Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.
-Genesis 3:1a, NKJV
“I’m careful not to bad-mouth you to your friends and family,” says the cheater.
This is another tactic by the cheater to control the narrative of the marriage and manage their image. They want the faithful spouse to believe they are protecting him or her. Plus, they want the faithful spouse to agree to remain silent about how the cheater is destroying or has already destroyed the marriage.
Why not repay such “good will” by doing the same in turn?
Because it is a nasty ruse.
It is a way to limit the information out there that might reflect poorly on the cheater. In other words, the cheater wants freedom to operate and manipulate without having to deal with the inconvenience of answering to others for their dirty deeds. You see, it is harder to play the victim of the marriage when it is known you are cheating on your spouse.
Early in the marriage dissolution process, I remember my cheater telling me something to the effect that she was being careful to protect my reputation with my friends and family. What she professed was far from the truth and reality, though.
For example, she tried to convince my own mother and my brother’s wife that I was a physical threat to her–i.e. I was a wife-beater type of man–which was and is false. In fact, both my mother and sister-in-law called her out on such accusations/implications.
Do not fall for this ruse.
As people dealing with the trauma of infidelity, we–faithful spouses–need to share our stories with someone. Now, we do not need to share it with everyone (I recommend only sharing with safe and trustworthy people). However, we do need to share it with others. Sharing our story is a necessary step towards grieving and healing.
The temptation with this ruse is to fall for its abuse of our sense of loyalty. We feel disloyal to share with another how our partner has betrayed us. That is what the statement of “protecting” our reputation is intended to do.
It is a subtle guilt trip designed to shut us up.
Ironically, the unfaithful spouse does not seem bothered by the fact that he/she created this situation by actually being disloyal in cheating. Talk about gall!
People knowing the truth is not the problem. Cheating was and is the problem.
If they want a good reputation, they need to act in a way worthy of it. It is that simple. To demand otherwise from the faithful spouse is to demand help in deceiving others into believing the cheater is someone other than who he/she is–i.e. a person with good character. That is not your job.