marital affairThere has been a lot of discussion lately about whether a cheating spouse should confess their marital affair to his/her partner.  There are basically two schools of thought on this—Yes or No.  And to be honest, there are valid arguments that exist for both schools of thought. 

We’re not going to come right out and tell anyone that they should, or shouldn’t tell because every situation and relationship is different.  The decision to tell is one’s own, but it is important to evaluate yourself and your relationship and make a decision that you feel is right.

Do Confess Your Marital Affair

Susan Berger, MFT from the San Francisco area says that “If you are having a secret affair and still trying to carry on your primary relationship as though nothing has changed, you are under an illusion, which is; what you are observing about your primary relationship is unaffected by your secret.”  In other words, you may think that you can carry on a marital affair without it affecting your marriage, but you are sadly mistaken.

I can speak from experience on this.  I tried to keep things a secret from Linda.  In my mind I justified this because I didn’t want to hurt Linda, and I didn’t want my marriage to end and lose my family to boot. 

As the relationship went on with Tanya, my actions towards Linda and my family were affected in a major way.  I became more distant and aloof and didn’t treat them with the respect that they deserved.  I was in my own little selfish egotistical world.  Linda felt unloved and unappreciated.

Berger, expands upon this very phenomenon when she says that (by not confessing) “… you are altering your experience of your partner. No matter how much you may deny this, the very act of deception leads to their devaluation. That is because you now know this partner as someone who is being duped.  As such, the power dynamic changes, you are in control and your respect for your partner begins to erode.”

There are also a myriad of ethical and moral considerations that point towards confession.  There is the whole living with the guilt and the feeling that at some point the truth would eventually come out anyways. Then what?   Are these things that you would be prepared to live with?

I wonder as I’m writing this if things would have been any different at all if I would have confessed before Linda found out on her own.  I believe that indeed they would have been.  I think that though still painful, the situation would have been easier to work out.  There would have been less lies, deception, arguments, and raw emotions and more honest evaluation of our relationship and how to make our marriage better and stronger.

Don’t Confess Your Marital Affair

There is a somewhat prominent author, whose name escapes me at the moment, who feels that in no way shape or form, should a cheating spouse tell their partner of a marital affair—except in the instance where not knowing may have an adverse effect on the health, safety and well being of their spouse and/or family.

I suppose that this would entail issues like STDs, gun toting jealous husbands, and “Fatal Attraction” type women.

The main argument against confessing is basically that telling will only make YOU feel better, and your spouse feel worse.  It’s the old “ignorance is bliss” mentality.  I can’t say that this has no merit, as I once subscribed to this theory completely.

The other argument is that confessing could backfire on you, and though you may have expected forgiveness and the opportunity to work out your marital difficulties, the result could actually be that your spouse kicks your ass out of the house.

There are no “do overs” in love. Once Pandora’s Box is open there is no closing it and putting all the dirty secrets back inside. The relationship has changed forever. It will never be the same and will never go back to the way it was before you confessed. Your spouse may never trust you again. Even if there is a “forgive,” there will never be a “forget.” Your spouse will always have doubts about you in the back of his/her mind.

Whether or not a person ever confesses a marital affair to their partner, there’s at least one person they should get real with – themself. Figuring out how and why they ended up in the predicament – or predicaments, if cheating is a recurring theme – would serve well towards creating a life with more integrity and fulfillment.

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    5 replies to "Your Marital Affair: Should You Confess?"

    • Broken

      This part hit home… “No matter how much you may deny this, the very act of deception leads to their devaluation. That is because you now know this partner as someone who is being duped. As such, the power dynamic changes, you are in control and your respect for your partner begins to erode.” I agree with this part 100%. The more secrets your partner can successfully keep from you the more you look like an idiot to them. It almost teaches them to lie to you because they know they can get away with it. One lie leads to another and eventually I believe the whole relationship is based on lies. It’s not a healthy relationship. I say let it all out. Let your spouse know what is going on because they deserve to know. I don’t want to live a lie. I want to live an honest life. I want to know that the person I choose to live the rest of my life with is not leading a double life with skeletons in the closet.

    • Karen

      While as the BS I’d love to never have known about my H’s EA, I don’t understand how going forward in the marriage to recreate it is possible without telling. If a divorce, then yes, don’t tell. But if the premise that the betrayer treats the spouse differently when in an affair is true, then wouldn’t the spouse figure out something has happened once that affair stops and the betrayer starts working on their marriage??? I know I’d be all over that if my H’s behavior suddenly changed for the better toward me wondering Why???? I also believe that lies and deceit will all eventualy come to light . . . I wouldn’t want to live with that
      hanging over my head as the betrayer who has stopped the affair without telling. Finally, in healing from this EA, I feel one of the key components in the process of trying to recreate my marriage was/is the communication with my H about the affair and what he feels as to why, when, how, where, etc. Yes, it is painful to hear, but I feel it is necessary if I want to stay in my marriage going forward and protect it against this happening again.. . . . hopefully.

    • Jenny

      I think it would have made a world of difference to me if my husband had told me what was going on himself rather me finding out on my own. I even gave him the chance to tell me right before I confronted him with what I knew by asking if he had something he wanted to tell me, sadly he didn’t. I’ve told him that the worst part of all of this has been the secrets and lies. I’m not so naive that I don’t realize the possibility exists that he may be attracted to other women, but by hiding things he created an environment for the attraction to grow and become more. I think we have faired better than many people in similar situations because I trusted my gut instinct and confronted him pretty early on. If things had progressed further with more lies and secrets it would have made it so much harder to forgive. I honestly can’t see how lying and pretending like nothing happened can possibly be good for the marraige. I agree that it turns the whole thing into a lie.

    • Clint

      Relationships in matrimony or otherwise take a thick glaze of delusion and dilution to gloss over; call it understanding and flexibility.

      Sadly I know 3 things to be true.
      If it happens once it is a critical flaw that must be accepted as such. Not unlike a crack in an otherwise ‘ideal’ diamond.
      Step 1 is to accept it as-is. No matter how much you wish it was otherwise you must accept that it is cracked and no matter how much you angle the light and squint it will always be cracked.
      Step 2 is accept that you cannot ever fix or change it.
      Step 3 is move on along the path of least damage to those that are innocent in any facet of the issue ie children. Look, you made a bad choice – know that someday you will move on and plan for it but do not subject innocent people to your problems as you will only damn them to be injured by or repeat them – or both.
      When those that are innocent are given the priority they deserve and are independent, act. Life is too short to waste it on someone that cannot ever be corrected.
      Better to live alone than love a lie.
      If it happens once, it will happen again.
      If it happens once, no matter how much you gloss it over it is still a lie. By all means gloss it to prevent it from injuring or spreading but know it is a patch to get on with your life to excuse those not involved.
      Then when the children are gone, act.
      Who cares what anyone thinks, you did your part. Take your half and go.
      Poverty can be fixed in a day, but living a lie kills – especially if it is not your lie.
      Besides for all you know they did not stop they just got smarter. Stop trying to fix what cannot be corrected and stop trying to please, appease or keep the peace. Ensure the innocents are insulated and move on.
      Just Act. When the dust settles you can have a whole life with or without someone else and will certainly be better for it.
      The loss is theirs. Selfishness has no cure or boundaries that cannot be overcome.
      Accept it. Accept it will never change. Move on. Anything else is gloss.

      • Lara

        Hi Clint. I’m new in this site this must be one of the most liberating comment i’ve ever read here. thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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