Friday, January 10, 2014

Should I Tell? - The Full Story

As I stated in my article, Should I Tell, Reloaded, I wrote a chapter in my book, Healing Infidelity, called "Should I Tell." You can read an early version of that chapter on the web. In that chapter, I attempted to appeal to unfaithful spouses whose spouse has not discovered the affair, why they should want to tell if they sincerely want to save their marriage. I tried to write it from their perspective, using a reason they should care about. Because the truth is, infidelity is like a cancer.

My wife's brother-in-law had cancer. Problem was, he hid it from everyone one. Probably even from himself. By the time he went to the doctor and was diagnosed, they gave him a week to live. He died before that week was up.

Whether the hurt spouse knows about the affair(s) or not, it is eating away at the relationship. If he never finds out, he'll always wonder why the marriage deteriorated over the years. The guilt of the unfaithful spouse, and the secrets they hide about something so critical to the marriage, end up letting the cancer spread unchecked because no one is doing much to heal it as long as it remains hidden.

That said, I know even that is not likely to convince an unfaithful spouse in many cases to confess.

Most unfaithful spouses justify their decision not to tell because they don't want to hurt their spouse.

As if they haven't already done that by having an affair. Let's reword that reason to make it more accurate. You don't want to tell because you don't want to face the consequences of having hurt your spouse.

To that end, I felt it would be enlightening, I hope, to now look at the reasons a hurt spouse would want to know despite the pain of finding out the truth. Whether this will convince many unfaithful spouses to fess up, I know isn't highly likely, but you never know what will snap someone out of the fog-thinking and face the truth.

So aside from the healing reason listed in the original article, here are the main reasons from a hurt spouse perspective why you should confess your affair.

1. Most hurt spouses want you to tell them.

Yes, there are some hurt spouses who would rather not know, who would prefer to live in a matrix-like fantasy land, take the red pill, and not face the cancer, like my wife's brother-in-law did. But those are in a definite minority. When polled on our infidelity form we visit, all but one out of around 30 hurt spouses said they were glad they discovered the truth. The reasons for this are linked to the following.

2. The unfaithful spouse violates their spouse's rights in hiding the affair.

By keeping the affair a secret from your spouse, you are making decisions about the course of your relationship with them without their knowledge. They deserve as much say in the direction of your relationship as you are having at their expense. It is the moral equivalent of a spouse spending the college savings fund on a new sports car without consulting you on the purchase. Not telling violates the very reason two people get married: to share their life with each other.

3. Not telling the hurt spouse is a form of manipulative control abuse.

One of the main reasons an unfaithful spouse doesn't want to tell because as soon as they do, they lose control over their spouse and the affair. As long as you have this secret information, you control him. That is the manipulation of another individual through deceit and is a form of abuse, either directly, or broadly in a passive-aggressive manner.

4. Not telling the spouse puts their health at risk.

It is one thing for you to knowingly put your health at risk of STDs. Quite another to subject someone else to that risk unknowingly who you say you love. Out of these reasons, this is the one I exhibited the most anger toward my wife. I could have ended up with a life-long sickness so she could have her moments of "fun." I have a right to know if having sex with her is playing Russian Roulette with my health and life. Yes, protection may mitigate that risk, but it doesn't eliminate it.

5. Deceit compounds the violation of an affair.

Discovering an affair is bad enough. Discovering your spouse has been keeping it a secret from you for months or years multiplies the destruction of trust in the relationship, making it very difficult to heal. While there are no guarantees as to how any one particular hurt spouse will respond when told, a confession will go a long ways toward rebuilding trust. Don't expect immediate trust, but it can be the difference between months and years in how fast that trust can recover, all else being equal.

6. You've made your decision; it is only right they get to make theirs.

Related to reason #2, this deserves its own mention. Yes, confessing might mean the end of your marriage. But shouldn't your spouse have the right to make that decision? If you really love them, you wouldn't deny them excercising their options to respond to your decisions.

7. Secrets about the marriage destroy intimacy.

Whatever secrets related to the marriage you keep from your spouse, that is an area of your life not shared with your spouse. It is an off-limit area. The lack of intimacy there bleeds over into the rest of the marriage, for fear getting too close will result in them learning the truth. That and dealing with the guilt over your violation to the marriage is part of the cancer that will eat away at an otherwise healthy relationship.

8. They deserve to know when the contract has been broken.

I put this last, because it seems wedding vows rarely stop an unfaithful spouse from being unfaithful or deciding to tell. But the fact is, those vows, in most cases, are part of a legal contract that you agreed to whether before a preacher, judge, or other witnesses. If you've broken that legal contract, the other spouse deserves to know that fact, legally.

Is it always a good idea to confess?

In general, if you want a potentially healthy marriage, yes. But their can be exceptions. A clinically abusive spouse is one. If your spouse has a history of suicidal depression would be another. Essentially if there is the likelihood of physical and/or emotional harm from confessing, it may be best to not tell. Keeping in mind if they discover it on their own, that risk could be higher. Not telling doesn't eliminate it; not having the affair does.

But some unfaithful spouses have used these as excuses not to tell, even when there is little evidence it is a big risk. They think that there is some risk (you never know how any one person will respond) so that means they shouldn't tell for fear, however small, that they might commit suicide. If a person has a history of threatening, that is one thing. Without that, however, the slight chance it could happen despite no prior evidence it would doesn't trump the above reasons. It is a rationalization.

Can you think of any other valid reasons to tell?

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