Don't make a bad situation worse.
Not everyone who has an affair set out with the intention to deliberately cheat. Most affairs just sort of happen. And if you're having an affair, that's probably how you wound up in this situation — by accident.
Part of you thinks it was a very happy accident, because you haven't felt this alive in years!
Then there's the other part — the part that's guilt-ridden about betraying your spouse. It's that guilty part that has you wondering whether you should come clean and admit your infidelity. But you're also fearful about having to face (and deal with) your mate's reaction.
Most people in your shoes feel trapped, unsure of what "the right thing" is to do. And that just sucks.
My guess is that if your spouse made you feel as good as you do with this other person, you never would have cheated in the first place. Heck, I'll even bet that your spouse used to make you feel this good long ago, but somehow life got in the way and your relationship changed. And, if you're honest, you both contributed to its demise.
And this just adds to the misery you're feeling.
But there is a way out of the trap you've snared yourself in ... You MUST tell your spouse you cheated.
I know it's not easy. I know it's probably one of the most horrible things you can think of doing right now and, frankly, you're terrified of the repercussions ... of what your spouse (and everyone else) will think of you; how they'll react.
But this isn't just about you. Here are four incredibly important reasons you MUST tell your partner:
1. Your spouse has a right to know his or her sexual health has been compromised.
Did you use a condom? Every single time? Probably not.
It doesn't matter whether you see a future for your marriage or not, you have to tell your spouse now! STDs are a real threat (whether your affair partner is a "nice person" or not). According to the CDC, STDs are passed during unprotected sex (vaginal, anal or oral). Yup, if you've had oral sex without a condom, you've put yourself and your spouse at risk.
Many STDs don't cause any symptoms initially, but then cause life threatening issues when they surface. Testing for them now is essential. You don't have the right to deny your spouse this measure of self-protection. You and your spouse must get tested.
2. Your spouse already "knows."
One of the amazing aspects about marriage is that you can read each other (your moods, energy, body language, etc.). Most spouses can tell when there's something up with their mate before anything is ever said. They can just feel it.
Your spouse probably already knows there's something going on. Maybe he or she already asked you about it (and you probably denied it).
Their "knowing" isn't going to go away, whether or not you tell them. Have enough honor (and courage) to take their worry away. This will begin alleviating some of your guilt and allow the two of you to start the process of figuring out what's next for your relationship. It's the kindest thing you can do for both of you, even if it feels cruel in the moment.
3. You promised your spouse honesty.
You cheated! That's about as dishonest as you can get in an intimate relationship. Your guilt stems from being dishonest with your husband or wife, and from being out of integrity with yourself.
Relationships can only work when both partners remain respectfully honest with each other. Your guilt will continually haunt you until you come clean to your spouse.
4. You can't rebuild your life on a lie.
If you want to save and rebuild your marriage, you both need to get real about what is and isn't working. (Clearly some pretty significant stuff isn't working if you're in this situation.)
Talking with your partner about your infidelity and what the affair gave you (that your marriage did not) allows you both space to consider if things can get better and how to begin making them that way. There's no guarantee your marriage will survive, telling your spouse about your mistake is just the starting point.
Even thought I believe that honesty is the best policy, I still recognize the ordeal you're facing.
But, you can free yourself from this trap by having an honest and respectful conversation with your spouse. If you continue to hide the truth, you'll feel guilty and regretful for the rest of your life. Even if you choose to end your marriage, until you're honest about your behavior and admit you've made a mistake — even if it was "by accident" — nothing else in your life will ever truly feel right.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach and advisor helping people who are considering divorce make a smart decision about staying or leaving their marriage. You can join her anonymous newsletter group for free advice or email her at Karen@functionaldivorce.com for a free consultation. Don’t let the worry about divorce ruin your life, help is available as soon as you’re ready.