The Magic of Hiding Adultery

11 Elements of deception

Photo by Almos Bechtold on Unsplash

Magicians make bridges disappear. Adulterers make affairs disappear. Both use illusions, but only one is loved for their skill.

Magician’s study, practice, perform and repeat. If you want to be a good adulterer, be a magician. Your double life will require the sort of deception you’ve never been part of. To be good at it, you need to study lying, practice your lies, perform them, and repeat them every time you meet your lover.

The illusion

Your illusion is your cover story. Cover stories float on lies crafted for them. It takes more than a hand wave to make a bridge disappear, and more than one lie to hide your affair. A web of lies woven together, each with their purpose: lies to tell your story; lies to answer questions before they’re asked; lies to divert attention; lies to conceal emotions. The best lies are simple, flexible, believable, and patient. Patient lies wait for the best moment to be told.

Magicians are patient. If a trick is done too early, the ‘disappearing bridge’ will be gone before the audience arrives, which is pointless. If a trick is made too late, the ‘disappearing bridge’ will still be there, which is disastrous. Be a magician.

The set-up

Every illusion starts before the show opens. Setting it up days or weeks in advance lays the groundwork for the magic to come. It starts with an ad:

Magician to Make Bridge Disappear Next Week!

Your cheating ad should be barely audible amongst life’s noise — “Sue wants to go out sometime next week.” A noncommittal reference to the invite lets them know you don’t want to go.

Get Your Tickets While They Last!

Re-advertise — “She hasn’t picked a night yet. It’s either Wednesday or Thursday, but probably Thursday. Typical Sue.”

Tonight’s the Night Folks!

Remind the audience on the day — “Now it’s tonight! I said I could do either but told her I preferred Thursday. Ugh…”

Let them ask you if you’re going. Let them encourage you to go — “Yeah, I guess I will. You’re right. I haven’t been out in a bit…”

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

The cover story

You’ll need new material often and rotate the tricks you have to keep them fresh. Keep it simple — the less to remember, the better. Complex cover stories can get away from you. The difference between you and a magician is that you will play to the same audience every night so they know your tricks. For example, getting held up in traffic is different than an accident. Accidents invite questions —

“Did you see it?” 
 “What happened?” 
 “Where was it?” 
 “Anyone hurt?”

Accidents can be fact-checked. Boring doesn’t invite questions —

“Why are you late?” 
 “Traffic was heavy downtown.” 
 “What happened?” 
 “I dunno. It was a pain, though.”

Plan your answers

There’ll always be questions when you get home —

“Did you have a good time?”
 “Where’d you go?” 
 “Who was there?” 
 “What did you have?” 
 “What did they have?” 
 “Was it good?”

If you really were out, you wouldn’t need to think about the answers to these questions but would rhyme them off. If you weren’t, you might stumble and give away your cover. If you’ve thought your cover story through, you would have come up with answers to the straightforward questions you’ll get, before getting home.

“It was fun.” 
“Andre’s on 12th.”
 “Joe, Sara and Steve from the office.” 
“The taco salad you like.” 
“It was good.”

Lived experience makes lies better. Never say you went somewhere or did something you haven’t. You’ll get stuck, won’t have credible answers, and can be easily fact-checked. Keep your responses short, but not curt — it’s a conversation, not an interrogation.

Never answer questions you weren’t asked. You might be in love with your fake answer because it’s so clever but be patient if it isn’t used. Giving away too much detail is as bad as too little or poorly delivered answers. Too much will sound like you are trying to convince them of something.

The people in your story

If you’re going to saw your assistant in half, let them know. Adding people who weren’t there leaves you vulnerable to fact-checking later. If you do mention who was ‘there,’ make sure your spouse doesn’t know or like them:

“Hi Sue, it’s Dave. Is Jill with you?”
 “Um…No. Did she say she was coming over?”

Better to use a magician’s assistant if you can find one:

“Hi Sue, it’s Dave. Is Jill with you?”
 “Hi! We’re shopping. She’s in trying on a few things.”

Was Dave calling because he need something or checking up? Who knows, but an assistant can keep a lid on it.


Would you believe your story? A 20-minute bank line up — plausible. Held hostage for three hours at the bank — not plausible. Match your illusions to your needs. A 20-minute delay doesn’t explain three hours, so figure out what would, then ask yourself —

“Would I do X under normal circumstances?”
 “Would my spouse believe I would do X?”
 “How often would I do X?”
 “How often have I used X as a cover?”
 “How often should I use X?”

Getting your teeth cleaned takes a couple of hours twice a year. Using this story four times a year isn’t plausible, but once? Sure. Mix it up. Remember to do the things you do your cover stories like actually working late, going to the gym, etc. Go out with Sue. Read your book club’s book. This makes your stories credible.

Piggyback lies on the truth

Play a shell game and add a side trip to something else you’re already doing. Say you will Uber or cab home from a friend’s after drinks. Your friend sees you leave if fact-checked. Your spouse sees you when you get back, or they see the charge. What neither sees is the sexy detour you took on the way home.

Piggybacking off your spouse’s schedule works too. If they’re out, they’ll be too busy to notice if you slid out too. If you do a disappearing act and no one sees it, did you disappear? No, and also yes.

Answer with questions

Call it audience engagement. Questions introduce a level of honest curiosity to discussions. It shows you don’t know the details. Questions can also direct the conversation away from those sticky bits.

“You were home late last night, weren’t you?”
 “Was I? Didn’t feel late.”
“Oh, that was late. I hope I didn’t keep you up. How was your sleep? I’ve got a day ahead of me now…”

Rehearse out loud

Magicians practice. No one pays to see them fumbling around on stage. Rehearse your dialogue out loud. Work through it and get used to saying your lines. What sounds right in your head may not when you say it. Your tongue might trip over the details, or you lose your thread because the idea wasn’t thoroughly flushed out. Goofy or awkward phrasing will work itself out as you repeat it — unless you’re in front of your audience. Then it will look like bullshit.

“We didn’t end up going to the gym. Sue wasn’t into it, so we grabbed a dessert.”
“We ended up going to restaurant X, and I had Y.” 
“Why’d we switch? Sue forgot to make reservations.”

This “plot twist” is a sleight of hand trick used to explain why you weren’t where you said you’d be, in case anyone was interested.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Speak casually

In the heat of the moment, liars tend to speak more formally. ‘Does not’ instead of ‘doesn’t’, or ‘Charles’ instead of ‘Chuck,’ and so on. Rehearse your lines using names and contractions to sound believable under pressure, so when you get home, you seem relaxed.

Body language

Control your body! Don’t show them the hand planting the card under the table, focus their attention on the hand without the card. Don’t fidget or pace. Keep your hands away from your face. Don’t cross your arms. Face away from the closest exit. Liars will appear uncomfortable and touch their face as if to hide it. They’ll will point their feet toward the door as if to run. It’s a fight for flight response. Lessen these ‘tells’ by learning what they are.

Sit beside the person you’re lying to. Try to wear sunglasses like a poker player to cover your eyes if you can. Managing eye contact under stress is hard, but don’t avoid their eyes too much. Touch their hand or shoulder as you speak to reassure them. Practice this by being aware of your body language use when you are lying.

Voice pitch and matching your emotional tone to the circumstances

Practice speaking in a lower pitch; pitch increases when you lie. A lower pitch will balance it out. Watch your tone — sound and look sad if you should be sad. Happy if happy. Liars sometimes sound sad but look happy — or the reverse. It’s hard to mimic feelings you’re not feeling, instead match your story to your emotion.

The evening with ‘Sue’ that you were reluctant to go on was actually the best lay you had in a month. It’ll be easier to pretend dinner turned out better than you expected than to wipe the glow radiating from your face. This way, you will be happy, look happy, and not give yourself away.

The magic

Magic works because our brains let it. Brains take data from our eyes and ears and turns it into pictures we can process. It’s an imperfect system that can be easily fooled by small variations in what we see. You’ll always see the lion coming at you, but to do that well, we sacrificed the ability to examine our field of view thoroughly. Lies and illusions use this to direct attention toward false lions. When that happens, we become blind to everything else.

The set-up eases the audience into the illusion, so slowly, they won’t know it’s happening. Both illusions were created for a purpose. The magician wants money. You want sex. He uses the ‘disappearing bridge’ to sell tickets on a claim so outrageous people come out just to see him fail. In not wanting to go out with Sue, your trick leaves the audience believing you don’t want to go, even as you do. You blame never not standing up to Sue as the reason.

“Oh, darn,” you mutter. “She got me again.”

“Better luck next time!” Your audience laughs as you slip out the door in shame with your tail between your legs.

He sees the lamb you’ve let him see and hidden lioness you are.

By Teresa J Conway on .

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Exported from Medium on March 4, 2021.

Author of How to Cheat: Field Notes from an Adulteress, several short stories, I'm active on Medium @teresajconway where I sometimes share my blog posts.

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