Unsure About Whether to Confess an Affair to Spouse

Should I tell my husband that I've been unfaithful to him? I recently ended a relationship with another man, but I have serious doubts about the wisdom of revealing this to my spouse. As things stand, he has no idea that anything of this kind has been going on. I've confessed my sin before God, but why hurt him and risk destroying our marriage by bringing it up? Would it be better just to sweep the whole thing under the rug?

Not only should you tell your spouse about your infidelity – you must tell him about it if you want your marriage to grow and move forward in a positive direction. The damage has already been done. Now it’s a question of finding some way to heal the hurt and restore the quality of the relationship. How healthy a marriage do you want? – that’s the issue now. There’s no guarantee that your spouse won’t leave you, but you can’t have real intimacy as long as you’re keeping secrets. The truth may be painful, but it’s also therapeutic. Secrets, on the other hand, are always destructive. There’s a reason the Bible says, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). It’s the only way to regain balance and prevent further destruction.

That’s not to say that you should blunder into a hasty or careless confession. Quite the contrary. You need to begin by praying about the situation and giving it some careful thought. Don’t just blurt something out at an inappropriate moment. Instead, prepare the ground. Pray about what you’re going to say. Write it down if you think this might be helpful. Lay your heart before the Lord and humble yourself in His presence, making sure that you’re ready and willing to put the infidelity behind you and make things right once and for all. Demonstrate your good intentions by taking some steps in the direction of repentance and healing before making the disclosure. Get tested for STDs. Seek out the advice of a pastor or licensed Christian counselor. Study 2 Corinthians 7 and be certain that your attitude is one of genuine godly sorrow (verse 10) – the kind of sorrow that leads to repentance – rather than one of debilitating guilt or a selfish desire to save face. Determine to do whatever is necessary to repair the damage you’ve caused and rebuild trust with your husband.

Should you determine to tell your spouse, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing so from the right motives. The truth is, there can be any number of selfish reasons for confessing an affair, including manipulation, or an attempt to blame and shame your spouse for “having pushed you into the affair.” Or it may be the weight of your own guilt and a desire to relieve and shift your burden onto your spouse’s shoulders. In the end, there’s only one legitimate motive for confessing the affair, and that is because you love your spouse, you are truly sorry for what you’ve done, and you want to save your marriage. It’s vital to get all this straight in your mind and resolved in your heart before you open your mouth.

You may also need to consider your spouse’s state of mind before moving ahead. Does he struggle with depression? Are there any serious emotional or mental health disorders present? Does he have a tendency to become irrationally angry or violent? In some cases of this nature a confession like the one you’re planning to make could have the effect of pushing an unstable individual over the edge. In the interests of safety, you will want to eliminate the potential for any such reaction before implementing your plan. Here again it would be a good idea to get some input from a pastor or qualified counselor.

Once the whole story is out on the table, you and your spouse should pursue counseling as soon as possible. Depending on the dynamics of your circumstances, individual therapy for both of you may be recommended prior to joint sessions. There’s an important sense in which your affair is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s the final step in a hundred-step journey – a symptom rather than the actual disease. If your marriage is to survive and thrive, you’re going to have to get to the heart of the problem and figure out exactly how and why you reached the point of becoming vulnerable to this kind of temptation. What part of your relationship with your husband had to die in order to make this possible? What were the incremental steps leading to its demise? How can it be revived? The only way to find answers to these questions is to start talking – preferably with the help of a trained marriage therapist – and keep talking until all the relevant issues have been brought out into the light and dealt with effectively.

Contact us for a free consultation if you think it would be helpful to talk further. Focus on the Family’s Counseling staff would be happy to discuss your situation with you over the phone and provide referrals to specialists in your area.


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