree with your assessment that this article is making excuses for the affair. Not that there couldn’t be, and undoubtedly are, a million articles written on that subject alone.

    • Sidney

      You can use all the psycho-babble reasons you want for the reason someone cheats……but it all boils down to one thing……..
      A person cheats because it makes them feel good.

      • Untold

        … and they don’t have the capacity to foresee the devastation it could cause themselves and their family.

      • Hopeful

        It may be true for some people but my husband has sworn to me from dday that he was not happy, was miserable and regretted it every minute and knew from the first second what he was doing was wrong. I understand everyone is different but I do think it is part of his character and who he is. That is at the crux of all of this can he change. I think people can but this is a major change. And the pain and injury caused is major. I know this will live with us the rest of our lives. I hope we can turn it into something positive long term. But only time will tell.

        • Hopeful

          I also feel my husband knew exactly or he thought he know what would happen. He thought I would leave him and his life would cease to exist as he knew it. He thought he would never see his kids again on a daily basis. For him that fear led him to fall deeper. He said he wanted to tell me so many times but he said it was so upsetting and still is to this day since it had nothing to do with me yet he knew it would crush me. He was well aware of all of that. He justified it and made himself feel like it was okay but he knew. He said he could not even look himself in the mirror. He said he is the happiest person alive since he never dreamed he could get forgiveness and live the life he has now and he appreciates it every day. I am skeptical and guarded still but as my therapist says with the right boundaries in place I need to allow myself to be vulnerable again.

    • Kate

      I read “Surprised by Love” early on in my recovery. As time has gone on, I have found it to be one of the most insightful books I read about affairs & what goes on in the unfaithful’s head & the marriage issues that can lead to an affair. I highly recommend the book. He’s absolutely spot-on about the delusions affair partners operate under. He makes it clear that unless the unfaithful takes a long hard look at themselves & works to fix their issues, the behavior will likely re-occur or continue. Unfortunately, that’s what most unfaithfuls are trying to run away from – their own issues.

    • Sarah P.

      Thank you everyone for your comments. I understand that this article hit a nerve with some because it seemed it gave another excuse for those who are unfaithful. I don’t think it gives an excuse but rather it shows why some who are unfaithful can forget the details of their transgressions. Even if they forget the details, it doesn’t make their behavior less wrong. Their forgetting does not absolve them of guilt. They still have to make amends to their spouse even if they forget details.

      Unethical amnesia is basically the war between ego and deed. Someone can have a very good view of himself and believe he always does the right thing. But then, when he acts in a way that is wrong, this doesn’t fit with the narrative of his ego. So, he starts to stuff down the events that don’t line up with his self-perception of doing everything right.

      Unethical amnesia is an internal battle that occurs when people act wrongly.

      It doesn’t excuse their wrong behavior in any way. It just simply explains why some people can forget the details of wrong actions.

      • Hopeful

        Sarah, This really explains it so well. This is as far as I can tell explaining my husband exactly. And I think it is good to be aware of this because I now know this is how he can possibly handle situations. He struggles to talk about any of it now since it is so painful for him to see what he has done to me. He would prefer to focus on his current behaviors he can control. I get all of that. I think we are in a hard spot at 15-18 months since dday. It is past the time of intense pain and hurt yet it is still lingering especially for me. He is sensitive to this yet I can not seem to get past it all. I struggle to start to trust. It is just so hard. And as he said to me he can understand it but he has this security of knowing I would and will never let him down or betray him. So he gets it but nothing really takes that pain away.

      • Butterball

        Sarah-I think the 6 points the Dr. makes really hits the nail on the head. But what is the BS supposed to do when confronted with these points if one wants their spouse to eventually wake up and see what they are doing and make it right? How do we balance not allowing them to believe it all yet at the same time not come across as critical and pushing them away from us even more?

    • antiskank

      I’m firmly stuck on the fence with this one. It may be that the amnesia is real but I do sort of feel that it is another excuse waiting to happen. I can just hear it ” I don’t remember. I have that unethical amnesia. I said I was sorry, that’s all I can do.” I have heard every excuse known to man and a few that aren’t!! He just doesn’t want to talk is what I have determined.

      I am curious about something that many of you have mentioned. You say that your CS doesn’t like to talk about it because he doesn’t want to hurt you more. I feel that the reason my CS won’t talk about it is that he is ashamed, embarrassed, and just doesn’t want to be held accountable. He had no trouble hurting me by cheating, lying, and comparing me to his one true love!

      Many of you have also mentioned “boundaries”. Call me stupid but I can’t quite seem to figure out how to set the boundaries and what exactly they are!! How do you follow up with someone you can’t trust?

      I gave him a week to have a plan in place for our separation, his leaving. He begged me (yet again) for another chance. He has 1 month to show some significant progress. It is now day 6, and not much has changed.

      Have I just become too cynical after waiting so long for my CS to get his act together? What am I not seeing that everyone else seems to have figured out? Although the pain of it all dulls somewhat over time, it does not seem to go away and the frustration builds to crazy levels……

      • TheFirstWife

        Hi AntiSkank. I am sorry it has come to this for you. I know you have endured so much and worked hard over the years to repair the marriage.

        Your H seems paralyzed by it all. He could not fight his way out of a paper bag at this point.

        However that is not an excuse for him doing nothing!!! I would have a hard time being in your position as well – all this time has passed but not seeing anything progressing from him.

        Accept he cannot or will not be able to move forward.

        It sounds like he wants his life to resume as it was before DDay. We know that won’t happen.

        Please know my H gaslighted and stonewalled me during his first EA. It was a 4 year ordeal. When I finally exploded he ended it. But it took 4 years of him doing everything he wanted and making me out to be a car y jealous wife.

        So I understand your insistence he leave. It is like moving the same bag of garbage around your house while cleaning up. You just get tired of lugging around the never ending like that just keeps dragging you down.

        Regarding boundaries I gave my H very clear terms in what it would take to get me to stay with him after his last affair. No bars. No deviating from plans – if you say you are going to Home Depot you go to Home Depot and only Home Depot.

        No making plans without consulting each other.

        No lying.

        Get help or counseling (for him).

        Communication needs to improve.

        Answer all questions about affair honestly 100%.

        In the end he broke every one of these requests. In the first week after the holidays he went to a bar with his boss for “one beer”.

        It was like dealing with a child.

        He lied about the entire affair and all the details. I would have believed it all except the OW sent me the emails between them and I saw the truth and realized he was lying to cover his butt.

        So now three years later I can honestly say I live my life for me & kids first. My priorities are first. I love him but I stand alone. I doubt he is my “go to” person anymore.

        I have forged my own path. As long as things remain good between us I have to accept all that went on. I told him I should have divorced him after his first EA.

        He knows he cannot screw up. Not that he has to cheat to screw up but if he crosses any lines then I can just walk away. No more chances.

        It hurst to be this way but I sm left with no choice. I stopped asking ? b/c the answers were not satisfying. Or helpful. They made me more angry.

        So o hear you. I understand your position. It may be time to break out of the cycle you ate in. He may be depressed or midife crisis but get some help and grow the hell up. He is not terminally ill so I believe he can take steps to heal.

        Again I am sorry for you but I just want you to know that while we are in a good place with a better marriage I still have scars from this trauma. And now he is on therapy not for us but for him. I know that b/c I asked why he was going to therapy.

        Like I said I stopped asking questions b/c I have never felt I got a sincere heartfelt apology EXCEPT when I was ready to divorce him right after DDay2.

        I just wished the aftermath was not more damaging than the actual affair. I think that hurts even more.

    • TryingHard

      Oh hell no. His not telling you whatever details you are asking for is not because he doesn’t want to hurt you. He’s not talking because he’s ashamed and embarrassed and in some cases it’s a power play. He’s protecting himself not you. People lie to protect themselves. Liars are just not that altruistic to feel a need to protect you. Think about it. Does he go out of his way to stand up for you against anyone?. Yes he wasn’t afraid of hurting you before. Saying he doesn’t want to hurt you further is pure bullshit. I’m glad you know this.

      Boundaries are whatever you need to live the life with the partner you’ve chosen and feel safe and comfortable. If talking about the affair is a boundary you’ve set and he doesn’t. He’s breaking the boundary. If you ask that he be transparent with his phone, computer, tablet and he doesn’t. Then he’s crossing your boundary. If you ask him to be home at a certain time and he doesn’t or even call. He’s breaking the boundary. Boundaries are whatever YOU decide then to be. Your pain your rules. he must at least appear to be cooperative. But it’s also essential you be clear about what you need. Yes even with sex. Heck especially about sex.

      Hope I’ve helped

    • Shifting Impressions

      I’m not sure where I stand on this….I’m sure this type of amnesia exists but it seems to me that there’s an awful lot of “SELECTIVE” amnesia going on as well. funny how the amnesia starts to kick in upon discovery. They don’t seem to have any problem remembering what’s going on during the affair. If they did why the need for all the gas lighting etc.???

      Some days I’m just tired of it all…..This is information that can easily be used as an excuse….and how would one prove anything different!!!!

    • TryingHard

      Yes of course it happens once their own unethical behavior comes to light. Yes they know and the can def remember but won’t unless forced to. It’s only if they are allowed to skate right through. They want to forget and they will forget. Not an excuse. Unethical amnesia is not a pass or reason to allow more gaslighting. It’s what the cheater does. The smart person will press the issue. The smart person will say I know you want to forget, I know you probably even have firgotten particularly if it’s been months and years since the cheating, but the smart person will keep digging. No they haven’t forgotten they have chosen to forget just as they chose to cheat

      • TheFirstWife

        I agree with you. It is selective remembering regarding the affair.

        The funny thing is over the years when I did not get answers I would get really snarky and tell him the answer. Example: I asked him how they were able to celebrate his 50th birthday the day before his birthday. The truth was he ditched work and drove to a restaurant in a town north of the city where I could never find out. His answer was vague in details so I “reminded” him of what I read in the emails and how he loved having a long drive with her. I asked him how they started seeing each other. His answer put the blame on him until I reminded him I saw the email where he asked Her on a “date” couched as a work related meeting with drinks.

        Sooooo I stand by my original position. For the most part the cheater does not WANT to remember or hides behind I don’t know as an answer.

        You are right they have no problem remembering details during the affair. Pet names and important dates and little cute sayings they had and jokes and sharing themselves to a complete stranger.

        I honestly believe what they share is half truths and only crap they believe in their own mind. Because they can’t share it with their spouse b/c it is not true and we know them too well.

    • TryingHard

      Exactly. If we are going to go with the affair is a fantasy then it stands to reason when the fantasy is discovered they don’t remember. They don’t want to remember. But I do not give them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t talk because they don’t want to hurt us further. Bull shit on that. They are desperate, DESPERATE, to protect themselves. Male and female cheater alike. Probably more so for female cheaters. Especially if they don’t work and are about to lose their source of support and income.

      Also I will say, I never ask a question that I already know the answer to. I don’t play the aha game. If I know the answer he will know I know the answer and if I want to talk about it he damn well better talk about it. I also think the BS ask questions from their POV. We assume we would remember certain events and details but our POV cannot possibly apply to others. Truth is a tricky subject. Everyone interprets it their own way. But I think playing the aha game is a dangerous tactic.

      Unethical amnesia is NOT about excuses for the affair. It’s about their gaslighting and excuse making once discovery has happened. It’s what they do and how they want to be perceived. This is why we get trickle truth and multiple DDays. As they learn we will get the truth one way or another the amnesia is suddenly gone.

    • Shifting Impressions

      Trying, TFW
      I hear you both. It’s just that I get so tired of the whole song and dance….as I’m sure most of us do. Sometimes it just feels like a giant cat and mouse game. The promises to do the work that never quite materialize. They give you just enough to get your hopes up and then nothing. It’s always one step forward then two steps back.

      The thing is none of us can change the past, as much as we would like to, But damn it all, this is present behavior.

    • TryingHard

      I agree it is a game. It’s a bullshit game at that and it is up to us to decide if we want to play it. I say don’t play it. I also say that we need to question ourselves just how important it is that we know each and every detail. To what avail? I think sometimes we ask questions because we are afraid if we don’t we will miss something and then damn they are doing it again. It’s as if we hold on really tightly to this hurt we can protect ourselves from it ever happening again. It’s a fools paradise. We all know there is nothing we can do to keep it from happening again.

      The infidelity has been such a part of our lives we feel afraid of letting it go. If we let it go what will we have to talk about. And if we do have something to talk about how can we trust what they are saying on any level and on any subject. So yes, I believe the bigger question sometimes is what the hell are we doing staying in this relationship??? If we truly can’t find a way to let it go why continue? After a while we DO have to let it go. Well at least the part of the constant questions. But I think there’s a time frame for letting it go too. I think people at the 1.5 year mark from DDay still need info. I’m now 5 years past. I’ve gotten all the info I need. Now that’s not to say should the OW rear her ugly head and provide me with more there won’t be more discussions, but that hasn’t happened and likely won’t. If it does I’ll deal with that then. I didn’t have the privilege some did by having the OW send me all the emails, texts, cards etc. But who knows if or when that will happen. I can’t ruin today for what may or may not happen tomorrow.

      As for present behavior, call him on it. Tell him immediately, this is not right, you are crossing my boundaries. He has to try. Period. If not you need to question your own motives for staying with someone who continues to disrespect you. You have a choice in all this.

      • Shifting Impressions

        Thanks for your thoughtful response, I totally agree with you. It’s just that the games they play are often fairly subtle and I am often left scratching my head and wondering is his response authentic or am I being played.

        And yes at first one goes crazy wanting all the details. It has been almost three years since d-day and the search for details is not my main focus anymore. It’s more if he is doing the internal or emotional work that needs to be done inside himself.

        Why do I stay??? That is a great question….one I would love an open discussion on.

        For me I stay for many reasons: There is still love and caring between the two of us. There is a marriage of over forty years. There are four amazing children we have raised and we love grandparenting together. We have worked over the last three years to not do further damage as we navigate this horrendous storm. There are many years of love between us.

        But there is a deep deep sorrow that I still carry. He shows a very deep remorse. But there is some deep work still to be done and when he doesn’t follow through he adds to the pain.

        I recognize that getting through this a process. And yes, I do tell myself I have a choice and that in itself give me courage. And even though I am giving him the time and space to do the work he knows I won’t quilt (I am like a dog with a bone when it comes to stuff like this).

        Will we make it? That remains to be seen and I have given myself permission to be okay with not know that for now.

    • Hopeful

      I do think there are similarities and there are differences for everyone. For my husband he had two sporadic affairs over 10 years overlapping. He broke off the one 12-14 months before dday all on his own. He could not tell me when he sent the last text but had a general two month window. And he said he did not remember what year it started. She pursued him for 3-4 years until he gave in and gave her his number. But she would have his friend text her whenever they were out and if my husband was out she would go and meet them. He did not know this part was happening. For the one affair he only saw her in person three times over 10 years so that was an easier relationship to describe. The other one was sporadic but more often. He would go 6-12 months without seeing her though. So when I ask how many times did you see her in 10 years. He said he was not sure. He knew it began in the fall of two years. And he knew the last time he saw her since there are other reasons that night stood out. He did not know the day but I knew based on phone records that went back 18 months. I really focused on the details for a long time. In the end I talked with my therapist a lot and he wanted to know if it would help me. What I decided is I wanted to know more the intent of the affairs, how they met, how they contacted each other, the patterns of the affairs. In the end I guess if they slept together two, four, twelve times in a year would it change anything. And as we worked through this I cared more about his current actions.

      As far as boundaries go for us they have changed and evolved. In the beginning it was no contact and if there was any I was to be shown the contact and we decide together how and if to reply. If we are in a marriage together we decide together. Then yes boundaries around communication, going out with friends, golfing, overnight trips, phone use, passwords for everything available at anytime, access to phone, car anything at any time. At first I was vigilant but in the end I know if he wants to cheat he can find a way. He can get a throw away phone, create as many fake online accounts he wants. Really the opportunity is everywhere. He knows based on what he did and the extent of the time and damage he did that this is his one chance. We talk about everything he will do and discuss it in detail. We decide together what he will do, talk about how late he will be out, how much he will drink. it is very much like managing a teenager but now the interesting thing is he does it naturally. if he golfs and they get dinner afterwards he always calls me on the way to dinner. If their location changes he calls me. He said he behaves and acts as if I am standing next to him at all times. He said he has never slept better and felt this good about himself ever in his life. For him he says it is about the legacy he will leave as a good husband and father. And for him he says this has all been easy and he is so happy except when he sees how much pain I am still in that he caused. He works through it with me but again getting more details when I feel like as Sarah described above this is exactly how my husband feels is pointless. For him he said all he ever did try to do was forget what he did, he hated himself and was never happy or thought it was good or right. He was ashamed for all those years and never wanted anyone to know. So yes I do think it is nothing anyone would ever want to talk about. In my mind it is want we need as the one who was betrayed. And I do think they need to work on themselves. I do not think I did one thing that makes me responsible for his decisions and my husband agrees with that. It was all his fault.

    • TryingHard


      Just a curiosity here. This doesn’t sound like much of an affair in the traditional sense of an affair. It really sounds more like an easy hookup or easy side piece much the same as visiting a whore. It doesn’t sound like he had much invested in these women. I think you may have even mentioned that being with these women also involved alcohol? Right there would be a very good reason not to have too many memories of these hook ups. Not to say he doesn’t need help for his total lack of impulse control and allowing himself to be manipulated by these women and his male “friends”. And when I say male friends I use the term loosely!! Friends like this who needs enemies? Therefore these past “friends” of his would def be part of the imposed boundary. They need to be cut out and cut out now.

      I’m sure especially for these types of hook ups there’s lots of remorse and guilt. He doesn’t even have the excuse that he thought he was in love. Not that that’s an excuse but many cheaters use that excuse to justify cheating.

      • TheFirstWife

        I guess my H’s last affair is harder to swallow b/c he asked for a divorce to be free to be with her.

        So I am faced with him not only cheating but tossing me to the curb.

        Maybe that is why I still scratch my head and ask what the hell?

      • Hopeful

        Trying hard,

        You are exactly right. These were not dreamy affairs but more selfish hook ups. And never “love”. Of course hard to know all the details but based on how these women disappeared and he was glad to never have contact with them it seems like there was little investment from either side. And I think why they could linger and be on and off again for so long. And how would I ever figure this out with sporadic contact and meetings. I do believe that he was never with either without alcohol being part of it. Of course I am sure he texted or emailed them sober but in person always it involved drinking. And his friends have been a huge topic of discussion. We have talked about him giving up every single friend which is what it would be. The one friend that knew both ow actually died. So that helped a lot with closure. Not a single friend has ever texted or called these women or seen them since he broke up with them. And none of them know about these affairs. He went to great lengths to hide if all and that is part of why it was sporadic in order to hide it.

        So in the end I think it was easier to move past these affairs since they had ended by dday and they did not mean anything to any of them. More a reflection of where he was in his life. Now he is completely different. A lot of our boundaries relate to him spending time with his friends. He says he is a completely different person. And now the boundaries are not even that any more they are habits now.

    • TryingHard

      I hear you First Wife. Same here. He actually moved out for 3 months. First week he spent at OWs shack. Then moved 6 doors down fro me with his sister. He was def messed up. The mask had fallen off the OW and he knew he’d made a mess of things with us. So yes. I do lots of head scratching too:)

    • Rachel

      Think of yourself and your future. You deserve your h to be honest with you.
      If he doesn’t want to show him the door. You WILL make it without him.
      He’s being disrespectful towards you and you don’t deserve it.
      My ex wouldn’t talk only because he was guilty. And I have to say I’m glad all of this happened because I am a much happier person not being controlled by that womanizing cheater.
      Think of yourself!

    • TryingHard


      You are so awesome. Can’t even tell you, so freaking awesome!!!!

    • TryingHard

      Boy do I hear you. Sounds like we are of the same generation. I am very familiar with dog on a bone!!! We are the generation that doesn’t give up. I hear you about the years of history and love and wonderful real memories. Too much to throw away like yesterday’s trash. I’m right there with you.

      I also hear you with regards to wondering if it’s all pretend or a farce or am I being played. It’s not a farce, you aren’t being played this is your real husband. No he’s not perfect but he’s perfect for you and you him. Yes where was this guy earlier? Who knows and really it shouldn’t make a difference. I believe if you truly want an authentic loving equal relationship you must show a little vulnerability. Your marriage is never going to be perfect but it can be good and very good even.

      I personally cannot believe the changes my husband has made. I can’t believe how just shutting my own mouth how much he has to say and I love it. The more I keep quiet and listen and encourage how more authentic he becomes every day. I can’t believe how loving and kind and generous he is to me. Yes I’m scared it won’t last and he will revert but it’s been 5 years and it just keeps getting better. So surly it can’t be an act. No one is that good an actor. And I’m pretty sure he’s seen the changes in me as well and wonders if it’s an act. Now this is not to say he still doesn’t say some callously stupid things stupid things for which I sometimes call him on it. But I try to focus on the progress and good things he does and encourage that. And I see the difference.

      Maybe one of the benefits of being a woman of a certain age is the wisdom we’ve gained over the years and not just the wrinkles and saggy skin. Use that wisdom and know if you tend to your own garden things will grow. Love and trust will grow. But mostly trust yourself. Look you stayed for very good reasons. Also I’m sure you realized if you divorced you’d be no more satisfied or happier. That’s a lot and that’s very wise. But just as we embrace all those things we’ve collected over the years and see the mars and scratches and loving patina, so too is it with our husbands.

      For your own sake and peace of mind maybe try trusting yourself a little more. Keep a corner of that mistrust in the back of your mind just to keep you alert but try to allow yourself to trust your own instincts. Because I know you would not still be there if there was a scintilla of a chance he’s still cheating. Just as we castigate ourselves for not knowing during the affair we must be just as vigilant to trust the good things as well. Otherwise we are going to miss out on a whole lot of love and life and joy.

      • Hopeful

        Trying hard, those words are amazing and so helpful. I find it so hard being on an island alone at time. It is good to be reminded of all that you are saying. It is easy to lose that perspective for me in the day to day. Thank you!

    • Shifting Impressions

      Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. It’s like a weight is lifted when someone understands where you are at, You have described it perfectly. I am a rather open person by nature…..that’s a nice way of saying I wear my heart on my sleeve. So the suspicious feelings and lack of trust that I have experienced in the last view years have felt so foreign to me.

      Trusting one’s self is very good advice. Listen to the still small voice inside. During the EA I knew something was very wrong, But now the the still small voice keeps saying “just give him a chance”

    • TryingHard


      I am so happy. Yes listen to that “still small voice…” There’s lots of noise out there and lots of opinions “dump the bum”, “once a cheater always a cheater” and in some case this is absolutely the way to go. And I’m so happy when people come to these conclusions for themselves. No matter to stay or go. but either way you have to find peace of mind for yourself. You can’t live life with constant fear and anger. And you know what your husband must feel your fear or troedation to be vulnerable. This would make him hold back from progress as well.

      There is no reason that all of us can’t finally heal from all this. Most times it comes when we finally trust ourselves

      I’m glad I helped. I meant to be provacative for you to dig down and understand why you stayed and what your life with your husband really meant to you. As I said I KNOW it’s not perfect, whose is???, but it just may be perfect for you. We all get stuck in the “I’m not letting go because if I do it will happen again ” well maybe that’s imperfect thinking too

      • Hopeful

        I totally agree with the not wishing for perfect or thinking anything is or will be perfect. My husband went through a phase of if I had only not dated and married him. And there are so many guys who would have never done this and he ruined me forever. I have never thought of it that way. There are no guarantees in life. I am someone to make the most of where I am and I know that is how I made it through the 10+ affair years since I persevere and make the best of everything. And I will always tell my husband that of course I do not wish this all happened but since it did I am thankful it came out. It gave me answers and understanding and also we have been able to be closer and more connected than ever before. Lots of good but more time needed. Thanks for providing positivity and hope!

    • Rachel

      I hope I wasn’t too forward or mouthy on my last post. I just don’t like hearing anyone taking advantage of someone or treating them unkindly.
      I tend to jump and think that most men are like my ex, which in fact most of them are not.
      Most want to repair their marriage and start fresh.
      Mine didn’t . He wanted other women and to put himself first in life which he is now doing.
      Breaks my heart that he doesn’t even see his boys only for certain occasions. I know they are older but I cherish the time we see each other crossing paths on our very hectic and busy lives.
      They will always be first in my life.
      Sorry I got carried away.

      • TheFirstWife


        I think it is good to hear a different perspective. That is what we all bring to the table here.

        I think you made a valid point that if the behavior pattern continues it could be the sign of something else.

        If you remember there was a guy on her who wrote his wife had an affair and she refused to admit snything. After 48 hours he went to a divorce attorney and he divorced her. He realized something. Maybe she was never going to be honest. Maybe he saw her in a different light. Maybe he knew the marriage would not survive.

        My point is some people may call that drastic action. But it was his choice and experience. I applauded his decision. Had I done that and divorced my H after 48 hours I would have avoided 2 years of his coward behavior and continued lying. But I would have missed out on his realization of all he did wrong and the numerous changes he has made over the last year or so.

        It is about tolerance and patience. I don’t know what I would have done if the lying continued but I doubt I would have stuck around for much more.

        But that is me – not the same for everyone

        But I appreciate everyone’s perspective.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Rachel,
        I will chime in. I did not think your post was inappropriate because you conveyed the idea that antiskank is worth more and should not have to accept poor treatment. I would like to think this website is a safe place where people can speak honestly and air their own truths respectfully. I felt like your post was based on your own experience but was also trying to convey that someone is worth more than being belittled and taken for granted. Your post was not mean spirited, it was just direct and visceral. That’s ok. You were speaking from experience and from the heart. Antiskank, how do you feel about straight talk?

    • antiskank

      Hi all
      Thank you so much TH, TFW, Rachel, and Sarah in particular!

      Rachel, please don’t apaologize. Your response actually made me smile! I loved it! Your advice is spot on!

      I know we tend to get caught up in our empathic feelings for each other on this site, understanding what we have all been through, but we do need to hear a way out of our issues. Sometimes that means we need to hear the hard truth. As long as it is delivered with respect and care, I welcome all of it. Some of it we already know, but need to hear it again to give us the kickstart that we need to move ahead.

      Sometimes I start to think that what I’m asking from my CH must be unreasonable or any reasonable person would do it. I have to come here to get fired up again and realize that I need and deserve so much more! It is not selfsh to expect your life partner to participate in the relationship!!

      Thanks for sharing your ideas of boundaries. I have metioned them before to him but I don’t think he took them seriously. Due to our work schedules, I haven’t had many opportunities to talk with my CH lately. We (well, I) discussed the boundaries that I had requested but not enforced. I still have difficulty with that part but did review the “rules” from here on out. They include regularly talking about our issues, clarifying many comments he made during the post affair period, no lying, no porn, no seeing the skank, no going in to work unless required to be there. I explained that if he cannot do these few simple things that it shows an obvious lack of commitment or respect on his part for my needs or the needs of our relationship.

      I had expected that we would be so much further along in our damage repair than we are but I feel that more damage has been done due to his lack of effort and action. At the beginning I was devastated by the affair for sure, but still had this crazy idea that we would get past it, become closer and have a wonderful, happy marriage. After all, that’s what all the blogs and books said!

      Instead, things went from bad to worse with lying, gaslighting, stonewalling, emotional abuse and cruelty. Now it is hard to know what to work on first. Do we deal with our broken bond, lack of trust, lack of emotional intimacy, lack of physical contact of any kind, the cruel things said to me, or the bad choices and lies? They are all connected yet separate issues. I can’t see a way to get closer without talking things out… I have never been a controlling type person (rather easy to take advantage of!) but it really annoys me that we can’t make them talk, make them understand what needs to be done, make them see reality, make them GROW UP!!

      Wish me luck. Like that previously mentioned dog with a bone, I am not giving up quite yet. I don’t do failure well! I am not as willing to go all in as I was before the last D-Day but will still be open to any efforts he is willing to make.

    • TryingHard


      LOL indeed dog on a bone!!!

      Look just because he doesn’t want to talk doesn’t mean everything is ok, or enough time has passed that your are getting over it (HA), or you’ve forgotten ( Big HA). That boy is in denial I’m thinking.

      I know what you mean. You get home from work and you are just too damn tired to talk about anything significant and besides there’s enough in the news to fill the conversation and how about them Cubs?!?!?! Uh, yeah we are all good at putting off the inevitable.

      Chunk it down. Work on what YOU want to work on first then move to the next. I think what most people forget is that discovery and reconciliation are two different things. You cannot work on reconciliation or your marriage until you’ve worked through the affair, the hurt, the betrayal and all it entails. That comes first.Once that is settled then you work on your boundaries to try and prevent infidelity happening again. Then the reconciliation and how you two plan to go forward with your marriage. What’s important to each other, what you need from each other, where you want to go and be with each other.

      One funny thing I can leave you with. Once when I brought up the “subject” long past when all the answers and questions had ended he actually rolled his eyes. UGH he’s lucky I didn’t knock them out of his head, right? Anyway I looked at him and softly said “calm down. Quit taking my questions so personally!!” It worked. And that’s what they need to do . Calm the hell down and answer the questions. Don’t be such chickens and own it. They didn’t have any problem owning it before discovery did they?

      • Shifting Impressions

        I’m going to have to try that…..next time he rolls his eyes. Not the first option lol!!!!! But the calm down thing!!!

        • TryingHard

          SI–LOL no, of course not. But we can think what we want right?? Really the poor things are working at such a disadvantage. They are so caught in their own crap they don’t know which way to turn. It’s sad but I heard a lonnnnnng time ago, People Create Their Own Hell. And I agree.

    • theresa

      Is it a matter of the cheater not being able to see the consequences of his actions, or having the balls to think that he is so smart he can’t get caught, or is it because he really doesn’t care?

      • Shifting Impressions

        My husband became really agitated when I said he didn’t care about me during his EA….funny way of showing caring, right?

        I actually think they get so caught up that can’t see the consequences. They get pulled into that whole cycle.

        • theresa

          One of the things I struggled most with, and communicated specifically, was that I just didn’t “matter” to him. The fact that there was a lot more than just double dipping by him, was an unambiguous display of his lack of concern for me, for us.
          If there was one time when he asked himself “is this OK?”, then gave himself permission to dismiss me, he made a choice. He never choose us.
          I once asked him where “we” were on his list of priorities. I gave him a few examples of what I considered bad choices that he had made. No responce.
          There was a great post from Tim Tedder and he explained that after the affair was exposed, he just didn’t care was the effect was on his wife.
          I found this to be profoundly sad. But I was glad to have this insight. Still don’t know if this was a good thing or a bad thing.

    • Butterball

      Just re-reading this post and the replies I am struck by something and that is most of you seem to think the veil came down on their memories when you first started asking questions after the affair was over.

      I read the original study and seeing what my husband does and has done I think the memories are fading almost immediately within hours or days after each unethical act that they commit. From the amount of memory loss I have seen in my husband, I would hazard a guess he doesn’t remember most of the past 1.5 years. I have seen him fly into a rage and an hour later it was as if it never happened. When we talk about the fog I think a lot of it is simply them doing things that are against their morals and constantly suppressing it in their minds.

      Not making any excuses here, but I truly think these are people who are committing violations against themselves every day. Their actions are almost a form of self-abuse and the forgetting is the only way they can dull the pain they are causing themselves.

    • Marie

      Is this thread still open? Or will my response go unanswered?

      • Doug

        Hi Marie, The comments are still open for this post.

    • Marie

      Is there a way to get back those memories?

    • Not buying it anymore

      The link to their site doesn’t work anymore. Guess he cheated again and the divorced again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.