Confessing an Affair without Losing Your Marriage
- Monday, August 02, 2010
Live long enough and you will learn this lesson: Anyone could do anything in certain circumstances. Just as bad people do bad things, sometimes good people do bad things; not just "minor" bad things, such as the proverbial white lie, but major things.
Presidents, governors, athletes, religious leaders, and a mass of others have been caught breaking their marriage vows. Research indicates men still outpace women in unfaithfulness, but if trends continue, that won't be for much longer. Nearly as many wives stray as husbands.
Except for same-gender liaisons, affairs involve at least one man AND one woman. If you carry the illusion that most flings involve a married man and a single woman, you're behind the times. Married women also stray for myriad reasons. With increased mobility, increased communication technology, the explosion of social interaction websites such as Facebook, and a number of other things we don't have time to discuss, married women are presented with opportunities for temptation unheard of only fifty years ago. If those women are unhappy, disrespected, ignored, or emotionally abandoned, they become susceptible to temptation.
Maybe you heard a preacher quote 1 Corinthians 10:12. Maybe life itself taught you its message: If you think you're above temptation, watch out. I like the way The Message renders it, "Don't be so naive and self-confident. You're not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else."
No one is above temptation. Everyone is flawed. While temptations differ from person to person, crossing boundaries with someone other than your spouse appears to be one of the strongest. Reported statistics vary, but it appears that adultery affects about 60% of marriages. Sometimes it happens early in the marriage; sometimes late. In some instances it is the husband; in others, the wife. Statistically it appears it doesn't matter whether people claim to be religious or not or whether they see themselves as good people or bad people.
Usually, I'm approached by the spouse who just discovered the affair of the other. This morning I responded to several people who found out their spouses were cheating and needed direction on what to do to save their marriages. However, this article isn't for those whose spouse cheated; it's for those who strayed. Specifically, I address it to people who have crossed boundaries with another person, but want to save their marriages.
Yes, it happens. Good people sometimes make very poor decisions and violate their beliefs and values. When they "wake up," whatever the reason, they most often feel deep penitence and have strong desire to save their marriages. They live in fear that their spouses may discover what happened. They also live with guilt that haunts them to tell their spouses so they can get forgiveness and move on. However, they also live with the fear that if they tell their spouses, the spouses may not forgive and divorce will follow.
For this article, I begin with the assumption that if you strayed, you have decided to tell your spouse about your affair and are seeking direction. In most cases confessing is the best thing to do. However, if you aren't sure if you should tell, I strongly suggest you read Should I Reveal My Sexual Past to My Spouse?
If you are ready to tell your spouse, I recommend three main steps.
Step One — Prepare
There are several things you need to consider before telling your spouse. If you walk in and confess without having done introspection, you probably are going to create an even bigger problem.
Think before you act. Think carefully. Your spouse will have questions - lots of questions. Expect to hear these, among others:
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