I sometimes hear from folks who thought long and hard before they finally told the truth about their affair. This is a decision that they didn’t take lightly. Often, they went back and forth. They debated internally. They even approached trusted friends and asked for advice. And, in the end, they decide that the right thing to do is to just tell the truth. But when they finally do, the worst case scenario happens and they are faced with the prospect of losing their spouse and their family. So, they have to admit to themselves that it may have been better to do the wrong thing and to lie.
I might hear a comment like: “I had an affair with a man who takes yoga at the same time that I do. I never had any intention of the relationship being anything but friendship. And even when I crossed the line, I never had any intention of leaving my husband and my family. So I broke it off with the other man. And I stayed away from him. But my husband had his suspicions and I started to having to field a lot of questions. I asked many of my friends if I should just tell the truth about the affair. They all told me that I should lie and do whatever I had to do so that my husband never knew the truth. But this just felt wrong to me. Every time I was around my husband, I felt horrible guilt. I felt like I was the type of person who didn’t even deserve him. So I decided to tell him the truth. I truly believed that he would be devastated but would stand by me because we have been together for so long and we have a family that is so important to both of us. Well, as soon as I told my husband the truth, he left. And he hasn’t come back. And he says that he probably won’t ever be able to forgive me. He says that he will be cordial and receptive to me because he knows that this is important to our kids. But he also says that I have crossed a line that can’t ever be undone. I feel like telling the truth caused me to lose everything. I wish I had just lied.”
I hear this quite often. Much of the time, the cheating spouse really is trying to do the right thing. But they feel like they have been punished for it. And they can’t help but wonder if they still would be happily married if they just would have been smart enough to keep their mouth shut. It can be excruciating to know that there is no way to undo your confession. Once the cat is out of the bag, there is no way to put it back in.
Since You Can’t Take It Back, Make The Best Of It: Since you can’t go back now, I feel that you might as well work with what you have. Yes, your spouse is furious and the fall out of this is very challenging and scary. But I can tell you that things can and do calm down. Spouses can and do reconsider. I can also tell you that I so often hear from people who are struggling with the guilt of living a lie. So, keeping this to yourself has huge disadvantages also. You run the risk of your spouse finding out that you have been lying. Believe it or not, the fall out is often worse then. At least in this scenario, your spouse can’t deny that you did the right thing by telling the truth and being honest. In the end, that sometimes does count for something. It can take a while for the shock to wear off and for your spouse to stop lashing out at you. I know that waiting is difficult.
Consider The Downside Of Continuing To Lie: As a spouse who has been cheated on before, I admit that I believe that telling the truth is the right thing to do. It is the first step toward taking responsibility and restoring the trust. If you had continued to lie, your spouse would always know this and might have a very hard time moving past it. And, you would also know and might have trouble looking at yourself in the mirror.
I know that telling a truth might seem like a mistake right now. But, that is only because you are dealing with difficult consequences. In truth, you may still have had to deal with these consequences later when your spouse found out. And, it might have even been worse at that point because you were still being deceptive.
At least this way, you have unburdened yourself and shown enough respect and care for your spouse to tell him the truth. I can tell you from experience that his pride is deeply injured and he is questioning what he thought that he knew about your marriage. This is painful. You can understand why he’s struggling in the way that he is. You can understand why he is angry and hurt. But, he may not act this way forever. You can help your cause by having patience with him and continuing to stress that you love him and therefore want to take responsibility for your actions. You may need to be patient. You may need to give your spouse time. And, you will likely have to work tirelessly to even get him to consider giving you a second chance. But I don’t think being truthful after a deception is ever the wrong call. It’s the first step toward making things right.