By Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from wives who deeply regret cheating on their husbands. Often, the guilt is weighing heavily on them. Sometimes, they wonder if they wouldn’t feel better if they would just come clean and tell him. But somewhere deep inside, they suspect that once they tell him and let the cat out of the bag, their marriage might never be the same.
I heard from a wife who said: “I cheated on my husband with an old boyfriend from high school. It was incredibly stupid and immature. I don’t know what is wrong with me and why I’m so starved for attention. Basically, he paid attention to me and complimented me and that was all it took. Afterward, I was so ashamed and mortified by what I’ve done and I know for a fact that I will never cheat on my husband again. This guy lives in another town so it’s not like I’m going to run into him again. But, a couple of my friends know and there are texts and emails which I’ve deleted but I always have this sinking feeling that somehow my husband is going to find out from someone else or maybe the guy will try to contact me again and my husband will pick up. The other consideration is that my guilt is affecting my marriage. I always find myself overcompensating or acting strange. My husband has asked me why I’m so jumpy and of course that just makes my paranoia worse. I hate myself at this point and I really do want to tell him. But every time I think about telling him, I also think about how this is absolutely going to devastate him. He completely trusts me and he has done nothing to deserve this. So what is the best call? Should I tell him I cheated because it’s the right think to do even if it will risk my marriage? Or do I stay quiet and live with the guilt?”
This isn’t a question that I can answer for any one else. In my own case, my husband cheated on me. So I have not been in the position of deciding whether to tell or not. But as someone who has been cheated on, I can tell you that I would have more respect for someone if they did what was right and told me the truth. Being honest would imply that he cared enough about me and the relationship to tell me the truth, even though my reaction might be very severe.
However, I do admit that this would be a risk. Once the truth is out, then it is up to your spouse to decide if your cheating is a deal breaker or not. However, I tend to think that even if you keep quiet, your relationship is still going to be negatively affected. I have actually heard from a select few who say that keeping the affair to themselves helped their marriage. This is because they knew how horrible it felt to know that they could lose their husband. Therefore, they appreciated him more and vowed to be a better wife. I understand the theory of this, but I think that this group must be in the minority. It would be difficult to quiet your guilt and paranoia, although I concede that if you’re not going to tell, then at least making sure that something positive comes out of the cheating is a good idea.
With that said, many people admit to me that they aren’t sure how much longer they can live a lie. They often feel compelled to tell their husband but, at the same time, they are terrified to do so. Below, I’ll offer some things to think about when you’re considering telling your husband you cheated.
Some Things That Might Help When You Tell Your Husband You Cheated: Maybe I can give you some insights that might make this go a little easier. As someone who has been cheated on, I can tell you the things that your spouse is most going to want to know. They will often immediately wonder things like: Is the affair over? Was it a one time thing? Does she love him? Does she no longer love me or find me attractive? Why did she do this? Will she cheat again? Can I trust her again? Is our marriage over?
I’m not telling you these things to discourage you or to make things feel hopeless. I am telling you this to help you address some of these things while you are confessing. To the extent you can, you want to tell him the truth but you also want to reassure him that this was a one time mistake that you will never ever repeat. Also, you should show him that you understand what you did was wrong (and where you were vulnerable) so that he will at least have some hope that this self awareness means that you won’t cheat again once you find yourself in a similar situation.
Try as best as you can to not make it all about you. Do not make excuses for yourself. Never make it seem as if this were your husband’s fault. Resist the urge to defend yourself by saying that the other guy gave you the attention or appreciation that you needed because the implication of that is that your husband did not. You don’t want to imply that he did anything wrong. The main idea should be that you made a mistake for which you are desperately sorry. And, if he will give you the chance, you will do everything in your power to regain his trust. You should make it clear that you are telling him not to hurt him but because you want to respect him and your marriage enough to be honest and tell the truth.
Know that his reaction might change over time. Have patience as he struggles to process this. I can’t predict how he will react or even if telling him is the right thing. I can only tell you that as someone who was cheated on, I would be much more willing to walk away from my marriage if I found about the cheating from someone else or found out much later when my husband had the power to tell me himself all along.
I know that you may be struggling right now, but even if you tell the truth, infidelity does not have to be the end of your marriage. Our marriage is actually better than ever after my husband’s affair. Rebuilding wasn’t always easy, but now that we have, I’m glad we made the effort. If it helps, you can read the whole story about our recovery from the affair on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com
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