No matter how many times the question, should I tell my spouse I had an affair, has been asked, just as many different answers have been given. None of these answers are right for everyone and the decision to tell or not to tell is a personal one that should be based on your relationship with your spouse and a careful consideration of the potential risks in self disclosure. This blog explores the various theories on, consequences to, and considerations in telling your spouse you had an affair.
Why do you want to tell your spouse that you had an affair? For many, the honest answer is to relieve their own guilt. Sure, confessing would do that, but one must ask themselves, at what cost? Your spouse is blissfully ignorant of your affair, so why hurt them in order to make yourself feel better? You are the one who made the mistake, your spouse should not have to be the one to suffer because of it. Some will cite honesty as a reason for telling their spouse they had an affair. How can you build or continue a relationship without honesty. But then, honesty may not always be the best policy. Honesty would clear your conscious, but it could devastate your spouse and end the marriage. Think very hard about this one, because if you want to tell your spouse you had an affair in order to make yourself feel better, perhaps telling is not the honorable thing to do.
On the other hand, if your lack of honesty and feelings of guilt are affecting your personality in a negative way, such as hearing accusations when there are none, suspecting your spouse of cheating, suffering from depression or anxiety, becoming angry more often or more quickly, using or abusing drugs or alcohol, or emotionally distancing yourself from your spouse, it may be time to confess. Your change in personality is almost certainly to have made your spouse feel the rift in the marriage and either blame themselves for it or become suspicious of your behavior. Neither of which will result in anything good.
Absent this type of change in personality, perhaps it is simply best to end the affair, recommit to your spouse, and keep your secret. After all, what they don’t know, can’t hurt them. But then what if they find out about your affair anyway? The answer to that question depends on your spouse. It is possible that they will be even more hurt or angry because you hid the affair instead of being honest with them and working through it together. It is equally possible that they never wanted to know to begin with and will understand why you chose not to self-disclose. Either way, the pain of your infidelity may still cause them to end the marriage.
That all being said, the best advice may be; if the affair is over and you want your marriage to work, do NOT tell your spouse until you see a therapist to work through how this happened, if you should self-disclose or remain silent, and how to tell your spouse if you decide to do so. Your therapist can also help you prepare for your spouse’s reaction and the conversations to follow once they are aware of the affair, whether they discovered it on their own, or you chose to self-disclose.
If you choose to tell your spouse about the affair, select an appropriate time. Learning that your spouse has cheated can be traumatic at worst and enough to ruin your day, at best. No one wants to receive such potentially devastating news when work, family, or other obligations prevent them from having the time and space they may need to process the information. The conversation that will inevitably ensue may be a long one and will almost certainly be one of the hardest you will ever have. You should be prepared to take responsibility for the affair, explain how and why you think it happened, without placing any blame on your spouse, answer any questions they ask, convince them that the affair is over, and that this will never happen again. A good beginning is always, “I am so sorry” and a good ending, “I still love you and this will never happen again.” You should then be prepared to let your spouse decide what happens next. If they decide to stay in the marriage, you will both have a lot of work to do.
Rebuilding trust after an affair is essential if you wish to stay in the marriage. You should start by cutting off all contact with the person with whom you had the affair. Delete all messages and e-mails, erase their contact card from your phone, block their calls and texts, unfriend them on social media, and do not see them at all. If they are a co-worker, you may need to consider finding a new job. You will need to be completely transparent for as long as your spouse needs you to be. Remember, this is about them, not you.
Finally, if your spouse is open to it, seek marriage counseling. If they wish to end the marriage, consult with a family law attorney as soon as possible. This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement.