About Affairs

22 Dec

“How Can I Believe Him When He Says He’s Not Having an Affair?”

It can be completely crazy-making to feel like you cannot get at the truth. Something doesn’t feel right between the two of you, he’s not around as much as he used to be, not as interested in you. You suspect he might be seeing someone else. You demand he look you straight in the eye and tell you this isn’t so. He does. Can you be certain you now know?

Not according to Douglas Starr, who has just written a fascinating book called “The Interview: Do Police Interrogation Techniques Produce False Confessions.” His research has come up with some startling results: the science that has claimed to have linked lying with anxiety has been discredited. According to Starr, the idea that body language can be used to tell if someone is lying has been disproven.  His research shows  there is hardly any relationship between anxiety and lying. The idea that scratching one’s nose, avoiding eye contact, folding one’s arms, etc, is a dead giveaway just doesn’t hold up.

Starr did find  one aspect of lying that produces anxiety during his study of an alternative method of interrogation used in England. This method involves carefully interviewing the suspect to create a coherent story of the events surrounding the crime. The suspect is not yelled at, or threatened; intimidation techniques like we see on “Law and Order” are not part of the picture.

If the suspect gives false details in order to maintain his cover story, eventually it will get harder and harder to hold the story together.  This is the point where the suspect starts to show signs of anxiety.

(Click here to read about and hear Douglas Starr interviewed by Terry Gross on “Fresh Air”.)

Does your partner’s story hold up over time? What happens if you get him or her to try to help you understand crucial sequences of events, times where he wasn’t where he said he was, etc?  (For more about the questions you find yourself asking read “Questions and More Questions About the Affair.”

Another interesting fact  is that research shows that people who lie about affairs generally don’t lie about other things. Sure, there are some people who find it easy to lie about everything. But the majority of people in affairs are really being deceitful  for the first time. Knowing this can help rebuild trust, soften the disillusionment of suddenly find out you are married to a “liar.”  It also means your spouse is probably not a very good liar, which is to your advantage.

Pamela Mayer, author of Liespotting, tells another tale.  According to her there is a body of complex research that consistently demonstrates the relationship between body language, facial expression and how one speaks and lying.  Click here to hear her Ted Talk.  She tells  us  that no one behavior means someone is lying, but if there is a cluster of them, there’s a good chance they are.

Here are some suggestions that can help with getting your spouse to tell you the truth.

Set a calm and relaxed tone for the conversation.

Make sure there will be no interruptions.

Encourage your spouse by communicating that you are trying to understand him or her.

Let him or her know that things will be much worse if the lies continue and that coming clean will give the  two of you a chance to work things out.

Continue to ask questions about things that don’t make sense and ask for help in understanding.

Look for discrepancies in the story and ask for clarification.  (This is when the story can start to fall apart).

If you get brushed off, try to stay calm.  Let your spouse know that you hear what he is saying, but something doesn’t feel right.

Don’t get discouraged.  It may take several attempts before your spouse opens up.

If this is not working, consider marriage counseling. Marriage counseling provides a safe environment in which secrets  gradually yield to what is true.  A new relationship story is created, one that is not based on illusions. Keeping an affair, or the fact that an affair was sexual and not just emotional, or an affair relapse secret during this type of process becomes extremely difficult.

3 Responses to ““How Can I Believe Him When He Says He’s Not Having an Affair?””

  1. 1
    Anonymous Says:

    When it comes to extramarital relationships, a lot of time and energy is needed to get past the initial inner thoughts. The psychological blocks at the start of knowing the extramarital relationship has to be handled with lots of maturity and endurance. And to end up making the relationship a lot stronger after the extramarital relationship is possible but it takes a lot of commitment and energy towards the partner. A lot of people develop a lot of resentment toward the husband or wife because of the extramarital relationship. And this is tough to overcome when ignored. Dealing with our own thoughts is really essential and learning the root cause which pushed the spouse or the partner to have the affair needs to be known. Additionally this gives an improved understanding of your situation.|If you are faced with an affair don’t just think that things may workout on its own. One needs to face them and take care of them. In addition I think it is really important to find out if the partner is basically sorry and also feeling bad about their extramarital relationship or not. Always maintain the communication. Also I found the article here helpful. Thanks for the post and Have a great day. Thanks!

  2. 2
    Anonymous Says:

    Wow, I did all those suggestions over the past year ( although I just read them here now). I gave my husband so many opportunities to be honest with me. I discovered his affair with out him confessing. In fact, he continued to lie up until I told him the exact evidence I had. I think I might have forgiven him if he had been forthcoming. I found out, suggested he move out, and he did the next day. The day after that, my father died unexpectedly (had been planning to tell my dad about my cheating husband the next day). Took my husband two weeks before he apologized and acknowledged my feelings. It’s been three weeks since all of this. He’s been in a relationship with another woman for almost a year. I have trouble sleeping sometimes. Thank you for sharing this advice. I’ve read a few of your articles tonight and they’re very practical. I appreciate the comfort and support.

  3. 3
    Anonymous Says:

    There can be no future built on the foundation of lies. The decision to move on is frought with uncertainty and a sense of loss, betrayal and self blame. In the end, you need to move on. Living under a cloud of suspicion and paranoia is no way to live. Better to live alone even if its for a while.

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Susan Berger is a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Francisco, CA and Walnut Creek, CA (lic. # MFC21193) | 121 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118 | 1415 Oakland Blvd, Ste. 100, Walnut Creek, CA 94596
photography by Bethanie Hines