I'm a betrayed spouse whose husband lied, denied, minimized for ~5 years after DDay. Then he put me through the torture of trickle-truths and half-truths for additional ~11 months. I am very much triggered by your post, so I will refrain from "lecturing" you, and I will try to provide helpful feedback on the problem you specifically write about – trickle-truths and your wife not believing you now. Before that, allow me to make just a little side comment, as it is very important:
Me and the AP are co-workers.
This sentence should be: Me and the AP were co-workers. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you go 100% no contact with the AP. If you still work together, find another job. If you don’t want to quit your job due to financial reasons, quit your job anyway. If your wife says she understands that you can’t quit your job, and that she’s ok with minimum, only work-related contact, quit your job anyway. If you don’t have work-related contact, that is, if you only work in the same building, maybe not even in the same department or same shift, quit your job anyway. My husband and I have a deal – when I want him to pay extra attention to what I’m saying, when I want him to listen and accept what I say, no ifs, no buts, no questioning of my reasons, I tell him: "This is important". I am telling you now: This is important. No ifs, no buts, 100% no contact with the AP from now on. My husband kept working with the OW for ~5 months after DDay due to financial reasons, and I was ok with only work-related contact. The truth is, that caused some damage that I’m still struggling with and that is probably irreparable.
As for the specific problem you are writing about.
1) The trauma of trickle-truths is real. Every new info is a new DDay and reconciliation restarts. This is not an exaggeration. Sometimes, reconciliation is not set to zero again, it is set to negative value, depending on what the new info means to your wife, what does it say to her about her, you, your marriage, your betrayal. In another thread, I put it like this: "During the days after DDay1, my partner rewrote at least 3-4 years of my life. (…) Every new DDay rewrote my rewritten life + my life after DDay1, including my marriage. I feel my marriage is a sham, as if I said "yes" to a different guy. (…) My version of reality was not reality. In fact, my new versions of reality were not reality, and I don’t even know if my current version of reality is reality (if I even know what is my current version of reality)." Get it? It’s a complete mind-fuck.
This is not just about your trustworthiness now – after all those lies & trickle-truths you don’t have any. In fact, even I don’t believe you. For example, I might think you wrote this post so that you can show it to your wife and say something like: "You see, here I wrote that we did not have sex, and why would I lie to the Internet people". (Yes, there are people who did something like that, so don’t get mad if it doesn’t apply to you.)
This is also about what lies & trickle-truths do to her mind. She may doubt her own ability to recognize lies, to think rationally and logically. Especially if there was a time when she believed in one of your lies, then found another evidence or indication that you are lying, or you told her those were lies. This is important to understand, as it makes it clear that you need to up your game and help her get the full, clear story of what happened. Only when she’ll have a clear narrative, she can begin to process and heal.
2) How can you help her if you want to reconcile? Please note that many infidelity guides recommend certain things which are not applicable to your anymore, since you need to reconcile not just your betrayal, but also the trickle-truths. For example, some guides will point out you don’t need to tell some irrelevant details, as they will only become unnecessary triggers. I am against that view, and now, after all these years I want to know absolutely everything, even if it will be a lifelong trigger. As I need to see that my partner is now completely open. That is more important to me than creating some triggers. Ask your wife what she needs from you regarding that.
a) Make a deal with yourself – from now on, you will tell only raw, brutal, unfiltered truth, no matter what. Even if it means she will divorce you. Even if it means you will hurt her. Take a risk. No more lies, no more hiding, no more minimizing, no more delaying to tell her anything. Let go of whatever was preventing you from being 100% honest. If you need help with that, there are people here who can help you. Get rid of the narrative "she will never find out" – that is a dangerous thought to have.
b) If there are still things she doesn’t know about, make a plan with her that you will tell her everything during the next X days (depending on how many hidden things there are).
c) Write a timeline of the betrayal – what happened when and where. Include details. Then go through it with you wife and talk about it, about specific points in your timeline. Tell her everything you remember, not just things you find important. As someone who is recovering from trickle-truths, I can tell you for me everything is important, as this is not just about getting the factual things of the betrayal, but also about determining whether my partner is completely open now. For example, if you remember which shower gel you used while showering with the AP, tell her. Yes, it’s trivial, yes, it will become a trigger, but if you tell her that, it sends a message that you are now open with all information. Do not make it just factual – include thoughts and feelings you had at that time.
You may think she now knows everything, but I guarantee you there’s a mess in her head. A written timeline and the opportunity to discuss specific points on that timeline, one by one, will help her create a narrative she can work with.
d) Volunteer information! Do not wait for her to ask questions. You just remembered something you didn’t tell her before? Note it down and tell her at the earliest opportunity. I’d recommend that you schedule time during the week when you will talk about your betrayal, for as long as it takes.
e) Back up your claims – give her access to ALL written conversations you had with the AP – chats on all platforms you used, private e-mails, work e-mails, letters, whatever you have. If you deleted stuff, do your best to retrieve it. This also goes for any conversations you had with other co-workers and friends. I learned some things from group and individual chats with other people! It also helped with the timeline and to verify some things he said. Every little bit helps.
f) After that, when she will have the full story and clear narrative, take a polygraph test.
g) If there are any secrets about you not related to the betrayal, or something from your past that you have never told your wife, for whatever reason, tell her now. My husband shared some high school stories, some stories about ex-girlfriends, and similar stuff – even though those are not relevant for us at all, the fact he shared them helped a lot in my evaluation of his openness now.
This is already a long post, and I’m sure I forgot something, but I hope it helps at least a little bit. Good luck!