Some thoughts on how to tell your spouse about your affair.

how to tell your spouse about your affairBy Doug

The ultimate betrayal of trust in a relationship is, without a doubt, an affair. People often don’t realize the consequences of their actions until after the act has been committed.

Probably the hardest part of an affair is when you come to the point where you need to tell your spouse exactly what happened. Like anything else, there’s always a right and a wrong way to break this heavy news to your spouse.

There are two camps when it comes to telling your spouse about your affair – don’t tell and do tell. And there are some valid arguments for both sides.

The main argument for not telling seems to be along the lines of “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.” Often the logic is that the pain is so great for the betrayed…So why subject your spouse to all of that? It’s also obvious that another reason is that not telling also shields the cheater from the consequences of their actions.

Conversely, those in the “do-tell” camp may argue that the betrayed deserves to know for various reasons. One such reason is that secrets between a couple undermines trust and thus the very foundation that the relationship is built upon.  Also, it is important for a person who has been involved in an affair to take responsibility and to tell the betrayed spouse what has happened. If it’s not shared, there is always the risk of it the affair coming out in the open in the future.

The premise behind this post is not to argue these points. Instead, we will address the scenario where a cheater has decided it’s time to tell his/her spouse about the affair and how to go about doing it. It’s a situation where the affair is over and a person decides that they really need to get it off their chest and tell their spouse.

See also  Discussion: How Do You Get the Cheating Spouse Out of the Affair Fog?

Here are some things to consider when it’s time to tell your spouse about your affair…

Prepare yourself. If you walk in and confess your affair without having done any introspection, you probably are going to create an even bigger problem.

Your spouse will have questions – lots of questions. If you have any hope of saving your marriage, have answers to all these questions before you start your confession. Obviously, these answers need to be honest answers. Tell the truth and don’t embellish or deceive.

Here are some of the questions and/or demands you can expect to hear:

  • How could you do this to me?
  • How long has this gone on?
  • Who was the affair with?
  • Why him or her?
  • What does s/he do for you that I don’t?
  • Why am I not good enough for you?
  • Tell me everything you did with him/her, where you went together and all the other details!
  • I want to see any emails, messages or letters between you and the other person!
  • Who else knows?
  • How did this begin?
  • Is it over with?
  • Who ended it?
  • When and how did you end it?
  • Why did you end it?

Choose a time and a location where there’s privacy and where there’s time. This certainly isn’t a conversation where you can say “Oh by the way honey, I’ve been having an affair…” while your spouse is rushing the kids off to soccer practice. Tell your spouse when the two of you are alone and have the time for a lengthy conversation.

Privacy is important as well because you must give your spouse the opportunity to express himself or herself. Your spouse needs to be able to react and release any emotions they may be experiencing.  So send the kids to Grandma’s house or get a sitter and find somewhere private to talk.

See also  13 Downloads for Affair Recovery

Speak plainly and truthfully. You must really speak clearly, plainly, and it’s going to be a difficult conversation. Get the whole truth and nothing but the truth out on the table immediately. You don’t have to share every detail unless your spouse wants you to, but this is not a time to dodge the issue or minimize what has happened. It’s hard enough for you – and you know what’s happening – so imagine what it’s going to be like for the person who is just hearing this from out of nowhere.

Take responsibility. Affairs don’t just happen. Granted, oftentimes there are a lot of things that can contribute to this, but bottom line, the decision was yours. You are basically informing your spouse of a series of decisions that you’ve made that are bad decisions. That have been damaging. That have been hurtful. So take responsibility and don’t make excuses. This is not a time to blame somebody else. Do not defend you behavior in any way and do not defend the affair partner.

Having an affair was the result of your choices. And quite frankly, this can be one of the first steps in the healing process.

Allow your spouse to react. You’ve just dropped a major bomb on your spouse and your relationship. There are going to be emotions. Don’t get frustrated, angry, defensive or violent. Don’t run away either (unless they want you to). Accept that your spouse must process the situation and this is a part of that. Unless for some reason you feel  unsafe and are concerned that you may be physically harmed, let your spouse vent and express their emotions.

See also  A Reader Shares Her Pain and Hope After Infidelity

Be apologetic and remorseful. This might seem really obvious but when there are a lot of emotions involved, you can easily forget. Apologizing and showing true remorse can be a huge starting point for the healing process.

Understand the pain and hurt. Knowing that your spouse has betrayed you is probably the most painful experience that he/she will ever know. You’re about to tell your spouse something that will traumatize him/her. The pain is not just going to go away overnight. Don’t take this lightly and remember to be sympathetic towards their pain and do what you can (and what he/she will allow) to comfort them.

After you’ve confessed you will begin the long road to recovery and healing. We wish we can tell you exactly how long it will take, but it is different for every person and every couple.

What we can tell you though is if you do choose to confess and if you take ownership of it, demonstrate sincere, honest remorse and then do the things you need to do to help your spouse heal, then that is a good indication that healing in the relationship is more likely to occur than not.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.  We’d appreciate hearing any suggestions that we may have overlooked.  Also, please feel free to share any experiences with your own affair confessions – whether you were on the receiving end of a confession of the one who confessed.  Thanks!


    31 replies to "How to Tell Your Spouse about Your Affair"

    • Lynn

      My husband chose to “reveal” his affair to me by doing something out of our norm, borrowing money. He hemmed and hawed about who he borrowed it from, and I noticed our texting fees on our cell bill were out of whack. He lied when I asked him about the texting overage-but I didn’t know that at the time. He actually laid in bed while I upped our texting plan. I sat home alone on a Saturday morning and started playing detective…..thousands of texts and calls over a five month period-went into his computer, found emails between them. Called the phone number, ugh. I couldn’t even stand up or walk w/o using the walls for support I was crying so hard and my heart was beating so hard it felt like it was going to explode.

      And then I got 9 months of the trickle truth-we had gone to counseling in the meantime-he was lying the whole time-to his IC and our MC.

      His cowardly way has certainly made trusting him again hard, to say the least, on top of the affair itself,

    • forcryin'outloud

      Once the admission of the affair is out there, this may sound basic but, the CS has to stop lying. Just STOP LYING to your partner and yourself in thought, word and deed.

      It took over 2 years for most of the truth to come out. My H kept trying to rewrite his actions in his mind so he didn’t sound bad to himself. It was easier for him to hide the ugly truths. So every time a lie was found out I dug harder to find out if there were more. The longer the denials, lies and lies by omission went on the more disgusted I became with him…the farther away I got from rebuilding any trust in him. He just kept digging a deeper and deeper hole for us to fall into. It’s been almost 4 yrs since d-day, 5-1/2 yrs since the EA ended and 2 yrs since the last lie came to light. Only just in the past 6 mos. has our marriage settled into a beneficial new normal. Masochistically my H kept trying to bury or spin the truth which only prolonged recovery for everyone.

      IMO put all your cards on the table. EVERY SINGLE ONE. Believe me when I say all the lies will seep to the surface so why not lay it all out there. It benefits everyone involved because then an informed decision can be made by both parties. What happens when the BS has recommitted to the relationship, all is going well then he/she finds another lie or omission about the affair. He/she isn’t going to be skipping through the tulips with joy that now they finally have the truth. No – it’s going to be back to square one or worse ground zero. Just admit to ALL of it for everyone’s sake.

      • Lynn

        FCOL-yes-we are telling the CS what NOT to do-but their judgment wasn’t good in the first place so why we do expect it to be different in the end ? And how many CS’s read this website or are insightful? Very few. It has been like pulling teeth and a lot of pain and agony in the aftermath-sorry we have to go through this-maybe we will forgive but I know we will never forget. (Hugs )

        • forcryin'outloud

          Lynn – I didn’t expect it to be different. I’m just trying to let some other “ill-advised” CS know it doesn’t work unless you really don’t give a rat’s a$$ about the outcome. Which in that case I figure you would be more than willing to tell every nasty detail or stonewall and walk out.

          • forcryin'outloud

            Some on here hate the term “affair fog.” I hate the term trickle truth – it’s lying – lying my omission – lying by manipulation – lying so you don’t have to deal with consequences. It’s lying plain and simple to me.

          • Lynn

            FCOL -I wasn’t directing that comment directly to you-it was more of a rhetorical question. You know, like they were doing the wrong thing cheating and lying-in a “best case” scenario, they would come out of the fog and snap out of their cheating lying ways….but they have been dishonest to us and themselves for so long, being honest seems to need to be re-learned, if they are truly remorseful, my CS took 3 months just to see the gravity of what he had done to me and our marriage, and ultimately to himself

            And the BS often find ourselves looking for some crumb of decency and respect after the fall out, and it seems to take a long time, for some never, for most CS to come about. They come up with all kinds of rationalizations, “excuses,”. not be honest w the BS.

            I agree w you-the CS needs to man or woman up and come clean-if they truly care about their spouse and want to reconcile. Otherwise, each additional lie is a another betrayal and character flaw which does more damage to be repaired, or not.

            My spouse is trying hard-but his handling of his mess, blowing it up in my face on purpose, has really sucked. Basically I blew the whistle on his affair and did his breaking up w the OW for him b/c h didn’t have the balls to do it himself! Insult to injury there.

    • AnnaB

      I used to be under the impression that my H was in the minority by not coming clean with all my questions. Someone I know confronted her husband and he told her everything. She decided to end the marriage, and maybe more people would do the same if confronted with all the shocking details at once. However, I would have much preferred my H showing me respect by answering all my questions truthfully. But he dragged it out with lies and half-truths, and predictably the truth came out agonisingly slowly, causing me great distress each time something surfaced over the following two years. I yearn for the truth and feel extremely jealous of any BSs that receive the truth early on, which can only help them to come to terms with the betrayal quicker.

    • Lynsey

      I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the fact that I may not know everything that went on with the EA. How do I know if I have all the information or if my H is withholding anything? He tells me I have all the facts, I have seen the emails and texts, have access to anything I want, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to trust my H (or anyone else) 100% anymore.

      • Lynn


        I am right there with you….it is a sad but true effect. I almost said “unfortunately,” but the situation has forced me to ready for him to do it, or something else, again. To that end, I have expanded my female friendships and have started a small but slowly growing roll of cash that is stashed.

        It stinks to feel jaded like we do-but I have decided to take my time, for my own self interest. Yes I love this man-but he is the one who has tainted our marriage and I think we would be fools if we ever blindly trust our CS 100% again, I call it self protection.

        I don’t mean to be always paranoid-just more proactive. For example, my CS has always been kinda moody and eccentric. Nowadays, rather than chalk up his moods
        to his personality, I ask him what is going on and we talk about it. Sometimes it is something trivial, sometimes not. I insist on communication and transparency now.

        • Saw the Light (formerly Roller Coaster Rider)

          Lynn, I also insisted on communication and transparency following the first D-Day of my ex H’s PA/EA but one can insist until the sun stops shining, and the cheater can look you right in the eye and tell you all is well, there is absolutely no reason for you to be suspicious of anything, and still be lying. Some people have advanced degrees in deception.

    • I lost my best friend

      I have been a silent member for sometime now. Reading and listening, never speaking. This topic has been the most difficult part of my H’s EA. Our D-day was in October, when I discovered my H EA. He claimed they were just friends and he was trying to help her through a very rough time. I was devastated when I by accident saw an email she had sent to him. He was in the process of emailing her back when I walked by and as I said by accident caught a couple of words of her email to him. I was shocked with disbelief and went to my laptop and logged into my H email account. I trusted him completely and had never been in his account since the day I set it up for him years ago. I have known his password for years however never had a reason to go into it. There were just a few emails from that morning in there as he was smart enought to delete at the end of each day. I was devastated. I went upstairs to cry and then to get my self together and then I called him up. (Which in some ways I wish I hadn’t done that and had monitored their emails for the rest of the day). I asked him point blank and that is when he told me of their “frendhship”. He was actually angry with me for finding out and claimed that he didn’t tell me because he didn’t think I would understand. Well, jeez, you think! He didn’t think he was doing anything wrong. To be honest with you, the way he explained it to me it didn’t seem as bad as I thought because he responses back to the OW were very generic and one or two words with no emotion. The OW’s were over the top, full of love and so on. It wasn’t until I started asking more questions over the course of the weekend. I had to go look up and print out EA from our computer to make him realize that it really EA. The OW still wants wants their “friendship” and emails him constantly. My H does not respond. My H has me open all of his emails and has me tell him if there is anything he needs to respond to. I have read all of the emails the OW sends to him, they are mostly begging him to talk to her at work or email her back. Which he does not do. There are two big issues I am dealing with and one is they still work together. My H cannot quit his job or move to another as he has been there for almost 30 yrs and provides our insurance as I am self employed. The OW refuses to leave her job. I know that my H has no contact with her at work unless it is job related and that is very limited. I know this to be true as I have a friend who works in the same office. However, I have a very difficult time with him being in the same office as the OW five days a week. My H is very good about telling me if the OW tries to engage him in conversation and flat out tells the OW no or just walks away. However she still tries. The biggest problem is my H did not see that he was doing anything wrong when I discovered his EA, so therefore he withheld information and did not answer my questions truthfully on D-day and after. It took me six weeks to get alot of the info out of him. Then things were going pretty good and I asked him some more questions and found out more new info and it was like starting all over again. This has happened about six times since November, the last time being two weeks ago. I feel like I just start to heal and the wound is opened up wide again. The EA lasted about 4 months but I feel that I am never going to be able to get past it or ever fully trust him again if this doesn’t stop. Every time my H says that is all of it and then there is a next time. I truly believe my H when he says how sorry he is and he is trying so hard to help me minus this one thing. He is totally transparent with me, calls me 2 – 3 time a day from work, emails me everyday. He hates cell phones and won’t have one of his own, however if he goes anywhere without me he takes mine so that I can call him anytime and he always calls me when he is gone. He has even changed his work hours so that he goes in 3 hours before the OW so that he is not there some of the time she is. How have you others dealt with this. I feel like I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It is driving me crazy. I just want to heal and get on with life but I can’t because I just keep waiting for the next time.

    • Saw the Light (formerly Roller Coaster Rider)

      LMBF, I absolutely went through the ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’ and unfortunately for me, it did. Many times. At one point, he had a second cell phone purchased by the OW so I couldn’t track calls. It doesn’t sound like your H has the same level of involvement my ex did with his two OWs. Perhaps it is time to just decide for yourself what you want. And as my sister had to remind me many times during these past three years, 6 major D-Days, four separations, two divorces and one remarriage in the middle, sometimes we don’t get what we want. But we can still choose what we will and won’t accept. Ultimately, I just had to be done. Despite the over 40 years we were together, the four children and four grandchildren we have together and my huge desire to keep my family intact. I couldn’t decide for him, just for myself. It’s getting better for me all the time. I wish you well.

      • I lost my best friend

        STL, Wow, I don’t know how you dealt with all of that. We are working on our marriage and I have to say that he is doing most everything right and things are looking better until he comes out with new information.The new info comes out when we are talking and sometime is triggered or ask him a question. It is never just because he remembers. In the beginning it was like pulling teeth. I wish I had your strength but right now it is just the not knowing and is he withholding something really big. I just want it to stop.

        • Saw the Light (formerly Roller Coaster Rider)

          Of course you want it to stop…it’s pure torture not knowing. I hope your H can get his s…. figured out, for your sake. Unfortunately, my experience and that of a large percentage of betrayed spouses shows that cheaters typically are very messed up and at the least, selfish and unable to really see clearly what they are choosing in walking out on their commitment.

    • Patsy50

      I Lost My Best Friend—- My DDay was three years ago. My husband had an EA for about 1 year with a young coworker. It started out as a father, daughter relationship until it became an EA. They both worked for the same company throughout his ten years working there. They had been office mates at times and worked together, again, at times and now not directly. I knew nothing about the EA until my husband told me, he was sexually attracted to her but not in love with her. He thought there was nothing wrong as he was never physical with her until I printed out what an EA consisted of and then he admitted he crossed the line. He had an EA. Any new info was irrelevant to me because an affair is an affair regardless of any new info I might hear down the line. He was close to retirement at the time so he continued to work for the same company. I hated it everyday. But can’t let it get to me. I had to put some trust out there in the beginning but I will never ever trust fully again. It just becomes the new norm, you move forward and you have to be alright with it. Over the three years, my husband and I have worked very hard to rebuild this new relationship. Will there ever be another EA, I don’t know, but I will always have one eye open which is more then I can say I did three years ago.

    • I lost my best friend

      Patsy50, Thank you for your in insight. I wish could could just roll with it. Your H’s EA sounds very much like my H’s, younger OW, Father/daughter start. Did your H tell you everything when you found out? We are working hard together and finding our way to a new norm, however I still struggle and can’t seem to let it go. It drives me crazy that they work together and that the OW keeps trying to revive the EA. The OW still emails him
      miltiple times a day and just pushes. Did your H stop talking to the OW? How did you
      get past them working together. I have the hardest time with the fact that he lied to from D-day on and so the trust issue is a huge hurdle for me.

    • CBb

      My H had an EA. It went on 2x w/ same woman. First rime after he kissed her he came home and told me. He ended it a few weeks later. 6 weeks after that he went running back to her b/c of her “crisis”.

      I then found put about round 2 when I called her! Yes I called the OW to get the details and truth. She admitted to me they were together for the past 3 months.

      And he has not been honest about the details. He has denied he loved her, despite those words in multiple emails. He led me to believe she pursued him, despite the emails to the contrary.

      Sooooooo, where are we now? I have to accept the EA and move on. I spent 9 months banging my head against the wall, begging for the truth. And one day I recently I realized that you cannot make someone do something they do not want to do. My H is/was a good man and father in many respects, but is cowardly when it comes to being honest on some levels.

      He is trying very hard to help get past this and have us move forward. He realizes (now, finally) the damage he has done.

      HOWEVER like others who posted, my future is as follows:

      1. Accept the new relationship we will develop.
      2. Accept your spouse for the liar and cheater they mow are. That is not easy as I look for the good in people, not the bad.
      3. Get your own life separate and apart from your CS. Make new friends. Get out of the house. Stop making this guy your life and world. Put yourself first.
      4. Do not rely on the CS for your recovery. It is up to you to gather your self-esteem and rebuild. The crazy thing about this is that the person who destroys us we expect to help us heal or “fix” us.
      5. Plan for yourself financially. In case it happens again or you decide to leave.
      6. Know the affair had NOTHING to do with you. The CS made the CHOICE to do this.
      7. The CS should not make their mid-life crisis your issue. Most of the time this is what the EA is – a stupid mid life crisis.
      8. Realize now we are in the position of now having to treat our CS or CH like the little boy they are and we become their mother/parent in some way. That is the part I absolutely hate!

      • Lynn

        I absolutely agree w all of these points, with the exception of # 8. I refuse to be his Mommy. I will be friend, lover, partner, confidante, but not Mommy. JMHO, for myself, anyways, this dynamic got us in this predicament in the first place……

      • exercisegrace

        I also disagree with number 8. After two years of counseling I have realized that I have spent too many years being just that. His pseudo-parent. I stepped in to always handle the “emotional stuff” that he hated to deal with, whether it involved his family, the kids, a work issue, I always handled it. Or coached HIM on how to handle it.

        Our counselor has helped me see that people who cheat are typically stunted in some emotional way. It’s why they cheat. Instead of dealing with their issues in a healthy, mature manner they choose the easy route of escape into an affair and the temporary positive feelings that choice brings. If we are to have a solid, healthy marriage going forward, he has to be responsible for his own life, and his own choices. While it is on our spouses to figure out why they made the choices they did, and learn healthier coping skills for the future, it is on us to treat them like the grown ups they ARE. They will either man up and rise to the occasion or they will not. I am prepared to deal with either outcome. So far he is manning up nicely, LOL. If you treat your husband like a child, you will eventually be resented. That can take the marriage in some extremely unhealthy directions.

        • Lynn

          Exercisegrace-well said! When one “mommy” isn’t enough. or Mommy is tired of being “on” 24/7, giving and not receiving they go in search of another!

          Wow this thread sure has deviated from the intended topic, I think, but it’s all good stuff. I hate the pain our asshats have put us through…..

          • Saw the Light (formerly Roller Coaster Rider)

            EG and Lynn, I’m of the same opinion. My ex was the baby of his family and had a mentally ill mother who was never emotionally available to him. Then, when he was 16 he met me, the oldest child in my family, mature beyond my years in many ways but also the product of a very dysfunctional home. Being a surrogate mom was a role that came easily to me and probably explains, at least in part, why I allowed myself to suffer emotional abuse and neglect from him. I kept thinking if I loved him enough it would help him heal. It did not. And now, from the vantage point of a mother and grandmother, I see the dynamic. Men don’t need a mom. They need a partner and a wife they are willing to go to the mat to protect, if necessary, especially from the emotional devastation of infidelity.

      • Strengthrequired

        Cbb, don’t you just love how the ow, always seem to have a crisis, well several of them.
        I agree with the midlife crisis too, sometimes I think it is just an excuse, to do what they know is wrong. Ohhh poor me, I’m getting older and have no life because I have a wife and kids, and I’m not where I thought I would be at this age.
        Well for goodness sake, get over it, we are all getting older, and I’m sure we didn’t expect to be where we are at this age either, but we didn’t need to run off to the next easy lay, to make us feel good.

        Can I have my midlife crisis now?

    • Patsy50

      I lost my best friend

      My husband answered every question I asked him after he told me of his EA. Did he volunteer any info. No, only if I asked and I had many questions even after DDay that he answered. Have you confronted the OW about her emails to your husband? Did he tell her that has to stop? My husband told the OW things had to stop. No lunches with just the two of them. No sending inappropriate pictures or inappropriate talk to him and no IM at work. He will talk to her only if it concerns work but it’s very unlikely. There is no “chit chatting” as I call it. So here is where I put some trust in him for he has been transparent with me. I believe if he is going to cheat with someone it can be anywhere not just at work. I can always be aware of changes in him which was a dead give away now when I look back.

      I wish you good luck in your journey

    • Mark

      If you get caught and want to save your marriage tell the truth. Tell your spouse how great it felt to sneak around, to lie and lie. Tell them how good it felt sexting someone else. Tell them about the best ever mind blowing sex. How you fantasized about it. Tell them about all the sex acts you did that you won’t do with your partner and how you loved it. Tell them how you dumped off the children so you could rush over and get laid. And then tell your spouse your sorry and wanna fix things. Watch their eyes as their heart breaks. Be sure to tell them it was just a mistake…..cheaters are selfish scum.

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