Should you tell your partner you’ve had an affair?

Confessing infidelity might be a form of destructive honesty.

Confessing infidelity might be a form of destructive honesty.

What you need to know:

  • Your partner will not take it well if they know you have been engaging in sexual intercourse outside the relationship.
  • They may reason that if you could do it without their knowledge, what will prevent you from doing it with another party?
  • If you’re having an affair and you haven’t used protection, you must tell regardless of how many times you’ve done it

You cheated but you were not found. You cheated again. In fact, over the past few weeks or months, you have been cheating but your partner doesn’t have a clue. Now guilt has started to eat you up. Even though you have ended the affair, you still feel nudged towards disclosing that you were not faithful. Honesty is the best policy. But in this case, is it? Will what he doesn’t know hurt him?

The problem with being honest

While the ideal relationship must always be fueled by honesty, confessing infidelity will trigger more problems. This is regardless of whether the affair ended or whether or not you intend to ever have sex outside your relationship again. According to Dr. Jane Greer, a marriage and sex therapist, and the author of What About Me? the decision to tell or not should be based on what you can live with. “You will not always work through the issue after you open up. If you know your partner will be unforgiving and coming clean will destroy your relationship, keep the affair and the guilt to yourself,” she says.

In any given instance, your partner will not take it well if they know you have been engaging in sexual intercourse outside the relationship. “On one hand, they are bound to feel blinded because they couldn’t tell you were cheating on them. On the other hand, they will harbor doubt regarding your future fidelity,” she says. “They may reason that if you could do it without their knowledge, what will prevent you from doing it with another party?” Your relationship may suffer a repulsing feeling during intimacy, with your partner wondering if you have gone back to your straying ways or if you have kept on the straight and narrow. This could be worse if you had established any form of emotional connection with your cheat partner. For instance, if you were used to great sex, and your partner falters in the bedroom, you may be vulnerable to experiencing sexual dissatisfaction. This could lead to fantasising about your cheat partner or imagining they are your partner during love-making in order to enjoy sex or attain an orgasm.

The other side of the coin

Though confessing infidelity might be a form of destructive honesty, Mira Kirshenbaum, the author of When Good People Have Affairs says there can be exceptions. “If you’re having an affair and you haven’t used protection, you must tell regardless of how many times you’ve done it,” she says. In the event of a sexually transmitted disease, your relationship will be less likely to survive. Also, confess if the chances of your partner discovering the affair are high. “If you’re going to be found, it will be better if you are the one to make the confession first.” Her sentiments are echoed by psychologist Dr. Chris Hart who says if it is clear you have been busted, own up to your actions straight away. Do not drag your partner into a web of denial and counter-accusations. “Don’t even think of blaming your spouse for what happened. Emphasise the physical not the emotional aspect of what happened and commit not to make the mistake again,” he says.

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