Discussion: Should a Cheating Spouse Confess?

Happy Wednesday!

Many of the recent comments have centered around the subject of confession. As we stated in a previous post on the subject, there are only two possibilities – confess, or don’t confess. However, there are arguments for both sides of the fence, and this week we’d like to hear some of your thoughts.

Should a cheating spouse confess their affair? Why or why not? Is there any justification for the cheating spouse to take the stance of “What they don’t know, won’t hurt them?” As a victim, looking back, would you now wish that you never knew of the affair?

Feel free to express your opinion on this very touchy topic. Thanks!

Have a great day!

Doug & Linda

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34 Responses to Discussion: Should a Cheating Spouse Confess?

  1. Anonymous November 17, 2010 at 9:16 am #

    I often tell my husband that if he had just ended it and not told me what happened, we wouldn’t be in this situation. I struggle with the fact that he didn’t end the affair on his own terms but because I found out. If I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have been hurt like I am. Just as long as he realized that it was me he really wanted, made the changes he has made because I found out and didn’t ever cheat again.

    From a counselor’s standpoint, an unfaithful spouse who tells his/her spouse about the affair is only doing it for his/her own benefit and is not thinking of the wellbeing of his/her unknowing betrayed spouse.

    • Doug November 17, 2010 at 9:28 am #

      Thanks for kicking things off. I never thought about what you said in your last statement, but it makes sense. Even if they were racked with guilt, they only confessed in order to help feel better themself. I suppose there could be some instances where that is not the case.

  2. Inthemiddleofit November 17, 2010 at 9:34 am #

    Being in the middle of the discussion on this, I’m looking forward to reading additional responses. My inclination is to follow what Anonymous said – if I realize that its my W that I want, work 100% to making changes in the marriage and not cheat again, then that’s the best way to move forward. I get the points about being 100% honest, but I’m worried that being that honest just isn’t worth all the pain a confession would inflict. Besides being completely honest, I’m not sure the value of telling the spouse. (although I can see how not telling and then them finding out later would be worse).

    • Doug November 17, 2010 at 9:59 am #

      This whole discussion was with you in mind buddy! I hope you can get some additional points of view to consider.

      • Inthemiddleofit November 17, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

        Thanks – I think I have. I can certainly see both sides of the argument and both sides do make sense. Reading through some of the responses though from those that were told and the pain that caused makes me really question whether to confess. I think I’m just going to dedicate myself to the marriage 100% and focusing on fixing the issues we’ve been struggling over.

        I can’t begin to imagine how Linda (or any betrayed spouse) handled certain triggers. I discovered that a little today – I thought I was doing really well and not thinking about the OW and wham. Not really even sure why, but I was sitting at work and wham, a whole flood of emotions came flooding in. Like some of the posts said related to flowers or reading texts, things can elicit powerful emotions. When they’re all about pain and betrayal, those would be hard to overcome.

        I kept telling myself that it wasn’t the OW I was sad about, it was the loss of all those great and fun feelings. I can see though that even after making a decision and not contacting the OP, there are going to be those tough days of longing for those feelings… just like going through the shakes in rehab…

    • karen November 18, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

      In the middle of it – I’d opine that your reluctance to confess your affair is more related to your selfishness and fear of having to endure the consequences of the confession. Once again, it’s all about you. Yes, I’m from New York, and I’m blunt. Can you for once think about your wife and being fair to her? Oh, that’s right, you were forced into the affair by your wife’s behavior . . . . . . your post just ticked me off!!! How’s that for a trigger?

  3. stupidandtrusting November 17, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    I am so torn about this question. Of course, I so desperately wish I didn’t know but I value honesty. My husband had ended things before I found out – it was completely over. He did not tell me. His OW, however, not only told me but sent me texts, voicemail transcripts, and pictures of gifts. After he ended things, he was a different man and clearly a loving a dedicated husband. She took that away from me, the joy of having my husband return in a truly loving way. Or did he take that away from me by not being honest? I don’t know the answer but I sure wish I could remove the knowledge from my brain. My husband is working hard at repair. He would be so much more successful if when he brought me roses, I wasn’t remembering the picture she sent me of her roses. There will be no more red roses for a while. When he says certain phrases that I read in txts to the twit, it causes actual pain in my chest and tears in my eyes. So I guess in some ways it depends on the OW – is she a crazy effing bitch who wants to cause your H and you pain? I read an amazing article in psychology today about the spiderwoman and emotional affairs. It said her goal was really to acquire and destroy, not just him but his marriage, his family and most especially, his wife for having had him for so long. I guess you have to think about those things as part of your decision. But, oh, to not have known….

  4. D November 17, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    Ideally, no. Save the spouse from this sort of lifelong pain, commit to your marriage (or get out), and stuff your own suffering deep down, dealing with it on your own.

    Realistically though, it probably impossible to break off an affair without being open and honest with one’s spouse.

    My wayward wife intended that I should never know about her affair. But here’s the thing: she ended it a few times before she was caught. But because she never confessed, it was all the easier to fall back into the addiction. It’s hard to break off a relationship cold turkey, but it’s the only way in an affair. And if no one holds your feet to the fire, holds you accountable, then a phone call to the AP to see how they’re doing turns into another and another, and “Oh God, do I miss you.” Back to square one.

    Unless one has a strong backbone (which would most likely save one from being in such a position in the first place) then I say confess. So many lies have been spewed. Make a clean break and test the foundation of the marriage.

  5. Karen November 17, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    “Should a cheating spouse confess their affair?”
    Yes.
    “Why or why not?” Because the truth ALWAYS comes out sooner or later. Too many factors the cheating spouse cannot control in not confessing that are very likely to come back and bite them in the tush. Full marriage reinvention is a sham without transparent total honesty.
    Why live a half-lie going forward??

    “Is there any justification for the cheating spouse to take the stance of “What they don’t know, won’t hurt them?””
    Of course. Avoid rocking world of spouse and children (who also will find out); imagined easier repair of broken marriage (false).
    “As a victim, looking back, would you now wish that you never knew of the affair?”
    Of course. But only if it never happened. I think confession and the unbelievable pain, anguish and hell that evokes are completely necessary for marriage reinvention and going forward as a couple. Otherwise, what’s the point?

  6. Becky November 17, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    I can say from experience that telling is the right answer. But in my instance my husband found out. How and when it is discovered isn’t the problem. The problem is what made the indesgretion happen in the first place. All of the sudden when the truth got out blinders were taken off our eyes. We realized what made me stray and now we can focus through much pain how to never allow this to happen again. That’s the ticket I think. If I never would of been caught my marriage would go back to ho hum and ride the auto pilot mode.

  7. Donna November 17, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

    I think yes, however the other side of me wishes that I didn’t kow. My husband wishes I didn’t know because now it makes 2 of us with a problem. He hates that I am so hurt and he did actually want to protect me from the crap of what he had done. So… I say yes, honesty does pay off and I think my husband needs to see the hurt and the angusih and the rejection I have felt because of his actions and choices. The other side wishes I was in lala land, however I did no something was off, so would have tuned in sooner or later. In our situation, I found out anyway… he then confessed!

  8. Jenn November 17, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    YES the cheating spouse should tell, unless the betrayed spouse finds out. Having an affair is one of the worst types of betrayals, but keeping it secret, which is what they do anyway until found out, only makes it easier for the cheater to give themselves permission in other areas of their lives to lie or keep things from their spouse. This does not a happy marriage make! The ONLY way true healing can occur is if the cheating spouse comes clean and then allows themselves to open up and be vulnerable to understanding why they put their family in the position in the first place so the behavior and attitudes can be CORRECTED. As painful as it is for the betrayed spouse to learn of their spouse’s unfaithfulness, having the “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” attitude will only lead to completely disintegrate the marriage. PLUS, if the cheater gets away with it once, won’t they be more apt to do it again and again?
    Honesty in marriage is the ONLY way.

  9. Bonms November 17, 2010 at 5:27 pm #

    I say no. I wish I never had found out about my H’s EA and that he had just ended it on his own. On the condition that he also realised it was a mistake, commited to himself not to do it again and started working on any issues that helped him turn to another W in the first place. The true impact for the betrayed spouse does’nt really hit until they find out. If this can be avoided I say avoid it! Lets face it when someone cheats it is their partner that pays the price, if this does’nt have to be the case then why make it so.

  10. Inthemiddleofit November 17, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    Not sure this is enough to make me want to come out and confess, but I did discover another reason to today. Very similar to what D mentioned above.

    I was sitting at work today and all of a sudden thoughts of the OW popped into my head. I had to stop working for a second as I was really overcome with a flood of thoughts and feelings related to her. I realized that had my wife known about the affair, that would have been the perfect opportunity to call her and connect. (Although that does smack of more selfishness – doesn’t seem right to continually add to the spouses pain). I didn’t and just got up and walked outside for a few minutes and allowed myself to feel sad. I was kinda surprised how powerful that was – guess I hadn’t felt that in awhile. Anyway, I allowed myself to feel that, shook my head and went back inside. I can COMPLETELY see how D’s story happens. It would have been easy for me to text her to see how she was doing. Thankfully I didn’t this time…

    I’m not really worried the OW will find my wife – quite frankly, if she was interested in pulling me away from my family, she could have done it. I was basically one word away from leaving my marriage, all the OW had to do was say ok. Thankfully she was “smarter” than I was.

    • karen November 18, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

      “I’m not really worried the OW will find my wife – quite frankly, if she was interested in pulling me away from my family, she could have done it. I was basically one word away from leaving my marriage, all the OW had to do was say ok. Thankfully she was “smarter” than I was.”
      Don’t be too sure about this. I think your knowledge of women’s behavior is lacking. You haven’t broken off the affair yet . . . wait to see what happens if you ever get the guts to do that. Just sayin.

  11. luna November 17, 2010 at 5:40 pm #

    in now way are spouses responsible of protecting each other from the truth.. it is not a spouse’s job.

  12. Kelly November 17, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    I wished my SO would have told me. He didn’t end it until he got caught and even then he very emphatically denied everything. I begged him to tell me the truth and he wouldn’t. He made me feel paranoid and stupid and like I had done something wrong by not trusting him at his word. So I had to become a detective and resort to using spyware to read his text messages and view the pictures on his phone. After a year and a half, I still cannot get those words and images out of my head. I will take them to my grave. I wish to God I had never read them, never seen those pictures. He could have spared me of that if he hadn’t been so selfish and trying to protect his own ass. I know there would have been pain either way, but he could have made my discovery and recovery much easier on me.

    • Brokenbutstronger November 24, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

      Do to the fact that I discovered my husband’s affair ,which he then denied I think the cheating spouse should confess. My husband denied over and over nothing happened. They were just friends. He confided in her she in him. Well 50 or more texts daily is nothing. And then the vmail I intercepted that she left( after
      I told her bluntly to have no more contact with my husband) stated “I love you” I flipped. He pretty much stated at times I was abusing him for questioning him so much and threatened to leave on those grounds. Even told our 3 small children I was causing him to leave or someone was going to get hurt. They were balling along with me begging him not to leave. We had decided to work through this and stay together. He said over& over how sorry he was. He just was sorry for hurting me and promised never to do again. Stated he got caught up in the whole thing and couldn’t get out. Well never really told me much until I emailed the OW again and she of course being scorned told me everything, sent emails from the two of them and so much more. I shared all of this with my husband which he didn’t even get upset over really. He denied some of the things she said. Which I do question since I know from what she told me she lied to her husband about the whole thing. I found this all out in mid August. I never had trust issues before but I am consumed everyday wondering if my husband is where he says he is. See she works in the same town as him. Even though she said she would never have anything to do w/him again I don’t believe that. She has stopped coming to our church yet her husband and son still come. She was adamant when we spoke that my husband never told her they were done and she told me if he got caught he would still see her. My husband wants to put this all behind him and move forward. I want that also. But I want him to tell me the truth of what happened during this affair. I know what she told me now I want him to tell me instead of him saying it doesn’t matter. That just makes me more curious and suspicious. We already had to by one new vehicle due to the fact they were in it numerous times and I am insisting we sell our truck and buy a new one since she was in it also. He thinks I’m being foolish. I love my husband very much. Yes we had our problems we were going to a marriage counselor during this whole affair. This has been a huge eye opener.
      E

  13. Norwegian woman November 18, 2010 at 2:44 am #

    From my own experience, not telling about the affair, only makes it easier to do it again. My husband had an affair that was physical and ended it by himself, just to fall into another affair some months after. This time it wasn`t physical, because I found out and confronted him. He confessed the emotional affair, but did not tell me of his previous physical affair. (Last christmas) I guess he thought that what I didn`t know, couldn`t hurt me. I was in shock, but we agreed to work on the marriage, and he stopped all contact with the other woman. We worked through it, and was on the right path, when three months ago I got an e-mail from the husband of the woman he had an physical affair with… I don`t think anyone who hasn`t tried it could imagine the pain and hurt. I was devestated and totally broken.
    My husband told me that the reason he started another affair was that he wasn`t caught the first time. The pain it caused me was a total surprise for him. He is now doing everything to mend our marriage, but of course, his dishonesty when I found out about the EA makes it even harder to trust him. At this time, I don`t know if i will ever be able to get over it.
    So, my advice is to be honest. The truth will come out sooner or later. The biggest betrayal isn`t the affairs, but the continuous dishonesty towards me, even after he promised to tell me everything that I should know when i caught him in his second affair.
    If you really want to get your marriage back on it`s feet again, you have to experience the pain your actions causes your spouse. Only then you can truly get a grip, and stop your cheating ways, I think.
    But of course, I sometimes wish that I never knew. I am in the middle of recovery, and it hurts like hell……

  14. Alice November 18, 2010 at 8:31 am #

    I was debating if I should mention this, as I don’t what to add anymore stress to anyone…but in cases like IntheMiddleofit I think it needs to be addressed.

    I used to work for the sexual health clinic in my area. STDs are being passed around these days at an alarming rate. Now what you are probably thinking is -we used condoms or she doesn’t sleep around.

    Well Im here to tell you that condoms reduce STDs they dont eliminate them. And if she’s sleeping with a married man who knows what else she’s done (or doing) and you certainly can’t account for any of her husbands or past partner’s actions. (im not sure if you mentioned if she was married)

    Three things I would like to address:

    HIV/AIDS. The stereotype is that only Africans and hookers get HIV. HIV is alive and well in the Western World. And often sex workers use more protection then everyday people. The highest rate of new HIV diagnoses come from average everyday women under the age of 35.
    You would be surprised at who has HIV and doesn’t know it.

    Herpes. Condoms don’t protect against Herpes very well. Why? Because Herpes can be transmitted through vaginal sex by skin on skin contact. Sure condoms cut down on the amount of skin contact, but there is still plenty of area for transmission. Also, medical research has recently discovered that herpes can be transmitted to your partner even if there isn’t a current outbreak.

    HPV. (This is the one I want you to pay attention to the most.)HPV is found in 99.9% of cervical cancers. Condoms arent very effective against it, as it is also transmitted through skin on skin contact. Little is known about how it effects men, other than they can carry it and infect females with it. The only way to test to see if a woman has HPV is to a Pap test. A lot of women in long-term relationships don’t get Pap testing done regularly. If HPV is present and leads to cervical cancer and it’s not caught early, that puts her life at risk.

    Just a few more reasons that you (or anyone else in your situation) should confess to you wife.

    (I wrote this in a hurry….sorry for all the typos)

    • Doug November 18, 2010 at 9:00 am #

      Alice, thank you very much for sharing your knowledge on this subject. It is a subject that is often overlooked but is very important to consider indeed.

  15. Alice November 18, 2010 at 8:33 am #

    Oh one more thing about HIV….. it can take up to 6 months for HIV to show up on a test. If you get tested, make you you get tested again in 6 or 7 months to make sure.

  16. Tryingtoowife November 18, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    My husband tried to end his affair and endured (deservedly) months of threats from his AP. He tried his own way (his words) to calm her down, and make her see sense that, they could not carry on. He thought he achieved that, and left her. She in revenge, let me know in the worst way possible about his affair, and did after that, as much damage to me and us as she could. My opinion on him? He was a real coward. He knew how vicious, deranged and revengeful his AP was. She had nothing to lose. He should have told me and spared me the hurt of finding out from this unspeakable low form of life he had an affair with. If he had told me himself, I would have more respect towards him today. He is a good person that made a bad choice, and we are trying to rebuilt our relationship, but it is harder, because of how I found out. Honesty even if it hurt is my motto. Anyone withholding the truth will be haunted by it. You never know if something will surface, and when, and that would be like a living hell.

    • ruth November 18, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

      The ow did the same thing called me and told me that my h was cheating on me with all the other women he worked with and called him names. She told me she wanted me to know because she felt bad for me.
      Whe the whole time it was her having the affair with my h. when i ask my h about it. he said she was in love with him and wanted him for herself when he told her they were only friends. Well he had the oppurtunty to tell me right there and then the truth but he lied out of it and said she was crayz. well the affair lasted another 10 mos after that. before she called and addmited to me that it was her he was having the affair with. call me stupid!!!! He thru me under the bus thats why I cant get passed this.

  17. stupidandtrusting November 18, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    Tryingtoowife – wow, I have to wonder if her name is Lindsey. This is precisely what happened at our house. She left me vm’s, forwarded texts, and made up lots of things. Not that there wasn’t a hint of truth but rather, she made them what she wanted to hear. My husband was also a coward, and terrified of her potential behaviors.
    I read a great article describing this type of AP and showed it to my husband and he said it described her perfectly. A Narcisstic Spiderwoman. I found it really helpful. It is several pages long. It also helped my husband better identify which “person” he was – he decided he was best described as emotionally immature. Boy, did he grow up fast :)
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200910/beyond-betrayal-life-after-infidelity

    • D November 18, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

      Stupidandtrusting, it isn’t stupid to trust someone you love. If I may, change your moniker to worthyoftrusting. : )

  18. tryingtoowife November 18, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    stupidandtrusting – ( I used to call myself the same, but now I know, I loved therefore I trusted, so do you) – Spot on! I identify her exactly as a spider woman too! “This one” is not married though, and gambles with nothing, but I pity her(the worst of feelings, I think, to be pitied by others), as she goes through life feeding her emotional mess, by destroying peoples lives for her own pleasure! She lives on her own hell though, and I wish I could name her, but I can’t. She is really worth nothing, and I call her ‘Sad’! Unfortunately for me (and him now), my husband fell for the tiresome chase, and fortunately, very soon regretted, and then realised what she really was and that he was trapped! But he suffers too for being so weak and such a coward. He also hates her beyond words. But I have to leave this in the past if I want to move forward. And I really do. We have learned so much in this painful journey, and the most valuable thing is that we had the strength and real love to stay together and try to rebuild our relationship. It is tough but we are getting there!

  19. stupidandtrusting November 18, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

    D – as soon as I figure out how, I will change the moniker :)

  20. R November 20, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    I have already suggested in another thread that your affair be confessed, Inthemiddleofit, and I agree with karen, you haven’t broken off the affair once and for all yet, so don’t be so sure the OW will just let you go. I know the OW in my case personally. We all went to church with together! I had suspicions for a long time. When I talked to her about these suspicions a couple of different times, she wholeheartedly denied any involvement with my husband, and even had me convinced I was crazy, but when I finally found out the truth, and my husband confessed everything, she started singing like a bird! She told me everything she could think of to tell me. I think she thought she could tell me enough that I would never forgive him, let him go so that she could have. The triggers are from all the information I now have is horrible, but I can’t say I am sorry I know. I’m sorry the affair happened in the first place, but the sensing that something is terribly wrong but not being able to put my finger on it was the worst! There is nothing worse than being played for a fool, and once the truth does finally come out, and it will, the dishonesty is what hurts the most. If my husband had confessed in the first place instead of my finding out and making him tell me, I would have had much more respect for him and would have been much more likely to believe he was over her once and for all, but it was all the lies that make me suffer the most. It was one thing for him to make the biggest mistake of his life, but to keep lying about it just compounded it. As has been pointed out in this thread, I believe the risk of my leaving him has kept him from ever thinking of sliding back into that temptation again. I told him if I ever found out he had had any contact with her again and didn’t tell me, it would be all over. She called him a couple of times after I told him that, and he told me. The honesty helped me stay in the marriage. Honesty is essential in a marriage. It will take a long time to rebuild the trust, but each time you are honest with her, the trust will be built up a little bit. One other thing, I don’t know how you can ever have a great marriage if you are carrying around a huge, dark secret. My husband said he felt like a load had been lifted off his shoulders when I found out. Yes, the load shifted to my shoulders, but we are both working together to get it off mine! : ) A marriage is about two people working together, not hiding important facts from each other.

  21. Sue85 December 8, 2010 at 9:17 am #

    I know I am late entering in this topic discussion…but I only found this website yesterday and I just wanted to comment from my point of view. Last month when I emailed my EA to tell him we needed to end this, I stated to him that ending it this way was better than being caught….and his response was that yes…it’s better for 2 people to be sad than 8 or more (the 8 referring to our spouses and children…and the ‘or more’ referring to extended family and mutual friends). We both chose not to tell our spouses….as we didn’t want to cause them any pain. I know, I know…I’ve read all the above posts about honesty etc….but this is just what my EA and I decided to do. Right or not….it’s just what we decided.

  22. Jane December 11, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    I am struggling right now. My husband had an affair that lasted almost two years before I found out. I feel so stupid and used. I keep finding out that he has still been lying to me about the extent of the affair. I am the type of person that needs to know how involed he was with ow. I asked him before and he said no gifts, no kissing, no touching just a lot of phone calls from home phone. Now I find out he used his brothers phone and address to have things mailed there. He bought a gift he tells me and brought it back. I am so confused right now and don’t know what to believe. Prior to this past week he kept telling me he never called her when not at home. She lives in his hometown in PA eight hours away. He did quite a bit of calling from there. As stated from before. I don’t want to be played like a fool. I am really wondering what actually did happen. I have asked him and get accused of not wanting to let it go and it was just a friend. Please help.

  23. Maggie May 30, 2011 at 12:10 am #

    ABSOLUTELY the Cheater should confess everything. My H lied for 6 years and the not knowing just about destroyed me. I had to be the one to “force” an end to the affair, and for the next 6 years “dig” and he would tell me only what he absolutely could not deny. I believed it was an emotional affair with no actual sexual interactions but I was wrong. I also ended up finding out that he has been addicted to hard core porn for 40 years (including all 32 years of marriage). I am in counseling and he has gone with me for marital but when I said that I felt he needed to get counseling to deal with his porn addiction he said he did not think he needed it that he had stopped after I discovered it by putting a web watcher program on the computer and that he would never do it again. I said that if he “could” have stopped then why didn’t he? In the end I discovered that he could no longer get off on the sickest porn so he upped the ante to an EA that also became sexual and lasted for 18 months. He risked his job and his family in pursuit of his addiction. He is going to counseling next week for the porn addiction. Please pray that he will finally be honest with himself as well as the counselor so he can learn some coping mechanisms to not go back to the porn.

  24. notperfectnotbroken February 1, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    i was cheated and have no idea when he confessed all to me. i was in so much pain and still struggling to try to forgive him, my world turned upside down, and i lost much of my weight since confession day. Do i prefer it this way or do i prefer to not know.. even in the heat of moment after he confessed, i already know the answer, as hurtful as it is, i want the truth.. because i deserve the truth, i deserve to know who he is, what he’s doing to me, and i deserve to have options and make decisions about all of this.

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