For Americans, it’s much more common to hold the belief that infidelity is catastrophic. But what you have to know is that if you cheated on your partner, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your relationship. It just means there is a larger conversation the two of you need to have.
People don’t talk about affairs to their friends and neighbors; that’s why you rarely hear success stories. But many couples surprisingly can learn to successfully rebuild their marriages. Some even say their marriages are stronger after infidelity. Strangely, only about 15% of marriages end in divorce because of infidelity. That means more than 50 percent of marriages survive it!
Still, everyone is divided on this issue. Should you tell your partner you cheated? Experts on the matter have weighed in on the topic, but it seems that even they differ in their professional opinions.
Should You Tell Your Partner That You Cheated?
If they ask
If your partner has asked you if you’ve cheated, they’ve already solved this dilemma for you: They want to know. So you’re not doing them a disservice by telling them. In fact, denying it to their face and telling them that they’re imagining things would be considered gaslighting and would make it nearly impossible for them to ever trust you again. If a person is confronted by their partner regarding cheating, it would be better to confess rather than lie about it or attempt to make them feel as though they’re being insecure or paranoid.
The ideal situation is that you’re honest with your partner about being unfaithful and you work through the issue together. However, for a lot of different reasons, it doesn’t always work out that way. You’ll have to understand that not everyone is willing to forgive a partner for cheating, but that is your consequence to bear.
If you want to break up because of it
If you find yourself caving to temptation time and time again, the person you really need to be honest with is yourself. If what you really want is to be exploring romantic and sexual connections with a bunch of people, stop trying to force yourself to be monogamous. Either pursue an open relationship, whether with your current partner or someone else, or spend some time single so you don’t have to worry about commitment at all. If you’re in love with another person or if you figure out that a monogamous relationship isn’t for you and want to end your current relationship, your partner deserves the truth. Otherwise, they’re going to be constantly wondering what they did wrong or what they could do to fix the relationship.
If they’ll find out anyway
If someone’s going to find out anyway, they’ll feel more betrayed if it comes from somebody else or from their own detective work. Figuring out on their own that you cheated may make it far worse than if you would’ve told them yourself because it meant they were not only cheated on but also deceived for a period of time. The longer you hold on to the secret, the more betrayed your partner will feel when they eventually find out. They might actually be more hurt by the fact that you never told them than the actual cheating. Though confessing to what you did doesn’t minimize the fact that you cheated, it does prevent the damage that could be caused by keeping a secret.
If they are unwilling to seek professional assistance
If you have a lengthy history of cheating, rather than just a single, isolated incident, you should not disclose that without professional assistance, preferably from an experienced couples counselor, especially if you’re willing to change and work things out yourself. This advice holds true even if/when your partner demands to know absolutely everything right in an instant. Instead of just spouting all your dirty secrets on demand, assure your significant other that you will answer every question, but you want to do it properly and in a controlled setting, where a professional can help both of you process and understand the revelations and the feelings that will likely ensue.
If it was a one-time thing
If you’re having an affair or have had multiple hookups but you truly plan to stop, as long as you truly want to stay with your partner, some experts say you’d rather spare them the agony. Kevin Darné, author of My Cat Won’t Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany), agrees. “If your reason for telling is to rid yourself of the guilt you’re carrying around, then you are hurting them in order to selfishly feel better,” he says. “If you’re no longer cheating nor plan to ever cheat again and your mate is highly unlikely to ever find out, then take it to your grave! Make amends going forward by being the absolute best mate or spouse you possibly can be.”
People, however, are currently divided on this issue because understandably, this is a dangerous route to take. Aside from carrying the burden of guilt for the rest of your relationship, you have to make sure every day that they don’t find out on their own. Even if your significant other chooses to believe your lies and not ask about your blatant secrets, they will still feel the emotional distance and unavailability, which is not good for your partner or your relationship. Even a 99-year-old husband divorced his 96-year-old wife after he found out she cheated on him sixty years ago! Also, getting away with infidelity makes you more likely to cheat again in the future because, well, you can get away with it anyway. This causes your relationship to deteriorate even further.
It’s hard to pinpoint what is being “selfish” whenever a spouse considers confessing about infidelity because relieving oneself of guilt for peace of mind while hurting one’s partner in the process is selfish, but also deceiving your partner for an incredibly long period of time just to make them stay with you is also selfish. One Women’s Health reader had a point: “You should always tell your partner, but not for your own peace of mind. Instead, you should do it because the person you cheated on has the right to decide whether or not they should continue the relationship. You can’t be selfish twice.”
You’ll have to understand that cheating itself is already a selfish act to begin with. It already threatens a relationship, and hiding it will threaten it further. The choice is really yours.
What did your partner say?
When it comes to whether they’d want to know about a partner’s infidelity, people’s preferences vary. So, when you and your partner get into a discussion about what cheating means to each of you, you can also discuss what you’d each want the other person to do if you cheated. Some people have a hard time dealing with eventually finding out their partner had been lying, deceiving, or keeping secrets from them all this time. Others, however, would rather not know in order to spare themselves the pain of soaking up on the information.This may not make for the most romantic conversation, but it’s better than one day telling your partner you cheated when they’d rather you kept it to yourself, or vice versa.