Should I Tell My Family About My Spouse’s Affair?

I often hear from spouses (usually wives) who aren’t sure if they should tell their family about their spouse’s affair or cheating.  Many times, they would really like their family’s support.  But, in the case of many wives, they’re also worried that their family will think differently about their spouse and this may be a concern if they later want to save their marriage.

Other times, they’re just ashamed and embarrassed and they don’t want anyone to know.  I often hear comments like “I don’t know if I should tell my mother about my husband’s affair.  She loathes my uncle because he cheated on my aunt. So I know that if she finds out, she will never forgive my husband and will always bring it up and will never let me forget it or him live it down.  But she knows something is wrong between us and she has questions.  Should I tell her?”

Another example is something like: “My children know that there’s something serious going down between my husband and I.  They know that I’ve asked him to leave but they don’t know why and they are angry with me.  Should I tell them that he had an affair so they’ll know I was justified?”

I actually have a definite opinion on this and I will share it with you below.  I do understand wanting to include your family because you want the support of people who love you and you want to be able to unload somewhere.

Why I Think You Should Be Very Careful About Telling Your Family About Your Spouse’s Affair:  I have seen this situation go badly many times.  Usually what happens is that, because the wife is furious about the affair, she will tell people in her family because she wants someone to support her and share in her anger.  Who better than your family who is close to you?

And in the beginning, this can feel good and right.  You can feel a lot of justification when your family shares in your outrage.  But later, you might begin to cool off a little.  Or maybe you don’t want to dwell on it as much anymore since you’re trying to heal and move forward. But what happens if your family member won’t let it go? Or continues to question your reasoning if you are trying to move past this?

This is something that you just don’t need.  Also, many times the family member has dealt with infidelity or disappointments themselves and will (usually unintentionally) thwart your efforts to move forward.  Even though they mean well, they might give you comments like “all men cheat and are scum” or “people always disappoint you” or other things that don’t really help you in the long term.

What kind of reaction you get from your family often depends upon the person involved.  I recently heard from someone who told me that she chose to tell her sister about her husband’s affair because she knew her sister was a very supportive and non judgmental person who could be very objective and not hold it against her husband should the wife chose to save the marriage.

Some family members are like this, but I find this to be the exception rather than the rule.  If you have a family member like this, you’re very lucky.  Of course, all family members have the reaction that they do out of love for you.  There is nothing wrong with this.  But it can become a problem when their love for you turns into hatred for your spouse, especially if you eventually want to work things out.

I always find it best to tell someone who is YOUR friend not your spouse’s friend and who is rarely around your spouse.  Discreet coworkers can work wonderfully for this.  A therapist is ideal.

Should You Tell Your Children About Your Spouse’s Affair?:  I know that this is a real concern.  I have children also.  They had questions. They had eyes and ears.   It can be so tempting to tell them sometimes so that they understand all of the changes that they are seeing.  But I feel that this is always a bad idea.  Your marriage is between you and your spouse.  This is not a topic for children – even older ones. 

And this is their father.  Their relationship with their parents should be sacred and not affected by your marriage.  He or may not always be your husband.  But he will always be their father.  Your marriage should not affect how they feel about one of their parents.  There’s really no valid reason to let this affect your children.  They don’t need to take on this problem.  And, if you do get through this and save your marriage, you’ll likely be glad you didn’t include family members.

If they are curious, it’s best just to tell them that you and their father are trying to work through some issues but that you BOTH love them very much and that you don’t want for them to worry because this is an issue between the two of you that has nothing to do with them and you are trying hard to work it out.

In my case, I chose to tell one family member about my husband’s affair.  In the end, the family member made my moving on more difficult, until I had a very frank discussion and asked them to stop.   I’d like to save you this trouble if I can.  I know this is only one of the hard decisions you have to make right now.  But it will get better.  My marriage did heal from the affair. If you like, you can read that story on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com  Also, if you want an expert’s take (which I’m certainly not) on this, you can sign up for Dr. Bob’s free e course (information is on the right side of this blog.)

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