After learning about infidelity, most betrayed partners feel an intense need to know the scope and depth of what has happened. The discovery of being lied to, sometimes for years or even decades, and the resulting sense of reality fragmentation leaves them shocked, destabilized, and overwhelmed. It often feels like finding out the whole truth about what has happened, getting every single detail in place, is the only way to escape the insanity and return to a place where reality once more seems knowable. Piecing together the truth feels like the only way to piece yourself back together again.
As a betrayed partner, this is not just a need that you have, it is your right within your relationship. You have a right to know if your significant other has broken your relationship agreements, lied to you, and betrayed your trust. You have a right to know how long that has been going on, how the agreements have been broken, and with whom.
When your partner secretly breaks the relationship vows or agreements that are the basis of trust and safety in your relationship, it puts him in a “one up” position. He is the only one who knows the whole truth about the relationship and his betrayal. As a result, the relationship is no longer an emotionally level playing field. Your cheating partner is one up on you.
To level the playing field, you have a right to know what has happened and how your relationship agreements have been broken. You have a right to know what the full reality of your relationship is, including the full extent of your partner’s betrayal, so you can make informed decisions about whether you want to continue in the relationship, how you want to continue in the relationship, and what you need in order to take care of yourself moving forward.
Now, if only things were this simple.
Where your right to information as a betrayed partner becomes a sticky tricky issue is when it runs into the brick wall of your significant other’s ongoing sexual addiction and/or intense fear of losing the relationship. These two things, combo-plattered together often mean that the cheating individual is still keeping secrets and telling half-truths in an effort to convince the betrayed partner that the half-story they are getting is actually the whole whopping tale.
While you are desperately trying to figure out what has happened and determine what it means for you, your unfaithful mate is often unable to see through the fog of his infidelity/ addiction and fear of losing you to provide you with the whole honest truth.
I have seen articles posted elsewhere on the Internet and in books written for betrayed partners where the author is adamantly advocating for the betrayed partner to know the full truth of what has happened in the relationship. These writers talk about the right of the betrayed partner to know, and the duty of therapists to facilitate the process of full disclosure. I agree with them. However, what is often left out of these discussions is this dicey issue of two people, the betrayer and the betrayed, who are usually in very different places after discovery. What happens when the rights of the betrayed partner collide with the reality of the betrayer’s reluctance to disclose the entire truth?
This is an important issue that we are going to explore over the next few weeks. In next week’s blog, we will examine in detail the dynamics of the betrayer’s reluctance to disclose.